5 Key Differences Between an Inbound Marketing Email & Outbound Email

Frank Isca
Posted by Frank Isca on June 5, 2018
Subscribe inbound marketing email message

Subscribe inbound marketing email messageEven with all the advancements in online marketing the past few years, and the wide-spread adoption of various social media platforms, the use of email marketing is still a very powerful tactic if properly utilized. The reality is there's a ton of garbage emailed everyday. In fact, marketers sent over 269 billion emails in 2017! With all these emails being sent, what separates the good from the bad? What makes an email campaign more successful than the next in today's B2B buying environment.

The quick answer is you need to construct your email marketing efforts with an inbound mindset versus the traditional, often spammy mindset. You don't want your brand to be seen as spammy right? If so, keep reading.

Here's an overview of 5 key attributes that make an inbound marketing-focused email different than a traditional, outbound marketing email.

RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing?

1. Opted-In Contacts

First things first. If you're still buying and forging lists of email contacts from industry conferences or sponsorships, it's time to stop. These contacts have not opted-in to receive email communications from you, and you're setting the wrong tone for nurturing and closing the leads from the start. Instead, start building your list of email contacts organically and with a true opt-in approach. This can be achieved through:

  • Blogging
  • Offering valuable downloadable content (where their email is required to download)
  • Creating a regular, content-packed newsletter and encouraging email subscription through your blog and social media

By building your email campaigns around these true opt-in contacts, you'll see a much higher engagement rate as far as email opens, emails clicks and additional conversions. You'll also protect the reputation of your IP address by not getting flagged as spam.

2. Targeted Content

It's still quite common for B2B companies to do a blanket email campaign that goes out to all their contacts, whether they are prospects or current customers. But with a little segmentation, you can quickly start to create more targeted lists of contacts based on their prospect/client status, industry type, product area interest, etc.

For example, lets say your company is a distributor of pumps and valves for a variety of industry types. An engineer/operator for a waste water treatment facility has different needs and interests than an engineer at a beverage manufacturing facility. Think about it; waste water and beverages shouldn't mix! By segmenting your lists and getting more targeted with your content, you're creating more appeal with your audience and providing more value based on their specific needs.

3. Value to the Recipient

Your first email in a campaign shouldn't go right for the sale. Especially if it's a list of newer opt-in contacts. Instead, start by providing content that helps them perform their job, answers common questions they have, or guides them through their decision-making process related to your product or service. This will begin to nurture the relationship and naturally move them closer to sale, without turning them off with the first email they receive.

4. Frequency/Timing

Another big difference with an inbound-focused email is the frequency and timing of your email communications. Every industry has a different sales cycle and you should build your email campaigns based on this schedule. Sending six emails over a two week period when your typical sales cycle is 12 months isn't recommended.

  • Structure your email frequency so they're consistent without being too regular. For most B2B companies, this is once every two-to-four weeks.
  • Also be mindful what day and time you send your emails. Tuesdays through Thursdays during normal business hours seem to be the most widely recommended, and most successful in our experience. But don't be afraid to experiment and do some A/B testing.

5. Ability to Change Subscription Options

Last but not least, with EVERY email you send be sure the recipient has the option to easily unsubscribe or change their subscription options. Most email platforms are required to have this feature based on CAN-SPAM regulations, but I personally still receive spam emails with no option to unsubscribe. Your subscribers will appreciate the ease of being able to unsubscribe, or better yet, being able to change the frequency of when they receive emails.


As buyers continue to evolve and filter out the noise of unwanted marketing emails, it's up to you as a marketer to make the most of your own email marketing efforts. You can continue to focus on the quantity of non-opt-in email contacts and achieve little to no response. Or, focus on building and cultivating an organic list of opted-in contacts who look forward to what you'll email them next. I know which one I would choose! 

            Email Marketing Best Practices         

Topics: Marketing Automation, Email marketing

New call-to-action