What's the difference between inbound and outbound in influencer marketing? This post unpacks it, plus tips and tools for using this strategy.

What comes to mind if I ask you to think about how to do influencer marketing?

You’ll probably think of the following: search for influencers, analyze their profiles, reach out to see if they’re interested, and—if you get a reply—negotiate the collaboration.

And if that’s where your mind went, there's a good reason for it. This has been the traditional model for brands looking for content creators to partner with for years.

But, it doesn’t have to be the only way to find creators. In this article, we’ll look at the differences between outbound creator management and inbound creator management to see which is the best.

Inbound marketing versus outbound marketing

Before we go any further, we need to understand the differences between inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

These two concepts look at the flow of marketing activities. In other words, “inbound” and “outbound” refer to how the target audience learns about the brand and its products.

Let’s take a deeper look.

Outbound marketing

Outbound marketing involves strategies in which a brand proactively reaches out to leads. Some examples of outbound marketing are:

  • Cold calls or emails
  • Direct mailings
  • Event sponsorships
  • Tradeshow and conference presentations
  • Digital ads (Google Ads, social ads, etc.)
  • TV, radio, and print ads
  • Billboards

It’s more invasive and direct than its inbound counterpart. In this model, the brand is “finding” the lead. When the lead comes across the brand’s presence, they probably weren’t looking for it.

Inbound marketing

Inbound marketing aims to bring leads in organically. Inbound strives to create experiences and resources that lead leads to your brand. In these situations, the lead “finds” your brand, instead of the other way around like in outbound.

Some examples of inbound marketing strategies are:

  • Blog posts
  • Educational resources (ebooks, whitepapers, case studies)
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Email campaigns
  • Free online tools
  • Social media

The goal of all these examples is to educate leads and help them solve a problem. The idea behind this is that by helping the leads solve problems they face, you’re building awareness and goodwill for your brand. And if your topics are well-chosen and relate to your products or services, then down the line the lead may even consider you as a solution for their problems.

How do these concepts apply to influencer marketing?

Now that we understand inbound versus outbound, let’s apply these concepts to influencer marketing. When enacting influencer marketing strategies, the most common and traditional concept to apply is outbound.

But, that’s not the only way to connect your brand with influencers. It’s important to understand how inbound works in IM, too.

Outbound: traditional influencer search

The traditional way of finding and reaching out to influencers is an outbound strategy. Here, the brand would do something like this:

  1. Define their influencer strategy and target influencers
  2. Search for those target influencers using social media or an influencer search tool
  3. Analyze influencer profiles to see who would be a good fit for their campaign
  4. Collect contact details for the influencers who fit the bill
  5. Reach out to influencers to ask if they’re interested in collaboration
  6. If influencers answer, negotiate the collaboration until they close a deal.

This is a method used by almost every brand that runs influencer campaigns. But, that’s not to say it’s necessarily the optimal method.

There are various pain points faced while using this method. First, the brand has to invest a lot of time in finding the right influencers to collaborate with. Second, profile analysis can be tricky if the influencer has engaged in things like buying fake followers or fake likes.

Finally, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a response. You can write the best email to influencers asking for collaboration, but there’s no guarantee they’ll say yes.

Thankfully, there are a few other strategies that can help optimize the outbound influencer search process:

  1. Check among your customers for influencers who look like a good fit.
  2. Analyze your brand fans—the people who interact with your brand on social media—to see if there are good influencer candidates among them.

The difference with these groups is that they’re already aware of your brand and have demonstrated an active interest in you. Your customers have a clear vested interest in your products or services, and your brand fans have engaged with your brand via social media.

Therefore, it’s more likely they’ll be willing to collaborate with you. What’s more, any content they create for collaborations will probably be more aligned with your brand, since they already have a feel for your mission, values, and aesthetic.

Inbound: a new approach

Inbound influencer marketing isn’t totally new. But in terms of letting brands really harness it, there have been new developments in the industry in recent years.

Inbound in influencer marketing means the influencers come to you. Now, this has been happening on Instagram for years. Influencers DM their favorite brands to let them know they’d love to collaborate and hope that the brand replies.

But, receiving DMs from influencers in drips and drabs isn’t exactly comfortable for brands. Since the influencers don’t know what campaigns you’re running, they can’t send fee proposals to you to get negotiations rolling. So the brand still has to obtain a media kit, analyze the influencer’s profile, and kick off negotiations.

Thankfully there are new options for brands to take advantage of inbound influencer marketing. Some influencer marketing platforms offer what’s called a “campaign marketplace” where brands can post their campaigns, and influencers can apply.

With inbound influencer marketing, finding influencers looks like this:

  1. Brands post their campaign brief to a campaign marketplace.
  2. Opted-in influencers browse campaigns and identify which ones interest them.
  3. Influencers send their collaboration proposals (proposed fee and amount/type of content) to the brand.
  4. Brands evaluate and accept, reject, or negotiate proposals.

Using this method eliminates some of the pain points I discussed earlier. First of all, you eliminate the time spent searching for influencers, as they come to you. Second, you eliminate the uncertainty of whether or not they’re interested in working with you. As they’ve reached out to you, you know the answer is yes.

Now, forgive my shameless plug, but Heepsy is one of the platforms that offers this feature. So if you’d like to learn how Heepsy helps you take advantage of inbound influencer marketing—while also using outbound strategies—keep reading below.

How Heepsy helps you take advantage of outbound and inbound at the same time

Heepsy offers outbound and inbound influencer marketing strategies within the same platform.

First of all, you can post your brand’s campaign on the campaign marketplace to attract influencers.

This lets you receive collaboration proposals from influencers already using Heepsy. On Heepsy, influencers are asked to provide their proposed fee, plus how much content they’re willing to create in exchange for such.

After reviewing the proposal and the influencer’s profile, you can then accept, modify (negotiate), or reject.

Heepsy also lets you take advantage of outbound influencer marketing with the search tool. With this tool, you can do various things:

  • Upload your customer list and identify influencers.
  • Connect your social media to scan your brand fans for potential partners.
  • Search for opted-in influencers (influencers already using Heepsy) and invite them to your campaign.
  • Filter for Instagram and TikTok creators and send them an email invite to join your campaign, without having to draft emails, attach briefs, and copy/paste contact info from one place to another.

If you’re interested in seeing how Heepsy works, I invite you to book a free demo with my colleagues in Sales. They’ll gladly walk you through the platform and how it could apply to your brand’s unique needs. 🙂

Wrap up

Influencer marketing, despite not being a very old industry, is constantly changing. And while outbound has been the traditional model used by brands who want to find influencers to promote them, inbound influencer marketing is a strategy you should also try out.

Inbound influencer marketing can save you a lot of time, effort, and stress. Tired of always being the one to make the first move? Give inbound influencer marketing a go!