Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing

Businesses these days make potential customers interested in their products and services by running many marketing campaigns. The marketing campaigns can be divided into two broad categories – inbound and outbound. Inbound marketing strategies attract the attention of potential customers by delivering the information they are looking for. These strategies utilize various forms of pull marketing and leverage various digital technologies. Also, they deliver relevant and timely information to a prospect at different stages of her buyer’s journey through multiple digital marketing channels. On the other hand, outbound marketing strategies create brand awareness and influence prospective buyers by sending messages in the traditional way.

Many bloggers these days describe outbound marketing as push marketing or interruption marketing as the strategies push promotional messages out to the target audience. Inbound marketing strategies and outbound marketing strategies differ from each other in many aspects, including outcome and cost. We make it easier for you to choose the right marketing strategies by describing and comparing some of the widely used inbound marketing and outbound marketing strategies.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing helps businesses generate and convert leads through various digital marketing channels. Inbound-marketing strategies emphasize delivering the right information to the potential customer through the right channel according to her current position in the buyer’s journey. The relevant and targeted content helps businesses to attract and influence potential customers.

According to Search Customer Experience,

Inbound marketing is a strategy that focuses on attracting customers, or leads, via company-created Internet content, thereby having potential customers come to the company rather than marketers vying for their attention. This type of marketing tries to make it easier for customers, who are already actively looking for goods or services via the Internet, to find what a company offers.

While planning inbound marketing strategies, businesses have the option to use a slew of digital marketing channels. They can further run multi-channel digital marketing campaigns to convey relevant information to every potential customer through her choice of the communication channel. Several studies suggest the effectiveness of inbound marketing strategies in generating more leads and increasing conversion rates while reducing overall marketing costs.

Some of the Widely-Used Inbound Marketing Tactics

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This inbound tactic focuses on boosting a website’s search visibility using on-page and off-page SEO techniques. On-page SEO techniques boost the website’s search visibility by making it more appealing to searchers. At the same time, off-page SEO techniques divert organic traffic to the website from search engines by improving its authority, popularity, credibility, and relevance.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising

The inbound marketing tactic increases website traffic through paid advertising. Businesses opt for PPC advertising to divert more searchers to the website in a short amount of time. But they have to focus on curtailing advertising costs by creating ads for every targeted keyword and complementing every ad with relevant landing pages.

Social Media Marketing

This inbound technique generates leads and drives lead conversion by leveraging the steady increase in the digital media time spent by consumers of popular social networks. Businesses these days sustain relationships with existing and potential customers by posting a variety of content on popular social networks. Also, they increase ROI by targeting the right social networking platforms.

Content Marketing

As the name suggests, this inbound marketing tactic focuses on providing relevant information to buyers through the creation, distribution, and promotion of content. While running content marketing campaigns, businesses these days deliver targeted and personalized content to potential buyers through various digital marketing channels.

Email Marketing

While running this inbound marketing campaign, businesses engage and influence potential buyers by sending targeted and personalized emails. They further send emails to potential buyers at various stages in their decision-making journey. Also, they persuade website visitors to share their email ids using lead magnets and sign-in forms.

Video Marketing

This inbound marketing technique helps businesses leverage the massive popularity of videos. Businesses showcase and promote their products/services by uploading a variety of videos – explainers, product demonstrations, customer testimonials, and company culture. Also, they make the videos more impactful by focusing on their length, style, and tone.

Retargeting Ads

Unlike other inbound marketing techniques, retargeting ads remind potential customers to return to the website when they are visiting other websites. Businesses display retargeting ads to potential buyers after they visit the website. These ads remind customers about the product or service when they are evaluating alternatives.

Want more information about inbound marketing strategies? Please read our blog on Digital Marketing Strategies for Startups

Outbound Marketing

In the age of digital communication channels, outbound marketing is often described as traditional markets. But there was a time when businesses were promoting their products or services by sending messages to a large number of people. They were sending messages to a large number of people simultaneously and continuously using techniques like print media advertising, cold calling, cold emailing, and above-the-line (ATL) advertising.

According to Wikipedia, “Outbound marketing or interruption marketing is promoting a product through continued advertising, promotions, public relations, and sales. It is considered to be an annoying version of the traditional way of doing marketing whereby companies focus on finding customers through advertising.

Many businesses still use various outbound marketing techniques to generate and convert leads. But they have to incur additional marketing costs to create brand awareness and acquire customers using outbound marketing techniques. Also, several studies suggest the effectiveness of inbound marketing strategies in generating and converting more leads than outbound marketing strategies.

Some of the Widely-Used Outbound Marketing Tactics

Cold Emails

This outbound marketing strategy emphasizes conveying information about products or services by sending unsolicited emails to potential buyers. Businesses initiate interactions with prospects by sending a large number of emails simultaneously. They further personalize cold emails to get a response from recipients.

Cold Calls

Businesses launch cold calling campaigns with the aim to initiate a conversation with potential customers. The marketers initiate conversations with customers by making scripted sales pitches. Many businesses these days make the outbound marketing strategy impactful by choosing the right prospects and respecting their privacy. 

Direct Mails

This traditional marketing technique requires businesses to send mails instead of emails. Businesses make potential customers aware of their product or service by sending mails containing appealing ads. They make the outbound marketing strategy impactful by making ads stand out and segmenting recipients based on important parameters like demographics and purchase history.

Trade Shows/Events

Trade shows and industry events create opportunities for businesses to connect and interact with potential customers in the real world. Leading brands these days plan trade shows to boost presence and maintain brand relevance. But they have to incur upfront costs to stand out at major trade shows.

TV, Radio, and Print Ads

Leading businesses still promote their brands traditionally by investing in TV and radio ads. Also, they invest in print advertising to reach out to a larger audience in a short amount of time. But businesses have to incur huge expenses to run ads on TV and radio. Also, they must convey the messaging creatively to get higher returns.

Social Media Ads

This outbound marketing technique helps businesses leverage a hugely popular digital marketing channel like social media. But businesses have to create brand awareness by running paid social media ads. Social media ads are more effective than organic social media promotion in creating brand awareness and connecting with targeted customers.

Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing

Your business these days has the option to implement many inbound and outbound marketing techniques. But you can choose and combine the right marketing tactics only by understanding the key differences between inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

11 Important Differences between Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing

1. Approach

Outbound marketing strategies require businesses to connect and interact with potential buyers, regardless of their interest in the product or service. But inbound marketing strategies focus on drawing interested buyers to the business’s website across communication channels. Hence, enterprises have to adopt different approaches while planning inbound and outbound marketing campaigns.

2. Marketing Content

While creating content for outbound marketing campaigns, copywriters focus on promoting and selling the product or service. The content often highlights the key features of the product or service. On the other hand, writers focus on consumers’ needs, pain points, and expectations while creating content for inbound marketing campaigns. The content helps potential buyers to meet precise needs or solve specific problems.

3. Content Consumption

Consumers access digital marketing content like articles, blogs, infographics, and videos – as part of digital content consumption. They collect information about a product or service by accessing online content while conducting pre-purchase research. But the outbound marketing content like display ads and cold emails often interrupts or disrupts consumers’ content consumption.

4. Marketing Channels

While planning inbound marketing campaigns, marketers distribute content through popular digital marketing channels like websites, blogs, search engines, social media, and opt-in emails. Many enterprises reach out to a wider audience by integrating multiple channels. But outbound marketing campaigns use traditional channels like billboards, display ads, TV ads, print ads, and telemarketing.

5. Communication

The outbound marketing tactics do not emphasize or facilitate bidirectional communication. They deliver information about a product or service to consumers without getting their response. But inbound marketing techniques focus on engaging and interacting with potential buyers by sending targeted and personalized content. The engagement and interactions lead to email list expansion and lead generation.

6. Audience Engagement

Outbound marketing campaigns display disassociated ads to a large number of people simultaneously. The disassociated ads impact audience engagement adversely by disrupting content consumption. On the other hand, inbound marketing campaigns focus on delivering relevant content to every consumer through her preferred communication channel. Also, the inbound marketing campaigns keep consumers engaged by answering their questions and meeting their needs.

7. Messaging

Outbound marketing tactics deliver the same message to a large number of people without considering their demographics and expectation. These strategies aim to promote a product or service by standing out in the crowd. But inbound marketing strategies focus on delivering fresh, relevant, and targeted content to a consumer according to her position on the buyer’s journey. In addition to keeping readers engaged the messaging aims to deliver value by answering specific questions and easing pain points.

8. Measurability

Outbound marketing campaigns promote a product/service in a short amount of time by reaching out to a wider audience. But decision-makers find it difficult to quantify and measure these campaigns due to unreliable and error-prone results. On the other hand, decision-makers can measure inbound marketing campaigns using a wide variety of digital marketing metrics. They can further use a slew of tools to measure the performance of various campaigns without putting in extra time and effort.

9. Scalability

Outbound marketing aims at delivering messages at scale, while inbound marketing emphasizes sending targeted and personalized messages. An enterprise can run outbound marketing campaigns to deliver the desired message to a larger audience in a short time span. But it needs to invest in additional resources to send targeted and personalized messages to a large number of potential buyers.

10. Cost

According to Mashable,

Inbound marketing costs 62 percent less per lead than traditional outbound marketing.

Small businesses and startups always opt for inbound marketing to overcome budgetary constraints. Also, traditional businesses have been switching from outbound marketing to inbound marketing to curtail upfront and ongoing costs.

11. Outcome

In addition to curtailing marketing costs, inbound marketing tactics are more effective than outbound marketing campaigns in generating leads.

According to HubSpot,

Inbound marketing tactics generate 54% more leads than traditional paid marketing methods.

Also, the leads generated through various inbound marketing campaigns are more likely to become buying customers than outbound-generated leads.


While comparing inbound marketing vs outbound marketing, you must remember that each of these marketing strategies has its pros and cons. Also, individual inbound and outbound marketing strategies differ from each other in many aspects. Your business can boost lead generation and conversion by leveraging both traditional and digital marketing techniques.

You can boost the performance of inbound marketing campaigns by running outbound marketing campaigns. Likewise, inbound marketing campaigns will make your outbound marketing strategies more effective. It is always advisable to evaluate and combine various inbound and outbound marketing tactics according to your industry and target customers.

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