Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

In Blog, SEO
January 29, 2022
9 min read

As the world continues to advance, marketing concepts change to match the times. Today, the two major overarching marketing concepts that are in play are inbound and outbound marketing strategies. While experts may know exactly what these two concepts are, newer marketers may have challenges understanding the similarities, differences, and intersections of these two approaches. Below, we explore inbound and outbound marketing and show you marketers apply these concepts.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that involves a company or business creating content and then distributing it so that it draws people to their website or profile. This marketing style is subtle and it focuses on convincing the target audience of your digital marketing efforts to purchase a service or product from you.

This is a plausible approach to take, given that up to 63% of customers today are searching for products online and beginning their customer journeys online as well.

Therefore, businesses are strategizing by posting useful content that explains their services, products and offers solutions to the problems the user may encounter. 

The most fundamental building block of a good inbound strategy is the use of keywords in your content. With the right keywords, you can turn prospective leads into customers as you will have the right strategies to help them throughout the customer journey. 

Because of its practical approach, inbound marketing is quickly gaining popularity. It does not bombard the user with invasive ads and information. Instead, it attracts them to the business, leading them to reach out, trust the brand and purchase the service or product. 

There are different inbound marketing strategies that your business can use throughout the customer journey as long as the customer is still within the sales funnel. They include content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, and social media marketing.

Inbound Methodology

The inbound marketing methodology involves attracting, engaging, and delighting prospects. We explain more below:


Attracting the audience is the first step of the inbound marketing methodology. It involves developing a strong and relevant content strategy that will take the client through every stage of the marketing funnel. You can use tools such as blogging, videos, social media posts, and ads. Ensure you develop an SEO strategy to optimize your website.


Engaging the client involves getting them on board since you have already attracted them to your business. You can involve the sales and service team, but this could also be a chance to use the available marketing materials to build a long-term relationship with the client. Your content at this stage should set you apart as a knowledgeable thought leader who understands their product or service. This helps the prospect make a buying decision.


Delighting involves ensuring a connection between the client and the sales and service teams so that the client can have any issues resolved quickly. Some tools you can use during this stage include email marketing, chatbots and messaging, attribution reporting, and marketing automation.

What is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing, in many ways, is the opposite of inbound marketing. Outbound marketing examples include all traditional marketing methods such as direct mail, SEM, native advertisements, traditional advertisements, and social media advertisements. This type of marketing aims at interacting with customers, even those who are not interested in the service or product you provide. 

This method of advertisement is aggressive as it focuses on one-way conversation and lacks elements of personalization. It emphasizes the product or service and only tells the viewer or user why they should buy the product.

Challenges with Outbound Marketing

The biggest problem with outbound marketing is that it targets a large number of people. Therefore, the message is usually general and a business cannot address the specific needs and challenges of clients. 

As a result, people have been trying to find ways to circumvent these forms of advertisement. For instance, TV viewers are now downloading shows through streaming services to avoid ads. This makes it impossible for digital marketers to impress their intended audience as they are not even online in the first place. 

Another good example of how users are circumventing ads is through digital music services such as Spotify. Additionally, direct mail from businesses is now considered junk mail by uninterested recipients. 

Apart from outbound marketing not addressing the needs of potential customers, it presents other problems. For starters, the process of setting up an outbound marketing campaign is intense and costly, and yet, the yields are low. Even worse is the fact that it can be difficult to track the return on investment when you are using outbound strategies to market your business. On the other hand, inbound channels are easier to track, less costly to set up as you have a smaller marketing budget, and have a higher return on investment compared to outbound marketing. 

Looking around, you see that internet users are quickly finding ways to deal with unwanted information that is thrown at them by businesses that use outbound tactics. Therefore, it makes more sense to embrace the inbound marketing strategy over outbound marketing.

Differences Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

There are many differences between these two marketing strategies. We explain more below:

Marketing Strategy

The inbound marketing strategy is complex and holistic compared to the outbound marketing strategy. It is used simultaneously across multiple digital channels and the business makes constant effort to strengthen their website. Furthermore, the content that businesses develop using this approach is effective, achieves its goals, and can be measured with the right implementation tools for success.

On the other hand, outbound marketing is simplistic and linear. There are many channels the business can use to communicate, but you have to assess them and find mediums that are effective for your audience then create messages for these mediums for a marketing campaign.

Audience Engagement

Inbound marketing is permission-based while outbound marketing is disruptive. A business will identify a platform on which they have an audience and then occasionally, as planned, interrupt them with ads with the hope that a percentage of the audience will convert into a customer. On the contrary, inbound marketing only uses mediums that the audience allows and draws the users to the business as they give them information around products and services. Further, this type of marketing requires a small market and the returns are better.


Inbound marketing offers the lead useful and specific messages aimed at either educating them or solving a problem they have and they can consume this message when it is most convenient to them. On the other hand, outbound marketing offers deceitful messages that are not tailored for any specific audience. Therefore, you cannot easily pinpoint the aim of a particular advert. Presenting a potential with such clutter creates cognitive dissonance and they cannot have a proper relationship with the customer.

Brand Positioning

Inbound marketing allows your business to create engaging content that you share with your audience. Therefore, your audience can set you apart from your competitors and establish you as an authority in your field. You can delight them, educate them and engage them. Here, you are the keynote speaker.

With outbound marketing, you strive to please the client and you are not really visible. The main aim is to grab the attention of the client. If you want to stand out, you need to find something that will draw the attention of the potential client, who will then be inspired to look deeper into who you are.

Intersection Between Outbound and Inbound Marketing

We have already established that outbound marketing strategies are not targeted, and measuring the outcomes is not easy as they usually try to reach as many people as possible. However, this does not mean that outbound marketing is useless or obsolete.

Inbound marketers have found ways to effectively integrate these old methods with newer ones to achieve stellar results. Below are some ways through which you can combine these methods for optimum results.

Outbound Calling and Marketing Automation

One popular way that brands integrate these two strategies is by using marketing automation and automated campaigns. Marketing automation will support your outbound campaign. You can create a simple personalized, segmented and targeted mail to help spread brand awareness and find interested prospects for your business. When these prospects are ready to buy, you can deploy business development representatives to follow up with additional information and demos on phone.

Using paid ads and SEO is one of the most effective marketing strategies as they work in tandem to produce great results. SEO will help tweak your website so it goes up on the Google search results page. This inbound marketing strategy allows users to find you organically. On the other hand, paid search allows your business to display ads for specific keywords online. Businesses bid for these keywords and pay for each time a visitor clicks on the ad. You can use paid social media ads and SEO simultaneously by ensuring that you are promoting target keywords on both channels.

In-Person Events and Email Marketing

While most networking is now done online, in-person events are still a great way to network with like-minded people and potential clients. However, these events can be expensive. You can optimize the return on your investment by taking the emails of these clients and drafting an email plan to help you connect with the people that already have an interest in your business and what it offers. By using your mail list wisely, you can cement the education, brand awareness, and credibility of your brand.


The aim of any modern business is to turn prospects into customers and develop a healthy long-term relationship with them. While inbound and outbound marketing work differently and inbound marketing is superior, you can maximize your inbound marketing campaigns by integrating them with outbound efforts throughout your prospect’s journey. You can do this by offering them the information/content they will need to move further into the funnel. In this way, you can create a life cycle that is holistic, and not intrusive and create an information-driven marketing experience that sets you apart as a brand and ensures maximum business returns.