Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Aug 14, 2021

Marketing and advertising have become so commonplace that many don’t realise they are happening. Commercials in-between your favourite shows, ad reels before a YouTube video, billboards, and magazine ads are all parts of traditional advertising and marketing ventures. For years, marketing professionals focused on what types of messages they could push out to potential customers. This tactic was known as outbound marketing–and for years, it worked.

As personal computers brought us into the digital age, marketers began to experiment with the best way to get customers to them without participating in outbound marketing. Using search engine algorithms, keywords, and personalised targeting, inbound marketing was born.

Both inbound and outbound marketing strategy are critical to successful marketing outcomes. Working together, inbound and outbound marketing can create a cyclical brand growth that builds with each campaign. Learn the difference between inbound and outbound marketing, how the two strategies work together, and how to make the most of these forms of marketing.

inbound and outbound marketing

What is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing is what most people think of when they hear the term marketing. This type of marketing includes billboards, newspaper and magazine ads, direct mails, cold calls, junk mail, brochures, telemarketing pitches, radio ads and television commercials.

With increased access to communication platforms came an avalanche outbound marketing. The internet brought new ways to market to consumers, with pop-ups and display ads on every site, from personal blogs to news sites. Oversaturation and  technology like ad blockers, DVRs, and on-demand streaming have caused outbound advertising to be less impactful than in years past. Consumers simply skip or ignore marketing messages.

What is Inbound Content?

Inbound marketing means consumers are pulled in to engaging content a company shares. Marketers create blog posts, social media messages, white papers, newsletters, and webinars relatively devoid of a sales pitch. Inbound marketing gently nudges ideal customers through the marketing funnel by answering their questions and speaking directly to their needs with great content. Inbound content also includes search engine optimisation, keyword discovery, and paid search ads.

Differences: Inbound marketing vs outbound marketing

The most significant difference between inbound and outbound marketing is personalisation. Outbound marketing is akin to casting a wide net and catching consumers using best practices for writing, design, and branding. Also known as content marketing, the inbound marketing meaning is more of a philosophy than a tactic and hinges on creating personalised connections and content relevant to individual consumers.

Outbound marketing tactics are much more disruptive. Consumers experience outbound advertising but don’t necessarily seek it out. Inbound marketing is the opposite– relevant content works in the background until consumers make a point to access it. Finally, inbound marketing techniques focus on consumers’ needs and wants, while outbound marketing focuses on the product or brand’s needs.

How inbound marketing complements outbound marketing

It’s important to note that intrusive isn’t always a bad thing; it simply means a particular piece of content or ad is placed into a consumer’s purview without them asking for it specifically. For companies new to the market, switching branding or messages, or working to grow into a new market, outbound marketing is one of the best ways to establish brand recognition and familiarity among your target audience.

Additionally, outbound advertising helps establish where your target audience is most likely to consume your content. One consumer may mention they’ve seen your brand on YouTube. A second may say they’ve seen your brand on a display ad with his favourite blogger. In these outbound marketing examples, marketers can use this data to take the next step in inbound marketing.

To use the same examples, inbound marketing may consist of brand guest posts or link exchanges with the blogger as mentioned earlier, or it could mean a brand starts an educational video series. Either way, inbound market strategies were informed by outbound marketing.

The two strategies are bound together to boost overall marketing goals.

outbound marketing

What is more effective: outbound or inbound marketing strategies

There’s no such thing as a wrong way to market since both traditional and online marketing are dependent on business goals. The effectiveness of outbound vs inbound marketing strategies comes down to a few factors:


Outbound marketing has received a bad reputation in the last few decades. Manipulative marketing messages, in-your-face and over-the-top messages, and intrusive campaigns have soured some marketers on using too much outbound marketing. Inbound marketing is much more subtle, and because it’s targeted, customers usually appreciate it more.


Inbound marketing is the best fit for the price. Inbound marketing efforts are about 62% less than outbound. Outbound marketing rates can be expensive across the board and increase the pressure on your marketing budgets overall. 


Outbound tactics makes it much faster to see results, especially with retargeting paid advertising based on lookalike audiences (i.e., data collection from other similar sites). Inbound form of marketing takes time to ramp up and personnel time to sustain.

Inbound Methodology Basics

Because inbound marketing relies so heavily on personalisation and targeting, you’ll need to be sure you know who your target customer and how you’d like for them to utilise your content. Create a buyer profile with where your customer wants to read helpful content and what questions they’re asking. Next, create an SEO strategy with keyword research at the center based on the buyer profile’s needs. Finally, keep tabs on your metrics and measure as you go.

Whether you’re working towards an outbound strategy, an inbound strategy, or a blend of the two, you should keep one thing in mind: watching the data is the best way to ensure your marketing is the right fit.

Marketing Insights