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Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing


The inbound marketing methodology is a process where strangers become visitors, visitors leads, and leads customers nurtured by content through each stage of the buyer’s journey as opposed to outbound marketing where marketers find customers by targeting an audience that they believe are right for their product or service. Both approaches have their advantages, so this side by side comparison will help you understand whether you should go all in on inbound, stick with convention marketing methods, or take a blended approach. Before we compare the two marketing approaches, let’s do a quick recap of what techniques belong where.

What is Inbound Marketing?

The goal of the inbound marketing method is to communicate with your prospects at the right time with the right content creating a seamless process between identifying a prospect and making the sale. In practice, this is clearly a challenge: to create non-invasive, non-interruptive ways of advertising by offering content that is relevant and valuable to visitors, so they choose to come to you instead of you coming to them takes time and effort. Some forms of inbound marketing online include content like blogs, eBooks, white papers, etc. on the company’s website and posts on social media channels. It also encompasses optimizing content for search engines and conversion rate optimization for site visitors.

What is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing refers to most traditional marketing methods. Some of the examples of outbound marketing include TV, radio, and newspaper ads, cold calling, email outreach campaigns, etc. Inbound marketing is permission-based whereas outbound marketing will solicit anyone who is in the universe that would make a purchase.

Why Outbound Marketing Doesn’t Work Anymore?

If you have been sticking to the same marketing methods over the years, you probably noticed a significant drop in the effectiveness of campaigns that were once a sustainable source of leads and sales. Outbound isn’t as powerful as it was before, the rules of the game have changed, and you can either adjust and learn them or get sent to the bench.

The harsh reality is that marketing is more challenging than it has ever been. Internet connectivity has made the whole world into a global village, which is a double-edged sword for the marketer. On one hand, you can reach a broad audience and expand your market, but on the other hand, marketing has become more complex.

Newspapers and cable television are in freefall thanks to online media, and the average user’s attention span is shorter than ever. There are over two million searches on Google every minute and each one of those search returns millions of results. Those enormous number demonstrate how fragmented your market is as well. While your prospects certainly have places where they congregate online, each has their own watering holes as well.

Technology is also making it more difficult for your marketing messages to reach your targeted prospects. If overcoming your prospects natural inclination to pass over advertising wasn’t a difficult challenge enough, ad blockers can stop online ads from showing up at all.

Social media platforms have enabled a faster, more direct way of communication, and many people will choose to ask for certain information on LinkedIn instead of hanging on the telephone with sales departments. To make a long story short, you’re sales and marketing teams aren’t needed in the same way that they used to be. Your future customers are coming to your door having already researched their options, are informed about the products and services that you offer, and otherwise in the driver’s seat like never before.

When Should You Use Outbound Marketing?

You may have picked up that we’re bias towards inbound marketing, but we use outbound marketing in our marketing mix as well. There are a number of good reasons to include outbound or use it exclusively for your business.

The most important benefit is that you will identify prospects that would not have found you. Some people. This varies by degree depending upon who your businesses’ customers are, but some people who need your product or service may not ever convert online through an inbound marketing funnel or even have encountered your content to being with. If you have an innovative offering that solves a problem that people don’t know they have, outbound can be a useful means of educating them.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t inbound ways of doing so such as by attracting prospects with related content and then weaving your own marketing messages in as you nurture the lead, but outbound does this well.

You need sales now. We have worked with clients where we were able to identify inbound marketing bottlenecks that once lifted resulted in an immediate boost to sales, but barring major problems or good old-fashioned luck, inbound takes time. If you have a short outbound sales cycle, you could be producing leads and sales at a faster pace.

Inbound vs. Outbound Tactics

Ultimately, there are a number of key differences between inbound and outbound marketing.

Customer vs. Marketer Oriented

Outbound tactics start with the marketer. You use methods that are inexpensive, convenient, or you have experience with and try to sell the benefits or even just the features of your product or service. Inbound takes the opposite approach and starts with the customer using whichever methods and channels work better for them and tell the story from their perspective.


When it comes to outbound, marketing communication is ordinarily one-way street. You mail a letter or postcard and hope for a 1% return rate from your prospects. Inbound marketing tactics establish a two-way communication by encouraging customers to give feedback and being ready to answer their questions. Think Twitter, Facebook, blog comments, and other ways for customers to voice their opinion.


Contrary to what you may think, inbound marketing methods may cost you less than outbound. A HubSpot survey revealed that the cost of leads generated through inbound marketing tactics is 61% of the cost of outbound leads. Bear in mind that inbound tactics take a longer time, which is why the initial investment might seem higher with inbound at the outset.


The cost of outbound can be tremendous. We’ve worked with clients that have spend tens of thousands of dollars on outbound marketing, didn’t have measurable results built into their campaigns, and even if they did, the results were clearly nothing. It’s expensive to communicate to play the numbers game because so many of the people that your sales and marketing teams are communicating with are not qualified to buy from you or not ready to make the decision to buy.


Most outbound advertising has little to no value to the customer. They can learn facts about your company, products, and offers, which aren’t important to them. On the other hand, inbound marketing incorporates advertising messages within valuable content that the prospect is actively engaged with.

Should I Switch to Inbound?

Not every business is suitable for inbound marketing methodology. The size of your company and its marketing budget will determine to what extent inbound can be implemented: a few techniques and channels or with a comprehensive, integrated marketing plan that guides your customers through the stages of the buyer’s journey.

Your customers matter as well. Do your customer makes quick, direct purchasing decisions or do they weigh their options? If your sales cycle is short, creating content is still important but not in the same way that it is for a longer sales cycle where you will need to attract the lead and nurture the lead for a period of time before making the sale.

The last thing to consider is that inbound marketing is a long-time investment. It can months for the first effects of inbound marketing methods to show, so if your company needs a quick fix and to focus 100% of your sales efforts on the bottom of the funnel, it isn’t the right time for inbound.

To learn more about whether inbound is the right fit for your business, check out our post Is Inbound Marketing Right for my Company?

When to Transition to Inbound?

There is no right time to make the transition to inbound, but the sooner you do it, the better. If you’re already lagging behind your competitors online, waiting to commit to inbound will only increase the difference. The sooner you invest in inbound, the better your chances are of catching up and getting the traction online that you deserve.

You certainly want to come up with a well informed decision. That's why we crafted Introducion to inbound guide for those who what to know more. Click on the image to download it.

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