• Ian Dinsmore

The Differences Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Over the past several years, there has been a lot of buzz around inbound marketing — and for good reason. It’s no secret that inbound marketing is a highly effective strategy to increase brand awareness, drive lead generation, and boost conversion rates.

However, many companies have not only set the concept of inbound marketing on a pedestal but they've also relegated outbound marketing to the trash bin. All it takes is a quick search on Google to find dozens of articles extolling the benefits of the inbound approach while warning about the pitfalls of the outbound model.

In reality, outbound marketing is still an essential component of any successful marketing strategy. Put simply, you need to use both approaches in order to achieve your business goals. The following information will discuss the definition of inbound versus outbound marketing, key differences between these two strategies, and why you should leverage both to grow your business.

The Definition of Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing

There are a lot of different ways to define these terms. However, for the purpose of this article let's assign the following meanings to these two approaches:

  • Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy focused on drawing in the customer. In other words, the objective of inbound marketing is for the customer to initiate a conversation with the company.

  • Outbound marketing techniques are designed to reach out to the customer. In contrast to the inbound model, the goal of outbound marketing is for the company to successfully initiate a conversation with the customer.

Clearly, inbound and outbound marketing are two very different things. In practical terms, what are some key differences between these two strategies?

What’s the Difference?

While there are many differences between these two models, let’s take a look at a few key ways inbound and outbound marketing deviate:

Customer vs. Product Driven Approach

In general, inbound marketing is customer-driven in its approach. For example, inbound marketers will often identify a common pain point that their target consumers are dealing with, and then develop content that addresses that pain point. One of the most essential aspects of inbound marketing is the concept of delivering value to the consumer. Basically, if the consumer finds your content helpful then they are much more likely to come back and eventually purchase from your brand.

On the other hand, outbound marketing can be considered product-driven. In other words, your company has an amazing product, and you want to convince your target audience that they should use it.

When it comes to focus, you could say that inbound and outbound marketing both arrive at the same destination, but from opposite directions.

Reactive vs. Proactive

Inbound marketing methods are all about making your brand more attractive and valuable without directly contacting customers. Content marketing is a prime example of this: new posts are regularly added to a company's blog post in order to boost SEO scores and capture organic search traffic. It’s a reactive method - allowing customers to come to you.

Outbound marketing involves proactively reaching out to your target audience. Email marketing can be considered a form of outbound marketing, and is a great case in point: by regularly delivering newsletters to your list of customers and prospects, you keep your brand top of mind and encourage consumers to look to your company as a thought leader in the industry.


The fact is, there is a place for both inbound and outbound marketing. They simply differ in when and where they are most effective. For instance:

Inbound Marketing: Content marketing can generate up to 3 times more leads than paid search advertising — and at a lower cost.

Outbound Marketing: On the other hand, 79% of businesses in one survey stated that email marketing is important to their business strategy.

In most cases, a combined approach that incorporates both models is the way to grow your business. Inbound marketing can help you to build your brand's reputation and generate leads, while outbound marketing can help you to stimulate interest and close sales.

If you'd like to learn more about how to use inbound and outbound marketing to achieve your goals, reach out today.