Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing

If you’re a marketer or work in a business, then you’ve most likely heard your coworkers using the terms inbound and outbound marketing. Whilst these may seem like nothing more than corporate buzzwords, it’s important that employees in contemporary business environments understand their meaning and the differences between them. Our article will guide you through inbound and outbound marketing techniques, explain the differences between them, and highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a term used to describe marketing techniques that employ pull tactics. Rather than broadcasting your message to consumers, inbound marketing involves the creation of online content to attract customers to your business when they search the Internet. The consumer plays an active role in this process by finding and consuming content created by inbound marketers.

Many different forms of content are included under the umbrella of inbound marketing, including company websites, blog posts, and paid ads on search engines. As most businesses utilise a range of these content types, inbound marketing is usually a multi-channel process. Search engine optimisation, blogging, and social media marketing are all encapsulated by the term inbound marketing.

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing

Marketing Techniques (

Due to its multi-channel nature, a key difficulty associated with inbound marketing is ensuring that a consistent brand message is communicated across all touchpoints. Bearing in mind the theory of integrated marketing communications (IMC), it is essential that all inbound marketing communications cohere with each other such that a clear, compelling brand proposition is conveyed.

Inbound marketing is also fundamentally data-driven: users can interact with inbound marketing communications by clicking on organic listings or responding on social media, so consumers’ reactions can often be measured and used to optimise future communications. As such, an essential part of inbound marketing is the use of web analytics to measure performance.

What is Outbound Marketing?

By contrast to inbound marketing, outbound marketing is a term used to describe marketing techniques that employ push tactics. Here, information is broadcast to consumers, who are the passive recipients of the marketing message. The consumer cannot directly respond to the message, so outbound marketing can be described as a one-way process.

Outbound marketing can be thought of as old school advertising. It involves the kinds of marketing methods that dominated marketing communications in the twentieth century, such as telemarketing, television ads, and direct mail. The essence of outbound marketing is that mass media are utilised to communicate the brand’s message to as many members of the public as possible.

What are the Differences between Inbound and Outbound Marketing?

We’ve already touched upon the main difference between inbound and outbound marketing: inbound involves pull tactics whilst outbound involves push tactics. The two approaches entail fundamentally different modes of communication. Inbound marketing communications are two-way, empowering the consumer by enabling them to participate through a response; outbound marketing communications are one-way, allowing a message to be conveyed to potential customers but not facilitating any direct form of reaction.

This guide has already hinted at another key distinction between the two forms of marketing – the tools used in inbound marketing differ from those used in outbound marketing. Inbound marketing relies on modern, digital marketing communications tools, whilst outbound marketing utilises more traditional, offline methods of reaching potential customers.

Outbound marketing techniques are gradually decreasing in popularity and being replaced by inbound marketing techniques, with digital marketing methods overtaking traditional forms of advertising. This is not to say, however, that there are no advantages to outbound marketing.

The differences between inbound and outbound marketing can be summarised as follows:

  • Inbound marketing uses pull tactics and outbound uses push tactics.
  • Inbound allows interactive communication whilst outbound is one-way.
  • Digital tools are used in inbound marketing, whereas offline tools are used in outbound.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing methods are useful for reaching a large volume of consumers. When using outbound tools such as direct mail, it’s easy to communicate a consistent marketing proposition and avoid confusing any potential customers. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, requires careful planning and implementation to ensure that a coherent message is conveyed.

As a result of the fact that outbound marketing broadcasts your message to a mass audience, however, the tools associated with this approach are usually expensive. Conversely, inbound marketing techniques are often used to target a specific audience and are cheaper or even free. Search engine optimisation, for example, enables firms to reach prospects through organic search engine results without spending resources on ads.

A key benefit of inbound marketing is that the effectiveness of communication can be measured directly, particularly with blogs and organic search engine listings. Inbound communications are consumed by users who are seeking information about your brand, whilst outbound communications are pushed on consumers who are not necessarily interested. Outbound marketing methods like television ads are often ignored by consumers and the performance of campaigns is difficult to measure.

Connected to the measurement of performance, inbound marketing provides better ROI than outbound marketing: according to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018 Report, 53% of marketers see higher ROI from inbound than outbound marketing. This is partly due to the fact that inbound efforts can be monitored and subsequently optimised using web analytics.