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Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: A Complete Guide

Did you know that 72% of marketers say it is a challenge to manage content strategically? As a business, it is crucial to be strategic with every marketing method you use. Because there are various techniques out there, businesses may not know which will work best for them. Common terms thrown around in the marketing world are inbound and outbound marketing.

Should you create strategies for these methods? What are the differences between them? Read on to learn all about inbound vs. outbound marketing.

What Is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing is the traditional marketing form. This marketing technique involves businesses starting the conversation with their customers. The messages they send out are in the form of telemarketers, TV commercials, billboards, radio ads, and email. These tactics involve getting a message out to those who aren’t looking for it. This is why outbound marketing is often called ‘push’ or ‘interruption’ marketing.

Outbound marketing can be used in traditional and digital channels. The goal is to attract a wider audience than you would with inbound marketing. Even though consumers aren’t asking for these advertisements, outbound marketing is still a great strategy if you implement it correctly. A business can use tailored outbound tactics to see great results.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing is fairly new as it has only been around since 2006. Yet, its history of success is fascinating. Businesses use this technique because they believe it to be more ethical and reasonable. Inbound marketing is a more subtle way of advertising to customers. Instead of taking a sales approach, inbound marketing involves engaging the audience with valuable information.

Marketers who use this method will wait to advertise to those who are looking for information through SEO, content marketing, and social media. Without a great strategy, inbound marketing won’t attract the right prospects.

outbound marketingInbound vs. Outbound Marketing

When it comes to inbound vs. outbound marketing, you may be able to spot the differences already. They both have the same goals, but these are the major differing factors between the two:

Pull vs. Push

In inbound marketing, you pull your customers in by creating helpful content to attract them. To benefit from this approach, you must create content and address questions that your customers are looking up. Although a lot of research is required, the results make it worth it.

Outbound marketing works oppositely. Businesses use this technique to push their ad onto those who aren’t looking for it in hopes that someone will convert.

Specific vs. Generic

Inbound marketing takes a specific approach to reach consumers. Businesses will complete data analysis on a target audience to figure out what content they are searching for. Companies can then use that data to create educational content. Even though one target audience may have the same problem as other people outside of that audience, businesses will only focus on their target.

This tends to be those that the business has experience with or is interested in working with. Social media posts, blogs, SEO techniques, and newsletters are optimized for a defined audience. Even though a business may be reaching fewer people than it would with outbound marketing, inbound marketing tends to have higher conversion rates.

Outbound marketing advertisements through mediums like radio, TV, print ads, and billboards are more generic. Anyone can watch a TV show or listen to the radio or even pass a billboard. Even though they are more generic, there is still research that goes into these techniques. For example, if a company is using a billboard as their chosen medium, they’ll place it in a community where they are likely to have an audience. To reach as many people as possible, the ads themselves won’t be as specific.

Permissive vs. Interruptive

If a business uses search engine optimization (SEO) in its content pieces, the search engine will deem the business as worthy enough to be on the search results. Every time customers search a question or want to find a solution to a problem they are having, they are giving the search engine permission to show them relevant answers.

The permissive approach basically applies to your customers permitting you to show them your content. The same goes for those who follow you on social media. They are permitting you to create content for their feeds.

In contrast, outbound marketing is interruptive. This means consumers are not actively searching for or asking for an advertisement, but getting one anyway. Instead, it is forced upon them through radio ads, television commercials, etc. Even though outbound marketing is known as the traditional approach, it is still used in digital marketing.

An example of this would be scrolling through social media and seeing an ad that you didn’t ask for. You know, the promoted content that shows up in every other post on Instagram.

It can also come through other digital mediums like YouTube. Not only do ads come up before a video begins, but if the video is long enough, you’ll be interrupted mid vid with an ad. What do you do when you see these ads? You probably skip past them. If you, a business, are skipping through ads like this, it’s a fair assumption to say that your customers are doing the same.

The Pros and Cons of Outbound Marketing

Banner ads were once a great way to bring in new customers, but with the ad blocker, outbound marketing has fallen behind on the digital front. Every outbound marketing tactic has its pros and cons. Learn about them here:


The biggest pro is simple; outbound marketing reaches a wider audience at one time. Because of this, a business can target people who have never heard of its product or service.


Opting for outbound marketing tactics tends to be more expensive with less return on investment. You’ll definitely be spending more if you opt for more traditional mediums like billboards, radio spots, and television commercials.

Most outbound marketing tactics are invasive and, therefore, disliked by many. This is especially true when the products or services are not relevant to a customer which is usually the case. We already touched on this, but the last con to consider with outbound marketing is the use of blocking techniques like ad blockers and spam filters.

The Pros and Cons of Inbound Marketing

On a surface level, outbound marketing seems like the less desirable technique when compared to inbound marketing. However, inbound marketing has its pros and cons as well.


A major pro for companies on a tight marketing budget is that inbound marketing is the more cost-effective option in contrast to outbound marketing. You’ll more than receive a return on investment as the brand will experience long-term effects. Overall, it provides a better digital experience for customers. In turn, customers are more loyal and keep coming back.

With an inbound marketing strategy, a business can position itself as a trustworthy source of information on certain topics.


Even though you are likely to have a return on investment when you opt for inbound marketing, it may be difficult to track that investment. This is because there are a lot more mediums and platforms to handle.

In the marketing world, things change all the time. In digital marketing, this statement could not be more true. Without the right team to stay on top of the inbound marketing strategy, it won’t be effective.

Using Outbound Marketing

Business marketing takes a lot of knowledge and should always be done with data in mind. Even though fewer people are going to click on an outbound marketing ad, it is not an impossible thing. In fact, there is real value in pushing someone to become aware of your business. They may have never thought to search it up on their own.

The strategy works best for new businesses without a following or for established businesses trying to build awareness for a new product or service.

In these cases, it makes sense to create outbound traditional and digital marketing advertisements. Creating these ads can take a lot of hard work, but working with an experienced marketing agency can help. Even with generic outbound marketing, these firms can get your business in front of the right people.

Outbound marketing is a faster way to see results. Instead of waiting for your content to rank or for a following to build, try outbound marketing in the meantime.

inbound marketing magnetUsing Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is more of a long-term strategy, especially for startup businesses. Even in a less competitive industry, inbound marketing isn’t likely to come with immediate results. Creating great content takes time alone, but other factors make inbound marketing the long game. It takes more time for a search engine to index, understand, and then rank content pieces.

Unlike outbound marketing, you will receive organic traffic that does not end because of investment. Although outbound and inbound marketing both require upfront payments, you don’t have to keep paying to continue inbound marketing.

In contrast, to keep outbound marketing tactics going, you have to keep throwing money at them. Inbound marketing will do wonders for businesses with patience. While you are waiting for the search engines to do their thing, outbound marketing is a valuable option. Keep creating consistent content, but remember it’s quality over quantity.

Don’t create random content. Have a strategy surrounding who your business is creating content for.

Your strategy for content creation needs to include the following:

  • Target audience research
  • Competitive analysis
  • Social media content
  • Blog content
  • Promotional content
  • Link building

Without these considerations, a company’s inbound marketing strategy is going to do little to nothing.

How to Create an Outbound Marketing Strategy

Creating a strategy for outbound marketing is how a business can keep track of the effectiveness of a campaign. Without a clear strategy in place, outbound marketing efforts won’t be worth it. Here’s how to develop a strategy that can help your company:

Understand the Audience

Even though outbound marketing campaigns are more generic, a business still needs to understand its audience. The most important thing to understand about the audience is who the qualified leads are.

Set Goals

Before building and implementing an outbound marketing strategy, figure out the goals. If the goal is to gain more leads, get specific by defining how many leads you want to generate. Chances are, you have a specific ad campaign in mind. What do you want your consumers to do when they see the ads? Is this a new product or remarketing campaign?

Answer these questions and you’ll come up with goals that you can actually track.

Look at the Data

You’ll want to build your outbound marketing strategy around the data you discovered about your leads. When you make data-driven decisions, like knowing your keywords, campaigns will be more successful.

Because outbound marketing comes at a price, it is essential to only pay for the leads you are looking for.

Create Quality Content

No matter what outbound marketing technique you use, the goal is to bring a customer back to your website. From there, they will look for quality information. Every ad campaign should lead prospects to pages with helpful information. Quality content will help customers complete the customer journey.

Optimize Your Strategy

The true key to meeting outbound marketing goals is to continuously analyze and optimize the strategy. A business can analyze results during and after a campaign has ended. With this valuable information, companies can take what they learned and bring it to a new ad campaign. You should never keep an outbound marketing strategy the same unless it happens to be perfect.

inbound marketing book on a deskHow to Create an Inbound Marketing Strategy

Creating an inbound marketing strategy has similar steps to that of an outbound marketing strategy. This is because both marketing methods have the same end goal.

Here are the steps a business will have to take to create an inbound marketing strategy:

Create a Buyer Persona

Like in an outbound marketing strategy, the first step is to understand the target audience. However, since inbound marketing techniques are more specific, the research also needs to be.

Because of this, it is recommended to create buyer personas that can help a business communicate to its audience. A buyer persona is a fictional representation of the ideal customer you want to target with a specific ad campaign. Buyer personas can also help with creating an outbound marketing strategy.

Create Keywords

How are the buyer personas you created searching for information about your business? You can complete keyword research to find out. The best keywords are those with a high search volume but a low competition level. You’ll want to stand out against the competitors in the same industry.

Get a good list of relevant keywords down to create content around. This is how you can optimize your site and attract your target audience.

Define Goals

Without setting goals, you won’t be able to measure key performance indicators (KPIs). Common goals for an inbound marketing strategy include:

  • Number of unique website visitors
  • Number of inbound leads
  • Traffic sources

The buyer personas you created in step one can help your business define inbound marketing goals.

Work With Inbound Marketing Experts

Inbound marketing is a long-term tactic that takes the work of professional digital marketers to understand and track. If your business already has an in-house marketing team, it still may be worth it to outsource some tasks.

Getting a fresh pair of eyes can help the success of your marketing strategy. Since inbound marketing takes longer to gain results, it may be worth it to hire an outsider. That way, your in-house team can focus on other tasks.

No matter what you decide, either the in-house marketing team or outsourced marketing team must complete an analysis of the strategy. By understanding how effective it is, the next campaign will benefit.

Popular Types of Digital Content Marketing

A business can use popular types of digital content marketing to its advantage. You can use digital content marketing for either outbound or inbound marketing, but they are more common for inbound marketing.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is beneficial in business marketing because many people go straight to search engines when they have questions or are thinking about buying a product. SEO is a relationship starter between a business and consumers. When prospective customers search for something, your online content will pop up if ranked high enough.

Businesses can do this by using Google AdWords, PPC campaigns, and SEO keyword research.

Blog Posts

Many companies understand the value of blogs. You may have noticed a blog post or two on a company’s website that you never thought of before. Every industry can benefit from having a blog on its website. Blog posts can actually increase and improve SEO to bring in more organic traffic. Without a blog, a business won’t be able to drive website traffic through search engines.

Luckily, creating content like this is easy and affordable. While you are paying little, your business is seeing a huge return as customers become more trusting of your company.

Landing Pages

A landing page should focus on keeping customers reading to increase conversion rates. This means your landing page, and entire website design needs to be easy to use and aesthetically pleasing.

A landing page acts as the face of your business. Because this is what most consumers are going to see first, it is essential to get your point across right away. If you want to optimize your landing page, you can add a video or images.

Social Media

One of the best marketing tips a professional will tell any business is to get on social media. Whether your target audience is young or old, they are on some type of social media platform. If you aren’t on the same platform as a business, you could be missing out on valuable consumers. Social media is becoming a huge business tool as the use of technology continues to increase.

Through a social media platform or platforms, a business can build its brand, increase customer loyalty, and retain more prospects. It also allows businesses the ability to speak directly to their customers.

outbound vs inbound marketingCan a Business Use Inbound and Outbound Marketing Together?

We’ve discussed a lot about inbound vs. outbound marketing, but can a business use both strategies? The answer is yes! Both strategies are commonly used to cover more overall bases. As outbound marketing reaches more people and inbound marketing reaches specific people, a lot more ground is covered. In fact, outbound marketing strategies can be used to support an inbound campaign. The most common way this is done is through the combination of informative content with outbound ads.

A combined strategy like this can place your content in front of more people while still targeting a specific audience with keywords. You can create an inbound/outbound campaign with the following steps:

  1. Create a buyer persona
  2. Build content that would interest the persona
  3. Upload the content to a website page
  4. Design an ad that correlates to the content
  5. Create a sponsored ad and set a targeting amount

This hybrid approach works best for businesses looking to make real connections with their customers while maximizing the number of prospects they reach.

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: Which Is Better?

When it comes to inbound vs. outbound marketing, neither is better than the other. However, depending on your marketing goals, one could be more effective than the other. The best strategy to have is one that involves both inbound and outbound marketing. When both methods are intertwined, you reap more of the benefits. Are you ready to outsource your marketing? Contact us today to learn about all of the services we can provide for your business.

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