Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing: Differences & Similarities
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Since the digital age started, the number of marketing methods kept growing, and chances are you’ve heard about many different techniques. After all, marketers wouldn’t be marketers if they didn’t like inventing new terms.

In the sea of disciplines, you probably came across “inbound marketing” (permission-based) and “outbound marketing” (interruption-based). However, these terms aren’t just jargon – they carry a lot of importance. They represent the two concepts of marketing that apply to all the other marketing disciplines.

To find potential customers for your services, products, your business, or a site, you will have to reach them with your marketing campaign. But how? These are the main focus of inbound and outbound marketing.

Inbound Marketing


Inbound Marketing is a permission based marketing approach. Inbound marketing looks to draw customers in “passively”. It pulls in more visitors, establishes brand authority, and increases exposure by providing valuable content. The content is placed, and with the right value, it can attract customers and lead them to the brand that made the content.

But how do people find this information? By searching online. If someone is looking to buy a lawnmower today, the first thing they will do is Google it. This kind of search could lead to someone reading a blog post about lawnmowers and their types and clicking on a link that leads them to a store.

Content Doesn’t Have to be Promotional

Modern consumers have become more aware of brands and marketing overall. They know when someone is trying to sell them something. That’s why most inbound content doesn’t focus directly on promoting services, products, or a brand.

Instead, the focus is on giving value. The goal is to offer a piece of content that will have something to tell to your potential clients – information about products, types, how they are built, and how that is useful to solve their real world challenges o and so on. Customers are willing to repay useful information by checking out your website or sharing it to their friends and followers. 

Common Applications

Inbound marketing is more complex and less direct, but it’s more effective than outbound marketing. Sometimes in marketing, simpler isn’t better. As I mentioned before, content is at the heart of inbound marketing:

  • Blog content
  • Website content
  • Downloadable content
  • Guides
  • Whitepapers
  • Tipsheets


The inbound approach is commonly developed for three different points of the buyers’ journey:

  1. The start of the journey where a potential buyer knows little to nothing about some problem and the possible solutions for it.
  2. In the middle of the journey, when they are comparing several possible solutions.
  3. At the end, when they are looking for a final piece of information that will help them make their final choice.

A single piece of content can be helpful for each of these pages if created properly. Any type of company can benefit from inbound marketing, as almost 90% of B2B customers search for information online. Some of the most commonly used inbound marketing strategies are:

  • SEO: SEO is probably one of the most important inbound marketing techniques. It passively improves the ranking of a website in search results, allowing more organic traffic to land on your site. 
  • Content Marketing: Content comes in many shapes and sizes. Content can be used to yield results on social media and websites. However, it can also be used to improve SEO and provide valuable information to consumers.
  • Blog marketing: Many think that business blogs are outdated, but they are still very effective information hubs that can drive traffic and potential customers.
  • Social media: Social media can also help promote the content you’ve created and reach more people.

Drawbacks and Issues

Inbound marketing is fast, and you can publish content right away. However, it takes time for the content to do its magic. You might get slow results for months, and then one of your posts on social media goes viral.

The issue with inbound marketing is that it takes time for results to kick in. Remember, it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. So, if you are looking for instant results, you won’t get them from this kind of marketing. In spite of this, inbound marketing offers longevity.

For example, if you’ve built the SEO of your site and you have a rich blog, even if you stop with your marketing efforts, they can sustain you for a long time and still bring in leads.

Outbound Marketing


Outbound marketing or “push marketing” comes in the form of interruption. It sends out a large number of messages to groups of people to make a sale. Some people refer to outbound marketing as “traditional advertising” as it was first used for TV, Radio, and print advertising.

However, over time it switched also to social media, email marketing, cold calling, and so on. For a long time, people thought that outbound marketing was the only way to do marketing. When someone said marketing, it included making advertising material and sending it in large volumes.

In a lot of cases, these campaigns focus on quantity, and many people that don’t have an interest in certain products or services are exposed to them. This is why the ROI of outbound marketing is generally lower compared to inbound marketing.

Common Applications

Even though mobile devices and the internet overall are growing and offering new methods for outbound advertising, this type of marketing is not as popular as it used to be. It isn’t a useless marketing method, but only a small number of companies can really benefit from it.

Companies looking to gain an audience quickly and drive potential buyers can make use of outbound strategies. However, even if successful, these campaigns don’t last very long and aren’t sustainable. At the moment, the best use for outbound marketing is when companies can’t reach their customers with inbound efforts.

Still, this requires you to have a highly specific and well-defined target audience. You need to know precisely who you are targeting to have a good ROI with these campaigns. At the same time, it’s important to have quality content that you can advertise to those people.

Who can benefit from outbound marketing:

  • Companies targeting specific CEOs and higher-ups
  • Companies targeting specific franchises
  • If you are unable to make your content visible (for some reason)

Drawbacks and Issues

The way people get information has changed a lot due to technology. This has also transformed marketing in many ways. This is why traditional outbound marketing channels like radio or television don’t get the same results.

Even if we talk about online outbound marketing, there are many ways consumers can get around them. Here are some facts that can help you understand better what I’m talking about:

  • Depending on the industry, email open rates range from 15% to 30%. This means that out of 100 emails sent, only 30 of them will be read (at best).
  • With a simple ad blocker, users can instantly block 100% of the ads that are displayed to them online. Reports say that 47% of internet users have ad blockers installed.
  • Modern TVs allow people to record shows, skip ads, or simply fast forward them.
  • On social media, people can hide ads coming from certain pages and never see them again.
  • Everyone chooses where they get their news from, and they can select the information they are receiving.
  • People have moved from TV to the online world because of ads, and now they also avoid sites that have ads.

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing: Similarities & Synergy

Even though outbound marketing is fairly outdated, it can be combined with your inbound strategies to give you even better results.

Paid Content Promotion

You can use paid advertising to promote your quality content and send it to people that actually want to read it. Highly customizable ads allow you to target the right people and turn them into long-term customers.

Outbound marketing limits you in a way where not all of the people interested in your content are going to find it. However, with outbound methods, you can propel your best performing content and reach a lot more people who are interested in it.

Advertising can be Used to Build Awareness With Relevant Messages

Ads can set the ground for your content. They don’t have to promote content directly but send out important messages that the content carries. This way, people will have more interest in reading that content.

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing: Conclusion

Content is at the center of modern marketing. It’s the main asset of outbound marketing and is required for many other marketing methods to be successful. Your main focus today should be on inbound marketing, and you should pay for advertisements only to enhance the results where this is possible.

This might take some time, but it will help you build a stable brand and help you capture your target audience’s attention.

Written By Solomon Thimothy

Solomon Thimothy is co-founder of OneIMS. He began his career in marketing over ten years ago with a focus on helping businesses grow their online presence and thrive in a digital world. Follow him on twitter at

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