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Inbound Marketing Vs. Outbound Marketing: What’s the Difference?

30 Jul

inbound vs outbound marketing whats the difference

Marketing is the basic necessity of any small business. There are many companies who waste money and deal with performance because they are not using the right type of marketing for their business. As a business owner, you should know how marketing trends change with the passage of time, but it can be difficult to know how and why these trends change in the first place.

To really understand small business marketing, you have to start with the basics: the different types. For most small businesses, there are two common types that can be effective when done correctly:

  1. Inbound marketing
  2. Outbound marketing


Marketing professionals often love to make up trendy terms and jargon to define how marketing changes each year. In this case, however, these terms can make the difference between how your company or business connects with its customers. The latest trends related to inbound vs. outbound marketing have introduced an important cultural shift into the marketing industry that can help business owners reach the targeted customers.

What do these terms mean and which one should you use for your next marketing campaign? Here is a complete comparison of both types of marketing that will help you select the best approach time and time again.

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What Is Outbound Marketing?

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Outbound Marketing is commonly known as the “common” or general form of marketing that can be seen virtually everywhere today. It is general in the sense that the target audience is broadly defined and the communication is focused on the masses. In this type of marketing, there is little or no target customer that business owners have to focus on. Instead, all types of customers can be equally targeted using a variety of channels such as:

  1. Radio and TV ads
  2. Banners
  3. Telemarketing
  4. Billboards
  5. Newspapers
  6. Cold calling
  7. Magazine ads
  8. Pop-up ads
  9. Contextual ads


Despite the widespread use of outbound marketing, its importance has diminished over the last 10 years. The reason for this is that competition from the internet is increasing. Companies only have to target the customers who are ready to invest in their business instead of relying on forms of mass communication. Apart from that, the introduction of the ad blockers has made the matter worse. Most customers use ad blockers to block the marketing and communication that is not relevant to them. As a result, companies and businesses alike have been forced to adapt to different ways of marketing that rely on a more specific target audience than the broad scopes outbound marketing generally relies on.

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What Is Inbound Marketing?

It is the latest trend of marketing that is used to attract customers to increase sales and consumer bases with limited resources. Sometimes, it is also known as targeted or content marketing when used digitally. In this type of marketing, you will try to pull in potential customers to a central location or marketing message. Common examples of the inbound marketing include:

  1. Social media
  2. Blog posts
  3. Infographics
  4. Email
  5. Whitepapers
  6. Newsletters


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It is the type of content that people actually read in the modern age since it is readily accessible. It also allows business owners to grab the attention of their customers on any platform that they like or own. Best of all, many inbound marketing techniques are simple and covert, keeping your marketing efforts more hidden than traditional techniques. Strategies for inbound marketing that attract customers can include search engine optimization, paid search and social media posts, many of which often use outbound marketing messages to draw people in. As a result, inbound and outbound marketing often go hand-in-hand.

Most companies and small businesses can take advantage of inbound marketing with a little bit of effort. Some find success with a simple website or blog, while others require new techniques like affiliate marketing to help them gain the trust of new customers. With the help of inbound marketing, business owners can create a new emotional experience or need for their customers to increase retention and loyalty in ways that outbound marketing simply cannot match with its broader focus.

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Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

How do you know which approach to use? Quite often, it is not a matter of using one or the other. While a singular approach may be warranted, the two approaches are often more effective together. To really get a sense of how each approach can affect your marketing efforts, you need to know the benefits of each one and how they interact with each other. There are many things you will have to consider in order to decide which type of marketing would be the best for your business or when a dual approach is required in order to help you generate more revenue.

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Benefits of Inbound Marketing

The biggest benefit of using inbound marketing is that you will gain the ability to directly attract specific customers. This can create a direct connection and relationship between business and customer. You can easily show customers the products and services you have to offer them in a direct manner. You can also show your value in terms of how you can solve a problem or need that may draw the customer to your business in the first place.

This can be an effective way to generate more revenue. Customer acquisition is more targeted and specific to your business and its offerings. More importantly, the necessary marketing resources such as time and money are more limited and controlled when you do not need a large marketing campaign to get the best results.

The trick, however, is attracting customers in the first place.

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Benefits of Outbound Marketing

Some people have the misconception that outbound marketing is dead or that there are no benefits in using this type of marketing. If done correctly, however, outbound marketing can be used to help your inbound marketing efforts. The biggest benefit of outbound marketing is that you can easily present your products to a large population of potential customers. This means spending less time crafting your target audience or searching for the unique individuals who are more likely to respond to your marketing efforts.

Unfortunately, truly successful large scale outbound marketing requires a lot of time and money. This form of marketing relies on mass communication channels like paid advertising to spread the word. Campaigns can be costly depending on the length, so you need to have the funds and resources to make it work right from the start.

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Cost of Marketing

Outbound promotional marketing is exceptionally costly. The normal cost per lead is less when utilizing inbound promotional marketing strategies since they are targeted towards specific customers. Inbound marketing costs are generally more controllable as well. The expenses related to outbound marketing, on the other hand, can add up quickly. These costs frequently include printing and mailing materials, or fees associated with spreading the message through TV, radio or other media.

Inbound advertising is more affordable and accessible since anyone with some experience and knowledge can set up an inbound campaign. For a small business, you generally need to make a site and/or blog with content that is focused to draw in your target market. You may generally do more upfront work when setting up a digital platform, but an inbound campaign will often require little intervention after it is running. In many cases, the only continued work required is the creation of new content or promotional materials to keep customers coming back for more.

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Two-Way Communication

One major advantage of inbound promotional marketing is that it is typically a two-way form of communication where the customer can directly interact with the business. They can post on the organization’s Facebook page, send questions or comments through or partake in challenges and promotions through social media. When they engage and take an interest in the business, they are more likely to be a loyal customer in the long run.

The key requirement to a successful inbound marketing campaign is continued communication. If you have a large number of customers already, they are more likely to communicate with the business, through its various channels, on a daily basis. Have people on the other end to respond quickly and promptly to anything direct. The success of a business is often measured by their customer service.

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The Scope of the Audience

Outbound promotional marketing often relies on sending your marketing message out to individuals whether they are likely to see/hear it or not. This can be effective in some cases when you need a large umbrella of coverage. At the same time, this approach is more wasteful in terms of the money and time you will spend converting recipients into customers.

Inbound promotional marketing puts your message before your target market and minimizes the amount of rejection. This can help save money and time since your entire focus will be on the people who are more likely to respond in the long run. Unfortunately, this can also limit the scope of your message or the size of the actual audience.

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Marketing for Non-Marketers

Finally, you may find inbound marketing to be more user-friendly if this is your first time with a marketing campaign. Most inbound marketing strategies are easy to implement once you have the right platform and infrastructure like a website/blog. Once your means of marketing is set up, you can focus on the creative aspect.

Outbound marketing is effective when done right, which can take a little bit of experience to manage. In other words, you need to know what works and what doesn’t in order to maximize the reach of an outbound marketing campaign. This form of marketing also includes advanced marketing strategies and terms that can be confusing to beginners.

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Deciding the Best Fit for Your Business

business woman making decision

There are many businesses that have found success with both types of marketing strategies with a little bit of set-up and experimentation. It can be difficult to choose between the two or use them both, so here are a few things you need to know to decide what is best for your business and its marketing efforts.

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The Market

To begin with, you need to consider who your target audience is and how they typically search for what you offer. Where do they go when they need the products or services you sell? How do they find a business like yours?

If you have a clear target audience, an inbound strategy can be effective once you have a good idea of how they search or interact online. Otherwise, an outbound strategy can help you find customers you do not know about.

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Business Goals

Any form of marketing is just a means to an end, meaning you should determine what you are trying to accomplish in the first place. What are you attempting to accomplish? What are your current business goals? Do you need to increase your audience size or brand presence?  

Inbound marketing is the best approach for long-term success in customer conversion since you are drawing them in. Outbound advertising, on the other hand, can help you to find new customers who are beyond the scope of your existing consumer base. As a general rule, the best technique is to combine inbound and outbound marketing efforts for the best results.

computer with brand wording on screen

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You should consider how each promotional marketing campaign will influence your overall brand and image. All marketing materials should convey the basics of the brand such as your location and logo. To decide between the two, you should utilize the promotional that communicates or shapes your brand clearly and effectively while remaining feasible. Keep the campaign on budget, especially if you adopt an outbound marketing approach.

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Finally, you can also use either approach that you are more comfortable with. If you are more comfortable or familiar with a particular approach, you can use this familiarity as a way to improve your business’s marketing efforts in the short-term without making too many mistakes.


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