Outbound VS Inbound Marketing: Spotting the Differences

Once upon a time, marketing was all about grabbing a potential customer’s attention by whatever means.

Billboards. TV Commercials. Magazine ads.

All of these things (and more) vied for a prospect’s attention in a desperate attempt to draw their eyes from focusing on whatever it was they actually wanted to do.

The internet has changed all that. In addition to traditional marketing techniques that focus primarily on outbound methods, marketers now have a whole new means to apply a laser-like focus to their prospects through inbound marketing.

If you’re a little unsure about the difference between outbound and inbound marketing, keep reading for a closer look at outbound vs inbound marketing.

Outbound Marketing

When most people think marketing, they’re probably thinking outbound marketing.

With outbound marketing, it’s up to the company to initiate the interaction. A traditional outbound marketing campaign tries to grab a prospect’s attention with a flashy billboard or a compelling banner ad on a website. 

While this form of marketing is definitely still effective (why else would companies still be doing it?), it relies heavily on breaking a prospect’s focus away from something else and onto your product. 

Inbound Marketing

Seth Godin nails the concept of inbound marketing with what he refers to as “permission marketing“:

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”

Inbound marketing takes a more subtle approach than outbound methods. Rather than throwing a lot of images or text at your customers and seeing what sticks, inbound marketing focuses on producing content and resources your customers will actually want and drawing them into a closer relationship with your brand.

With inbound marketing, the goal is to pull customers to you not go out and get them.

Outbound vs Inbound Marketing

While there are pros and cons to both outbound vs inbound marketing, both have their place depending on your needs and your customers.

Outbound marketing is still effective in the B2C space, particularly with older customers, but it can actually turn some customers away. 84% of 25 to 34-year-olds say they have left websites because of intrusive ads.

Outbound marketing can also get very expensive and with the difficulty of tracking response rates, your results can be tough to measure.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is inexpensive–something to consider if you’re part of a smaller organization. Compared to outbound marketing, inbound methods typically cost about 62% less and actually generate 3 times as many leads.

Conversion is also typically much higher with inbound marketing. Website conversion rates are often up to six times higher with inbound marketing.


The rise of the internet has truly changed the way businesses talk to consumers. Whether your organization is big or small, the benefits of fostering a more personal relationship with your customers cannot be understated.

While outbound marketing still has its place, you just can’t beat inbound marketing for its efficiency and personal touch.

Want to learn more about more effectively marketing your organization? We’re here to help.

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