Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: 8 Key Differences


If you’re considering whether to do inbound vs outbound marketing for your business then there are a number of things you need to consider.

First of it’s important to define what the two terms are and how they are useful to us. Then it’s important to consider evaluating your target customer. This can help you decide what channels are going to be most effective at reaching your target customer.

For older customers, traditional channels – outbound marketing – might be more effective.


Inbound marketing is more about brand authority and modern techniques such as influencers on Instagram. 

Here’s inbound vs outbound marketing. 

Defining Inbound vs Outbound Marketing 

The two terms might sound like meaningless corporate buzzwords that belong in a trendy office on Fifth Avenue, New York. However, they are in fact very useful for marketing purposes. 

Direct Marketing: Straight to the Point 

Outbound marketing is very direct. It involves advertising on television, radio, in print magazines, and on websites. Outbound marketing explicitly sells the product. But this isn’t always effective. People find adverts annoying and companies now exist to help people avoid adverts.

Spotify offers a premium service for a monthly fee that allows its listeners to shut out adverts. Adblocker allows internet users to block banner pop-ups on their computer and the decline of print publications has devalued the cost and effectiveness of advertising as fewer people buy magazines and newspapers on the high street. 

Inbound Marketing: More Subtle 

Inbound marketing is more about how consumers feel about a brand and ensuring that customers who research something on the internet know and learn about your product.

This can be achieved through a number of ways. SEO – Search Engine Optimization – ensures that any content regarding your product or service such as a blog post is ranked highly on Google.

Influencers are Instagram users who have a high number of followers that have built a brand based upon their personality. Brands communicate with the influencers who fit the target audience of the product and persuade them to promote it either by sending them free samples of the product or service or by paying them. 

Here are some details about inbound marketing that will blow your mind. 

Know Your Audience

The most important factor in both inbound and outbound marketing is knowing your audience. What is the average age category, gender, race, and background of the product or service you are trying to sell?

Surveys and focus groups can help you establish this. So too can send out free samples of your products for testing. This way you gauge the opinion of different types of people. 

Once you have established this you can then start to brainstorm as to what channels of marketing are going to work most effectively? 

Knowing your audience is also key to deciding what your brand will look like and how you want people to feel about your brand. 

Brand Identity 

Part of creating a strong inbound marketing campaign is the concept of brand identity. This is creating a brand that is well known and loved.

Often this can be achieved by suggesting that those who buy the brand are not just buying a product but are buying into philosophy or way of life.

A computer firm like Apple is a good example of this, the most successful brand in the world, valued at $209 billion. Buy buying an Apple product you are buying into their eco-system which ties into their philosophy of an inter-connected, easier life.


The more Apple products you buy the more connected your lifestyle becomes. Those that have the Apple Watch, the iPad, the iPhone, and a Mac Computer have a better quality of life.

The idea is that those who are loyal to Apple will buy their new products and generate excitement about them. This will happen through word-of-mouth and social media. Eventually, this will generate more revenue for the company through sales. 

Coca-Cola is another brand which tries to create a particular lifestyle that is associated with it. It utilizes the image of Father Christmas. This suggests that drinking Coke is inherently associated with Christmas and generosity, kindness and love of children.  

Coca-Cola recently allowed Netflix to include one of their failure in their series Stranger Things. Their decision to introduce a new receipt called ‘New Coke’ in 1985 was a disaster. This may have seemed like an odd decision. However, it allowed Coca-Cola to reinvent history through nostalgia and to suggest their product is part of history.  

A Two Way Conversation 

The main difference between inbound and outbound marketing is dialogue. Consumers and potential consumers are able to talk about the product and the company is able to engage with them, discussing new ideas and product launches and cultivating a following.

This two-way conversation can include the marketing team or the product developers themselves being interviewed or hosting a Q & A session. A company which now has a presence on Twitter can write back to critics and fans who Tweet them.

Whilst on Instagram users who are particularly happy with a service or product can be encouraged to post photos about them online.

Inbound Marketing: a New Frontier

Advertising has changed. No longer is it about putting advertisements out there and hoping people take notice, it’s about a two-way conversation.

It’s also about creating a brand that consumers feel positive about and can then communicate about with their friends and family. Knowing the company respects your values and beliefs rather than simply buying the most functional product is increasingly becoming important to consumers.

As a result advertising and marketing is changing as consumers start to see a purchase as an investment and a deeply personal choice. 

Knowing your audience is, therefore, more important than ever when it comes to weighing up inbound vs outbound marketing.