Inbound vs Outbound Marketing: 5 Key Differences to Know

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

In recent decades, digital marketing has dramatically changed the sales and marketing landscape. The benefits of inbound vs outbound marketing are hotly debated, but not always clearly understood.

If you’re not sure of the differences between inbound and outbound marketing, read on for 5 key differences. 

Interruption vs Interaction

What is outbound marketing? Well, traditional outbound marketing works by grabbing the attention of a captive audience by literally interrupting them. Whether this is a billboard strategically positioned at the side of a busy street, or cold-calling potential clients.


Outbound marketing is often completely out of context – it’s not positioned in relation to its environment, it’s designed to stand out and disrupt so it’s more effective.

Inbound works with the idea of being an organic element of something the target is interacting with. For example, an informative blog post with links to other relevant articles. Or a fun podcast with subtle references to sponsors.

Strategy Structure

Outbound strategy is usually linear. This means using one method, directed at one target market, for a specific period of time. For example, a company investing in TV ads which will air during the kids’ shows at 4 pm each day. 

Inbound marketing is more holistic. It makes use of several streams or channels simultaneously, and in different ways. For example, launching Google Ads as well as collaborating with an Instagram influencer. 

If you’re unsure which channels will best engage your target market, an inbound marketing consultant will be able to advise you.

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing Messaging

Outbound marketing generally works with the message of ‘you didn’t know you needed this’. Creating a new desire within a consumer, or making them aware of issues they didn’t even know they needed fixing. 

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, has a different marketing approach. The intention is to discover the target market’s exciting needs and ‘pain points’, and seek to respond to them more organically. 


Outbound marketing’s disruptive (and often non-contextual) approach can make it difficult to measure. It’s hard to say exactly how many people have seen a magazine spread or seen a billboard ad. This can make it tricky to determine the success of an outbound marketing campaign.

Thanks to its digital nature, inbound marketing is highly measurable. It’s possible to see how many times an email has been opened, a link clicked, or a story viewed.

This level of data accessibility means that inbound marketing can be adapted or evolved in real-time. Whereas with outbound marketing, once it’s done, it’s done. 


By its very nature, outbound marketing can be pretty large-scale. From TV and radio commercials to magazine and newspaper ads. Buying into these spaces is not easy on the budget.

Inbound marketing, if done well, can be low cost, or even free. With a content marketing campaign, for example, all you need is a skilled writer and SEO expert to hand.

Then you can create content relevant to your target audience, and ensure they find it with the use of SEO keywords and strategist positioning. 

The Difference for Your Business

Both outbound and inbound marketing are valuable and effective methods of reaching clients. When it comes to inbound vs outbound marketing for your business, it all comes down to your product, target market, and specific objectives.

For more business guides and tips, check out our other blog posts.