Difference Between Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing

Most of marketers – if not all outbound marketers – still think trade shows, telemarketing, email blasts to purchased lists, television ads, banner ads, radio ads, magazine ads etc. are the best marketing channels and have maximum ROI, whereas digital medium is useless for marketing businesses, specially B2B businesses. Many of those who use it make it worse, they implement the same methodology of conventional marketing on digital medium and call it digital marketing.

Outbound Marketing

Although email blasts, banner ads, PPC etc. can be named as digital marketing, but in order to sustain in their market they will have to change their mind set and their methodology. Old marketing methodology is now named as Outbound Marketing. According to HubSpot:

“Outbound marketing is technique where a marketer pushes his message out everywhere in the hope that it resonates with that needle in the haystack.”

The effectiveness of outbound marketing techniques is decreasing exponentially with time as consumers are so much frustrated from the marketing interruptions that they are creative ways to block these interruptions. For instance, people skip television ads with the help of T.V recorders, prevent themselves from cold calls by registering their phone numbers in FTC’s do not call list, avoid print ads by reading news online, most of them forget billboard as soon as they pass by it, ignore direct mails by using spam filters, and so on.

Investing in outbound marketing is like advertising in a dessert in the hope that someone will look at it and would convert. As, in outbound techniques marketers spread their message to a large audience hoping that the consumers will listen if they success in maintaining reach and frequency. They do not even scale down the audience to target only their potential customers.

Inbound Marketing

What makes the sense of targeting the audience that is not even paying attention? Why not invest on techniques that earn consumers’ interest instead of buying their attention. According to HubSpot:

“Inbound Marketing is about creating and sharing content that people love. By creating content specifically designed to attract your potential customers.  It attracts you potential customers to your business and keeps them coming back for more.”

Inbound Marketing is story telling; a modern approach to marketing that is more like a magnet that attracts prospects not a hammer. Some of the most popular inbound marketing channels are Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, blogs, vblogs, eBooks, whitepapers, Content Marketing, newsletters, email marketing for lead nurturing, podcasts, etc.

Inbound Vs Outbound

Both are the two methods or approach rather than medium, as they differ in strategies not channels. There is a 180-degree change in both techniques. A brief comparison of these two techniques is given below:

Inbound Outbound
Long term Short term
Cheap Expensive
Permission based Interruption based
Excellent targeting Terrible targeting
Measurable Immeasurable

Short Term Vs Long Term

Outbound Marketing: The effects outbound marketing campaigns last as long as the campaign is running. Once the campaign is over, someone else will take your position and people will forget you. The next time, you will again spend your marketing budget and after the campaign is over there would be again negligible to zero conversion from this.

Inbound Marketing: Inbound marketing creates an echo system. It is a cyclic process and keep running and hence you never leave your space for some else. Since it requires low budget, you will have no problem on keep it running all the time. Even if you stop investing on it, the content you produced, the links you earned would last theoretically forever along with many more things.

Cheap Vs Expensive

Outbound Marketing

  • Newspaper Ads: $250 to $2500 per week
  • Radio Ads: $100 to $300 per week. They can cost even more for a specific slot.
  • Television Ads: More than $200,000. They can also cost more for prime-time national spots.
  • Magazine Ads: National Magazines ca cost approx $100,000 or more for a full page.
  • Yellow Pages: An average half page yellow book ad will run you over $1,000 per month.
  • And so on

Inbound Marketing

  • Websites: Starts from approximately $250
  • SEO: Starts from approximately $500
  • Pay per Click: Starts from approximately $500
  • Social Media MarketingL Starts from approximately $99
  • And so on

Interruption based Vs Permission based

Outbound Marketing: It is an interruption-based marketing. The brief strategy of outbound marketing is to find channels with high following, then pay for disassociated ads in the hope that with a precise study of audience demographics and excellent planning, a small fraction of that audience will pay attention to it and would convert.

Inbound Marketing: It is a permission-based marketing. A brief strategy of inbound marketing is to create content that solves your prospects problems and market them on platforms where they have given you permission to communicate with them. This targeted marketing would increase the chances of conversion.

Terrible targeting Vs Excellent targeting

Outbound Marketing: In outbound marketing, marketers spread their message in wild without knowing who will see it. Television ad of a motorbike on during a car racing show is targeted for adults but a 10-year old child can also watch it who has nothing to do with it for now.

Inbound Marketing: In inbound marketing, marketers only target their buyer personas. For those who do not know what the buyer persona is, buyer persona is a fictional character that is your customer. It is you buyer’s profile. This filtered audience is friendlier and increases the chances of conversion.

Immeasurable Vs Measurable

Outbound Marketing: It is a tough job to measure ROI of each campaign and each medium. You may estimate it by the dates of campaign but even then, you would never want to divide your data to calculate ROI of each medium in a campaign.

Inbound Marketing: In inbound marketing, you can measure almost anything. There are a lot of varieties and types of analytics and reporting tools. You can calculate ROI of each medium on any campaign on any given date and time.


I am not saying to stop investing in offline channels and invest in digital medium. It is not digital that makes your marketing inbound, it is an approach, a technique. Stop wasting your money in outbound marketing and start investing in inbound marketing.

the author

Shariq is a Google Analytics Certified and Inbound Certified Professional. He is a B2B Digital Marketer and a creative writer with experience of working numerous industries. He is also a contributor on ProPakistani.Pk and TechJuice.Pk. He is specialized in Technical SEO & Web Analytics as well.