Lead generation is an essential aspect of marketing. Inbound and outbound marketing are the two kinds used to do the same. When top marketers are consulted as to which one of the two is more reliable to fill the top level of their sales funnel, the answer has been outbound marketing. However, several sales gurus vouch for inbound marketing being responsible for a successful business.

What separates inbound marketing from outbound marketing? Let’s look into their meanings and differences in detail.

Definitions and explanations

Inbound marketing

Inbound marketing is a newer marketing method used to make sales by laser-focused audience targeting. It zeroes on using information and value addition to a customer’s life to create brand loyalty rather than pushing them towards sales with advertising. Inbound marketing is used to “draw the attention” of potential audience by providing them information they may be looking for. This kind of strategy is based on creating a sense of familiarity and trust on the brand without deliberately advertising any of the products, or simply subtly advertising them.

Outbound marketing

Outbound marketing is also referred to as traditional “marketing” or simply “marketing”. It involves the old-school and reliable means of advertising that reaches out to mass media with a sales-centric point of view. The message in the advertisement is meant to reach the target audience, whether they want to be part of it or not. This gives the brand a huge sample space and possibility to create brand awareness to make sales. For example, radio and television broadcasts, banners, billboards, flyers, brochures, cold calling and bulk mailing lists are a part of outbound marketing.

Difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing

The difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing is given below:

1. Direction of communication:

The direction of communication here refers to the manner in which information is projected outwards to the public. In inbound marketing, information is pushed towards only those who seem interested in a given subject. Your target audience are the people who search for content related to yours on search engines. For example, your blog on how to make organic soaps and your organic soap advertisements would reach people who constantly like and view organic soaps pages, videos and others.

However, outbound marketing reaches out to the general population, whether or not they are interested in the product. This gives them the leverage of mining leads that may have not seemed keen on the product before but developed an interest upon viewing the advertisement. With the exception of contextual advertisements from Adwords that send the audience search based ads, outbound marketing focuses on a bigger presence.

2. Medium:

Inbound marketing uses an influencer model as a medium to get information out there. For example, blogs, articles, Google searches, and encouraging newsletters subscription, etc.

Outbound marketing has a traditional approach to share information to the collective audience. For example, press releases, mass media like newspaper articles, billboards, bulk mailing lists, flyers, brochures, etc.

3. Product versus customer view:

Inbound marketing seeks to provide a subtle form of advertisement by giving internet users the information they are searching for, thereby adding value to their knowledge. Building the audience’s trust in order to create a loyal customer base is the main target of inbound marketing, which is why they have a Customer View. For example, publishing blogs and self help articles about digital marketing or writing blogs with search engine optimization (SEO) helps novice marketers with their own brands.

Outbound marketing has a Product View because they seek to directly advertise their products from a sales point of view. Their funnel includes all the steps necessary to convert a person into a customer and encourage repeat purchases by telling them about the advantages, features and offers related to their product in a concise manner. Outbound marketing seeks to show the audience how their lives get more convenient if they purchased their product.

4. Approach of marketing:

Inbound marketing aims to add value to nurture a relationship of trust between themselves and the audience. On several occasions, you will notice inbound marketing content that does not advertise the product, but simply provides a viable solution to the customers’ problems. This turns to the business’ advantage as it creates a connection of reliability.

Outbound marketing, however, focuses on projecting to a customer how their lives benefit and reach a new level of satisfaction by purchasing a particular product. Material purchases leading to inner validation and a picture perfect image appeal to the audience, which is what such advertisements try to display. The aim is to make the audience want to make a purchase just by taking a look of the product.

5. Scope of marketing:

Inbound marketing caters to the audience that is consciously looking for products and services similar to that of your brand. This means that the scope at times is very limited. However, the reach is spot-on and one can’t ideally miss. Reaching out to a small but surely interested group will ensure your product is sold.

On the other hand, outbound marketing reaches out to the general audience with the exception of Google Adwords advertising. Such indiscriminate publishing can create a demand that did not exist before, thereby increasing demand.  However, there is a risk of creating a smaller impact due to targeting a universal audience than that with inbound marketing.

6. Budget:

Inbound marketing has the capability to create a huge ripple of impact using very little resources since the results are not directly proportional to. But, if a marketer chooses to spend more capital on content, he can reach a bigger goal. Inbound marketing relies more on the creative quotient rather than only capital input.

In the case of outbound marketing, the budget sets the tone of the advertising. The bigger the capital expenditure is, the greater the reach of the advertisement. Here, the results and visibility are directly proportional to the budget.

7. Measuring the results:

Measuring the success of both advertising and content with inbound marketing is easier. The results can be tracked with the traffic, likes, viewer responses and conversions you have made on the site. Gauging the results becomes more convenient when you can track the engagement your content has with viewers using online marketing tools.

However, with outbound marketing, it is not as simple. With the exception of Google Adwords, measuring the results of an advertisement put on newspaper articles, brochures, and billboards presents it set of complications. It is difficult to gauge the impact these ads have made only on the basis of customer purchases.

Inbound marketing vs outbound marketing – tabular comparison

A comparison of inbound marketing and outbound marketing in tabular form is presented below:

Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing
Direction of Communication
Buyer perspective i.e. interested parties only. Aimed at everyone available.
Influencer media (e.g., Blogs, articles, newsletters, and more). Traditional media (e.g., TV ads, brochure, billboards and more).
Product Versus Customer
Tries to cater to the specific needs of the customer without product sales being the focal point. Caters to advertise the product to a customer with sales as an end goal.
Seeks to provide value and information. Main message is important to reaching the right audience.
Reaches the audience interested in a particular niche. Reaches even general audiences and can create a demand that didn’t exist before.
Can create a huge impact without spending too much. Needs a bigger budget to increase its impact and reach. Directly proportional to the scale of advertising.
Measuring the results
Inbound marketing is easier to measure in terms of results. It is more complicated to measure outbound marketing results.

Conclusion – inbound marketing vs outbound marketing

From the explanation given above, we can see how both inbound and outbound marketing are very different from each other. If you wonder which one is better of the two, the answer depends on the requirement and focus of the business. For some, outbound marketing tactics would work better than inbound marketing. Most of the times, it is a balanced mix of both that bring in the best possible results as they both have a different impact.