Inbound vs Outbound Marketing: Which is More Effective in 2021?


12 Mar, 2024



It would not be an understatement if we say marketing has the power to make or break your business. With 48% of companies investing between 4-10% of their revenue on marketing in 2020, you know we are right.

Marketing is not just about building brand awareness, helping you retain loyal customers or help you distinguish yourself in the sea of competitors, it does more than that. The result of a great marketing plan also helps you push sales, engage new visitors, turn them into customers and eventually aid you in growing your business. Before starting a plan, it is important to understand why marketing matters to every company, no matter their size, and identify how these factors can tailor a plan to suit your overall strategy.

There are generally two kinds of marketing that you can put in two teams:

Team 1:- Who goes out of their way to sell or make others aware about their products and services, almost chasing them (and not in a fun way!)

Team 2:-  Who does everything Team 1 has done but they don’t run after others or force them to see the value of their product or services. They inform and display the usability, relevance, and worth of their product and wait for them to come to them.

So what does that tell you?

It means you cannot just have any marketing plan to run a successful business in this unforgiving, modern online era. Whether you want to be Team 1 and nearly force your content on your potential customers (outbound) or let them research and find you themselves due to your great content marketing and digital marketing (inbound), you anyhow need to plan and execute your marketing plan strategically and carefully.

What do we want to tell you? We want to tell you what is the difference between inbound and outbound marketing and for the same reason, we are going to see this inbound vs outbound marketing comparison.

Well, in this blog not only we will inform you how Team 1 and Team 2 differ from each other and when to use one approach over another to reach your right audience and grow your business.


Let’s start with the basics… the definitions of what is Inbound marketing or Outbound marketing then we will shift the focus to know what is the difference between inbound and outbound marketing and which one is better?

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What happens in Team 1: Outbound Marketing?

You wake up, check your phone, and see your emails or message inbox spammed with emails or text that you delete without even opening them. You’re on your way to work and see billboards on roads and as you work throughout the day you listen to music but hear ads that too frequently interrupt your listening. 

We all encounter an endless barrage of marketing messages every day and everything that you hear, see or read via television commercials, telemarketers, billboards, radio ads, and email spam is all outbound marketing.

Outbound marketing is also known as traditional marketing. It uses the “push” technique to promote a product or service to the widest possible audience with an aim to turn potential customers into actual buyers. 

However, it is also used in the online ecosystem for instance, emails (“cold emailing”), banners, display ads, PPC, spam messages, etc are all outbound marketing tactics:

Outbound Marketing

  • Commercials
  • PPC ads
  • Print media ads
  • Billboards or Hoardings
  • Cold-calling
  • Direct email marketing
  • TV ads
  • Radio ads

    Below is an infographic to make you understand how Outbound Marketing tactic works:

    Outbound Marketing

    Why Go For It?

    Despite what experts have to say about outbound marketing, it is really not an outdated concept. Irrespective of whether you are a business juggernaut or a small business, there are some benefits, outbound marketing can give your business:

    • It Supports Your Inbound Efforts: Why let your amazing content go unseen on a landing page or your blog that gets very little organic traffic and why not get it displayed across platforms like TV, Radio, or newspapers? Because if done correctly you can hit the bull’s eyes! 
    • It Allows You to Target Messages Strategically: Through inbound marketing, you will target an audience who is looking for your products or services but that’s not the case with outbound. It brings your messages to the audience whether they are already searching for your products and services or not.
    • It Gets Immediate Results: Since outbound marketing efforts like TV and Radio ads or Billboards or Hoardings have the capacity to reach a large number of audiences at once, they can let you build brand awareness very quickly. If you place the content meaningfully then you get quick conversions or customers.
    • It Enables High Recognition: We all know the power of commercials. Since outbound marketing relies heavily on story-telling on tv or radio, businesses get a sureshot change to create emotional impact and thus become more memorable in the minds of existing as well as new customers.

    What happens in Team 2: Inbound Marketing?

    Saw a clickable post of your favorite coffee brand? Or as you were browsing on YouTube you saw the ad and immediately got to know there is a sale of that yellow top you have been meaning to buy? Well, whether you got to know about certain products or brands via Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or a million other possible channels, the point here is you are the one who initiated the interaction on some level. It was not like you were being forced to see or pushed to receive marketing messages as you were just listening to music or flipping through a newspaper. 

    That’s folks inbound marketing for you!

    Inbound marketing is a form of digital marketing strategy where a business markets its service or product via informational, entertaining content, and is welcomed by prospects as rather than disrupting them it gives them an open invitation to engage.

    Is Content Marketing different from Inbound Marketing?

    Inbound Marketing and Content marketing are often treated as interchangeable concepts but they are not. Content marketing is basically the use of high-quality, educational content to attract a target audience. It can include blog, articles, video marketing, social media, email marketing or any other format or content that will be relevant to reach out to your specific audience. While inbound marketing also uses content as a means to connect with the audience, it is not just about it. Inbound employs a variety of strategies to attract potential customers’ attention and convert them into paying customers. Here’s the list of inbound marketing types:

     Inbound Marketing

    Types of Inbound Marketing are:

    • Emails
    • Blogs
    • Landing Pages
    • E-Book, Whitepaper
    • Social Media
    • Infographics
    • Visual Elements
    • SEO
    • Calls-to-Action

    Below is an infographic to make you understand how Inbound Marketing works:

    According to HubSpot, “there are three steps to inbound marketing and they work like a flywheel:

    • Attract. Bring in the right people.
    • Engage. Help these people with their pain points and goals so they are more likely to buy from you.
    • Delight. “Go above and beyond for them. Help them find success with your product.”


    Why Go For It?

    Inbound marketing seems to be a popular choice of marketing tactic these days and naturally has several advantages. So it does not matter whether you are a business juggernaut or a small business, here is how inbound marketing benefits your business:

    • It Builds Authority and Credibility: Since inbound marketing provides easy, free and continuous access to helpful and reliable content, it allows companies to gain recognition across their target audience. This eventually leads them to build reputation and relationships with potential customers for a lifetime.
    • It Provides a Cost-effective Marketing Strategy: Inbound marketing mainly works through organic search and SEO. Since both methods do not demand high budgeting, it becomes very cost-effective. 
    • It Offers High-Quality Lead Generation: The main focus of inbound marketing is to cater to the needs and interests of your prospects who are in genuine need of your service or product. Then with the help of sales marketing funnel it segregates and targets them. Thus giving your business relevant site traffic and leads organically.
    • Gives Higher ROI: Most customers search online for products or services before they buy so when you provide them the necessary and relevant information they go ahead in the buying journey. Moreover, they not only keep coming back for more but also reward you with higher retention and ROI. 

        Now we know what is inbound marketing and outbound marketing, we also know their benefits to a business. So let’s focus on knowing the difference between inbound marketing vs outbound marketing.

        Inbound vs Outbound Marketing: The Battle of the Effective Marketing Strategies

        In the marketing world, we know there are two types of marketing models. Both come up with their own positives and negatives. In that case, how to choose the best? So it’s time to know what is the difference between inbound and outbound marketing to ensure you adopt the best marketing strategy for your business. Ready for inbound vs outbound marketing?

        Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

        Which Strategy to Choose For Your Business: Inbound vs Outbound Marketing?

        While looking at the differences between inbound vs outbound marketing, it does seem that inbound marketing is more effective than outbound marketing. However, do not just yet discard outbound marketing strategy, it just does have a lot of downsides but it also has advantages as discussed above. So how do you decide which one to go for? When to apply inbound marketing strategy or when to go for outbound marketing strategy? Relax, we have prepared some questions for you, consider them when you are making a choice between these two:

        1. What Are Your Goals?

        Before you opt for any marketing strategy,  it is very crucial to identify your business and marketing goals. What do you want to achieve after implementing it? Are you aiming to build brand awareness? Is it about selling a new product? Or do you just want to drive more website traffic? Whatever is your goal, identify it and then select the desired marketing strategy as the desired result will depend on it. 

        2. Who is Your Ideal Customer?

        Whether you are in a B2B business or you are in a B2C business environment, in both cases you need to create your buyers’ persona as it is important for not only ensuring that you are reaching out to the right audience but also it maximizes your marketing efforts. So discover who these ultimate buyers are, where they do live, what are their interests, and how frequently do they buy? 

        3. What is Your Budget?

        How your marketing campaign will turn out depends a lot on how much you spent on it? Marketing whether it’s inbound or outbound, both demand a hefty amount of your budget so choose wisely before opting out for any, especially when you are a small business. Document the estimated costs you may incur to market your products or services via both marketing strategies. Remember, you can always increase your marketing budget in the long term but for the time being it is crucial that you don’t go overboard with the marketing costs.

        4. How Will It Affect You?

        It’s really not inbound marketing vs outbound marketing because both work towards building a brand image for your business. They both influence your online/offline image in their own ways, the result can be a positive chain of referrals or a negative one so keep in mind and choose a strategy you can be proud of and adds value to your brand image.

        5. Which Route You will Choose: DIY or a Marketing Agency?

        At times in your attempt to save a few bucks on your  marketing budget, you go for freelancers or do it yourself. This is where you do a great injustice to your business. You can get results from hiring freelancers or DIY but you will miss out on getting a professional and organized approach towards promoting your brand and business. There are various digital marketing agencies that take a cost-effective manner and still use the latest and various tools & techniques of digital marketing for optimal success. 

        Are you a small business? Do you want to know the steps to create a marketing strategy? Let us show you how to create a winning small business marketing strategy for free? We can help!


        The digital era has brought immense changes to the way we do marketing. However, that does not imply that the traditional methods have gone obsolete. It is true that some traditional or outbound marketing methods might not bring you the desired result as compared to inbound marketing strategy but outbound strategies such as TV commercials or billboards still seem effective routes to reach out to the audience. So do not abandon outbound marketing yet.

        So, to conclude the inbound vs outbound marketing discussion,  we would like to add that both have their own advantages and disadvantages, moreover, the best marketing strategy is that which works for you. But do remember that your online or offline success depends a lot on how quickly you adapt to the ever-evolving marketing trends and changing audiences persona. In that scenario, mixing both of the strategies will help you sail through these tough tides and going forward, the best marketing strategy will be to experiment, adapt, measure and repeat.

        Drop us a comment if we missed any factor to distinguish between inbound marketing vs outbound marketing? We’d love to hear from you!

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        Adonis SmithColin RodriguezRiley WalkerNash MartinSteve Smith Recent comment authors
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        Joaquin Foster

        As I am planning to move my business online, I have searched a lot of blogs for online marketing. But truly this one is best.


        Aidan Johnson

        In an interview, the interviewer asked me about inbound but I never heard the terms inbound and outbound marketing. I wish I had read this blog earlier.


        Amari Jones

        I think for the online business it’s important to stick with inbound marketing, don’t need outbound marketing. Correct me if I am wrong.


        Phoenix Robinson

        Earlier I was confused between Inbound marketing and Outbound marketing. But then my friend shared the link to your article.


        Malcolm Hughes

        Good one! Really helpful for startups!


        Steve Smith

        I am new in the business world and want to get marketing strategies for my business so that it can reach new heights. Can anyone help me?


        Nash Martin

        I am confused if anybody is moving online if they still need offline marketing?


        Riley Walker

        Hi! Your article is really informative and helpful. It helped my brother to clear his interview and get a job. Thanks team! Keep the good work up.


        Colin Rodriguez

        How can i get inbound marketing strategies for my business?


        Adonis Smith

        Inbound marketing VS Outbound marketing, Which one is better for great outcomes?

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