What’s the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing? It’s a common question among marketers and business owners alike. Knowing what sets them apart is key to the mechanics of your marketing strategy – and its success.

Let’s explore what makes each of these methodologies an essential component in reaching your audience, as well as their advantages, disadvantages, and ways to integrate them.

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Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing  

Inbound marketing, or pull marketing, leverages content to attract and draw customers closer to the brand. Outbound marketing, or push marketing, uses content to interrupt customers during other activities. It takes longer to enjoy the results of inbound marketing, whereas results may come more quickly with outbound marketing.



The Advantages of Inbound and Outbound Marketing

With inbound marketing, the content encourages customers to come to you. It “pulls” them in without you having to go directly to them. In the example above, we see this can be done with content like paid search, content marketing, and emails people have opted-in to receiving.

The benefits of inbound marketing include:

  • No disruptions to customers, they come to the content
  • Less of a rush to see results, it’s understood this comes with a longer lead time
  • Nurtures customers in various stages of the buyer journey

Outbound marketing, or direct response marketing, has its own purposes and upsides. In fact, the benefits of outbound marketing include:

  • Targets new leads and customers
  • Gets you in front of customers right away
  • Conversions are delivered very quickly
  • More control over the timeline and what your customers experience

The Disadvantages of Inbound and Outbound Marketing

While there are clear benefits to each methodology, inbound and outbound marketing also have their drawbacks. Though it depends on your perspective, of course.

The disadvantages of inbound marketing include:

  • Longer lead time, it may take weeks or months to see results
  • Less control over the customer experience, they may or may not see your content

The disadvantages of outbound marketing include:

  • Interrupts customers with content they may not always want
  • May come across as spammy content or experiences

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The Differences in Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing Content

Due to the various advantages and disadvantages of these strategies, the types of content you would use for inbound and outbound marketing are different. Each methodology is based on separate objectives, therefore so are the approaches.

Examples of inbound marketing content include:

  • Email newsletters that people have signed up for
  • Blog content that you share on your website
  • Search engine optimization that helps people find you in search results
  • Organic and paid social media content that you publish
  • Search ads that display when certain search queries are performed

Examples of outbound marketing content include:

  • Emails that people have NOT signed up for (spam)
  • Display ads that show up when someone is browsing other websites
  • Point-of-sale displays by the store register
  • Direct mail that people receive in their mailboxes
  • TV or radio ads that are broadcast to viewers and listeners

When to Use Inbound and Outbound Marketing

You may be starting to see how you can use each of these strategies in your own marketing. As a rule of thumb, inbound or pull marketing should be used when you want to increase brand awareness or visibility. Outbound or push marketing should be used when you have something new to promote to customers who may be currently unaware of your product but are ready to buy. The differences in inbound and outbound marketing are apparent, yet you can use both strategies in tandem to achieve great results.

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About the Author

Rob SandersRob Sanders

Rob Sanders is a digital marketing veteran with over 20 years of experience. During that time, Rob has helped a wide range of companies utilize new and emerging technologies to increase sales and profitability. As founder of RSO Consulting, Rob helps clients maximize their digital marketing efforts via SEO, SEM, SMO, and Web Analytics. He is responsible for many facets of the web analytics value chain, from identifying business goals and objectives to developing strategies and translating those into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Rob also teaches digital marketing and analytics classes throughout the U.S. and abroad. As a contributor for Simplilearn, Rob creates expert thought leadership content on a variety of digital marketing and analytics topics.

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