What is the difference between outbound and inbound marketing?

29 Apr What is the difference between outbound and inbound marketing?

If you run a business, then you know how important marketing is in spreading the word about your company’s products and services. If you don’t market your company, then you won’t get any customers. This means that your company’s success relies heavily on your marketing campaign. While traditionally, the use of outbound marketing was the most common strategy, this has quickly changed in the last few years.


These days, many companies have turned towards inbound marketing strategies for their marketing tactics. If you are unsure of what the differences are between outbound vs inbound marketing, read on. Understanding the pros and cons of both will allow you to create a better marketing strategy to fit the needs of your company.


Outbound Marketing


Outbound marketing is a strategy in which a business advertises its products and services by presenting information to consumers even if they are not looking for those products or services. Because of this, outbound marketing has been commonly referred to as “interruptive marketing”. Companies do this via the use of television, print ads, direct mailers, radio and more. This is how traditional advertising worked, but unfortunately, such methods are not only interruptive and poorly timed, they can be quite expensive. If you are a small business owner, then you could be paying an arm and a leg for one of these forms of advertising without any promise of success. However, larger companies that can afford such marketing will benefit, as this strategy can help to bring awareness about one’s product and services to a national audience.


Inbound Marketing


Inbound marketing is a more affordable marketing strategy, which is a reason why so many small business owners make use of it. The idea of inbound marketing is that you target a core audience by providing useful and quality content to entice them into finding out more about your products or services. So, in essence, you give them something in order to get them to come to you.
This is an effective strategy for a number of reasons. First of all, you’ll be targeting consumers who are actually looking for products and services that you provide, instead of trying to advertise to every consumer out there, no matter what their needs are. There are several ways to conduct a successful inbound marketing strategy, all of which require an online presence.


  •  Creating Content – Using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can post helpful articles and videos that are related to your products or services. This content should not be advertising your company, but instead it should be providing useful content to consumers. Create original content using SEO (search engine optimization) and post it to your social network pages. Not only are you enticing consumers to stick with you, you are giving them the chance to share your content, which will eventually lead back to your webpage.
  • Offering Incentives – Give followers incentives for following you, such as by providing free eBooks or special deals on your products or services. One strategy is to create a landing page that you link to using your social network pages. On this landing page, you can offer consumers free goods or content in exchange for signing up to your newsletter.
  • Communication – Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing allows you to have direct communication with the consumer. Using your social media presence, you can ask your followers for their input regarding your products and services. This shows them that you care for your customers, and gives you the chance to improve your business.


Deciding between outbound vs inbound marketing will depend a lot on the resources of your company. All companies, no matter how big or small, should use inbound marketing techniques. However, companies with larger resources shouldn’t ignore the benefits of reaching a wider audience using outbound marketing. If you still need some advice on what the best tactics are for your company, give us a call! We’d love to help you with your options. For further information, be sure to check out our previous post that included our inbound marketing infographic.


Marketing Strategy


A brief history of marketing


The term “marketing” was first used in the 16th century, but this was in terms of buying and selling goods at a market. The sense of the word as it is used today – in terms of sales and advertising – was first seen in dictionaries in 1897.
Inbound could be considered the baby of the group. The phrase “inbound marketing” was coined by Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan, and it is based on a concept called Permission Marketing, which is the title of a 1999 book by Seth Godin.
This week, we take a closer look at the difference between outbound and inbound marketing.


Examples of outbound marketing tactics


Outbound marketing is based around the tactic of broadcasting your message to a large audience – even people who aren’t in your target market. Some of the most common examples include:




Did you know that the first television ad ever was broadcast just before a Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies baseball game in New York in 1941? The ad was a simple, 10-second spot for watch and jewellery company Bulova.
We’re used to ads interrupting us… and now, we’ve gotten pretty good at tuning them out. Sometimes they capture us, but for the most part, they’re the perfect opportunity to switch channels aimlessly or scroll through our phones in order to kill some time.


Super Bowl ads


Is television advertising struggling? Perhaps, but there’s always an exception:
Super Bowl ads have become more of a novelty (a lucrative one, at that) than simply an actual television ad, with speculation and analysis happening for days leading up to and following the biggest game on American football’s calendar. P.S: CBS charged a whopping $5 million for a Super Bowl ad in 2016. That’s an unfathomable $166,666 per SECOND of air time. (Whether they yield a return is another question.)
Think of how YOU respond to television ads. Do you tend ignore them? What if one does pique your interest? It’s likely your smartphone or laptop is sitting right next to you… and you can be on that company’s website within seconds. Maybe it’s a brand you’ve never heard of and you want to check out that product they just advertised. Maybe it’s a brand you’re familiar with, but you want to further investigate that special you just saw.
Either way, without the necessity to call a company directly to learn more (a rather intrusive action), we’ve got the internet to conduct our own research, before we reach out (a more passive action that we follow at our own pace).




Radio advertising has been called a powerful yet underrated marketing tool.
In Australia, 2015 proved to be one of the strongest years in terms of people tuning in:


  • 10.3 million Aussies tuned in to commercial radio each week
  • That’s up from 10.1 in 2014 and 9.7 in 2013
  • Audience increase is up 1.8%
  • There were 30,000 more listeners in the 18-24 age group – seems radio is one traditional type of media that’s continuing to attract younger people!


Cold calls


“Don’t interrupt my family dinner.” ‘Nuff said, really.
Oh, and landline phones are on the decline. This Roy Morgan survey found that 31% of all participants (aged 18-65+) were mobile-only users, with no fixed line at home. When was the last time you called friends or family on a landline number? Do you have a landline in your home?


Door-to-door salespeople


See above. I mean, I have one of these “Do Not Knock” stickers on my front door. Do you?


Newspaper and magazine advertisements


Magazine print editions seems to be dropping like flies.
Within just the last few years, we have seen CLEO close down completely (just a few months after its editorial team was merged with Dolly’s), while the Australian edition of Prevention has headed back to the US. Dolly and Famous magazines ceased their print editions and headed online. And just yesterday I learnt that quarterly magazine Shop ‘Til You Drop was ceasing production, too.
Meanwhile, newspapers have been offering digital subscriptions for a few years now.


Cold emails


Well, these ones will probably just end up in the Spam folder.




Not only is is more expensive, but through outbound marketing, you’re reaching people who likely have no interest in you. You’re reaching OUT to people – many of whom don’t care about you – and possibly interrupting them.
That’s why these sorts of tactics are also referred to as “traditional” (read: “potentially outdated”) marketing tactics.


Examples of inbound marketing


The list below may be shorter, but boy is it more effective – especially in today’s digital world.




Blog posts are the most popular form of content marketing. They form the basis of the entire inbound marketing process for many businesses. Blogs are awesome – they inform, entertain, delight, engage, excite… and, essentially, convert and sell.
But while blogs are indeed designed to convert (or at the very least, help move a prospect towards a conversion), they are not a direct sales pitch. If you’re looking to create a sales pitch, consider a white paper or a case study. These follow the more “salesy” pathway of identifying a problem, explaining how your product was discovered and implemented, and analysing how your product helped.
Blog posts are a popular lead generation tool, as the people who find your blog posts have likely conducted some research and therefore have an active interest in your industry or were looking for an answer. They mightn’t have an immediate need for your service, but thanks to the blog they found, they’ve now been introduced to your brand.


Social Media


Social media is another important pillar of your overall SEO strategy. It’s a place where people can voluntarily reach out to you (and not the other way around).
It’s also one of the most common places a lead will go when they want to reach out. Thanks to computers, email, and social media, we don’t have to pick up the phone and talk to someone. Some people hate talking on the phone, which compared to internet communication, now feels “presumptuous and intrusive”.
Social media engagement can also help improve your Google ranking, and fosters real relationships between a brand and its consumers.




SEO means many different things to many different people. To some, SEO is separate to blogging / content marketing and social media, but we see it as as overlapping and crucial component of your entire inbound marketing strategy.
The best SEO agencies understand that SEO is a long-term strategy designed to attract visitors organically, and is based around the entire purchase cycle. Cheap SEO is sloppy and pushy, focused on conversion only. Cheap SEO neglects to target all stages of the purchase cycle. In fact, cheap SEO can be likened to a pushy salesperson.




You’re drawing people IN with information, tips, news, articles, blogs, images, and more – with permission. When they find your website, blog post, or Instagram page, they’ve sought you out, not the other way around. This is a HUGE win compared to outbound: these are people who are actively interested in your industry, your brand, the answer you can provide, or the solution you offer.
Through inbound marketing, you’re creating, publishing, and sharing content in a variety of formats to people who actually want to consume your information.


The three cardinal rules of inbound marketing

1. Be helpful, not intrusive


Be where your audience is looking, but for the most part, (see some advertising tactics below) let them find you.
Take a leaf from Tesco’s book…
Tesco is a UK-based grocery store that maintains a great blog online. They take a huge step back from promoting products in their content marketing. Instead, they share recipes, craft ideas, health and wellness activities, and tips to help you save.
Take a look at this blog, for example. It’s titled “6 ways to get fit without going to the gym”, and although there is a sprinkling of Tesco products linked throughout the content, the main focus in NOT on selling a product. Rather, it’s helping you decide whether you really need that gym membership, or whether you can squeeze in an effective workout at home.


2. Be aspirational, not salesy


It can be hard to bridge the aspirational gap when you’re trying to – at the end of the day – sell a product. GoPro, Frank Body, and TOMS Shoes use video and images in particular to share aspirational content. Their products are scattered throughout, but the end goal is the outcome.
Is one of the best when it comes to sharing unique and incredible travel experiences from all over the world. The focus is on footage of the incredible and awe-inspiring world we live in, not the camera used to film it.


Frank Body:
Frank Body is another company that nails its branding. Take a look at their Instagram. They know exactly who they want to target and share more than a body scrub; it’s a touch of attainable luxury come bath time. They also incorporate skin care, health and beauty, travel, fashion, and friends – core interests of their target audience. (And they’ve also nailed the pink aesthetic and cheeky language.)


TOMS Shoes:
With every product purchased from TOMS, they help a person in need. It’s part of their One-For-One initiative. TOMS shares unique examples and stories of the people their brand supports.


3. Build around a passion, not a product


When you stop and If you’re a clothing retailer, share styling tips for New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, and share your best advice for choosing winter staples… rather than JUST pushing your products.
If you’re an air conditioning contractor, share ways in which people can save on their power bills during summer without sacrificing comfort… rather than JUST pushing your skills.
If you’re a bookkeeper, tell people how they can save time and money when they use a cloud-based accounting system… rather than JUST pushing your services.
If you’re a locksmith, share helpful advice on what one should do if their bag is stolen… rather than JUST telling someone to get new keys cut.
If you’re a personal trainer, share the health benefits of 30 minutes of exercise per day… rather than JUST telling people to book a session with you.
See where we’re going with this? The above are all excellent blog ideas. Remember how we said writing blog posts was the most popular form of content marketing? It’s because when you really put your mind to it, you can come up with DOZENS of ideas based around this less narrow vision of passion, rather than just products (or in some cases, services).


However… don’t forget about paid advertising


Zappos company director calls paid ads “a necessary evil”: they focus much of their marketing on creating consumable content for their audience, but they still also engage in paid advertising.
It’s the balance between the two that helps fuel inbound marketing success. Three of the most common paid advertising tactics are outlined below.


Pay per click


Pay per click advertising has been described by Hubspot as liposuction – the expensive quick fix that can quickly drum up business.


Compared to inbound marketing – which they call “working out at the gym” – pay per click takes less time and effort, but is more expensive and its results don’t last long.
The top four results displayed here for the term “social media tools” are paid AdWords.


Facebook advertising


Facebook eventually said enough is enough when they started drastically reducing the amount of free or organic reach brand pages were getting. They chose to introduce advertising as a way to monetise from brands that were using their (free) service.
Facebook offers a variety of ways for business to target customers. Four of the most popular are:


  • Targeting by interest
  • Targeting by using a Website Custom Audience
  • Targeting fans and friends of fans
  • Targeting Facebook ads to your existing email database


Read these blog posts for a more in depth look at Facebook advertising.




Remarketing is awfully targeted: been searching for some new shoes online? You’ll likely see an ad for those exact pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on! This is remarketing.
Remarketing is an advertising tactic provided by Google that displays ads on a variety of websites that make up the Google Display Network. The ads are shown to users who have previously visited your website or specific pages of your website.
While these are all paid tactics, they are less intrusive than traditional outbound marketing tactics as they mostly rely on some sort of initial action from a user in order to come to fruition:


  • With Pay per click, a user need to search a relevant phrase on Google to see your ad displayed in the search results
  • With Facebook ads, a user has likely visited your website before (EXCEPTION: in the instance where you target by interests or target friends of fans, you might be targeting someone who is not familiar with your brand)
  • Remarketing relies on a previous website or page visit


Netstrology’s inbound digital marketing strategy


Netstrology works hard to make inbound marketing work for you and your business.
We’ll create a bespoke digital marketing strategy that effectively draws people to your website, but most importantly we target the sorts of leads that you deem most important and valuable to your business. Ongoing management and reporting ensures the strategy is adjusted when needed, and is consistently improving.


We stand by our inbound marketing strategy so much so, in fact, that we guarantee your website will start generating you and your business more awareness, leads and sales. Request a call or call today!

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