Inbound Advertising and marketing Vs. Outbound advertising

There are two types of people.

The first group sets out to find what they are doing need.

After some research, did you find this article?

If so, you belong to the first group.

The second group is waiting for others propose what they should want.

Was this piece of content forced on a feed that you scrolled over some form of paid advertising?


Then you belong in the second group.

Anyway, whether this article was forced on you (outgoing) or you have researched and found (incoming), the point is that you're still here.

What does that tell you

This means that the difference between outbound marketing and inbound marketing is introducing your company to two different groups of people.

That is, the ones who go out of their way to find your product or service when they need it. Or the ones you need to get out of the way to get them noticed about your business.

I'm not here to discuss ethical issues or to tell you how inbound marketing is better than outbound marketing.

The truth is, both approaches, be it outbound or inbound marketing, work.

What is my goal with this article?

I'm going to show you how they differ from each other and when to use one approach over another to get what I think is most important – reach the right audience and grow your business.


Let's start with the basics … their definitions.

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing, also known as "push" or "interrupt" marketing, is the use of marketing tactics to get your business (or its message) in front of people who aren't necessarily looking for it.

Traditional outbound channels such as TV, radio, print, radio and billboards are visible to all.

In this digital age, brands and marketers are still using the outbound marketing approach to reach large audiences through paid ad tactics.

Whether traditional or digital channels, the goal of outbound marketing is the same.

Marketers use it in the hope that a fraction of the target group they are addressing will be interested in their offer or message and begin their journey to the customer.

However, there's a reason the outbound marketing approach, especially via display ads, has a terrible CTR of 0.06% on desktop and 0.16% on mobile.

Nobody asks about them.

After the negligible CTR of the display ads, most people seem to have thrown outbound marketing out the window.

No sane person will throw a baby out in the bath water, so you shouldn't.


With bespoke outbound tactics like cold email outreach, marketers see open rates of around 17.8% and click rates of up to 14%. And on LinkedIn, cold messages get triple that, according to the LinkedIn report.

In other words, outbound marketing still works.

The lack of a marketing strategy to determine when and how to use it and to control its execution is why most marketers and companies fail with outbound marketing.

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is the most sensible and ethical way to promote a business. This approach has been around since 2006, about 15 years ago.

Why do people listen more today?

This is because inbound marketing is a subtle, not as high-volume method of attracting potential customers. Then keep them involved with relevant, helpful information until they become clients and lawyers.

Do you remember the first group of people I mentioned, the ones who go out to find what they need?

Inbound marketers usually wait for this pile with the right information in the form of content marketing, SEO, and social media to attract and pull them into their sales funnels.

Inbound marketing may not be promotional and may not be "forced" on people like Outbound.

But that doesn't mean it's easy or taking a stroll around the park if you use it to attract potential customers who are actively looking for the product or service your business has to offer.

Like outbound, inbound marketing is difficult to turn into a growth channel without a solid strategy to control its execution.


Because it takes time, up-front investment, and excellent content creation and promotion skills to ensure your content is found by potential customers.

At my advertising agency, Neil Patel Digital, we call this act of strategizing to create content that will be found:

From experience, I can say that the success or failure of outbound or inbound marketing depends on one thing: creating content that matters to the people who matter.


Because when you're creating content that potential customers really need, they'll love to see if you force it on them (outgoing) or they go looking for it (incoming).

So, to grow your business, it depends on having a good strategy for determining when to use one approach over the other.

I'm going to talk about when to use outbound or inbound marketing.

Before that, let's examine their differences.

3 key differences between inbound and outbound marketing

The ultimate goal of inbound or outbound marketing is to reach out to potential customers and get them to do business with you.

Although the end goal is the same, these three core areas are different.

Difference # 1: pulling versus pushing

If you create helpful content that will be discovered by your ideal customers in search, you have successfully made them discover your business as they consume that content.

This is inbound marketing in practice.

This approach requires that you create content to answer topics or questions that potential customers are already looking for. You can find these through keyword research or community forums.

Outbound marketing is the opposite of that.

This is where you develop content with the assumption (sometimes based on trends) that it will pique the interest of your potential customers. However, since they are not looking for it or asking for it, you need to advertise it to them.

It's like a blind shot.

Perhaps your shot hits the target and reaches some people interested in your "push" ad, discovering your business or message in the process.

Difference # 2: Generic versus Specific

Outbound marketing campaigns through media such as TV, radio, billboards, and print advertising tend to be more general.


Because like you, almost anyone can watch a TV show or come by on a street corner with an advertising board attached.

To increase the chances of reaching a significant proportion of the people who may be interested in an ad, outbound campaigns are more general in nature or attempt to appeal to the general public.

For example, this ad from Ogilvy, while very creative, appeals to almost anyone with teeth:

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, takes a more specific approach.

The core principle of inbound is to create educational or entertaining content to solve a problem faced by a specific audience.

In this case, even though everyone may have the problem, a company is only dealing with an audience that it is interested in or experienced in serving.

The result is the creation of content such as blogs, social media posts, newsletters or the use of SEO techniques for optimization for targeted queries that are aimed at a defined target group.

For example, below is how WebMD dubbed this piece of content specifically for fitness enthusiasts looking to get fit at home:

This content may not appeal to the millions of people who are interested in fitness as an outbound approach would target it.

Still, by creating content specifically for people who want to get fit at home, WebMD can still make approximately 4,000 visits to that content per month.

Difference no. 3: Permitted against interruption

People use the search engines to find answers to their questions or solutions to their problems.

And every time your ideal customer does this, they are simultaneously giving the search engine permission to show them the most relevant answers to their questions.

Therefore, even if you have created a search engine optimized content item that the search engine deems worthy to display in search results, this permission also applies to you.

On social media, prospects follow people and companies they trust.

This gives these people and companies permission to create content that will appear in their feeds.

The same pattern also applies to email newsletters.

When someone signs up for your newsletter, they've given you permission to send them personalized emails.

With the inbound method, you create and distribute potential content that potential customers allow through their actions in search engines, social media or email opt-ins.

This makes inbound a valid marketing approach.

Outbound marketing, on the other hand, takes an interruptive approach.

While listening to a radio program or watching your favorite television documentary, do you ever stop and ask them to submit an ad?

Not me. You do not do that. And nobody does.

But that's exactly what you get – regular commercial breaks from the show.

In this digital age, marketers are still using this outbound approach of pausing people to get their attention online.

For example, when I scroll my social media feeds or watch videos on YouTube, I regularly see interruptions with ads that I didn't ask for.

Most of the time I skip them.

Other times, an ad will grab my attention and I'll click through to find out more.

Again, this should remind you of what I said earlier.

When executed with the right strategy, both inbound marketing and outbound will work.

Let's see when it is preferable to choose one approach over another.

When should outbound marketing be used?

Have you ever clicked on a random ad while scrolling through Facebook, LinkedIn, a YouTube video, or the Promotions tab of your Gmail account?


What if outbound advertising campaigns were placed during a TV / radio broadcast, in print, or on a billboard? Have you ever researched the brand behind the ad on Google?

I did both at different times.

In those cases, I didn't really know the companies or brands behind these ads until I discovered them through their outbound campaign and became interested in them.

It was through these outbound campaigns that I became aware of these brands – something that wasn't possible while waiting for me to look for them.

So, if you are a new business or have just launched a new product and need to raise awareness, it makes sense to use outbound marketing like TV, billboards and others.

The use of outbound marketing doesn't end with traditional marketing tactics. It extends to the online realm, and there is a reason for that.

Inbound marketing takes time.

It's time to build a sizeable following on social media.

Time to build an email list.

If you try to rate your content on Google, you have to wait at least 100 days despite the massive upfront investment.

However, with the help of a seasoned marketing agency, you can intercept potential customers even if they aren't looking for you with outbound digital ads that meet their needs.

This can produce immediate results instead of waiting so long for your content to go through the inbound approach.

How can you do that, you ask?

By delving into analytics to determine the interests of your prospects based on their online behavior and data touchpoints. Develop a proactive outbound marketing strategy that resonates with research-identified target groups.

When is inbound marketing used?

Both outbound and inbound marketing require upfront investments.

As I've shown you, when done with a great strategy, outbound marketing can produce results faster in the short term than inbound marketing.

But outbound is a pay to play activity.

Once you stop cashing in on your outbound campaigns, everything falls off the cliff.

For example, if you're running an outbound PPC campaign on a target keyword, the moment you stop bidding, you're not even running the Google Ads auction.

Inbound marketing these days won't bring you instant results, even if you're in a less competitive niche.

This is because it takes the search engine some time to index, understand, and rate your content.

In the long run, however, inbound marketing is 62% cheaper than outbound tactics. Once the input comes in, you can drive the evergreen organic traffic and attract visitors, leads and customers.

So inbound marketing is a preferred approach if you have been in business for the long term and are willing to be patient while you invest in content creation consistently.

Nowadays, however, you can't just create content here and there, fold your hands and expect magic to happen.

To have a long-term opportunity with inbound marketing, you need a clearly defined strategy.

This strategy needs to cover everything from audience research, competitive analysis, exceptional blog and social media content creation, advertising, link building, and technical stuff.

Building your business with inbound marketing is no walk in the park and cannot be left to chance.

You need a battle-tested program to develop a strategy that works:

Conclusion: outbound vs inbound marketing, which is better?

I don't agree that one is better than the other.

It all depends on what is best for a given situation and what strategy has been developed to carry out each situation.

Why do I say that you ask?

Because if you look at the sales funnel in terms of the steps inbound and outbound marketing takes to convert prospects into customers, they have a similar structure.

Instead of looking which one is better than the other, it is better to combine the two.

Use outbound marketing to raise awareness and reach potential customers who aren't necessarily looking for you (but may need your product / service, research shows) for short-term results.

At the same time, activate your inbound marketing engines to prepare for the long term as you allow the algorithms to index, understand and rate your content.

Again, it all boils down to a great strategy.

And if you need help developing a program that combines outbound and inbound marketing to reach the right audience and drive business growth …

Do not hesitate to contact my advertising agency NP Digital.