The Difference between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Every industry comes with its own terms and acronyms. Marketing is no different. Today, we’re going to break down the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing and how that difference matters to you.

Outbound Marketing Explained

Outbound marketing is probably all of those marketing strategies and tactics that fit under the label of ‘traditional’ marketing. 

That includes any type of marketing that is seeking to push ‘out’ a message to prospective customers or clients. These approaches can be used for mass-market appeals and campaigns. Television and radio advertising campaigns are still the bedrock of these types of approaches and can reach many thousands of people quickly.

Other types of more targeted outbound marketing include business to business (B2B) approaches such as presenting at trade shows and conventions or sponsoring a conference or workshop. Cold calling prospects is another conventional outbound marketing tactic, which can be applied in a B2B or business to customer (B2C) setting. 

If it helps, you can remember this approach as reaching ‘out’ far and wide in the hopes of reaching a wide audience that contains within it a small number of viable prospects. Once those prospects hear your message, the conventional wisdom goes that other aspects of your sales funnel can work to convert them into customers or clients. 

The disadvantages of outbound marketing are the lack of precision in the approach. In addition, it can be resource-intensive in terms of cost (to place the outbound message) or in terms of time (e.g., the time taken to cold call multiple prospects). The overall return on investment on outbound marketing can be low or difficult to measure. 

Inbound Marketing Explained

Inbound marketing is an umbrella term for those marketing activities that help you get ‘found’ by an active searcher rather than ‘exposed’ to a passive audience (which is the case with outbound marketing).

For example, a well-established blog on your website can serve as an inbound marketing tool. That’s because a long track record of posting helpful content and resources on a particular topic can build your authority in a particular niche. 

That authority, earned from slow, consistent effort, can translate to increased website views and ranking on Google. 

The same approach can be true on social media, whether that’s LinkedIn (suited to professional audiences and content) or Instagram (suited to products and services that shine when presented visually). 

The act of posting with authority on a particular topic builds awareness of the brand while also showcasing knowledge and experience. In this way, inbound marketing is sometimes thought of as more ‘organic’ than outbound marketing, as it naturally attracts people who are interested, rather than reaching out to people who may or may not be interested.

Inbound marketing can be rewarding, but can take longer to bear fruit. It can also be more difficult in crowded spaces where there are many competing messages.


There is no right or wrong when it comes to your marketing mix. Different strategies and tactics will suit different industries and businesses at different points in time. But knowing the difference between the two can help you effectively focus your attention and experiment until you find the mix that works best for you.

Swoop Digital are the Melbourne digital experts and as a HubSpot agency partner in Melbourne well equipped to ensure you’ve got the right lead generation strategy for your business.

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