Showdown: Inbound Versus Outbound MarketingA big difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing is that inbound marketing is becoming this century’s replacement for outbound marketing. In other words, proactive internet marketing is becoming the new norm while traditional marketing is starting to be viewed as too expensive compared with the internet.

A new paradigm for businesses to promote themselves online is emerging that focuses on relationships instead of sales pitches.

Outbound Marketing

The 20th century was a one size fits all era in which companies mass produced products, then mass marketed them through TV, radio and magazines, hoping that a certain small percentage of people would respond. The process worked for big chains that could afford the expensive advertising, which cost millions on a national scale and thousands on a local level. The idea was to expose a brand to as many eyeballs as possible to develop familiarity. The risk was that you could drain your budget without seeing any return.

Another form of outbound marketing is telemarketing, which was considered essential for many businesses as late as the 1990s. In many ways telemarketing took the place of door to door marketing. Direct mail was also considered necessary for some businesses until the internet made people realize that online communication is more efficient than dealing with stacks of junk mail every day. Each of these forms of marketing had a way of annoying a certain number of people.

Inbound Marketing

The new direction for many businesses is inbound marketing, which emphasizes informative and entertaining communication with customers, instead of persuasive strategies. The concept began with search engine optimization (SEO), which has steered web owners toward designing content-rich websites. SEO is built on keywords, which is the foundation of connecting online surfers with desired destinations. Usually niche-oriented keywords that define a website can help get high search rankings. Well written useful blogs also help attract visitors.

Social media has ushered in an even more adventurous component to free and low cost online marketing, which is networking. Through social networks, companies can interact with their customers and get instant feedback. The idea is to engage the customer on social networks then use calls to actions to drive them to the company website, where transactions are made. No longer is the goal to aggressively get sales. The goal of inbound marketing is to nurture an online community with compelling content that presents your site as a useful resource.

Performance and Effects

So is outbound marketing dead while inbound marketing should be the new focus for business? The answer is mixed. Outbound marketing still works in certain situations. Newspapers, for example, have been shrinking in size as well as circulation but still help market big ticket items with big display ads. Television advertising still works on a national level because it’s a visual medium, whereas radio usually requires much more repetition to be effective, which can be very expensive.

The internet is better for reaching a target market, which does not reach as many people as quickly as television. In many ways television has been overshadowed by the internet, since television is a one way communication, while the internet can be two way communication and a multitude of networks coming together at once. Inbound marketing gives you the opportunity to learn more about what your customer wants and it gives them more information about your company, compared to the more limited content of outbound marketing.


A combination of inbound and outbound marketing can be very powerful. Use inbound marketing for building loyalty and trust for your brand and outbound marketing when you’re ready to expand your already established business built on a foundation of inbound techniques.


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Robb Bailey

Co-Founder & CEO at PageLadder, Inc.
Robb enjoys growing a mean mustache every Movember and putting hot sauce on anything edible. You'll find him doing Content Marketing at his Inbound Marketing Agency in San Diego.
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