What is the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing?

Every company and website wants visitors. They want someone to come and purchase a product or service because they need customers to generate some type of revenue, and the only way to get those customers – especially online – is to get people to your website.

There are two methods of marketing a website:

  • Inbound Marketing
  • Outbound Marketing

While these terms may be unfamiliar, you’re absolutely familiar with the meaning. Outbound marketing refers to old marketing methods. It’s marketing that requires you to go out and find your customers and actively look for ways to attract them to your company. A billboard ad would be an example of outbound marketing, as would direct mail. These are methods that actively try to drive business to your company by requiring that you get their attention.

Inbound marketing is the opposite – it’s marketing where the customers find you, and want to come to your website on their own. Putting up a store sign outside of your company is an example of inbound marketing, because you’re not actively paying for anything. Customers are driving by, see your sign, and want to come inside.

Outbound and Inbound Marketing in the Digital World

Online, outbound and inbound marketing are two competing styles of attracting business. Outbound marketing would include:

  • Paying for advertising on relevant websites.
  • Paying for pay per click ads.
  • Spamming or buying email lists.

Outbound marketing is more expensive, more prone to error, and studies have shown that most visitors simply tune them out. They are less likely to convert to sales and more likely to provide only modest immediate results.

Inbound marketing is when visitors come to you, because you’re offering something they want. This is where content marketing really shines. Content marketing gets your business ranked well in search engines for various keywords. The potential customer searches for a keyword, finds your site, wants to click on it, wants to read it, and then wants to use your business. It’s a form of marketing that doesn’t require you to go out of your way to find customers, but rather to make sure that your content, products, and services are going to attract customers to you. Other examples of inbound marketing include social media and viral videos.

The Value is in Inbound Marketing

Only a few days ago we compared the benefits and weaknesses of pay per click marketing and content marketing, and the same benefits and weaknesses hold true for almost all forms of inbound and outbound marketing (although social media’s benefits are slightly less long term). Companies just spent over a million dollars on super bowl advertisements for 30 seconds of marketing. For that same investment they could have created 20,000 pages of content, and been the internet leader in every topic imaginable.

You can also view this amazing infographic about the differences between outbound and inbound marketing. Outbound marketing definitely has its place, especially with regards to more unique marketing strategies like retargeting. But the reality is that inbound marketing is simply a better strategy, and it’s not even close.


  • Micah Abraham

    Micah Abraham is the owner and lead content writer at Great Leap Studios (https://GreatLeapStudios.com) and High Volt Digital (https://HighVoltDigital.com).
    Micah has over 15 years of content writing and digital marketing experience, and has owned and operated Great Leap Studios since 2013 and High Volt since 2022.
    He has a degree in Psychology from the University of Washington, and has researched and written content on a wide range of topics in the medical and health fields, home services, tech, and beyond.
    Micah lives with his family in California.

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