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Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

If you google the difference between inbound and outbound marketing, you’ll be bombarded with articles on why inbound is better.

Here's what they say—

In comparison with outbound, inbound marketing is cheaper, produces higher quality B2B leads, and enhances return on investment.

But is this true of all markets?

And all types of marketing?

In this article, we look deeper into inbound vs. outbound marketing differences, their challenges, and benefits.

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing is often described as a traditional, non-digital mode of marketing, as a company pushes a message out to a potential customer. In this model, the company initiates the conversation with a prospective buyer.

Outbound marketing methods include:

  • Cold calling
  • Email marketing
  • Trade shows
  • Advertisements
  • Networking

Challenges include email and cold call blocking, high cost/low yield, and difficulties in tracking.

What is inbound marketing?

On the other hand, inbound marketing is usually seen as the approach that has embraced technology to its advantage.

In this model, it is prospective customers who find an organization, and not the other way round. Inbound marketing methods include:

  • Web searches
  • Social media
  • Blog posts
  • Videos and podcasts

Because people are self-selecting, the leads are often of higher quality. In inbound marketing, the focus is on relationship building rather than direct marketing.

Unlike outbound marketing, inbound has fewer challenges even though it depends entirely on customers finding your organization amongst the online ‘noise’. And many marketers find it difficult to know how to act on the connections.

What is the key inbound vs. outbound marketing difference?

The main difference between inbound and outbound marketing is the way in which consumers are attracted to your product or service.

Outbound involves proactive marketing activities that require reaching out to customers via cold calling, ads, or trade shows. While inbound marketing focuses on drawing people in by creating and distributing content, such as forms on your website, social media posts, blogs, webinars, etc.

Is inbound or outbound marketing better?

The effectiveness of both marketing approaches depends on your business objectives, who you are trying to attract, and what you are trying to market.

Inbound marketing is effective for B2C, and where customers are familiar with the products and services you have to offer. You can create informative blog posts to answer your target audience's common questions. it's a chance to show them how your product features are useful.  If people like it, they can share it through dark social channels and come back to your solution when they need it. Inbound marketing is better than outbound because it enhances your organization’s search rankings and organically alerts more people about your offer.

By contrast, outbound can be useful for B2B marketing and for companies who are looking to launch new products and services. Outbound marketing methods beat inbound if you want to develop new business streams or build new markets. It's because decision-makers rely on many sources of information and sometimes they need a 'push' from a highly trained SDR to choose your product among your competitors. Cold calling CEOs can be particularly effective in developing valuable B2B leads.

So, is outbound marketing outdated?

In a word, no!

While many point to inbound marketing as the future, it’s clear that outbound is being transformed by digital innovation. Email marketing – one of the most important outbound methods – is taking on a new life.

Developing clear customer personas enable companies to target marketing messages. Enriched B2B data means that companies can send personalized emails, leading to increases in click-throughs, sales, and ROI.

And real-time tracking can mean that your B2B sales and marketing teams can act on leads straight away.

What is the future of inbound and outbound marketing?

The power of inbound marketing is hard to ignore. But that doesn’t mean we should write outbound off. The best companies are likely to be those that combine the two approaches.

Successful data-driven marketing means creating valuable content and building easy ways for interested customers to connect, at the same time as developing more nuanced ways to target the broad base of potential leads.

Need help getting the most from your outbound? Sign up for a demo of Cognism’s sales intelligence platform today!

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