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Definitive Guide to Inbound VS Outbound Marketing In 2023

b2b inbound marketing agency
12 Minute Read

Understand the difference between inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing techniques.

Inbound marketing is the process of getting great leads to find you and positions your business as a thought leader in the market. Outbound is the ‘spray and pray’ approach that your dollars will bring in business. Learn examples, benefits, and differences between the two in this post!


“Marketing” is a very broad term, by definition, it means “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” From the Madmen era of drawing cartoons and pairing them with catchy slogans like “Got Milk, It Gives You Wiiiings! , They’re GR-R-R-reat, I’m Lovin’ It, Taste the Rainbow, or Just Do It” chances are that you know EXACTLY which brands these are about—in just 3 or fewer words!

It also ranges out to jingles that you can’t get out of your head for days (the Kars 4 Kids song still gives me nightmares…). All of this is in some way marketing—but let’s be honest the term has a bit of a negative connotation. The ‘traditional’ outbound marketing tactics that you know and have these negative feelings about are really more centered in the ‘old way of doing things’ with traditional Outbound Marketing: cold calls, billboard ads, commercials, etc…

In recent years this dynamic in marketing techniques has been completely flipped on its head! The term Inbound Marketing was originally coined in 1999 by the founder of HubSpot Brian Halligan (@BrianHalligan). Inbound changes the relationship with the existing customers, putting their needs and wants first! Inbound marketing uses thoughtful and relevant content for creation, social media, and search engine optimization to help the customer satisfaction service find what they need and create lead generation much more organically.


If your company is going to expand, grow, and evolve over time you’re going to have to figure out a way to market your business. The best path to do so will be up to you and is completely dependent on what type of business you have and how you want to be perceived by your potential customers.

This inbound vs outbound sales marketing guide will try and clear up the differences between the two strategies—but I’m going to warn you (if you haven’t picked up on it already) we’re biased…on which we think is the best approach for a modern company that wants to generate high-quality leads, with a better return on investment, and simultaneously by positioning your brand for long-term success. (Hint: it’s not the one that includes cold calls or the Kars 4 Kids song).

Is inbound marketing better than outbound?



A simple way to think about these two strategies is seeing outbound marketing as PUSH and inbound as PULL. Inbound marketing works like a magnet, you set create content that your potential clients really want to consume and they organically work their way into your funnel. One of the greatest benefits of this is that by allowing prospects to work their way in, they pre-qualify themselves as high-quality leads. The more of your content they consume the more likely they are the kind of target that will be an easy sell.


Inbound Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.


Define Outbound Marketing- Outbound marketing is more like a shotgun approach, you’re pushing this content out to every—whether they want to see it or not… Think of the technologies that have been invented in the past 10 years simply to help us opt-out of having to be subjected to outbound calling:

  • DVR: Invented to skip commercials (85% of people fast forward through commercials).
  • Do Not Call List: A literal list of 200 million Americans registered with the FTC.
  • AdBlockers: Software that hides ads on the screen when visiting websites.
  • Pop-Up Blockers: most web browsers have an automatic filter that stops pop-ups.
  • Spam Filters: Used to sort out unwanted junk mail folders so you never have to see it.

This is a testament to the fact that outbound marketing efforts are viewed as intrusive and people will actually pay money to NOT participate…

Suppose that with Inbound methodologies where people literally offer their email address and information simply to learn more about what your company is doing from the content you let live on your website! Think about it this way:

Inbound marketing is Permission based, (e.g. SUBSCRIBE HERE)

Outbound marketing is Interruption based, (e.g. pop-up ad)



Inbound Marketing Examples:

We want to dispel the rumor that inbound is hard, there is a difference between being difficult and being time-consuming. Inbound marketing at the end of the day should be something that your company enjoys, it should be an aspect that is a fun way to share what you do on a daily basis with the world at large.

Below are a few of the most common forms of content creation:

Any good salesperson knows that you have to give a little to get a little. Forms are the perfect version of this, it allows you to ask the questions you want to know about your website visit in order for them to move forward in getting access to something you’re offering. A simple well-crafted form can be an amazing way for visitors to tell you about themselves.


Free Trials & Demos
People love—free stuff, this isn’t new to you, but it’s one of the best ways to create demand for your product/service. The “test drive” is a time-tested inbound marketing strategy for creating great leads. If you get a prospect to use your product or service then they’ve qualified themselves as a high-quality lead who needs a solution like yours!

Blog Posts
As we’ve talked about, inbound marketing starts with great content, outbound vs inbound sales marketing, and a blog (like this one) is an amazing way to attract new visitors to your website. Create educational, fun, or otherwise intriguing content that speaks directly to your target audience. Answer some questions they might have or share some knowledge for free—but show that you know your stuff.



Creating some sort of downloadable e-book or file is a great way to get people to get a ton of content in one big dump. With a form protecting your content a user must do a trade, their information for yours!

Social Media
In the modern age, we all know there is great value in social media—but it’s often hard to really determine what/where the value is.


Creating remarkable content is important, but social media is the platform that allows you to go one step further than just sharing—to interacting! Don’t leave too much on the table, if potential customers want to interact with your brand on social media targeting, then make sure you are on the right platforms to engage with them.

inbound vs outbound


Email Marketing
When your visitor to the site clicks, downloads, or likes your content make sure that if you can you collect their email address. By tracking what they interacted with, and sorting them properly you can follow up only on the specific topics you think they’ll find relevant—this way you stay in touch, but don’t inundate them with too much content.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Baidu can show any potential customer any content. How people find you in google is largely determined through your companies search engine optimization, and it’s hand in hand with persona-driven content marketing—there has to be something to find! Both on-page and off-page SEO are important in inbound marketing.


Referral Marketing:
Referrals are one of the most effective types of leads. Typically, referrals can close pretty quickly and are low-cost in the grand scheme of digital marketing.


Collaboration with other companies offers a new viewpoint and audience to have exposure to your brand. Leveraging in each other’s following is what helps to get both companies audiences involved. It’s a fairly unique territory, in that one size, all doesn’t fit every partnership. Hosting a webinar together, writing an ebook, or creating branded content—any form this wants to take where you complement each other well.

Using ad retargeting you can turn your hard-earned website visitors into customers—increase conversions by re-engaging potential customers that left your site. Think of the time you were looking at an item of clothing online, then left the website—and soon saw ads for that item (even maybe at a discount?) That is retargeting in action!


3 Major Benefits of Inbound Marketing:

Marketing ROI:

One of the biggest benefits to a company is the ROI (Return on Investment) of Inbound Marketing over Outbound Marketing. Marketing budgets can dictate both internal and external resources. When paying for clicks or pushing out other outbound strategies it costs money, upfront—without knowing at all what those returns are going to be, and if you’ll even have a customer come from it!


Inbound marketing is less expensive on the whole and by targeting a potential customer that has already pre-qualified themselves as high-quality leads. You don’t waste the valuable time of your sales team pitching someone who doesn’t need/want your service. It is estimated that 14.6% of SEO leads result in a close, while outbound leads have an only a 1.7% close rate!


Inbound Marketing costs 62% less per lead than traditional outbound marketing.


Thought Leadership:

By creating great content your customers are opting to receive and digest what you’re putting out. If you know your company or service is better than the competitors then you have a way to provide a snippet of that for free to a customer who then realizes you know what you’re doing!

Good advertising vs inbound marketing strategy takes this into consideration and is a long-term marketing strategy. It doesn’t happen overnight, or even in just 6-months, but a good inbound marketing campaign is what makes your company the BEST in whatever market you might be in.

This builds your brand awareness over time and is a key in long-term strategic planning if you want your business to exist 10 years from now (or get acquired before then) it’s essential to have a good inbound strategy.


Consumer Trust:

Building on the topic of thought leadership, inbound marketing is what allows your company to be ‘organic’ in how you bring customers in the door or to your site. Outbound marketing strategy almost always feels like the ‘used car salesman’ who will say or do whatever they can to make a sale—which inherently feels like your interests are not first as a consumer. Inbound marketing is about building trust, not just growing traffic.


In Summary:

We’re biased…because we know what works, the 310 Creative teams have been in the marketing industry or marketing agencies since before the internet! We’ve seen trends grow and we know what works, we’ve helped clients with both inbound and outbound marketing over the years. Our track record is great, but we knew the future was coming—and we wanted to help companies like yours save money and have the greatest impact—so we focused our expertise on all-around inbound marketing.

The benefits of inbound marketing far outweigh the advantages of outbound marketing. If you want to grow your business you should put together a strategy for inbound—it doesn’t have to be lengthy or expensive. It could be as simple as starting with a blog post a month—but the key is to start, as soon as possible! Whether you hire an agency or go in on your own you need to understand that building a strong business is a marathon, not a sprint!

Chris Leach

Digital marketing professional with 19-years of tested experience balanced in strategic planning and scaling ROI for lead generation, customer acquisition and client engagement programs. Since starting 310 Creative in 2003, I have had grown it into a Diamond Tier HubSpot® Partner ranked in the top 1% of all HubSpot® partners worldwide and serving as an extension of marketing teams of large brands such as Live Nation and Universal Music Group to help scale marketing and lead generation partnership campaigns for Verizon, Best Buy, AT&T and EMI.

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