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Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing – What’s the Difference?

Clearwater Staff

If you work in the field of marketing, your job consists of three things – creating awareness of your brand, building consideration of your offerings within a target audience, and converting that into sales or leads. While there are many ways to do this, the two overarching strategies that help you achieve this goal are inbound and outbound marketing.

But how can you tell which strategy will bring more success to your business? In this article, we provide you with all the information you need to know about the differences between inbound and outbound marketing – in other words, your ticket to greater success!

Understanding What Each Marketing Strategy Involves

A lot of people don’t understand what makes inbound marketing different from outbound marketing, and it’s easy to see why; both are types of lead generation strategies where you aim to attract new customers through a variety of creative tactics. But when you look at each strategy closely, there are distinct differences between them that set them apart one from another. In a nutshell, the difference between inbound and outbound marketing is this:

  • Inbound marketing means you’re going to do your best to engage with prospective customers on their terms. These tactics are all about attracting leads via quality content creation and interactions with engaged audiences searching for solutions to their wants and needs. This strategy includes campaigns such as SEO, blogging, social media posts and email newsletters.
  • Outbound marketing means that you will actively seek out prospective customers by directly advertising your business and offerings. This is all about targeting specific leads through ad spends and outreach. These tactics include campaigns like email campaigns, social media ads, and search engine marketing.

Marketers across the world engage in the most heated debates regarding inbound and outbound marketing, with proponents on both sides arguing their methods are more effective. So, what’s the answer?


Why would you limit the potential reach of your entire marketing efforts by shifting your focus solely to one strategy? The trick is knowing when to use inbound and outbound marketing campaigns to obtain the greatest return on investment (ROI) for your business.

When You Should Use Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be marketing ‘outwards’. It does, however, mean that your focus is more on connecting with current or potential customers, rather than forcing people to stop and take notice of you and your products. Typically used in conjunction with other tactics, inbound marketing is an ideal way to start off your campaigns to begin building awareness of your brand and establishing the necessary trust/authority within your industry.

Your potential customers might not even know they need your offerings, for example, and are simply searching for answers or solutions when they stumble upon your brand’s informative, entertaining, and enlightening content. From there, it’s up to your audience to decide what type of engagement they want to have with you—be it following your social media accounts for more, keeping you in mind for the future, or purchasing your offerings/reaching out via email for more information.

The main thing in common among all inbound campaigns is that they respect your audience and their right to choose how they receive information about your brand. Inbound marketing is not the time for the hard sell – more passive, yet memorable introductions.

When You Should Use Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing is where campaigns get a little more direct. When we think of a purchasing journey of potential customers, these campaigns are excellent for consumers knowing what they want, are ready to convert, and would be happy to see your advertisement.

It prevents your business from wasting budgets on those uninterested in your offerings, given the highly refined demographic targeting capabilities of modern marketing channels, such as with social media advertising and Google Ads products.

This takes particular skill as outbound marketing campaigns can often be seen as ‘spam’. Without the appropriate creativity and finesse, resources and budgets can be wasted pushing hard-hitting, un-tailored ads that are easily overlooked for more engaging alternatives.

Hopefully you now have a comprehensive understanding of the two types of marketing methodologies and appreciate how inbound and outbound marketing campaigns can work together to attract, engage, and convert your target audiences!

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