• Marketing

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: When and Why to Use Each?

  • Dominika Krukowska
  • 4 min read
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: When and Why to Use Each?


Have you ever heard of the term “entreprenaissance”?

It refers to the massive upsurge of entrepreneurial activity we’re currently experiencing. In 2021, a record 5.4 million applications were filed to register new businesses in the US alone.

So, how do you make your business stand out in such a crowded marketplace? With a fine-tuned marketing strategy.

You’ve likely heard the terms “inbound marketing” and “outbound marketing” many times before, but do you know what exactly each of them means?

In this article, I’ll provide the definition of inbound and outbound marketing, the main advantages and disadvantages of both types, and end with recommendations on when to use each of them.

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing is a traditional form of marketing that focuses on initiating contact with the target customers to get them interested in a brand’s product or service.

It’s what comes to most people’s minds when they hear the word “marketing”, as it includes print, radio, and TV advertisements, banner ads, flyers, brochures, cold calling, and events where you can talk directly to prospects.

As your outbound marketing efforts are centered around pushing your advertising messaging out in the hopes that it will resonate with potential customers (often without their consent), it’s also known as “push marketing”.

However, as we get inundated with online advertising these days (it’s estimated that the average person sees between 6,000 and 10,000 ads every single day), outbound marketing has grown less popular. According to the latest statistics, almost 43% of Internet users use ad-blocking software to filter out unwanted ads.

What are the advantages of outbound marketing?

Despite the bad reputation that outbound marketing has been getting lately, it has various advantages for marketers:

  • It has a strong focus on building brand awareness.
  • You can potentially reach masses of people around the world with your messaging, including people who are already familiar with your offering, as well as those who have never heard about you.
  • It’s not as time-consuming as inbound marketing, which means you can reap benefits faster.
  • With more conventional marketing methods, you can also reach segments of your target audience who are not digital natives.

What are the disadvantages of outbound marketing?

There are also several disadvantages of using traditional outbound approaches:

  • Outbound marketing exposes you to large numbers of unqualified leads, so nurturing them to become paying customers takes a lot of time and effort.
  • With more conventional methods, such as billboards, it’s hard to measure their effectiveness to inform your marketing efforts.
  • Outbound forms of marketing can be fairly expensive when you factor in the cost of traveling to conventions and other events, or renting ad space.
  • Outbound marketing is invasive and pushed out to consumers without their consent, which can lead to banner blindness.

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a newer marketing concept focused on letting prospective customers reach out to you first. It aims to attract leads using different forms of content, such as blog posts, white papers, videos, infographics, newsletters, social media posts, or pay-per-click advertising, and utilizes the power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to aid marketing efforts.

According to a 2017 Meaningful Brands report by Havas, 84% of people expect brands to create content. The 2021 version of the same report found that 66% of people want more meaningful experiences from brands.

These findings reflect the growing popularity of inbound marketing. Instead of targeting customers with invasive ads, you’re helping to solve their problems with relevant, valuable content. You’re building trust and guiding people to make a decision to purchase from you.

Inbound marketing, also known as “pull marketing”, works to draw people’s attention and get them to become paying customers by engaging them throughout the sales funnel, from the first page they visit on your website down to the pitch deck you send before closing the deal.

What are the advantages of inbound marketing?

There are several benefits of including inbound approaches in your marketing strategy:

  • It’s non-invasive—people are reaching out to you because they are actively looking for your content.
  • It’s more precise, as you only go after your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and tailor your message to particular audiences.
  • It’s more concentrated, which makes it a highly effective marketing method.
  • It’s generally less of an investment than outbound marketing.
  • It’s more quantifiable than outbound marketing. As all inbound activities fall under the digital marketing umbrella, you can attach any metrics, track them over time, and optimize your campaigns.
  • While outbound marketing puts your brand at the center, inbound focuses on the customers, allowing you to build relationships based on trust.

What are the disadvantages of inbound marketing?

However, inbound marketing also comes with several drawbacks:

  • It’s labor-intensive, as it takes a lot of time to define and find your target audience.
  • There’s a limited pool of your ideal customers, so you are likely to see diminishing results.
  • Testing out different approaches and developing a content strategy that will attract customers is resource-intensive.
  • As the needs and wants of your ideal customers are constantly evolving, your content needs to be regularly reviewed and updated to match them.
  • In order to be able to properly track your return on investment from inbound activities, you need an integrated platform that will consolidate all your marketing touchpoints in one place.

Inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing—which one should you use?

Once you start exploring the differences between inbound marketing and outbound marketing, it poses the question: should you focus on inbound or outbound activities in your marketing strategy?

The answer is: Both.

HubSpot was practically founded on the notion of inbound marketing. Their aim was to encourage marketers and salespeople around the world to stop disrupting people with their message and bring the focus back to customers.

Today, their marketing strategy includes a mix of inbound and outbound approaches, with a recommended ratio of 90% inbound and 10% outbound.

Using the latest tools you can consolidate your efforts and create sales and marketing collateral for different stages of the funnel. You can start with one-pagers and brochures that have been optimized for engagement to draw customers in, and follow up with hyper-personalized content to nurture your leads.


As the marketing landscape is constantly changing, it’s important to stay up to date and know the difference between different approaches.

Both inbound and outbound marketing have different purposes, so by analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of each, you can get an idea of which one works better for your target audience and business needs.

The best part is that you do not have to rule out either of them entirely. You can test out and mix different techniques to create a comprehensive marketing strategy, especially if you’re operating on a large budget.

Most importantly, you need to bear in mind that what worked for you last year might not be working anymore. So, keep tracking and optimizing your marketing efforts for the best results. Good luck!

Dominika Krukowska

Dominika Krukowska

Hi, I'm Dominika, Content Specialist at Storydoc. As a creative professional with experience in fashion, I'm here to show you how to amplify your brand message through the power of storytelling and eye-catching visuals.

Link: Storydoc

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