Inbound vs. Outbound – The Great Marketing Showdown

Combine Inbound and Outbound for an effective Marketing Strategy

Outbound and inbound are both important in your marketing strategy


Marketing is a term and an industry that inspires a wide variety of positive and negative reactions. But realistically, much of our transactional lives depend on it. In the modern digital era, marketing breaks down into two main categories – outbound and inbound. Each has its own vocal supporters and detractors, but a successful marketing enterprise will likely rely on a smart combination of both.


Outbound marketing


The original marketing, outbound, refers to the more traditional platforms and techniques – TV and radio ads, banner and display ads, billboards, telemarketing, newspaper and magazine ads, pop-ups and pop-unders, cold calling, and contextual ads. These are advertising strategies based on the desire to present information about a product or service to an audience whether or not they’ve asked for it – a TV commercial that touts the benefits of a pain reliever, a radio ad that plays between your favorite 80s songs, or the 50-foot face of The Rock plastered across a highway billboard to promote his latest movie. The creators of these ads have no idea if you have any interest at all in their products, but they hope to capture enough eyeballs and raise enough awareness to woo customers.




  • Outbound can be particularly effective with older audiences, who are more accustomed to, and more trusting of, legacy media outlets such as newspapers, TV, terrestrial radio, and sales calls. This demographic tends to purchase higher-end items, such as luxury cars or jewelry, which maintain a solid outbound presence.
  • B2B is also a useful market for outbound.
  • For corporations who have the budget, outbound can be an effective way to raise brand awareness (see Budweiser’s long string of memorable Super Bowl ads).
  • The ability to target audiences on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram has brought outbound into the modern era, including contextual ads, retargeting pixels, and lookalike audiences. This is a more organic form of outbound that often makes its way around ad blockers.




  • Outbound is interruptive by nature and imposes itself on an audience, which is not always the most effective way to establish a lasting connection.
  • It can be expensive, unresponsive, and, outside of the internet, it can be difficult to target your audience.
  • It has largely become oversaturated, particularly online, where people now mostly ignore display ads. Ad blockers have removed many ads from our eyeballs altogether, bringing clickthrough rates down to dismal levels. Many marketing professionals now consider these tactics to be drastically overrated.


Inbound marketing


Whereas outbound attempts to reach out and grab customers, inbound marketing pulls in business using compelling content. The tools of this trade include blog posts, infographics, social media, email newsletters, white papers, and other content that is meant to show a company’s role as a thought leader in their industry. Adept use of SEO and paid search can help put this content in front of the eyeballs of people who are actually looking for it. Once there, they (hopefully) read, share, and eventually take action, all while developing a positive affiliation with the brand. Buyer personas are key tools to help develop this content – who is your audience and what do they want that you can provide? An SEO strategy is also essential to help these potential buyers find you.




  • Inbound is generally far less expensive than outbound.
  • It is indirect and hands-off. There is rarely an obvious sales pitch, but simply a desire to create brand engagement by the presentation of compelling content. The assumption is that this approach will gradually win over customers and gain their loyalty by establishing the company as a trustworthy expert on their industry or specialty.
  • Inbound has become increasingly popular in recent years, with 71 percent of organizations making it their primary focus.
  • It has a higher ROI and is 62 percent cheaper than outbound.




  • It can be difficult to measure inbound results, since it relies on a longer-term, organic process that may fall outside of the traditional sales funnel.
  • It is fairly restricted to an internet-based audience. Organizations that desire an older, less tech-savvy demographic will likely need to add some outbound to their strategy.
  • Creating a large online audience can be a lengthy, time-consuming process.


A healthy mix


An effective marketing strategy, much like a stock portfolio, is one that contains a diverse assortment of tools and products. For some companies, a comprehensive, content-laden inbound strategy paired with retargeted outbound ads fits the bill. For others, a campaign with a handful of long-form think-pieces aligned with native social posts on Facebook and Instagram will hit the sweet spot.


The best strategy, quite simply, is the one that works. Every company is different and every year audience expectations evolve and the landscape shifts slightly. As with any long-range plan, try new things, evaluate their success, and grow from there.


9Sail can help you with your inbound marketing strategy. Contact us for ways to improve your customer engagement and increase traffic through compelling content.


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