Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing. What exactly is the difference? We take a closer look at what the two concepts cover and what differences there are between the two marketing approaches. Let’s get down to it.

Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing

In its purest form, outbound marketing uses a push tactic, while inbound marketing uses a pull tactic. Outbound marketing is what we know as traditional marketing. These are TV and radio advertisements, billboards, banner and display ads, newspaper ads, telemarketing, etc.

In short: all the content where we try to push a selling message into the heads of a broad target group.

Inbound marketing is a modern form of marketing. Instead of pushing a message out to a larger target group, we try to attract a specific target group with content that is prepared and targeted with the aim of covering exactly this target group’s needs and issues.

The message and content are less salesy and instead provide the target audience with valuable information that they can use.

Modern vs. traditional marketing

But why spend extra time and resources on inbound marketing when we are now in full swing with our traditional marketing? We are experiencing today that it is becoming more difficult to get messages out to our target group, and the effect of our marketing is falling drastically.

This happens because the competition is more intense than ever before, and because we as consumers are digital natives and have become extremely critical and immune to the advertising we are exposed to.

The decline of outbound marketing is a response to a fundamental shift in consumer behavior. Consumers have control over what information they receive and how.

We have become blind to your smart ad on Facebook and it has become a matter of habit to delete your irrelevant email in the inbox.

  • 86% of us skip the commercials on TV when we are interrupted in the middle of our Sunday night movie. And often we no longer watch the film on flow TV, but instead via on-demand services such as Netflix, Disney+ and HBO, where advertising is not present.
  • 84% of us leave websites with intrusive, disruptive and irrelevant advertisements. And often we don’t even see the expensively paid display ad because we have AdBlocker installed in our browser.
  • 44% of us never open ‘direct mails’ that have been targeted to us as a potential customer in one way or another. And often we don’t even see the email, as it ends up in the spam filter and is thus never exposed to us.
  • 91% of us opt out of newsletters that we have opted in to at one point or another. And often it happens because we don’t get to meet the expectations we had when we signed up for the newsletter. The content does not meet our needs, and therefore we see no reason to continue receiving the newsletter.

With inbound marketing, we focus on being found by customers by earning our way into them, rather than buying, begging or forcing our way into customers.

Give value vs. sell

Typically, outbound traditional marketing is characterized by a strategy where we get the most out of our marketing dollars. Put somewhat bluntly, this means that we seek to achieve as wide an exposure as possible with the marketing dollars we have available.

The message is typically selling and often the recipient experiences our message as irrelevant and disruptive, because the strategy of our marketing approach is to achieve the highest possible ROI by reaching as widely as possible. Putting it a little more to the fore, we work from a quantitative approach.

Because although we have of course targeted our traditional marketing towards a certain segment, it is us as the sender who tries to push a product or service out to the customers

“New Marketing is any marketing tactic that relies on earning people’s interest instead of buying it”.

Typically, inbound, modern marketing is characterized by a strategy where we provide as much value as possible with our marketing dollars. With inbound marketing, we reverse the model and park ourselves for a moment.

Instead of persuading our customers to buy our product from our first meeting with them, we put ourselves in their shoes and find out exactly what their needs and problems are.

We enter into a mutual dialogue with them and find out how we can support them in their buying journey, so that they ultimately buy our product because they trust us and because they see us as reliable and authoritative experts in the field.

We prepare a persona of our target group and we find out where they are in their buyer’s journey, so that we can understand their needs and issues. In this way, we educate or entertain our target group and thus deliver a valuable relationship with them.

Content vs. channel


Outbound marketing is what we call ‘interruption-based’, where the premise is to find a medium with a large following that we can periodically expose to our advertisements. The hope here is that with a bit of targeted planning and a demographic understanding of our target group, we can find the small percentage of our target group that actually notices the advertisement – from there we have to cross our fingers that they also react to it.

The starting point is that if we find a large enough target group, the small percentage of conversions must be worth the investment. The problem is that it is unambitious and naive to simply devote ourselves to this traditional marketing, as we as consumers become more critical and blind to advertising.

Channels that are interruption-based are, for example, ads on social media, TV commercials, display ads, newsletters, telemarketing and canvas sales.

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Inbound marketing is what we call ‘permission-based’, where the premise is instead:

  • To communicate with our target group on a medium where the target group has given us permission to enter into a dialogue with them.
  • To answer the questions the target group may have and thus cover their needs and issues through content creation.

In the first premise, our target group is smaller than with mass media. But since the target group has already expressed their interest in us and is thus more friendly towards our content and messages, the target group converts 750% higher than with interruption-based marketing.

Examples here are subscriptions to newsletters, social media, subscribers to our blog or participants in our webinar.

In the second premise, we answer the target group’s needs and issues, which they ask questions about through, for example, Google. By understanding our target group and hitting the right search terms, we make sure to answer our target group’s questions when they search for them.

When the target group is looking for answers to their questions, the conversion rate is therefore also invaluable if we manage to hit them at the right stage of their buying journey. Examples here are SEO, landing pages, content, blogs, etc.

Contrary to outbound marketing, we put more effort into understanding our target group’s situation, so that we can target our content to them right down to the smallest detail. Read: content, not messages. This means that we work with a much narrower target group and that we work based on their needs and not our sales message.

It also means that instead of working with messages wrapped in advertising, we work with valuable content on our own channels that must be exposed on external channels.

Inbound Marketing - Two-way vs. one-way communication

Two-way vs. one-way communication

One of the most important and essential characteristics of inbound marketing is the ability to engage in dialogue with our target group. Understand them and meet them where they need us and where they can express their needs and problems, so that we can answer their questions.

This is the whole essence of inbound marketing, and this is where inbound creates enormous value in contrast to traditional marketing – namely, that we support the customer’s entire purchase journey. Outbound marketing creates awareness and visibility at the top of the sales funnel, while inbound marketing supports the sales process throughout the sales funnel.

The transmission paradigm vs. The interaction paradigm

The difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing can therefore simply be illustrated with a good round of classic communication theory – it doesn’t have to be more difficult:

  • Outbound marketing belongs in the transmission paradigm; it is one-way communication, and we send messages that we hope are received by the target group.
  • Inbound marketing belongs in the interaction paradigm; it’s two-way communication, and we enter into dialogue with the target group to understand their needs, so that we can provide them with the right content and the right solutions.

Outbound marketing in your inbound marketing strategy

Inbound marketing is the way forward if you want to create close relationships with your potential and existing customers. It is in the meeting with the customer and with the relevant content that you give them a valuable relationship with you. We’ve given traditional marketing a beating in this blog post at the expense of inbound marketing.

But having said that, we would like to emphasize that traditional marketing should also have a place in an inbound marketing strategy. Your sharp content that hits your persona spot-on and meets their needs will not gain much attention if it is not pushed out – and this is where outbound marketing plays a role.

Display advertising, known as advertising via Facebook or Google, has come a long way with the possibilities in their advertising platforms and to a large extent gives the advertiser the opportunity to create targeted advertising, where the investment can be tracked down to the smallest penny. Ad types such as retargeting, lookalike audiences and lead ads usually deliver high efficiency for the advertiser.

These newer platforms are gaining ground to a great extent, pushing traditional advertising types such as billboards, newspaper, magazine and TV ads to their knees. This type of advertising relies on inbound marketing, where the focus is on showing messages to such a targeted segment that there is a high probability that they will find it relevant.

Do you want to know even more about inbound marketing?

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