Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

SEO, SEM, PPC, CMS, CPM … every industry has its own, unique lingo. But the marketing world takes these buzzwords, phrases, and jargon to a whole new level. 

For the uninitiated, understanding an online marketer can be a little confusing.

Suffice it to say, it’s a jargon-heavy industry, with hundreds of acronyms and multisyllabic terminologies to describe the various aspects of marketing, as well as strategies and techniques.

But as it turns out, all these marketing trends, techniques, and strategies can be divided into two distinct camps – inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing.

In today’s article, we’ll define the two terms, explain their difference, and shed some light on when or how to use each one of them:

What’s Inbound Marketing?

As you could have guessed, inbound marketing is an all-encompassing term for all the marketing strategies and techniques that makes your target audience come to you. 

It’s focused on attracting your target audience to you instead of going after them. You do the work upfront, set up the right resources, and watch as it generates business leads. 

Examples of Inbound Marketing

There are so many examples of inbound marketing techniques.

At the most basic level, your website can be categorised as an inbound marketing strategy.

That’s because you create the website, market it, and then wait for prospective customers to come and find it. If they like the website and what you’re offering, they’ll go ahead and make a purchase or contact you for more information. 

Other examples include content marketing, white paper, social media, SEO, landing pages, and so on. 

Forms of Marketing that Overlap Between Inbound Marketing And Outbound Marketing

There are forms of marketing that overlap between inbound and outbound marketing. Two prime examples are email marketing and PPC.

With email marketing, you first have to set your email subscription form and freebies and then wait for your prospective customers to come and find it (that’s inbound marketing). 

Once they subscribe, you’ll have to send them a series of emails. You’re simply going after them, which is why it’s also considered outbound marketing.

It’s the same with PPC ads. They’re designed to attract leads or prospective customers to your business. But it starts with you putting out the ads where they can be seen. 

How Inbound Marketing Works

Inbound marketing refers to any hands-off approach you use to attract leads. It’s indirect and characterised by non-invention on your part.

Unlike outbound marketing, it’s not marked by a noticeable sales pitch. 

Instead, it nudges customers down your sales funnel by increasing their level of engagement with your brand. 

The following diagram illustrates the entire process:

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing 1

What’s Outbound Marketing? 

Outbound marketing is the complete opposite of inbound marketing. It seeks to interact with potential customers by going after them, whether or not they’re interested in your products or services. 

It’s intrusive, direct, and has an explicit sales pitch.  

It’s everything along the lines of advertising.

Also, all the traditional advertising methods fall under outbound – radio, TV, telemarketing, direct mail, outdoor ads, billboards, pop-ups, contextual ads, newspaper ads, etc.

It’s named outbound because it involves pushing your ad or marketing message out to the recipient, hoping that a significant number of them will convert and make a purchase, enough to make you a profit. 

How Outbound Marketing Works

Outbound marketing pushes your sales or marketing messages to an audience that’s not necessarily interested or searching for it. 

These messages are open for anyone to see or hear, on your TV, billboard, radio, newspapers, etc.

Brands use them to reach a wider audience, via paid ads.

Whether on digital or traditional channels, the goal is pretty much the same – that a broad fraction of the audience you’re targeting will take interest in your offering and embark on their conversion journey.

Outbound Marketing Has a Low Click-through Rate

Outbound marketing strategies, especially those executed on digital platforms, have terrible click-through rates – 0.16% on mobile and 0.06% on desktop.


Simple. Nobody asked for them. 

They’re random, send to random strangers, a majority of whom aren’t interested in your offering.

Don’t Get it Wrong: Outbound Marketing Still Works

It’s no hard secret that outbound marketing still works.

Even with everyone going digital, you still don’t want to flash outbound marketing down the toilet.


Using tailored outbound marketing tactics such as cold email outreach, marketers can see a CTR of up to 14% and an open rate of about 17.8%.

On LinkedIn, cold messages get 3X that open rate and CTR. 

It goes to show outbound marketing isn’t as dead as some people love to insinuate. 

The reason most marketers haven’t been so successful with outbound marketing is that they approach it without a strategy on how and when to use it, as well as guide its execution. 

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing 2

Why Outbound Marketing Receives Such a Bad Rep?

The discussion about inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing has over the years become ideological. 

Inbound marketing started as a trend. Today, it’s presented as new and hip, a marketing strategy that focuses on earning people’s interest first. 

In contrast, outbound marketing is presented as old-fashioned and stale, a marketing strategy that focuses on pushing your products or services to customers, whether or not they have any interest in it.  

The implication is that presenting unsolicited marketing messages to a customer is wrong.

It’s not just a matter of effectiveness, but ethics as well. 

We’d like to get one thing clear: there’s nothing wrong with promoting a product or service using outbound marketing strategies, provided the product works as promised. 

Also, marketing strategies should only be judged by the results they produce, and nothing else. 

Outbound marketing methods have proven to still work. Don’t be part of the hivemind, and be quick to discount them just because everyone thinks they’re old-fashioned.

The 4 Most Effective Outbound Marketing Techniques You Should be Using

It’s no secret that the modern-day consumer prefers inbound marketing techniques. That explains why they’re highly effective. 

However, an inbound-only marketing strategy can never be enough. 

The only way to ensure success is to figure out how you’re going to mix it up with outbound marketing strategies. 

With that said, which inbound marketing strategies are worth considering, which ones aren’t worth your valuable time and resources?

According to one recent survey, cold emailing tops the list as the most effective outbound marketing strategy in 2021: 

Outbound Marketing Tactics and their Level of Effectiveness in 2021


When asked to name a few outbound marketing tactics that they believed were still effective in 2021, most of the respondents were quick to select cold emailing, cold calling, search ads, and direct mailing as their top picks.

get google ranking ad

Not so many of them voted for TV & radio ads, press releases, and print ads. Conversely, they received a lot of votes when the respondents were asked to select the outbound tactics that they thought were least effective in 2021.

Cold Emailing: Cold emails aren’t dead.

The thing with cold emailing is it will only work for you if it’s fun for the user. The difference between cold emailing now and back then is the human-to-human connection.

copywriting services contact singapore

Today, cold emailing will only work when you start treating your prospects as humans and not random names on a list.

You have to personalise the whole experience and, most importantly, make it fun for your prospects.

Here’re are some valuable tips to help you out with this: 

  • Research

Just because it’s cold outreach doesn’t mean it has to be truly cold.

A cold outreach can still have some elements of research behind it. 

You can start by researching to identify which companies could benefit from your products or services. You want to make sure you’re speaking to the right audience, and that you’re not blindly reaching out to them. 

So, here are a few tips to help you out with this research or with getting your cold emails a little warmer:

  • Look for Companies that Are Similar to Your Previous or Existing Customers: 

If you’re a B2B marketer, it helps to look for companies that are similar to your previous or existing customers. 

get brand consulting singapore

It’s simple. Take the industry you’re already working with and look for companies or businesses in that industry. Break them down by location, and choose the companies within your locality. 

The next thing you want to do is visit their websites and grab their contact details. 

  • Visitor Identification Software Solution:

Use a visitor identification software solution such as Resolute Technology or Lead feeder to get a detailed view of the companies you’re visiting. 

With these tools you’ll be targeting warm leads, those who visited your website and are well aware of who you are and what you do. 

  • Personalise Your Outreach

The key to running a successful cold marketing campaign is personalising your messages. 

Don’t just automate everything and be done with it. Instead, we’d suggest you take some time to personalise your outreach. 

The first mistake marketers make with cold emailing is assuming it’s the same as mass emailing. 

engaging the top social media agency in singapore

That’s not the case, a good cold emailing campaign is more focused on quality. And by quality we mean, customising and personalising your email messages to make them more fun and relevant to the recipient. 

Mass emailing, on the other hand, relies on luck and numbers. Your goal would be to send the same email message to as many random recipients as you can in the hopes that a few of them might be interested in your offering.

Direct Mail

In this modern age of marketing, direct mail may fail to make sense to a lot of people. But for the few who know how to use it, direct mail is a great way to generate leads. 

So, what direct mail tactics should you employ to be successful with it? 

  • Manual Follow-up: Only do an automated follow-up when you have a huge pipeline. But if you’re generating 100 leads or fewer per month, then a manual follow-up would be more effective – via a phone call or direct mail. 
  • Integrate Digital and Direct Mail: You can build post mail marketing into your inbound marketing by integrating a modernised direct mail platform with HubSpot. 

Through Webhook, you can trigger a post mail, send when a potential client or a customer visits a particular page, downloads a particular content offer, or engages with your company in a way that warrants a follow-up.

Search and Social Media Ads

SEO, content marketing, and social media ads are a long game. It takes time for them to drive any serious traffic. That renders them ineffective for short-term traffic growth.

What marketers do is use search and social media ads in the interim, as they wait for SEO, content marketing, and social media marketing to pay off. 

Here are a few pointers to help you make the most of your search and social media ad budget: 

  • Use phrase match bidding instead of the broad or exact match: This type of bidding tends to be more precise and less limiting compared to exact phrase match. 
  • Target the most engaged group on Facebook: Simple. Start by examining your current group of customers. On Facebook, all you need to do is head over to “Insights” ~> “People” ~> “People Engaged” to find their location and the language they use. 
  • Try Not to Overlap Your target Audience: Be careful so as not to overlap the ads you’re showing to users. You don’t want to show the same ad to multiple users. Instead, have a specific ad for each audience group. 

This is especially important if you’re running the ads for impressions and not clicks.

Conferences, Trade Shows, Networking

Marketers still attend conferences, trade shows, and any other networking event to create brand awareness and get some facetime with prospects. 

Trade shows and conferences are great for delivering leads, especially when integrated with inbound marketing methods. 

You can use them to attract interested customers and engage them on a one-on-one basis. 

How to make these events work for you:

  • Don’t limit networking to these events: Networking must be something you engage in on daily basis, not on special occasions. It should be like the air you breathe, pulled with every glaring opportunity. 

It’s simple. People want to do business with the people they know and trust. As a marketer, it’s your job to go out there and build your reputation, both online and offline. 

The Least Effective Inbound Marketing Tactics in 2021

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing 3

The Problems with outbound Marketing

The problem with outbound marketing is that for your marketing message to appeal to a large group of prospects, then it should be very general. This makes it impossible to make your marketing message relevant to the specific needs and challenges your prospects have. 

Here are some of the reasons traditional marketing has failed to work for lots of marketers out there:

  • 60% of respondents in a recent survey say they would rather download a TV show than be interrupted with ads on TV. The growing number of online TV streaming services means your target audience will be skipping these ads. And what impression are you looking to make from an audience that’s already tuned out?  
  • Digital music services have made it easy for listeners to avoid radio ads. In other words, radios do not have the same impact they used to have when they started.

That explains why running a radio ad isn’t as effective as it used to be back then. 

  • Email spamming will only taint your reputation. As things are, 58% of direct mail respondents say they never even bother opening a direct mail piece. 

In most cases, the emails land in the spam section, which users seldom open. 

  • There’s an overkill of banner ads in the digital space. It turns out, an average internet user is bombarded with more than 1,700 banner ads per month.

As it turns out, only half of them are keen enough to even notice them. 

Mind you, you’re paying for impressions. Meaning, you’ll not be getting your money worth of eyeballs when you run these ads. 

  • On average, an office worker received about 120 new emails per day, of which 55% of them are spam. 

By mass emailing them, there’s a fair chance that none of them will even bother to open them. 

  • The estimated revenue loss resulting from ad blocking now rests at $2.12 billion. That’s the estimated amount of money that marketers are losing every year by running interruptive online ads. 

Inbound Marketing Vs. Outbound Marketing: What’s the Difference? 

Parameter for Comparison

Inbound Marketing

Outbound Marketing

Definition It’s centred around producing high-quality content to organically attract prospective clients and customers It’s pushy and uses traditional advertising methods to push jargon-filled marketing messages to random audiences 
Examples SEO, social media marketing, blogging, keyword targeting, etc Search and social media ads, billboards, newspaper ads, magazine ads, etc. 
Audience Engagement Permission-based and relevant Interruptive, pushy, and dissociated
Brand Positioning Places you in the headline Stand out or go unnoticed
Marketing Strategies Cross-channel, integrated Linear strategy… marketing avenues are limited
Messaging Very specific, useful, informative, and educational Generic, broad, forced, jargon-filled, and complicated
Data and Attribution Quantifiable and digital Hard to track, immeasurable, a long shot in the dark

1# Audience Engagement: Interruptive and Pushy vs. Permission-based

Outbound = interruptive marketing

Outbound marketing is interruptive. 

The premise is to find a channel or medium with a huge following and periodically interject with disassociated ads. 

All this is done in the hopes that, amid all the interruption, a small section of the audience might take interest in the ad and convert. 

The chances of you getting a single person to convert with this strategy are minuscule, but not impossible.  

Outbound marketing examples: TV & radio ads, newspaper, direct mail, billboards, etc. 

Inbound = permission-based marketing

Inbound marketing works on two premises:

  1. You can only communicate with your target audience via a medium that they have permitted you to use. 
  2. Your eyes and ears should always be open to the questions that these people ask. You then have to proliferate the answer to these questions all around the web in the hopes that users will be searching for them. 

The two premises mean you can only serve the ads to users upon their request, hence the name permission-based. 

Audience Comparison

With inbound marketing, you’ll be targeting an audience that’s way smaller.

Here’s an analogy that explains the difference between the two:

Let’s assume you’re marketing to a huge crowd. With outbound marketing, you’ll be marketing to the crowd as is. You simply display your marketing message and let a few decide if they’re interested in your offering. 

However, with inbound marketing, you’ll begin by finding out who among the audience is interested.  That means, instead of marketing to people you’re not sure of, inbound marketing allows you to only market to interested people. 

That explains why their audience has been found to convert better. In reality, inbound marketing has a 750% higher conversion rate than outbound marketing. 

Don’t Get it Wrong: Inbound Marketing has a Limitless Number of Opportunities

In the second premise, where you’re always hunting for customer questions, your possibilities are limitless. 

With keyword targeting, there’s no limit as to how many of these questions you can answer online. Since the audience is actively looking for answers, it goes to show that they’re somehow interested in your offering, hence the higher conversion rates.

Brand Positioning: Footnote vs. the Main Story

Outbound marketing = footnote

Outbound marketing makes you a footnote. You have to make yourself stick out or risk going unnoticed. 

It also makes your relationship with customers be based on grabbing their attention rather than offering them value, as with inbound marketing. 

For example, if you’re marketing at a trade show, it focuses on having the best booth or giving out the best price. You’re, however, not the keynote.

It’s the same with running an outbound marketing campaign at the Super Bowl. You can have the best commercial, but it will always be second to the main event. In other words, you’re merely a footnote in the events that you’re involved with. 

Inbound Marketing = main story

Inbound marketing places you at the centre of the story.

It makes you the keynote speaker.

It’s about sharing valuable content with your target audience. It’s about telling your story or interacting with your target audience on a one-on-one basis, with their permission, of course. 

It’s about educating them, delighting them, and engaging them in a way that enriches their lives. 

Done right, and it can open door to more distribution channels, instead of just sitting around waiting for the next trade show or event. 

Marketing Strategies: Linear vs. Cross-channel

Outbound marketing strategies

Outbound marketing strategies (for lack of a better word) are linear. They have a limited number of marketing avenues you can work with – Radio, TV, billboard, tradeshows, and billboards. 

As an outbound marketer, your job would be to evaluate which mediums best address your target audience. 

The next thing to do would be to attribute the bigger percentage of your marketing budget to the most effective mediums and ignore the rest.

You can then have a unified marketing message in all the mediums you have identified, and that’s pretty much like it.

It’s a rinse and report from there. The other thing you might be required to do would be to reassess the allocated percentage and repeat the process 

Inbound Marketing strategies

Inbound marketing strategies are more holistic. You have different channels working together. 

These strategies tend to be a little complicated compared to outbound marketing ones. 

It demands the following:

  • That you use all digital channels (there’s no way you’re succeeding with only one)
  • You continue to work on strengthening your website
  • You develop effective, high-quality content that your target audience will find useful
  • Implement KPIs or figure out how to track your marketing efforts and step-by-step wins

As you can see, inbound marketing is more holistic, covering a range of digital platforms. 

Your website sits at the centre of your inbound marketing efforts. So, to run a successful inbound marketing campaign, your website must meet the following: 

  • Have a strong foundation
  • Must carry a strong message
  • Have a blog
  • Be responsive 
  • Hub for distributing your content
  • Built around your content marketing strategy
  • Have a call to action (CTA) strategy
  • Have an easy-to-use CMS, such as WordPress

You first have to make sure your website is in good shape to embark on the content creation and distribution process. 

Figure out how to make your content engaging or make it meet your keyword objectives. 

Most importantly, make sure the distribution taps into all the available avenues:  RSS feed for your blog, social media for sharing your posts and keeping your followers engaged, lead nurture campaigns, and so on. 

Messaging: jargon-filled, Sales-y Vs. Educational

Outbound Marketing Messaging

In an outbound medium, the person doesn’t know what you do and doesn’t want to hear from you yet. Outbound messages are interruptive and people don’t like being interrupted. That’s why most outbound marketing never converts to inbound leads (people joining your “list” or subscribing).

Outbound messaging is often complete copycats of direct mail templates that have worked for decades, but it has failed to evolve with how people interact in businesses today.

Outbound messaging is still trying to push its way in the door rather than inviting people to voluntarily come in and learn more from you.

Inbound Marketing Messaging

The people who sign up for inbound mediums already know what you do, they are interested and want to learn more through your website or blog updates. They are listening to you because they have chosen to.

Distribution: Renting vs. Owning

Outbound marketing

With outbound marketing, you’re renting distribution.  It’s not your own. You’re putting it in the hands of someone else, hoping against hope they’ll forward it to their subscribers and followers.

Inbound Marketing

With inbound marketing distribution…well, how much do you think that’s worth?

How much do you think your name is worth after someone has included it in an e-mail, or forwarded it to their customers and readers on social media; posted it on their blog or website; linked to it from a resource page? How much would you pay for the equivalent of being recommended by another trusted expert in your field?

With inbound marketing, you’re not renting distribution from someone else.

You own it, and here’s how:

  • You build the subscription-based email list you have been using to distribute your content.
  • You earned a position in the SERPs by optimising your content for related keywords
  • You build a strong social media following, and only you have power over them.

Data and Attribution: Immeasurable vs. Quantifiable

How do you track results in outbound marketing?

It turns out, outbound marketing is hard to measure.  There is very little data to tell you whether it’s working or not. Whilst that makes businesses look bad when they’re losing money, it also keeps them honest because outbound marketing is more about building a brand than just driving sales.

How do you track results in inbound marketing?

Because most people are moving towards inbound marketing there are companies and services available to help you measure the results. Google Analytics, HubSpot and Kiss metrics are just a few of the tools that can be used to track your inbound marketing efforts.

Making the shift: How to Transition from outbound marketing to inbound marketing

How do you move from outbound marketing strategies to inbound ones? 

Here’s a step-by-step process for how to begin to shift from outbound marketing tactics to inbound.  

Step #1: Define the steps needed for the transition. 

For example, creating an inbound marketing strategy, or revamping your website.  

Step #2: Define the first set of tactics that have to be put in place. 

 For example; setting up a blog or SEO campaign.

Step #3: Establish your ‘Start Date.’ 

How close to immediately am I ready to make the switch and start getting inbound results?  If you’re trying to revamp your website at a time when your outbound leads are dwindling, do what it takes to get it done.

Step #4: Make progress every day. 

Be sure to keep track of everything on a calendar or editorial schedule. You should know exactly what’s expected of you on daily basis.

Step #5: Keep track of your progress, and adjust accordingly.  

Measuring results is key!  You should always be looking at the steps that took you from point A to point B; are they working?   Did you achieve your end goal? Was there something somewhere along the way that could have been done better, more efficiently?

Step #6: Repeat. 

Start over at step one; evaluate what’s working, what’s not and make adjustments accordingly.  You should be constantly tweaking your approach to get it as close to perfect as possible!

Are you completely shifting focus from outbound to inbound? Did your teaser perform well enough to expect a good ROI on a fully-fledged inbound marketing launch (or at least, partial one)?  

If not, you need to go back to the drawing board; update your communications plan accordingly and create a new teaser campaign. Rinse, wash, repeat.


More Posts


Top Child Counselling in Singapore

What is child counselling?  Child counselling is a type of therapy specially catered to young children, especially those under age 12. Child counselling provides aid