The difference between inbound and outbound marketing - and why you need both


inbound versus outbound marketingWe typically think of all marketing as an outbound thing, right? We proactively spend our time and our money promoting our business and propagating our message...getting the word out.

So then what is inbound marketing? It sounds rather counter-intuitive, but the term was coined within the marketing industry to make an important distinction between two different types of marketing efforts.


Inbound (organic) — Earning people's attention by being in the right place at the right time, when you know they're already interested in what you have to say.

Some examples are blogging, speaking engagements, opt-in email lists, word of mouth, social media and SEO.

Outbound (interruptive) — Getting people's attention by trying to stop what they are doing to listen to you, when you really don't know whether or not they're interested.

Some examples are advertising (print, radio, TV, web), trade shows, telemarketing, rented email lists and pop-up windows.


From a consumer's point of view, inbound marketing is almost always friendlier and more informative, while many outbound marketing methods are less than desirable. Outbound marketing can repel as easily as it can attract, so as a marketer, you have to do your homework with the demographics and invest in developing really great content and branding. Good graphic design and copywriting earns lots of brownie points from the public, too.

You might assume inbound marketing is free or easy on the budget, and outbound marketing costs lots of money. But the truth is, marketing is never free. Your time is valuable; time is indeed money. It's easy to create categories within your marketing plan based on the outlay of cash required...but in doing so, you might end up putting more time into an effort simply because it's free (hey let's do it, why not, it's free!), instead of doing it because you know it works.


The key is to work toward your own "perfect blend" of both inbound and outbound efforts. Your blend should not be dictated solely by the availability or constraints of your time and resources. Base it more upon the unique nature of your business and the varied dispositions of your customers. Your blend will also need room to adapt as market conditions change.

In short, you need outbound marketing to expand your reach and you need inbound marketing to make meaningful connections.

24 comments:

  1. I love this idea. I'm really terrible at outbound marketing, but pretty great at the inbound stuff -- so I have loyal fans, but I need to get more of them.

    Thanks for putting into such great words.

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    1. Thanks for visiting - and let me know if I can help.

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  2. Great post, Lisa. I agree with you... "The key is to work toward your own "perfect blend" of both inbound and outbound efforts." Thanks for sharing!

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  3. AWESOME info! Never thought of it like that before! Thank you so much for sharing your info :)Visiting from #sscnet

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing your valuable experience and knowledge with us! #sscnet

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    1. My pleasure - hope you'll visit again!

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  5. Never thought of the balance between the two. I think I'm not very good at outbound. Thanks Lisa for sharing.

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    1. It is indeed a balancing act...let me know if I can help. :-)

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  6. That's a new perspective for me and from tomorrow I'll be revising my communication plan. Thanks"

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    1. You're welcome - thanks for coming by!

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  7. Great post Lisa! I have trouble balancing the two- inbound is way easier!

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  8. Great information. Thank you for sharing.

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  9. Great post Lisa,
    Never really considered outbound marketing as of yet, something to consider! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks so much - let me know if I can help.

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  10. Very nicely put. Never thought about it that way.certainly a balancing act to work on

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Questions and comments are welcome!