With the advent and growth of internet, marketing has fundamentally shifted from being outbound to more inbound. Both the forms of marketing however coexist and there are supporters and detractors of both. However, as internet essentially is a medium that allows two-way communication, traditional forms of marketing including outbound marketing are losing relevance.

Most modern marketers no longer believe in forcefully interrupting the actions of a consumer by sending a high voltage message. The message is also sent to a huge number of people even though the actual target group is a small subset of the number of people who receive the message. Narrow targeting is impossible with outbound marketing and consumers have become more hostile towards promotional tools that intrude their life without seeking their permission first.

From the perspective of the marketer also, inbound marketing is more cost-effective. Outbound marketing has a higher average cost of acquiring a new customer. Outbound marketing may create the more bang of the two but how much of the initial noise actual converts to business is never easy to guess. In outbound marketing, it is difficult to judge the impact of the marketing effort on the prospect because as it is a one-way form of communication, it is difficult to ascertain whether the prospect is actually reacting to the stimulus or not.

For example, a person may read a newspaper but may not necessarily take even a cursory glance on the advertisements published and so the cost per thousand (CPT) or the circulation metric would fail to truly reflect the impact of the advertisement on the target group.

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing is a proactive approach of selling or promoting a product, service, idea or general information by hammering the prospect with messages and hoping that the AIDA principal i.e. attention, interest, desire and action would work. The messages are designed in a way that it manages to induce interest and desire in a customer. According to Fatcatstrategies, less than 10% of the clicks online happen due to outbound marketing.

Outbound marketing is an expensive model of marketing. It aims to send or push a large number of messages over a combination of marketing channels proactively and hopes that the right message will be picked up by a prospect who would then act on the message favorably. However, there is no guarantee why and when a person buys something is hard to understand because there are factors other than simple need that can also come into play while deciding to make a purchase. Marketers may use socio-economic and demographic classification and segmentation to reach out to the right target group but it is still pretty large and each customer in that group may still have divergent needs. Collecting market data from such a large and heterogeneous group is also difficult.

Outdoor marketing examples are email marketing, cold calling which involves making an unsolicited physical visit or a phone call where a new offer or product is discussed with the prospective buyer, outdoor media marketing like billboards, hoardings, vehicle wraps commonly known as OOH, TV, radio and print advertisements and banner ads which appear when you open a website or a social media site and mobile advertising. PPC or social media advertising is considered to be an amalgamation of outbound and inbound marketing. The two overlap.

While all these forms of media have high attention grabbing quality, the recall value is questionable, especially if the target is not interested. Another major problem with outbound marketing is that members of the target group are increasingly turning to technology such as email spam blocker filters, pop-up ad blockers, getting registered to the Do-Not-Call list to get promotional calls and messages blocked and even choosing subscription-based TV channels which do not air commercials.

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is like positioning your brand or product in front of the customer when he is looking for something like it. In inbound marketing, you create content that contains keywords which when matching the search query entered by a customer on a search engine will return your blog or webpage with the content demanded. Many believe it is more effective because you are positioning your brand at the exact moment when a prospect is looking for it. It is also very cost-effective because you don’t have to scout for prospects.

In inbound marketing, the content is descriptive and aims to inform and educate prospects. With the right kind of information, prospects can be gently nudged to move to a landing page on a website and convert. However, the aim is to convince the buyer with a solid message and not induce him with “chicanery”. A blog or a whitepaper gives you the chance to be more impartial when describing something. A customer when researching for a service or product would like to know everything about it. Of course, the positive features would be highlighted but the attempt should be to solve a problem with genuine interest. The aim should be to empower a customer.

You don’t have to make tall claims. Your customer can read the testimonials to get an understanding of how effective your product or service is. An inbound marketing effort has better ROI because it engages customers by creating perceivable value. The cost per lead is also significantly low when compared to outbound marketing. According to Mashable, 44% of direct mails are never opened and 84% of people aged between 25 and 34 have bounced out from a website because of intrusive ads. This disadvantage of outbound marketing becomes an advantage of inbound marketing. It is not intrusive. On the contrary, the customers themselves seek out the content or the product/ service.

A savvy inbound marketer would carry out proper market research to identify his prospective customers and then use various demographic parameters and psychographic/ behavioral data to identify the common phrases that they use. They would then include these or ones closely matching these in the content that they create. The customer would automatically seek the brand out. The rate of referrals and shares is also much higher in inbound marketing than outbound marketing and the leads are far more likely to convert.

Some examples of inbound marketing are blogs, PR efforts, opt-in newsletters, social media promotions, SEO rich content, publishing electronic white papers and e-book, videos and taking clear positions on various subjects publicly which allows you to position yourself as a KOL (key opinion leader).

Your inbound marketing efforts may be slow to yield results but are generally much more long lasting. An evergreen blog or a good white paper or a memorable social media post will continue to attract links, traffic and shares long after you have stopped actively promoting them. So, it is a continuous process. An outbound marketing effort on the other hand usually stops giving you any visible benefit after the effort stops. It is usually very budget-friendly. Creating good content often requires time, knowledge about the targets and creative energy.

Why is inbound marketing more effective than outbound marketing?

  1. It doesn’t seem like marketing: Some forms of outbound marketing require the marketer to be very aggressive in approach and a lot of consumers detest it. This approach is slowly disconnecting them more from their prospects. However, inbound marketing seems “organic”. Blogs, whitepapers, articles, infographics, tweets, sharing pictures on the Instagram and sharing posts on Facebook doesn’t exude the ‘at-your-face’ vibe. They seem to inform and empower the readers. Many advertisements use hyperbole but inbound marketing can’t be accused of that. That is why it seems more authentic. This attribute gives inbound marketing an edge over outbound marketing.
  2. Helps the buyer in his journey: Inbound marketing means strategically placing in the relevant information in the digital world so that a buyer, who is doing research before buying a product or service in this category can find it. By, providing the kind of information that helps the prospect in his journey, your brand can gain his trust. According to Business2Community, 67% of research before a purchase is now made online. You will need to carry out your market research to understand the behavioral traits of your key prospects and see what phrases they use to seek out information before making a purchase or which demographic areas they represent. You can thereafter use SEO, keywords or even ad words to place your content in a place where the prospect will find it. 
  3.  Enhances brand equity: If you can dish out authoritative and useful content consistently over a long period of time, you can position yourself or your brand as a thought leader in the industry or the domain. It will help you to increase the brand value of your business and win customer trust. The whole process of generating leads is very organic and permission-based, prioritising the convenience of the prospect over “sale”. Hence, prospects love it.
  4. Start customer conversation: Inbound marketing helps start a conversation between various stakeholders and form opinion about it. It helps to increase brand visibility and also awareness. If a conversation gains momentum on social media, it can spread like wildfire and even reach those who were previously not aware of the existence of the brand or the product or interested. It also generates more referrals. 
  5. Helps build relationships: Inbound marketing is less intrusive and more customer-friendly. As a result, customers prefer it over outbound marketing. Also, it has the intrinsic advantage of allowing two-way communication. So, a brand can quickly position itself and build a long-term relationship with its prospects. They can take feedback immediately and inform the public of its commitment to upholding their interest. The brands also get a face and so customers also find it easier to interact. That is why inbound marketing helps create long lasting relationships.


It needs to be clarified that outbound marketing has not gone out of vogue. Outbound marketing also has some advantages and the right marketing mix would include both inbound and outbound forms of marketing and media.