Inbound vs. Outbound: What's the Difference?

Danielle Esposito

Danielle Esposito
Published June 28, 2018


Inbound marketing is the process of attracting potential customers through helpful, thoughtful content and search engine optimization. Outbound marketing is the process of seeking out potential customers through interruptive, and sometimes pushy, tactics.

Originally published Nov 17, 2017. Republished June 28, 2018.

You may have heard about inbound lead generation and outbound lead generation, but do you know the difference between the two?

Understanding these marketing strategies will help you better target your intended audience and nurture them throughout the sales funnel.

What is outbound lead generation?

Sometimes referred to as "interruption marketing" or "interruption lead generation," outbound lead generation is the traditional form of marketing, whereby a business seeks out the attention of the potential customer in a pushy,"Look at Us!" kind of way. 

Outbound tactics include:

  • Cold calls
  • Billboard ads
  • Commercials
  • Mass e-mail blasts
  • Direct mail

While outbound lead generation is still around today, there are those who consider it a less-efficient strategy, as many people are numb to these disruptive tactics, going so far as to block telemarketers, skip through commercials, and throw out their direct mail without ever opening it.


What is inbound lead generation?

The polar opposite of outbound, inbound lead generation puts the potential customer first, attracting them through thoughtful content production, search engine optimization, and social media marketing.

Inbound tactics include:

  • Blogging
  • Social media posts
  • Content offers
  • Pay-per-click ads

Inbound has evolved with how people shop today, appealing to those who prefer to research companies online and develop relationships with businesses before purchasing a product or service. A process built for the long game, inbound strives to plant roots that grow with a customer throughout the sales process.


Inbound vs Outbound Marketing Infographic


<a href="" target="_blank" alt="Inbound Versus Outbound Marketing Infographic"> <img src="" alt="Inbound versus Outbound Marketing Infographic"  title="Inbound versus Outbound Marketing Infographic" caption="false" data-constrained="true"></a>

Which lead generation method is better?

While the benefits of inbound lead generation garners most of the attention today, outbound remains a viable lead-generation strategy. For those who can afford to, utilizing both is optimal. And if the cost seems unsustainable, outbound can be implemented initially, then slowly pulled back as inbound takes hold and begins earning quality leads organically. 

If you are implementing an outbound marketing strategy, consider the fundamentals of inbound to improve your outbound efforts

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