Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing: The Real Difference

Outbound marketing is about interruption. Inbound marketing is about discovery.

But so what? We have all been interrupted and had it lead to something wonderful. We have all turned to Google or social media and discovered things that are completely useless or misleading.

So why is inbound marketing a better way to market?

The difference is friction.

Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing interrupts what you are doing and asks you to change. If it is an email promotion for an upcoming webcast or a banner ad showing how much money your business can save, a marketer is interrupting you and asking you to move on to something else. Friction is resistance to that movement.

This is why context is so important in advertising that asks you to take an action, from making a call in response to a DRTV ad to clicking on a banner to scanning a QR code. The bigger that movement or change is, the harder your marketing needs to work to overcome resistance to change.

Inbound Marketing Removes the Friction

In sharp contrast to outbound marketing, inbound marketing has no friction. No one was interrupted with your message. If it was posted by a friend on Facebook or at the top of organic search results, it was an organic part of the experience they were directing.

In inbound marketing, discovering your content is natural. To marketers accustomed to shouting for attention, this should come as a welcome change!

But Pushing is Easier Than You Think

Pushing to overcome the friction sounds like hard work… until you try to get someone else to push your content without payment!

Creating content worth discovering and then ensuring it is found through search, social and other independent recommendations isn’t easy. Because of this, many marketers, although enamored by the idea, have been slow to embrace inbound marketing, and that spells opportunity for those willing to make the change.

Two additional posts that can help you get started:
10 Ways to Kickstart Your Inbound Marketing Program
Become An Inbound Marketer Without Creating (or Curating) Content

Your Turn

What keeps you from making the switch to inbound marketing, or have you already made it? Share your perspective on the biggest challenges in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Photo Credit: Pushing the Car by davosmith on Flickr

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  • This is a great post, Eric. Of course, I am of the opinion that outbound marketing (ie, interruption marketing) will eventually be a thing of the past…but not too quickly. It seems a lot of businesses embrace the “friction” involved in outbound marketing and perhaps think of it as a conquest when they win the close in this way. Either way, you made a good point for why inbound marketing should be seriously considered.

    • Jen – as long as there are prospects who have pain, it’s costing them, they neither know they have pain OR what it’s costing, thus aren’t searching AND as long as there are new start-ups recognizing unmet/unknown needs, Outbound (in whatever form) won’t ever be a thing of the past.

      This “78% of B2B Buyers start their buying process online” thing that is floating around (Carlos H posted it again today) is actually hogwash. I do believe that 78% of B2B Buyers who know they have a pain start the search themselves online, but there are LOADS of great prospects who are absolutely not starting their buying process online.

      : )

    • I’m not going to say interruption marketing will ever become a thing of the past, there are two many products that will require interruption for marketers to let go. Consider toilet paper – I don’t want to see a product placement in a TV show and I’m not looking for information!

      That said, I do agree with you that the pendulum has barely even started to swing, we will see inbound increase significantly in the coming years.

  • I agree with Jen that this is fab! Rock on man.

  • Nice Post Eric! I think at this point Inbound Marketing is a MUST for businesses. If you’re not creating content, optimizing and socializing you’re missing out! However, I don’t believe there’s a “Switch” to be made to Inbound but rather an addition of Inbound to your media mix.

    Regarding Outbound, I disagree with your point that Outbound asks a prospect to change what they’re doing. Between contextually relevant ads (ex. what DemandBase is doing per your most recent post) activity/behaviorally targeted emails ( which don’t be fooled, are still outbound efforts) and many other new tools/services on the horizon,Outbound efforts can provide timely and relevant suggetions of solutions/products that fit exactly what a prospect is looking for. In fact this can often streamline the process of helping a prospect finding the solution/product that meets their needs. There are still way too many intrusive/irrelevant outbound efforts going on but if you do your due dilligence as a marketer you can find the right way to execute very successful outbound campaigns in conjunction with your Inbound efforts


    • Sean, thanks for the comment. I definitely believe contextually and/or behaviorally targeted campaigns require a smaller change, but there is still a change. If I was shopping for a car yesterday and now I’m looking at furniture, an auto ad is asking me to switch. Since I was thinking about it recently though, it is likely a much smaller change.

      I believe outbound marketers will be more successful when they look to limit the change they ask the audience to make, rather than think they have eliminated it all together.

      Definitely agree with you, most marketers will have an inbound / outbound blend, not 100% focus on other camp. Thanks for taking the time to comment!