A: Essentially, the difference is that outbound marketing is initiated by the marketer, while inbound marketing is initiated by the consumer. Outbound marketing would be any type of marketing where the company is actively reaching out to the consumer, like targeted display ads or cold calls, while inbound marketing is the opposite. One way some companies differentiate between the two is to say outbound refers to any paid marketing, like paid search or paid social, while inbound refers to free methods.
Inbound marketing involves putting the information out there for the consumer to find on their own. SEO is very important in inbound — brands can have high search results for the kinds of questions customers are asking and then present them with content. That content could be a blog, a web page, or an asset that's on a landing page, for example. The other big vehicle for inbound marketing is social media, as social media allows a brand to engage with customers easily and be a part of the conversations that are going on.
Sometimes, inbound is considered better for B2B marketing while outbound is better for B2C, since B2C generally has a shorter sales cycle, but inbound can work for both applications. Inbound is especially useful in B2C scenarios where the buying journey is particularly complex, and customers have to do a lot of research or consider a lot of factors before they make a decision.
Most companies include both inbound and outbound in their marketing strategies. There are times when a brand needs to push a message in front of a consumer to get their attention, especially if they need to build awareness or tell consumers about a brand-new product. Brands will need to do some advertising to start the conversation, and then use inbound to provide additional information and insight. They will share content on their social media pages or blog, then optimize SEO to boost their site’s search engine rankings and drive traffic. The content shows that the brand knows what they’re talking about and can answer customer questions.
There are strengths in both inbound and outbound marketing and situations in which one or the other will be the better option. Companies succeed when they use a combination of both tactics to deliver quality content when customers are researching and asking questions, then reach out directly when customers want to know about a specific product.