Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing – When To Use These Different Methods

Written by Windmill Strategy

In business, there’s one thing that’s always certain: for a company to remain in business, they need to make sales.

The way customers find and buy from you varies depending on dozens of differing factors, and making your business findable depends on one of two main marketing methods. These methods are inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

In this article, we’ll break down the key differences between inbound and outbound marketing along with tips to help you determine which is best for your businesses’ unique digital marketing needs.

What is Inbound Marketing?

According to HubSpot, “The inbound methodology is the method of growing your organization by building meaningful, lasting relationships with consumers, prospects, and customers.”

A major benefit of inbound marketing is that your organization can waste less time working unqualified leads. Instead, your focus is geared more toward creating engaging and attractive content to reel in leads.

A great way to visualize the inbound marketing process is to see it as a flywheel. The flywheel only works efficiently when all three sectors are given equal attention. The three sections that make up the inbound marketing flywheel are Attract, Engage, and Delight. Take a look below at the inbound marketing flywheel developed by Hubspot as an alternative to the outdated sales funnel approach.

Hubspot inbound marketing flywheel

What are some inbound marketing tactics?

Gated Content

Have you ever been on a website and were asked to provide contact info in order to gain access to a data sheet, whitepaper, or interactive calculator? If so, you have already faced this content marketing tactic.

Creating gated content offerings helps you start generating marketing contacts while also remaining top of mind for potential leads that downloaded one of your resources. You always want to make sure that a site visitor doesn’t run into any dead ends and is able to further go down the rabbit hole on a subject.

By now, you’ve likely already seen an offering like this show up on our website as you’ve browsed. Below is an example of a form aimed at collecting a first name and email address just before a visitor leaves the page.

Windmill Strategy Exit Intent Form Example
Exit popup email form capture


If you’re reading this blog post, then you’re currently experiencing the benefits of keeping an up to date blog on your website. Having a blog provides exceptional search engine optimization (SEO) value and helps you establish your role as an industry thought leader. This in turn helps build trust with visitors, which increases the likelihood of them converting.

Of course, just writing anything won’t help. You’ll have to do research on what people in your industry want to read about. You can do this by looking at your competitors and other industry periodicals. See what’s being spoken about, what’s trending, and where you can add a unique spin or helpful guidance. Then you can begin writing.

Blogging is a long term inbound marketing play. You can expect to see traffic growth after publishing 50-75 articles, with continuous growth as you continue to publish content.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is another great way to develop the relationship between your company and qualified-but-not-converted leads. Email marketing is technically an outbound tactic but can be an effective strategy when paired with other inbound marketing tactics. Email marketing helps you promote your blog articles, webinars, and company newsletters to anyone who has opted in. It’s important to get these opt-in conversion points set up on your website as soon as possible to slowly build a usable email list. If you pull in a cold list of people who have not opted into your email marketing then you run the risk of being flagged as spam.

Newsletter opt-in formHere is an example of a newsletter opt-in form. We want to make it as easy as possible for the visitor to stay connected with our marketing content, so we only asked for an email address.

Other inbound marketing tactics include video content, ads promotion, lead nurturing, search engine optimization (SEO), growth driven design, and more.

What is Outbound Marketing?

According to HubSpot, “Outbound marketing is a traditional method of marketing seeking to push messaging out to potential customers. Outbound marketing includes activities such as trade shows, seminar series and cold calling. It is costly and the ROI is much lower than inbound marketing.”

The main benefit of outbound marketing is how it moves faster. It’s the tactic to reach out to when inbound leads aren’t coming in at the rate you want. As mentioned previously, inbound marketing takes time before showing results, while outbound marketing is only limited to the work capacity of your sales and marketing staff.

When reaching out to a larger list of potential leads, even if a lead doesn’t close, it helps create brand awareness that can increase the likelihood of conversions later on. It’s important to note that you should only be working lists, accounts, and contacts that are chosen carefully. If you’re reaching out without strategy or planning, you’re more likely to be labeled as spam instead of a legitimate contact.

What are some outbound marketing tactics?

Email Marketing

A proper targeted email marketing strategy that focuses on personalization can make a huge difference for any B2B business. Acquiring a quality email list is easier than ever these days, too.

There are plenty of companies that offer targeted list generation services which allow you to email contacts and companies you might have otherwise missed. A tool we frequently recommend to clients is Growbots. This tool allows you to set up custom automated email campaigns that target contacts found in a massive, consistently updated database. Once you have an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), setup is relatively simple and let’s you send anywhere between 100 and 2,000 emails per week with just a few clicks.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

A pay-per-click (PPC) campaign is an advertising model where you create an ad, but only pay a fee when it’s been clicked. Essentially, it’s a way to guarantee site traffic by paying for it. When set up properly, PPC is a great way to bring targeted traffic to your website that you might have missed using only organic methods. Plus, it helps you to:

  • Guarantee your presence at the very top of searches for targeted keyword phrases
  • Stay in touch with remarketing efforts
  • Complement organic SEO and content marketing at a budget controlled by you

Social Media Advertising

With there being 2.3 billion people on social media worldwide, there’s no wonder why it’s a priority for nearly every business out there on social media. Getting your brand in front of potential customers via paid ads is a great way to increase brand awareness and convert viewers into qualified leads or customers.

Another great feature of social media advertising is that you’re able to adjust the amount of ad spend you apply at a given time. The more you increase your budget the more viewers you’ll get. It’s also important to have a clear ideal customer profile (ICP) so you only target people that are most likely to convert.

Other outbound marketing tactics include, PPC, print, radio, and video advertising, cold calling, and more.

Which method is best for you?

BOTH! Yeah, that’s right.

The best thing about these methods is that they involve different areas of your sales and marketing department. We’ve seen that marketing tends to focus more on the inbound side of lead generation while the sales team focuses on the outbound side. Let’s face it, marketing people tend to be better at finding a way to attract leads while sales people just need to get someone on the phone.

As long as your team has the capacity to run both initiatives, we’d recommend using both 99/100 times.


If you’re not sure where to start or how to implement a campaign (inbound or outbound), the team at Windmill Strategy can help. We have experience with all the tactics mentioned in this post and can get you on the path to start generating quality leads in no time.

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