These days I do a lot of studying about search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing, also known as online marketing. I've spent countless hours trying to really understand what all of it means and I keep coming back to inbound digital marketing verses outbound marketing.

The use of inbound digital marketing tactics has grown steadily since it was introduced in the early 2000s. The way that inbound marketing is implemented has changed over the years, however, because of the dramatic increase in internet usage and new online marketing channels such as social media that have given businesses additional ways to deliver content to their prospects, followers and existing customers.

Below we will discuss what is inbound marketing and what is outbound marketing and what makes them different. We’ll also look at examples of each of these tactics so you’ll know how your business can use digital marketing for business growth this year.

What Is inbound digital marketing?

Inbound marketing – called pull marketing in the early days - is an online marketing methodology used by businesses to attract customers by creating valuable content personalized to their target markets. Content marketing is the foundation of inbound marketing. Inbound marketers connect and solve problems by producing relevant, educational content and posting it online for people to find. When inbound marketing is done well, it creates connections that the company’s market is seeking and solves their existing problems. As a bonus, content marketing costs less than traditional marketing and produces more leads.

Examples of inbound marketing include relevant blog posts, e-books, viral videos, webinars (web-based seminars), social media campaigns, and website text optimized for search engines.

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing – also known as interruption marketing or push marketing - represents the more traditional forms of advertising that have been used for decades. In outbound marketing campaigns, businesses place adverting, salespeople, promotions and/or public relations campaigns in front of people and try to solve a problem or meet a need that they may or may not have. Essentially, outbound marketing interrupts a person’s day because they weren’t seeking information about that business or its products on their own.

Examples of outbound marketing include TV and radio ads, trade shows, cold calls, spam emails, and print ads such as in newspapers, catalogs or magazines.

What’s the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing?

While all businesses want to increase leads and sales, the different approaches used in inbound marketing and outbound marketing actually do serve different purposes. The purpose of inbound marketing is to keep your sales funnel full of active leads heading toward making a purchase of your products or services. The purpose of outbound marketing is to track and drive existing prospects through the buying cycle.

While outbound marketing often involves buying lists of leads and making cold calls, inbound marketing is all about creating a good brand reputation, with the idea that this will drive leads to the business.

I found this helpful infographic (a picture depicting information about a certain topic) on the differences between inbound digital marketing versus outbound digital marketing and the rise of inbound marketing:


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