Inbound vs. outbound. What are the differences?

Outbound i inbound - różnice

If you are reading this article because the difference between “inbound” and “outbound” isn’t clear to you, I have good news: you are not the only one!

Marketers commonly use these two terms, but they didn’t fully break through to the awareness of business people with little marketing experience.

What’s more, it’s possible that, just like Mr. Jourdain in Molière’s comedy, who was surprised that he had been speaking in prose for 40 years, you acquire customers through inbound or outbound, although no one calls it that.

However, you want to understand and distinguish these terms to consciously choose between the two forms of generating leads and building sales. Therefore, we explain in simple terms what is the difference between inbound and outbound.

Definition of inbound and outbound sales and marketing


First, I would like to point out that the definitions below are simplified, and yet cover 90% of business cases. The ambiguity of the remaining 10% doesn’t matter much to the core of the matter.

What is inbound?

Inbound is all marketing and sales activities that make the client find your company. You could say that inbound is casting the net and waiting for your customers to bump into it.

You could call inbound activities “passive”, in​ the sense that initiating a contact (making a phone call, visiting a website, filling out a form) is on the client’s side. Your role is to encourage him to do so.

Having the above in mind, inbound marketing is a long-term strategy. It takes time to create, publish and promote content regularly, but it pays off in the long run.

What is outbound?

Outbound is all marketing and sales activities that make your company find the client and approach him directly. Outbound is connecting with the client here and now and offering him a conversation without waiting for him to do it himself.

You could call outbound activities “active” because the company employee initiates a conversation with a potential client.

In the same manner, outbound is a short-term strategy. You can apply it immediately, but effective outbound requires a brave employee, the so-called “opener”.

Examples of inbound and outbound channels


We know the theories, time for specifics.

Inbound channels

For a customer to reach you via inbound, they must see your business online or offline. However, the company’s logo alone is not enough. You need various types of content that will engage your potential customers in different places.

The most popular inbound channels (that is, ways to cast the net with content) are:

  • Website (your service and product pages, company portfolio);
  • Blog (guides, reviews, articles);
  • Newsletter (valuable content delivered via email);
  • Social media (company profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn);
  • Paid advertising on Google and social media;
  • Sponsored articles;
  • Collaboration with influencers;
  • Recommendations from customers and reviews on the Internet (where the content is a good word from your customers. 🙂

Outbound channels

To attract customers directly, you also need content. Still, more than visibility on different platforms, you care about the data that will allow you to contact them.

You can create the best content to open a conversation, but it won’t mean anything without direct access to the person, such as the phone number or email. Therefore, databases are an inseparable element of outbound and the foundation of effective outbound sales.

The most popular outbound channels (i.e., ways to reach the customer directly) are:

  • Cold email (“cold” message to a potential customer, that is, not preceded by any previous conversations);
  • Cold call (as above, but by phone);
  • Direct message via LinkedIn or social media;
  • Direct visit to the customer.

Advantages and disadvantages of inbound and outboundWady i zalety inboundu i outboundu


Each of the strategies has its specificity, and it’s worth getting to know them to make the best use of the company’s sales potential. You may find that you invest most of your marketing and sales resources in inbound and that a large customer is at your fingertips, and all you need to do is to reach out to them directly.

Or vice versa; new business developers constantly make calls, while the most valuable customers are those who need your content published regularly.

Advantages of inbound marketing

  • Scaling. A well written and promoted piece of content can attract dozens of customers;
  • Longevity. Content doesn’t disappear from the Internet; it lasts for years;
  • Easier sale. Customers attracted by your content express some degree of interest in the company or the problem they want to solve.

Inbound disadvantages

  • Delayed effects. Casting the net is a long-term strategy that requires patience. It will also take you longer to verify whether the content is working or not;
  • Commitment. For the content to work (be preserved in the customer’s mind and indexed correctly in a search engine, e.g. Google) it must be published regularly,
  • Dependency on the customer. It’s the customer who decides if and when to contact you.

Outbound advantages

  • Immediate effects. You don’t have to wait to talk to a potential customer;
  • Ease. If you have a proper database, you’re just a few clicks away from talking to the person;
  • Independence from the client. You decide when you will contact a potential lead.

Outbound disadvantages

  • Limited scaling. To increase your outbound sales, you need to hire more salespeople. Or us. 🙂
  • Bad associations. Poorly conducted outbound (intrusive messages and calls) angers people and can give your company a bad name;
  • Harder sale. You speak to the client “cold,” so you have to hit the current need or arouse it with good content.

When to do outbound, when to do inbound?


Finally, let’s answer the question of which situations are the best for using inbound and outbound. As mentioned above, matching the appropriate sales channel to the company’s position is crucial.

Make use of inbound if…

  • The company’s financial situation allows you to invest in the long term;
  • You have competent people in your company to create and publish content regularly and to manage the content strategy;
  • You know your clients and their needs well. Inbound is a long-term strategy, so it will take a long time to know if your content is working or not.

Make use of outbound if…

  • You need a new sale as soon as possible without long-term investment;
  • You want to quickly check if a product or service will sell in a given market;
  • You have a sales representative in your company who has no problem opening conversations. I like to call such sellers the gunslingers.

Why not both?

On a final note, remember that this is never a choice either/or. The strategies complement each other perfectly, and it’s good to combine them. But, in what proportions should you use them today? I hope this article has helped you answer this question.


O autorze

Paweł Kobusiński
Paweł Kobusiński
Prezes i założyciel agencji GetSales. W sprzedaży B2B od ponad 7 lat. Pasjonat nowoczesnego podejścia do marketingu i sprzedaży. Prywatnie wielki fan koszykówki oraz motoryzacji.
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