Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing: Which Distribution Channel to Choose?

Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing: Which Distribution Channel to Choose?

Marketing plan

If you’re in the process of wondering where to get new business opportunities, you’re probably considering different distribution channels that fall into outbound and inbound marketing. Which channels are these? What is the difference between outbound and inbound marketing? And what will be most effective for you in terms of lead generation?

In today’s article, you will learn:

  • What outbound and inbound marketing is
  • What their advantages and disadvantages are
  • Which distribution channels exist.
  • How the individual channels work.
  • How to work marketing out when you don’t want to deal with it.

When contacting potential customers, you will definitely come across outbound and inbound marketing. All the distribution channels that exist fall into one of these two categories. Let’s explain what inbound and outbound marketing is and the difference between them.

Outbound vs. inbound marketing: what is the difference between them?

Outbound marketing consists of addressing customers directly: cold calling, direct mailing, or, for example, a stand at an offline event. This is a so-called push strategy or pressure strategy: you are addressing a customer who was not looking for your product himself and may not even know it.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is a pull strategy. It aims at customers who are looking for your product. You then educate customers through the given distribution channels, provide them with further information on the topic and indirectly persuade them to buy the product from you. Inbound marketing includes, for example, writing blog articles, sending educational newsletters, or PPC advertising. This strategy usually leads to a much higher conversion of leads, as it targets customers who are already interested in the product.

Advantages and disadvantages of outbound and inbound channels

Both types of channels, outbound and inbound, have their advantages and disadvantages. Which channels are better?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question. It all depends on the nature of your business, what products you offer, what your budget is, and who your customers are. But we will help you with the decision a bit: we have written down the advantages and disadvantages of outbound and inbound channels for you.

Advantages of outbound marketing

  • the ability to address a specific customer with a personalized offer
  • the opportunity to reach customers who do not yet know your product, but might be interested in it
  • higher ROI (return on investment) indicator

Disadvantages of outbound marketing

  • higher costs
  • one-way communication
  • some customers find it disturbing and annoying
  • lower lead conversion

Advantages of inbound marketing

  • lower cost
  • benefit for the customer (education)
  • building long-term relationships with customers
  • supporting a positive brand image
  • higher lead conversions

Disadvantages of inbound marketing

  • duration
  • noticeable progress only after a longer period (several months)
  • active customer involvement is needed

Which distribution channels are there?

According to Zapier, there are a total of 19 distribution channels.

Inbound channels:

  1. viral marketing
  2. PR
  3. unconventional PR
  4. Search Engine Marketing (commonly also known as PPC)
  5. content marketing
  6. Email marketing
  7. SEO
  8. engineering as marketing
  9. targeting blogs
  10. use of an existing platform
  11. webinars and training


Outbound channels:

  1. business development
  2. sales
  3. affiliation
  4. fairs
  5. Offline training and events
  6. community building
  7. offline ads (outbound)
  8. display ads on social networks (usually outbound)


In today’s article, we will introduce all the mentioned distribution channels.

  1. Viral marketing (inbound)

Viral marketing is the type of marketing every brand desires. This is a situation where the brand is promoted by customers themselves, for example:

  • by sharing your video
  • by writing references
  • by recommending your service to friends

Thanks to this, viral marketing tends to be very effective and cheap; moreover, it contributes to building positive brand awareness. However, for it to work, you need to give customers a strong incentive to spread your advertising message.

An example of well-functioning viral marketing might be a flash mob that customers upload on YouTube.

Unfortunately, we won’t give you instructions on how to create a video that spreads around the globe, but we can tell you another trick: offer customers a discount when they bring their friends to register with you. You have definitely already encountered these tactics, for example, at AirBnB or myTimi.

  1. PR (inbound)

Another distribution channel for inbound marketing is public relations. The goal of PR is to address the media and arrange for you to be written and talked about. You can:

  • contact a reporter to write about you
  • prepare an article and send it to the media
  • hold a press conference

Newspapers, magazines, blogs, and other media often welcome this form of cooperation. Thanks to you, they will get content that they can publish or a topic that they can write about.

It is important to concentrate only on the media that are relevant to you – in other words, the ones that focus on your target audience. For example, if you sell shoes, it doesn’t make much sense to get mentioned in a dog magazine.

  1. Unconventional PR (inbound)

There is an alternative to classic PR: unconventional PR. Unconventional PR means you get the media’s attention without actively addressing it. The publicity gained in this form can be positive or negative, but most of the time it causes a sharp increase in brand awareness. Do you know the saying? Any publicity is good publicity. Unconventional PR will cause a stir and get media attention.

  1. Search Engine Marketing – PPC (inbound)

One of the most well-known forms of search engine marketing is PPC (pay-per-click) advertising – advertising that shows up in response to a keyword he has entered in a search.

An undeniable advantage of this ad seems to be that it is displayed to customers who are actively searching for the product. As a result, this form of promotion will get you a relatively high conversion rate. On the other hand, you have to expect higher costs and more complexity than with the previous three distribution channels.

Before launching a PPC campaign, it is necessary to perform a thorough keyword analysis, write good ad copy, target the campaign correctly, and then continuously optimize it. Therefore, you will achieve the best results if you hire an experienced PPC specialist.

  1. Content marketing (inbound)

Content marketing is all about creating content that your customers are looking for and that provides them with added value. There are three most common reasons why customers search for content:

  • for fun
  • to be educated on a certain topic
  • to keep up with the current events in the area

Make use of customer motivation and give them the content they are looking for. The copywriter’s task is to write the text in such a way that it also leads to the fulfillment of business goals and indirectly leads customers to purchase.

Content marketing includes, for example:

  • writing a corporate blog
  • posting on social networks
  • infographics
  • video tutorials
  • e-books

Are you afraid of sharing know-how? You don’t have to. Surveys show that sharing know-how is what convinces customers that you are an expert in your field.

  1. Email marketing (inbound)

Email marketing is a very effective and inexpensive distribution channel. There are four types of emails you can send:

  • transactional emails,
  • newsletters,
  • promo emails,
  • special offers.

We use email marketing to regularly supply our customers with tips and tricks on how to run a successful business.

  1. SEO (inbound)

SEO is a double-edged sword – it will help you engage both readers and robots. Clever writing, editing URLs, filling in meta tags, and a few other activities that are part of SEO will allow visitors to find you and at the same time increase organic traffic by dozens of percent. The only downside is that SEO requires long-term strategic planning and is time-consuming.

  1. Engineering as marketing (inbound)

What is hidden under the name engineering, which does not seem to belong in marketing? They are online tools and applications that you can offer to your customers very cheaply or even for free on your website and thanks to which you can sell your main products.

An example of this is a simple web analytics tool that lets you sell your web analytics services. Another example might be a diet tracking application that offers customers food supplements that you sell.

  1. Targeting blogs (inbound)

Targeting blogs is a form of inbound marketing, which consists of establishing cooperation with bloggers.

This distribution channel will be used mainly by companies whose target audience falls into the age category of 15–35 years, which is commonly found on social networks and which can be affected by influencer marketing.

This form of promotion can be very effective, as customers often listen to their favorite blogger´s recommendations. The key to success is to reach the right blogger who has an adequately large fan base and is followed by your target audience.

Most collaborations take place either in the form of a barter, where the blogger promotes the products you send him for free, or in the form of a paid collaboration.

Tip: When establishing a collaboration, you want to know which companies the blogger already works with. If there are too many, it may mean that his recommendations will no longer be relevant to the fans and the collaboration will lose its effect.

  1. Use of an existing platform (inbound)

You can use the connection with an existing platform to promote your company. An example is Spotify, which lets you share information about what music you’re listening to on Facebook, or Instagram, from which you can share posts directly to Facebook.

  1. Webinars and training (inbound)

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, one of the main means of inbound marketing is education.

The best way to reach an audience that is actively interested in a certain topic is to organize webinars and training. Although this distribution channel is very demanding, both in terms of time and in terms of preparation and costs, on the other hand, it targets customers who are the most likely to be convinced.

Let’s see an example. If you organize a webinar on How to save time, there is a high probability that webinar participants really want to save time. That’s why the easiest way to sell them an effective time management tool.

In addition, nowadays there are many ways to organize your course online. For example, the Coursera or Skillshare platforms allow you to create a webinar.

  1. Business development (outbound)

Business development is the first of the distribution channels for outbound marketing. It consists of building business relationships with other companies. The goal is to promote each other’s services and products, so your businesses need to be related. Examples of suitable business partners in business development might be:

  • confectionery and chocolate manufacturer,
  • bicycle dealer and bicycle accessories dealer,
  • producers of sustainable footwear and producers of sustainable clothing,
  • a company dealing with IT infrastructure in the cloud and a company dealing with cyber data protection.

In addition to mutual promotion, you can offer a combination of your products (a toothpaste manufacturer will contact a toothbrush manufacturer and offer customers a discounted toothpaste package with a brush) or give customers a discount for a partner product (you will receive a 20% discount on a chateau ticket when visiting a castle).

  1. Sales (outbound)

Especially in the field of B2B marketing, one of the most used distribution channels is sales. Sales are about contacting a specific customer directly – usually by phone or e-mail – and offering them a personalized product or service.

The advantage of telephone acquisition is the ability to respond to customer behavior in real time, personalize the offer, provide the most appropriate sales arguments and respond very quickly to any objections.

The biggest disadvantage of sales is the frequent reluctance of managers and employees to cold call, which is associated with the fact that B2C customers, in particular, perceive sales as harassment. You will avoid this pitfall if you focus on collecting quality contacts.

The decision of whether to include sales in your marketing mix then depends primarily on the nature of your product and the specific segment of customers.

  1. Affiliation (outbound)

Affiliate programs allow customers to benefit from sharing contacts of other potential customers. The reward for them can be:

  • cash, most often in the form of commissions
  • in the form of an added value within your service

This distribution channel is often used, for example, by financial advisors.

The advantage is that customers usually give you a contact to someone who is really interested in your services.

The disadvantage is the opposite possibility: that they give you a poor quality contact just to get a discount. You can avoid this by distributing the reward only after the recommended lead has been converted.

  1. Fairs (outbound)

As trade fairs are an exhibition of products from a specific industry, they are full of people interested in that field. Proof that you can use fairs as an outbound marketing channel in B2B and B2C environments is the fact that in the Czech Republic there are, for example:

  • electronics fair,
  • logistics fair,
  • marketing fair,
  • book fair,
  • stroller fair.

Participation in trade fairs is advantageous mainly due to the high quality of leads.

  1. Offline training and events (outbound)

An alternative to participating in trade fairs is to organize your own events. If a trade fair focused on your industry does not exist, if for any reason the existing one does not suit you, or if you do not want to wait for the upcoming relevant fair, it is possible to plan your own event.

It can be a meetup, training, or conference. There are two main goals: to make you seen in the field and to advise customers to buy from you.

An illustrative example is the annual Apple conference, which lasts a week, is intended for professionals and the public, and in 2020 alone reached a total audience of 22 million viewers.

  1. Community building (outbound)

Community building works both in the offline and online world. Building a community will provide you with long-term and loyal customers who, in addition, are constantly adding relevant content and attracting other customers.

If your brand is specific in any way, create a Facebook group for its fans, start a discussion forum or other place for its customers to meet and chat. This strategy can work well for computer games or for online courses with a large number of participants.

We don’t have to look far for an example of well-managed community building – it is Tripadvisor, where a large part of the content is created by the public.

  1. Offline ads (outbound)

Billboards and other types of offline advertising are far from being a thing of the past. For some types of businesses, they even work much better than online marketing. When will such a situation occur?

  • When you want to reach an audience that doesn’t normally browse the Internet.
  • If you want to draw attention to a local brick-and-mortar shop.
  • When promoting a cultural event.
  • When you run a restaurant or hotel in a specific location.

In short, it usually works when you want to promote your business in a particular location.

Imagine driving with your family and getting hungry. What are you going to do? Will you pull out your cell phone while driving and start looking for the closest place where you can eat, or head to that lovely restaurant that the billboard pointed out to you?

  1. Display advertising on social networks (outbound)

49% of the world’s population spends time on social networks, with the average person spending 2 hours and 23 minutes a day there. Why should you care? For example, because 60% of Instagram users say they are viewing products on it.

The biggest advantage of advertising on social networks is that you can target it accurately: according to age, interests, occupation, or perhaps whether the person has recently returned from a business trip or has a child. You can use the Facebook pixel for even more accurate targeting.

Final summary

Both outbound and inbound marketing can be very effective if you know how to look at the 19 distribution channels and pick the ones that work best for your company, product, and target group. You should make your choice based on thorough strategic planning and subsequent consultation with a specialist.

However, if marketing is just an extra concern for you, you’d better entrust it to specialists. Our experts from myTimi will be happy to help you with:

  • copywriting
  • SEO
  • graphic work
  • web design
  • PPC advertising
  • social network management
  • email marketing
  • offline marketing
  • proposal of business and marketing strategy
  • sales
  • calling contacts

and much more.




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