Ten Notable Differences Between Inbound And Digital Marketing

Inbound and digital marketing both are very commonly used terms in global marketing world today. Though both may sound similar, they are a little different from each other. Before we dive down into differences, let’s understand the meaning of each of these terms.

Inbound Marketing

Creating compelling content to attract prospects and customers to your digital properties across different stage of a buyer’s journey such as attract, interest, desire and action is termed as Inbound Marketing.

Inbound marketing, over the last few years, became synonymous with HubSpot as they leveraged it well by creating a whole educational ecosystem around certifications for inbound marketing.

Examples of Inbound Marketing

  • Creating blogs
  • Writing whitepapers, use cases or case studies
  • Creating infographics or eBooks
  • Conducting webinars or Podcasts
  • SEO for any of the asset types mentioned above
  • Affiliate marketing

inbound marketing

Outbound Marketing

Traditional approach wherein businesses reach out to customers to sell a product or service is called as Outbound Marketing.

Cold calling for instance is outbound marketing.

outbound marketing

Digital Marketing

Every marketing tactic which is online or over the internet could safely be called as Digital Marketing. Using online channels such as website, search, social media or marketing automation to reach your customers are integral components of digital marketing.

Examples of Digital Marketing

  • Running a paid social media campaign on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram
  • Paid search or google ads campaign to drive leads
  • Paid search campaign to drive webinar registrations
  • SEO for any of the asset types mentioned above

digital marketing strategy


Ten Differences between Inbound and Digital Marketing


Difference 1: Broader vs Methodology

Digital marketing is broader as it encompasses everything in the digital marketing world. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is focussed around the methodology used to create compelling content across different stages of your buyer’s journey (Attract, Convince, Convert and Delight for example)

Difference 2: Short Vs Long Term

Digital marketing is helpful in addressing short term goals such as immediate leads this quarter using paid search, inbound marketing on the other hand, is more strategic and requires more time and efforts including joining the dots between different stages of your buyers’ journey.

Difference 3: Push vs Pull Marketing

Inbound marketing is attention focussed and pull form of marketing while digital marketing could be anything between push and pull.

For example, writing a blog is meant to attract customers on your website – it is pull marketing or inbound marketing in this case, however, when you start advertising the same blog through google ads to reach your potential customers, it then, becomes a push form of marketing (or digital marketing tactic as a whole)

Difference 4: Objective difference

Digital marketing is all about reaching your customers and prospects through digital media such as website, search, social media, emails or publisher networks, while Inbound marketing is all about attracting your customers and then converting and retaining them thereafter.

Difference 5: Consumer Behaviour

Inbound marketing is intent driven and based upon the customers need at any given point of time. Digital marketing may or may not be intent based, for example, a paid search campaign on google may try to push a product or services related to the keyword being searched and not necessarily the exact product being searched. Inbound on the other hand, will show the most relevant web page for that very keywords through organic search results.

Difference 6: GDPR Friendliness

On a lighter note, anything intent based or user-consent based is safer than a pushed information in this era of privacy sensitive regulations across the globe. Inbound marketing is more GDPR friendly than digital marketing on those lines.

Difference 7: Advertising vs No Advertising

Digital advertising is part and parcel of digital marketing. Inbound marketing has nothing to do with digital advertising.

A google ad is digital marketing and not inbound marketing for instance.

Difference 8: Tools and Technology

Since digital marketing is much wider in scope, the set of tools including marketing technology stack is vast and numerous, Inbound marketing on the other hand, will have limited set of tools.

Difference 9: Career Prospects

If you are an Inbound Marketing professional, you will see lesser money spends and may focus more on SEO, blog, Email marketing and so on. You won’t get sacked because you didn’t rank on one day. (rare to happen at least for a web page in promotion)

Due to the larger piece of advertising money, a digital marketing guy will see more budget and money expenditure in his or her lifetime. You are responsible for money you advertise with. You can get sacked if you burn up the money without results😊

Difference 10: Term Awareness among Hiring community and HR Managers

As of today, on LinkedIn, subject to the way LinkedIn algorithms work, when you search by keyword “Inbound Marketing” there are a total of 11,339 job results (worldwide) whereas when you do the same with the keyword “digital marketing” you notice a Whopping 133,518 job listings as such.

We could safely assume that the hiring community at least likes “digital marketing” more than the word “inbound marketing”.

It is also true when you deep dive into each job description, an SEO job without any money involvement may be listed under “Digital Marketing” for instance.

Results for “Inbound Marketing” job search on LinkedIn
results for inbound marketing

Results for “Digital Marketing” job search on LinkedIn

results for digital marketing

Conclusion Thoughts

Whilst there are few notable differences as we discussed above, both, inbound and digital marketing are important for business and they do complement each other, it is more about the term being used and its context of being used. For example, a user finding your video on YouTube (by typing keywords) is inbound marketing, but when you are asking them to subscribe your channel for subsequent videos, it is digital marketing. The whole process from creation of video content to asking them to subscribe and then pushing more videos to their inbox is inbound first and then digital marketing, both.

Having done both the forms of marketing and personal inclination towards paid advertising, I feel paid advertising is more challenging as it matters by every frame of a second when you deal with your competition in digital marketing. A paid search campaign on google requires real-time changes or bids for instance, I never get the same adrenaline rush while doing SEO to attract inbound traffic, otherwise.

Which one do you like the most?

Can you think of any more differences between inbound and digital marketing, let me know in the comments section below and please do subscribe our YouTube channel.

Marketing Trends Brands Should Watch Out for in 2019

The year 2018 saw a lot of transformation in marketing, from big guys like Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai being questioned in front of the senate, GDPR coming in effect, to the launch of Android Pie. Consumers are more aware and being cautious of their privacy than ever before. All of this is going to impact marketing as a function and here are such … trends which brands should watch out for in 2019 for being successful.

Augmented Reality reaches masses

Google launched the 1st release of ARCore (a software development kit) in March 2018 which opened the doors for building augmented reality experiences. A lot of applications (mobile & web) with AR experience will be coming up opening the whole new avenues of possibilities around Shopping, Hotel booking, Events, simulations, training, education and so on. Imagine wearing shirts before buying from your camera Lens, being inside a hotel room before booking. Remember PokemonGo?  That’s just an application of Augmented Reality.

There are a lot of fun games and applications if your Smartphone supports ARCore though! I just tried Sketchfab on Andriod Pie, it’s fantastic! Look at the car on my sofa.

AR experience marketing trends

Learn More:

  1. AR Core
  2. Sketchfab
  3. Smartphones and devices which support AR Core

Omni Channel Marketing Content

One size fit all will no longer work, with google awarding separate ranks for Desktop and mobile users and YouTube being the second largest search engine, the new imperative for brands is to have an omnichannel content strategy. Your users are everywhere, consuming more content for business and personal purposes. It was okay to be on one or few specific channels some time ago but not anymore, the biggest trend I observed justifying this is the fact that every product brand in social media is doing advertising on the channels owned by their immediate competition. Why? They see prospects and consumers across all channels now.

Example one:

LinkedIn advertises on google display network

Linkedin Advertizes on GDN

Google ads are also seen on LinkedIn now (notice the right-hand top side)

Linkedin has Google display ads enabled for retargeting

Twitter advertising on Linkedin

Twitter ads on Linkedin

LinkedIn and Facebook advertising on Google (ads in yellow)

LInkedin and Facebook Ads on google

It basically means that all combinations are possible now. If those leading  brands are doing this. Why shouldn’t you?

Learn More

Step by Step Guide To Setup LinkedIn Ads

Voice Search would continue to Grow!

With rise of smart speakers like Amazon Echo, Google Home and Sonos one, voice search would continue to grow in 2019. Currently, most of the applications of voice search are towards local searches. It would also spread out for real life situations like shopping. It will also go by the fact around which company owns what. For instance, Amazon owns Echo and Amazon ecommerce, so people could really do shopping while ordering from Alexa. Since more than 50% of shopping-based searches in the US origin on amazon.com, Amazon would continue to lead this domain. For marketing, in this example, it means to be a listed product on Amazon, so people could order while talking to Alexa. Have voice search enabled on your website and do local SEO

Learn More:

  1. Voice Search for Local Business Study by Bright Local
  2. How to: Add Voice Search to a Website
  3. What is local SEO

Slow Growth in Visual Search

Google and Bing do offer visual search, it is not used as extensively as text-based search though! Last two years has been a challenge and a lot of players in this market were trying to figure out the accuracy levels from image search results as such. Pinterest, Amazon and eBay offer visual search too, along with a lot of small players like TinEye and picsearch. This domain would continue to see more niche players and will continue to grow. For marketing, having text, image alt tags, embedding visual search among apps, and building image libraries is a good way to get started. Upon advancements, advertising opportunities would slow grow in visual search as well.

Example: you can upload and image or URL of the image to start searching

visual search on google

More Creative Investments in Video

According to Google, in 2018, from awareness to consideration, Video advertising was used at every stage of buyer’s journey. We also see more of Vlogs than blogs today quite often. This trend would continue, and a significant amount of marketing and creative budgets would move towards Videos. Same is true for advertising on LinkedIn as well. Less than 15 seconds as video duration tend to perform better than the longer ones. LinkedIn is also coming up with Square native videos soon.

Social Media Listening and rise of AI Analysts

Consumer voices are best heard while doing social media listening. AI has wonderful applications in this field, Brandwatch last month launched Iris, a personal AI analyst for faster social media insights. These AI Analysts are expected to take up a lot of manual jobs a social listening or social intelligence professional may be doing today, collating data and analyzing trends for instance. For marketing it means, being an early adopter of AI Analyst will have an upper edge at deriving insights.

brandwatch iris

Learn More: Top 6 Social Media Listening Tools To Monitor Your Brand

GenZers entering workforce

About 61 MN GenZers (people born 1997 onwards) are going to enter the workforce in the US alone. Current markets are dominated by millennials at most. Gen Zers seem to be value success, with professional and academic achievement ranking as most important. Marketing will be impacted by their lifestyle, habits, ambitions, choices, working style as well. For marketing it would also mean,  being heavy on social media spends, finding out ways to build  a cult brand and so on.

Learn More:

Gen Z: What To Expect From The New Workforce

How Millennials are Marketing to Gen Z

Censored Search & Project Dragonfly

Of late there has been a lot of hype and news around Google working on Project Drangonfly for Chinese government to create a censored search engine. Few of the Google employees too signed letters against censored search engine for China during November 2018. It would  basically mean end of transparency and democracy of search engines, globally. Sundar Pichai in his latest hearing with the senate reassured that “they have no plans for launch in China” for now.

google employees


Marketing Certifications will have lesser Value

Every Product OEM owning any marketing product is trying to build a mindshare and gain from educational means. While Hubspot was an early entrant to training and certifications, SEMrush, Adobe and Google are few of the successful brands in this field. Now, there are way too many products, with every product comes the training and thus the certification. It is also a fact that not every company is as great brand as google or Hubspot for argument sake. One, the quality goes down when you have so many certifications that too product related in market and, secondly, recruiters and managers will have tough time deciding what to look for in qualifications.

I did cover a lot of such online courses, I can safely say that most of them try to teach you the product functionalities and questions are framed accordingly. This trend shall continue unless regulatory bodies put a check and define those qualifications, the very nature of digital being dynamic will have challenges to be defined though!

Look at the people fighting on PPC for the keyword “digital marketing courses list” for instance

digital marketing courses

Learn More:

17 Awesome Free Online Marketing Courses for Digital Marketers

Universal basic income

UBI or universal basic income has been debated for over last 2 years now. AI and automation is expected to take away a lot of jobs that we do today and it is happening already. Several recent studies projects that about 47% to 50% of all existing jobs will disappear in next 25 years. Same is backed by prominent industry leaders like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg etc. Ontario in Canada, in fact, started running a pilot project for Universal Basic Incometo know how the money affected health, income, effort and work and housing status among its recipients. That unfortunately, is called off by the new government for now. About 100 CEOs are requesting the government to bring it back though! If it would have been allowed for 3 years as planned, there could have been vast amount of data to analyze if the world really needs a universal basic income as such.

Elon Musk Tweet AI

There are couple of other countries running this project, Sikkim in India intend to roll this out soon, and it is just a matter of time. Every Corporate and marketing would be impacted from this out of the box approach.

Learn More:

  1. Ontario Basic Income Pilot
  2. Basic income around the world

Social Media would strongly influence the global Politics

Gone are the days when political social media content could be ignored. You could easily find political campaigns being run on Social Media to drive influences, donations, charity, opinion polls, exit polls and so on. Politicians has direct access to their voters through social media. It works mutually beneficial for social media companies like Facebook, Twitter as they get advertising dollars and political parties of respective countries as they connect with direct voters as such.Social Media would strongly influence the global Politics

During late 2018, Twitter came with a whole new policy around political campaigning in the US. The account information, deletion and related requests have also seen a spike last year.

data drive

The content removal requests have also seen a spike since 2009 at Google, whilst reasons cited could  be multiple among governments, there could be hidden political interest as well.

reasons for content removal - googleLearn More:

List of elections in 2019

Handpicked Articles to learn more:

  1. Top 20 Marketing Trends brands should watch Out for in 2018
  2. Best Practices for Social Media Usage in 2018
  3. GDPR Implications For Digital Marketing
  4. 2019 B2B Marketing Trends: Ideas For The Contrarian Marketer
  5. Best Free SEO Tools To Gain Ranks on Google

Do you see different or more marketing trends this year? Let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.

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Disclosure: We may receive compensation for links to products on this website.



Neeraj is a Tech Marketer with 9+ years of experience in B2B Sales and Marketing. At StepToInbound, Neeraj writes about Website, Search, Social Media and Marketing Automation practices.

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