Cold Calling vs Inbound Marketing: What's More Effective Today?

Inbound marketing written on a notepad beside a plant and a wooden table.

Let’s be completely real: people hate cold calling. Or rather, most of the time they hate it. Whatever opinion people have of unsolicited sales approaches, many successful business relationships have started with the ‘right call at the right time’, or by seeing a sales email in their inbox by chance. In part at least, this explains the enduring popularity of cold calling among some businesses, and if it works and respects the customer’s privacy, who can complain?

Book A Free Marketing Assessment

But does this make cold calling more effective than inbound marketing?

No. The fact that we are having this conversation at all is testimony to the power and benefit of inbound marketing for businesses in all sectors. 25 years ago, all marketing was effectively cold calling. Now, inbound marketing has become the norm, with most businesses focusing on cultivating inbound leads, rather than going out to interrupt their customers with sales messages. This is true even of PPC and social media advertising, which is dependent on the users’ preferences and search input, even if it still has an element of ‘interruption’ about it.

Of course, some businesses still use cold calling alongside inbound marketing; investing in a digital marketing campaign while still using telesales to boost revenues from seasonal campaigns.

So, cold calling versus inbound marketing largely comes down to how you want to allocate your budget, and which channels will give you the best ROI.

Let’s run through the pros and cons of both approaches in terms of effectiveness:

Inbound marketing

The focus of inbound marketing is creating quality content to draw people towards your company, products, and services – of their own free will. By aligning your content with your customers’ interests and needs, you attract inbound traffic that can be nurtured and converted over time.


  • Cultivates credibility and trust in your business.
  • Attracts prequalified leads who are already interested in your offerings.
  • Long-term cost effectiveness, as your digital assets can continue to attract leads long term.


  • Inbound can take time to see results, so may not be ideal for immediate sales needs.
  • Success requires you to consistently publish high-quality content over time. Once you’ve started, you can’t really stop.
  • Can be competitive, depending on your industry and the quality of content created by your competitors.

Cold calling

Better known as outbound sales, ‘cold calling’ is a traditional sales technique that involves calling (or emailing) prospects without prior contact or consent, to pitch them with a product or service. Its effectiveness varies widely depending on your sector, the salesperson’s skill, the quality of your contact database, and often, sheer luck (being at the right place at the right time).


  • Direct and immediate contact with potential customers.
  • The potential to close deals immediately, making it great for short-term sales.
  • Immediate feedback and the opportunity to address sales objections on the spot.
  • Pitches can be personalised to each prospect, potentially building a lasting rapport.


  • Cold calling is often considered intrusive and may be resented by customers, leading to low response rates.
  • Being seen to pressurise your customers may damage your brand reputation.
  • Cold calling campaigns can be time-consuming and costly in terms of person-power and resources, with varying success rates.
  • Data protection laws, spam blocking technologies, and caller IDs make getting through to prospects increasingly challenging.

Costs and returns

While it is possible to use cold calling and inbound marketing hand in hand, in general, modern customers prefer to research and find solutions independently, which favours inbound marketing over cold calling. Telesales can still be used successfully in this context, by calling inbound leads generated through the website – but this isn’t really cold calling as the prospect has already initiated contact.

Inbound marketing also usually gives a higher ROI in the long run than cold calling, as it focuses on leads who are already interested in what you have to offer. There is no time wasted pitching people who are simply not interested.

Find out more

JDR are one of the UK’s leading inbound marketing and business coaching agencies, providing a range of tailored services to small businesses. To find out how we can help you, please get in touch today by clicking here.

Click here to claim your free inbound marketing assessment by JDR Group to help your attract more website visitors, generate more leaders, and increase your sales.

Image Source: Canva