What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is essentially a new way to think about content marketing. It uses the some of the same principles as traditional marketing, like attracting your audience, capturing qualified leads, and converting them into customers.

However, instead of focusing on pure sales tactics, this strategy takes a more nuanced approach to digital marketing. Instead of simply trying to push products or services on a customer, the company offers helpful solutions and informative content. The goal is not only to attract the customer, but to engage them as well.

Think of it this way. Traditional marketing involves one-way communication with a potential customer; in most cases, the only way for the customer to respond is to either purchase or not purchase the product or service.

With inbound marketing, on the other hand, it’s a two-way street when it comes to communication. The content is designed to be interactive, encouraging potential customers to give their feedback, voice their opinions, and share their experiences. This helps to develop stronger relationships between companies and their customers, which naturally leads to an increase in sales.

Outbound Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing

To really understand why inbound marketing is so effective, it helps to review what’s usually involved in outbound marketing. This is the more traditional method of content marketing that involves a wide variety of classic lead generation tactics, such as:

  • Radio ads
  • Television ads
  • Print ads
  • Cold calling
  • Telemarketing
  • Billboards
  • Direct mail
  • Pop-up online ads
  • Paid search ads
  • Tradeshow booths
  • Buying email lists

All of these forms of marketing are designed to appeal to an unsuspecting prospective customer. That’s why the tactics used in this method of advertising are generally quite flashy in nature and, in some cases, have a pushier message.

Outbound marketing ads can take a lot of time and effort to produce. They also require a very broad strategy since they need to appeal to an especially large base of potential customers. Inbound marketing can produce a better ROI, and it’s geared toward a more specific customer base that’s already likely to be interested in the company’s offerings.

The key thing that differentiates outbound marketing vs. inbound marketing, however, is how it approaches the target audience. While outbound marketing involves pushing a message out to the audience, inbound marketing focuses on pulling the audience in.

With inbound marketing, the focus is not on disrupting the audience to get them to pay attention to your brand. Instead, this method uses smart, data-driven marketing tactics which naturally attract potential customers to a company’s quality content, which may include:

  • Blog posts
  • eBooks
  • Websites and web design
  • Social media posts
  • Opt-in email newsletters
  • Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

Everything about inbound marketing is designed lead to a higher rates of conversion. Based on detailed research, prospects are captured where they naturally are online, so the content can be tailored to their interests and needs. In addition, the company is able to deliver real value by helping to solve consumer problems. The content engages and entertains, which keeps consumers interested much longer than outbound marketing strategies.

Inbound Marketing Examples

You might be wondering what inbound marketing looks like in action. Check out these examples which illustrate why this digital marketing strategy is so effective.

Pre-Purchase Research

Today, most consumers go online for information before making a purchase. This is true for a wide range of scenarios, including making major purchases like kitchen appliances and airline tickets as well as smaller investments, like buying new shoes or choosing a restaurant for dinner.

Let’s take the example of kitchen appliances to demonstrate how inbound marketing can come into play. Imagine a consumer who is looking to buy a new refrigerator. They do a Google search online and come across an appliance manufacturer’s blog post entitled “5 Ways a Smart Fridge Will Make Your Life Easier.” They click on the post and read about the benefits of smart refrigerators, from conserving energy to making grocery lists to keeping track of food freshness for each item inside.

At the end of the post, the reader provides their email address to get a free eBook about smart appliances. The company follows up by providing the eBook along with a discount code for one of their products, which results in the consumer purchasing a smart fridge.

This example highlights a few key principles of inbound marketing:

  • Providing useful content
  • Assisting the consumer on their journey
  • Converting leads to sales

Beginning with a simple blog post, this company has demonstrated their value and their expertise, developing a level of buyer confidence that likely wouldn’t result from a traditional digital advertisement.

Social Media Engagement

Consumers today expect to be able to engage with companies online. They want brands to be responsive and accessible. In fact, HubSpot reports that 48% of customers make a purchase with a brand that is responsive to current and prospective customers on social media.

This is another way that inbound marketing can improve your sales metrics. It’s not enough to simply have an online presence with a website and basic social media profiles. Companies need to be active online while also knowing how to strategically interact with customers.

A comparison of two hypothetical companies can help to demonstrate how this strategy works. Consider Company A, which has Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles. All of the brand’s posts look like traditional ads, and they don’t respond to customer comments or direct messages.

Company B sells the same products as Company A and has profiles on the same social media platforms. However, they offer a diverse lineup of social media content, including how-to videos, sharing customer posts, asking for feedback, and replying to comments and DMs. They post entertaining, informative, and helpful content rather than just spamming their followers with ads.

When it comes time to make a purchase, a customer looks at the social media profiles for both Company A and Company B. The difference in content will be immediately noticeable. When they reach out to both brands, only Company B actually responds. They decide to purchase a product from Company B as a result.

This example demonstrates several important values of inbound marketing:

  • Creating engaging content
  • Encouraging interactive communication
  • Informing customer decision making

These strategies lead to a better ROI when investing in inbound marketing over outbound marketing.