Definition:

Inbound marketing

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Inbound marketing

Oftentimes marketing is viewed through traditional advertising tropes. A scene from Mad Men comes to mind, where the advertising execs partake in drinks and cigars while conceptualizing the best way to help their top-dollar partners capture market share through brazen tactics. 

While a well-rounded marketing strategy does involve advertising (and maybe the occasional drink), today there are many more authentic and less-invasive marketing strategies to connect a business and prospect.

Enter: inbound marketing. 

What is inbound marketing? 

Inbound marketing is a marketing methodology that businesses use to attract or pull in their target audience through relevant, informative content, or tailored experiences. 

Rather than pushing a promotional message out, the business will rely on their web presence and digital content as a magnet to attract potential prospects. This allows the prospect to remain in the driver’s seat and decide when and how to engage with your brand. Meanwhile, your business can foster more organic relationships that grow over time.   

Content is the cornerstone of every great inbound marketing campaign. Here are some of the most popular ways content is used for inbound marketing: 

  • Landing pages
  • Blog posts and articles 
  • Guides and eBooks
  • White papers and case studies
  • Social media presence
  • Webinars
  • Videos
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) 
  • Email nurture or content drip campaigns (i.e., opt-in email campaigns)

The benefits of inbound marketing 

Between getting you in front of the right people to minimizing your upfront costs, inbound marketing offers several key advantages: 

  • Allows you to target leads at various stages of the marketing funnel
  • It’s cost effective (i.e., low startup costs) 
  • Increases brand awareness and trust through thought leadership
  • Utilizes various mediums and channels to reach quality leads 

A real-world example of inbound marketing 

Let’s say you’re currently restoring a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle (that goes zero to 60 in about five…minutes). Its electric blue exterior is in need of some serious body work, so you google “73 beetle restoration Colorado.” 

This takes you to a blog titled “5 Things You Must Do Before Starting Exterior VW Beetle Restoration.” It just so happens that this blog is written by a business specializing in Volkswagen restorations nearby your house. You find the blog to be knowledgeable and informative, so much so that you reach out to the company for their services because you trust them. 

In this example, the VW restoration company used their content to demonstrate their expertise, passing valuable information to you (the prospect) instead of selling you on their services. 

Inbound v. outbound marketing

Whereas inbound marketing pulls in the target audience, outbound marketing pushes out brand messaging to capture potential customers. To put it another way—if inbound marketing is a magnet, then outbound marketing is a megaphone (or maybe a t-shirt cannon). 

If you’ve ever been around a megaphone then you know it’s sometimes wanted and helpful—especially for giving directions at large events or in a crisis situation. On the other hand, you also know that megaphone users can be disruptive and noisy. 

Outbound marketing can be similar to a megaphone in the sense that it interrupts prospects with information that they may or may not be looking for. In this scenario, the prospect is not in the driver’s seat but merely a recipient of information that’s being dropped on them. 

Outbound marketing aligns more with traditional forms of marketing and advertising, such as paid ads, trade shows, cold calls, and email blasts.

Why inbound and outbound work best together 

While inbound and outbound marketing are, at first glance, opposite strategies, it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. In fact, inbound and outbound marketing strategies work best in tandem. 

For example, an eBook or white paper can help your company attract inbound prospects, but you can (and should) use that same content as a valuable asset for any outbound campaigns. 

Have you ever seen a sponsored post on LinkedIn promoting a new eBook or another piece of content? This is a great example of inbound and outbound marketing working together. 

6 common inbound marketing strategies 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a company’s inbound marketing strategy. However, a good inbound marketing campaign will include a mix of channels, content types, and tactics. 

For instance, your strategy may include:

  1. Blogging - A blog allows you to publish fresh, authoritative content on a regular basis (and, of course, enables you to rank for relevant search terms) 
  2. Gated content - A downloadable eBook, white paper, or free tool can help you build credibility with your prospects while giving them a reason to provide their contact information for further outreach 
  3. Video - Videos (and other multimedia) can help you tap into new audiences and share your knowledge in new, dynamic ways  
  4. Social media - By engaging on social media, you can get to know your customers at a deeper level, keep up with trends, and chime in on relevant conversations 
  5. Virtual event - Webinars, workshops, and other virtual events can invite people to learn from your brand without feeling the pressure to sign up for your actual services or product  
  6. Email - Drip campaigns, newsletters, and other email marketing tactics can keep your brand top of mind and serve as a valuable distribution channel for your content 

Once you’ve got some inbound marketing wheels in motion, make sure to analyze your content’s performance then refine your approach continuously.

Key takeaways (the TLDR version) 

  • Inbound marketing is a methodology that uses informative, relevant digital content to attract potential customers.
  • While inbound marketing pulls in a prospect like a magnet, outbound marketing pushes out messaging like a megaphone. Inbound marketing strategies focus on the prospect’s experience and allows them to be in the driver’s seat. 
  • Inbound and outbound marketing strategies are not mutually exclusive and actually work best in tandem. An example of this would be paid promotion of an eBook or webinar on LinkedIn. 
  • Inbound marketing is a popular strategy because it’s low cost, inspires trust, and positions your company as a subject matter expert in the industry.