Inbound Marketing: Brief Summary
As a marketing technique, inbound marketing is concerned with drawing the attention of potential customers through helpful, meaningful and relevant interactions. It can be considered the antithesis of outbound marketing, because inbound marketing aims to attract or draw the awareness of an audience without being intrusive, whereas outbound marketing is concerned with invading an audience’s awareness through things like paid advertising.
With inbound marketing, the primary objective is to create high-value content, which inspires trust, serves a useful purpose and makes the business or brand easy to find. As such, this represents a reversal of the traditional relationship between businesses and buyers. Put simply, while outbound marketing is concerned with reaching out and finding potential customers, inbound marketing gives customers the power.
Inbound Marketing: Detailed Summary
The term “inbound marketing” was coined by Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, in 2006 and the entire concept is closely associated with that company and its products and methodologies. Nevertheless, the concept also shares many similarities with “permission marketing”; a phrase associated with the entrepreneur and marketer Seth Godin, who wrote the book Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, and Friends Into Customers in 1999.
As a concept, it was created largely in response to the difficulties faced by traditional marketing methods in the 21st century. Increasingly, audiences are more aware of marketing, more cynical towards advertising and more resistant to promotional messages. In addition, with digital marketing, in particular, the prevalence of ad-blocking software has meant that display advertising’s effectiveness and reach has been restricted.
To get around these problems, inbound marketing seeks to flip the traditional relationship, using pull marketing techniques – including online content, social media posts, search engine optimisation and live events – rather than more old-fashioned interruption marketing techniques. This allows marketers to increase visibility and overall brand awareness, in order to attract consumers in a much more subtle and less invasive way.
With the aim of inbound marketing being to allow audiences to find the business or brand, rather than the other way around, one of the key advantages is that it is much more permission-based and voluntary on the part of the customer. This, combined with the creation of useful, memorable or meaningful content, has the potential to build stronger, two-way relationships between advertisers and their audience.
Although most marketers are hoping to increase sales, a more immediate goal with inbound marketing is lead generation. Therefore, the content offered to attract attention in the first place is often used in conjunction with techniques like requiring contact details before consumers can access white papers, or placing calls to action within content. From there, companies can then seek to turn leads into actual buyers.
Inbound Marketing Techniques and Tools
As previously stated, a number of different marketing techniques and tools can be used as part of an inbound marketing strategy. For the most part, any marketing that is intended to increase visibility and offer genuine value to an audience, without being intrusive, can be classed as inbound marketing. With that being said, some of the most common techniques and tools associated with the idea of inbound marketing are as follows:
- Blogging – A popular concept since the turn of the new millennium, blog content can be published in order to capture the attention of a target audience. Blog posts can also help individuals to establish themselves as experts in their field, while simultaneously helping consumers to solve problems or learn new information. In many cases, this will tie in with SEO and bloggers may use dedicated blogging platforms like WordPress to publish content.
- Other Content Marketing – Aside from blogging, a number of other types of content may be published as part of an inbound marketing strategy. These include white papers, case studies, books or e-books, which typically serve to educate, inform or solve problems for consumers. In many cases, contact information will be requested in exchange for access to this content, allowing marketers to generate leads.
- Search Engine Optimisation – The process of optimising a website and other online content, in order to increase visibility through search engine results pages. In most cases, SEO consists of a combination of practices, like keyword targeting, content marketing, web design, mobile optimisation and keeping up-to-date business listings. The aim is typically to increase website traffic, with a view to turning visitors into leads or buyers.
- Live Events and Webinars – It is worth noting that not all inbound marketing has to take place online. Live events and webinars can serve as highly successful inbound marketing strategies, allowing customers or visitors to have gain insight or have valuable experiences, which are then linked to the brand. As with other forms, the key to getting live events and webinars right is to provide value and use for an audience.
- Social Media – A presence on social media can be classified as inbound marketing, because it allows customers to find a business or brand themselves and interact with them in a meaningful way. However, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn also have a role to play in sharing previously published content, while some other content, like instructional videos or infographics, may be uploaded directly to social media platforms.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages associated with inbound marketing include the ability to forge deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers and the ability to break through and reach modern consumers where conventional marketing methods fail. In addition, it is cost-effective, because inbound marketing often revolves around relatively cheap online tools and methods, and because the marketing only reaches those it is most relevant to.
Essentially, because inbound marketing is primarily permission-based, it is unlikely to result in any negative feeling, which is not the case for some outbound marketing techniques. With that being said, inbound marketing tends to be more time-consuming than traditional advertising and often requires a more tactical approach. There may also be a degree of trial and error involved, meaning some of the content published may be ineffective in the end.
Inbound marketing is a concept which encompasses a range of different pull marketing techniques, including content marketing and search engine optimisation, in order to bring a business to the attention of customers. Unlike outbound marketing, which involves reaching out, finding and interrupting potential customers, inbound marketing aims to increase visibility and provide value or worth, allowing customers to find the business.
Although its roots can be traced back a little further, the concept started to grow in the early part of the 21st century and has become increasingly popular ever since, allowing the marketing community to get around the challenges posed by traditional methods. While it can be time-consuming, key advantages include relationship building and cost-effectiveness, and it is often seen as marketing being carried out the right way, without intruding on customers.