Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published in December 2020 and has been updated with additional content in May 2022.
If you’re in the realm of digital marketing, you’ve probably heard the phrase “inbound marketing” a couple of times. Plenty of marketers emphasize the importance of inbound marketing in their digital strategy. While it’s easy to grasp the basics, inbound marketing can be a tricky but cost-effective process that lets you convert customers organically (and save your advertising budget.)
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a marketing methodology that highlights the importance of content creation to attract customers and move them through your sales funnel. Essentially, it involves building customer relationships through relevant social media posts, email campaigns, or mobile-friendly ads.
Plenty of marketers have emphasized the importance of inbound marketing and for a good reason. Here’s why:
- 41% of marketers say inbound marketing leads to measurable ROI.
- 82% of marketers observe positive ROI for their inbound marketing efforts.
- If correctly done, inbound marketing can be 10x more effective in converting leads than outbound.
- Inbound marketing generates 3x more leads per dollar compared to traditional marketing.
- 91% of consumers prefer brands that are authentic in their social media posts.
These numbers prove inbound marketing is a cost-effective tactic that can boost profits and simultaneously ensure your advertising budget is well-spent.
A good inbound marketing strategy will offer quality content like eBooks, case studies, webinars, or email campaigns aligned with consumers' needs and interests. If you can position your business as a valuable resource, then expect more sign-ups and repeat purchases.
How Inbound Marketing Works
The inbound methodology depends on content creation to build meaningful relationships with leads and consumers. Every stage in the sales funnel is resource-heavy. The more high-quality content you have, the more likely you’ll attract visitors, nurture leads, and close deals.
Hubspot divides this process into four steps: attracting customers, converting customers, closing deals, and delighting customers. Each stage has various forms of content to plan for.
Why Use an Inbound Marketing Strategy?
There are three significant reasons why inbound marketing works better than other methods. Here’s a look at some of its distinct advantages and strategies to help you get started.
1. Inbound marketing is a cost-effective strategy
You only need a website and content to get started with inbound marketing.
For small businesses, the start-up costs required to build a following for your blogs and social media accounts may seem intimidating. However, you can start small and scale as your business grows.
You can also modify your campaigns based on the previous campaigns' results to get the most bang for your buck.
In contrast, traditional tactics like TV advertisements, print, billboards, and posters are a lot more expensive. While these can boost awareness, they’re just not as effective at engaging and retaining customers.
2. Tech-savvy customers prefer inbound marketing
In the age of social distancing, traditional marketing tactics are losing traction with customers.
Search Engine Land reports that since the global pandemic, inbound marketing tactics like paid search and social media increased by up to 26%. In contrast, television, print, and direct mail have declined by up to 46%.
It’s evident that inbound marketing is the future.
As more people opt to stay indoors, they invest more time on digital platforms. As a result, they’re also more likely to use online information to discover brands and guide their purchasing decisions.
3. Inbound marketing has long-term value
Inbound marketing content such as instructional guides, infographics, case studies, or ebooks has a longer lifespan than outbound content. You can increase its usability by updating and republishing your content to keep it relevant and timely.
In comparison, traditional marketing tactics are short and sweet. A salesperson can spend hours cold emailing and calling potential leads in exchange for a handful of sales. But there’s no guarantee that you can build trust and meaningful long-term relationships this way; instead, it’s more of a numbers game.
4. Inbound marketing is authentic
According to the Edelman Trust barometer, 81 percent of respondents consider trust when evaluating their purchase decisions. Unfortunately, they’re also used to ads with big promises which never follow through. That’s why inbound marketing strategies that involve publishing actionable and interesting content seem more authentic in the long run.
Inbound Marketing Strategies
Now that you understand how inbound marketing works, it’s time to put your ideas into action. This marketing methodology requires several types of content to maximize effectiveness.
Let’s talk about the various inbound marketing strategies and some best practices for boosting engagement.
1. Research your buyer persona
The crucial first step to any successful inbound marketing strategy is to create a buyer persona.
For starters, a buyer persona identifies the behavior, needs, lifestyle, and demographics of customers. In the process, you’ll be able to create compelling content that resonates with your audience.
If you have relevant data on your existing customers (or leads), examine web metrics like mobile traffic, bounce rates, page traffic, and conversion rates. Then, go beyond the numbers by looking at individual user profiles, call outcomes, and overall revenue.
If you don’t have this data, that’s okay. Ask customers to fill out online surveys or answer a few questions by phone, so that you can gather information. Tools like Type Form and Google Form can help you build and launch surveys for customers.
2. Segment customers
Next, segment customers based on trends, patterns, or behavioral data.
Divide up customers based on their demographic information such as age, gender, and location.
Some eCommerce stores launch email marketing campaigns based on a customer’s stage in the sales funnel. For example, suppose you sell a CRM tool, and you’re selling to a group of three customers:
- Mandy (small business owner): Mandy is a twenty-something first-time entrepreneur. She wants to attract local customers to her brick-and-mortar store.
- Lucas (Marketing lead): Lucas is a 30-something marketing executive. He wants to automate marketing tasks, optimize conversion rates, and build custom reports for his team.
- Kieran (Enterprise CEO): Kieran is a CEO of an enterprise managing multiple teams and brands. He is looking for a CRM tool that can streamline team tasks and provide advanced reporting capabilities.
Each segment has different needs and characteristics. To get them through your sales funnel, create resources that frame your product as the solution to their problems.
3. Create helpful email campaigns
Growing your email list is crucial to a successful inbound marketing campaign.
Oberlo reports that for every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect an average return worth $42. Also, 81% of small and medium businesses rely on email as their primary tool for customer acquisition, and 80% rely on it for retention.
Before these numbers compel you to bombard your contacts with emails, make sure they’re relevant to subscribers first. When it comes to emails, quality beats quantity.
A good tip is to segment customers based on their needs. New customers may need to go through an onboarding email campaign to learn the ins and outs of doing business with you. Meanwhile, existing customers may need re-engagement emails, newsletters, and updates to return to your online store to make a purchase regularly.
For example, The Muse, a job search and career advice website, sends newsletters with top companies currently hiring and links to open positions. This is valuable information for their subscribers who are looking for their next job.
4. Create social media campaigns to attract your audience
There are 3.5 billion social media users worldwide.
More people will be using social media to discover brands and follow businesses that align with their values and interests in the foreseeable future. These circumstances make it an ideal channel to attract new customers and maintain relevance among current customers.
The jury is out on the style of social media content customers prefer, too: 91% of customers prefer brands that remain authentic on social media. Besides stunning product photos, customers want videos and behind-the-scenes looks to highlight the brand’s values and purpose.
5. Launch MOFU / BOFU content
Besides attracting new customers, social media marketing is ideal for customers in the MOFU (Middle-of-the-Funnel) and BOFU (Bottom-of-the-Funnel).
Having said that, you’ll want to create posts with links to case studies, landing pages, whitepapers, and blog posts. While a gorgeous photo can attract new customers, buyers are more interested in learning the specs and features to make an informed purchasing decision.
For example, PlayStation posted high-quality pictures of their upcoming PS5 on their Facebook page. But there’s also a link to a landing page with technical information for gamers who want to upgrade their console.
6. Optimize for mobile
There are 5.22 billion mobile users worldwide.
This means it’s crucial to optimize your website and mobile content (or risk losing business online).
A mobile-friendly site entails finding a responsive template, embedding bigger, clickable CTAs, using large fonts, and optimizing images.
We highly recommend using Google Pagespeed Insights to identify page loading times. Even if your site is optimized for mobile, customers expect pages to load in 2 seconds or less, or they’ll jump back into their Facebook feed and forget about your brand.
7. Create “Power Posts”
Buzzsumo analyzed 1 billion articles and found that the top 1.3% of articles drove 50% of social shares.
Backlinko founder Brian Dean called these top articles “Power Posts.”
These refer to high-quality or in-depth guides that end up at the top of Google’s search results.
For example, Brian Dean’s power post titled “How to Write a Blog Post: The Definitive Guide”—earned 10,555 visitors in one week and 5369 total social shares!
Rather than quantity, Brian Dean’s strategy revolves around taking time to create one post. He invested 50 hours of work in writing, designing, editing screenshots, and coding the page for a single post.
By creating the best possible blog, Brian Dean can gain tons of engagement for every post he makes. While he doesn’t publish new content often, he proves that slow and steady can win the race in inbound marketing.
8. Host a webinar or online courses
Many in-person events and conferences have been canceled due to the pandemic, but all hope is not lost.
In recent months, businesses have opted for free webinars that provide invaluable guidance to viewers. The advantage is that viewers can download the content, replay parts, and ask questions in real-time.
The best part? It’s cheaper to host an online webinar than to create an in-person event. All you need is a microphone and a camera—then you’re good to go. If you’re not quite ready to go live, opt for a pre-recorded webinar to avoid mistakes and edit the video.
For example, Hubspot frequently hosts free webinars for advertising, analytics, and marketing. Each course is taught by online experts, which ensures their subscribers learn valuable information. At the same time, these online sessions help propel them as an authority in the industry.
Inbound Marketing versus Outbound Marketing
The intent of inbound and outbound marketing is the same as both want to reach consumers and encourage them to make a purchase. Inbound marketing creates opportunities for consumers to connect with the brand, so the customer comes to the business.
Outbound marketing interrupts the consumer by placing the message before them, thus reaching out to the customer. Traditional outbound marketing channels include cold-calling, door-to-door sales, television, radio, print, and billboards. Modern methods include paid advertisements on various social media platforms.
There are three areas where inbound and outbound marketing differ:
Draw vs. search. Inbound marketing creates valuable content that addresses topics or questions consumers are already searching for, drawing customers in. Outbound marketing develops content, assuming it will capture consumers' attention, thus searching for customers.
Defined vs. undefined. Inbound marketing creates content for a defined audience after a detailed analysis of the buyer’s persona. It serves only the targeted audience. With outbound marketing, the target audience is more undefined as anyone can watch a television advertisement or see a billboard. It hopes to attract at least some generic consumers.
Allowed vs. unasked. When consumers follow companies and people on social media, they subconsciously allow them to place content on their feed. The same is relevant to search engines and emails. With outbound marketing, advertisements are unasked for when they appear on social media, television, or anywhere consumers are present.
|Draws customers to brand||Actively searches for customers|
|High-quality content focus||Sales campaign focus|
|Builds long-term relationships||Converts new users|
|Less expensive||Can be expensive|
Inbound Marketing versus Content Marketing
Content marketing is the creation and sharing of relevant, useful content to current and potential customers. The intent is to establish expertise and develop brand awareness. Ultimately, content marketing aims to stimulate interest in a brand’s products or services.
It is done through blogs, pillar pages, Q&As, social media posts, emails, videos, newsletters, in-depth articles, research papers, podcasts, webinars, and expert interviews.
Content marketing is a component of inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is a set of technologies, tools, and processes working together to generate traffic to a website, generating leads that can be converted into customers. It attracts customers by creating content and experiences tailored to them, forming connections, and providing solutions.
High-quality content that is created with a focused knowledge of the target market must be provided consistently to attract and retain visitors. Consumers want value throughout the journey.
Inbound marketing uses high-quality content, search engine optimization (SEO), Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, sign-up forms, call to action (CTA), smart popups, physical events, mobile-friendly content, and automated emails.
|INBOUND MARKETING||OUTBOUND MARKETING|
|Full methodology||Single focus|
|Generates traffic||Creates content|
|Standalone||Component of inbound marketing|
|Online and offline||Online and offline|
Myth: Google Ads Are an Outbound Marketing Tactic
Advertisements are used in outbound marketing, but Google Ads is made for inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is specific and audience orientated. It provides content that answers questions or addresses topics the target audience is searching for. With inbound marketing, there is extensive knowledge of the target audience, their likes and dislikes, and indeed the whole persona.
Google Ads is equally focused on a target market. When an advertisement is created, keywords, the geographic area, device type, time of day, and multiple other variables are selected to catch the target audience's attention. Just like high-quality content is necessary for inbound marketing, the quality of a Google advertisement and its landing page is important for successful placement.
The aim of inbound marketing, and Google Ads, is to let search engines match potential customers with the information they need. And trust that it will lead to a purchase.
Paid Marketing is a Crucial Part of your Inbound Marketing Strategy
Paid marketing, whether pay-per-click (PPC), paid social, or retargeting, is effective in any marketing mix, including inbound marketing. As part of your inbound marketing strategy, paid marketing is instant, fully trackable, and lets you rise above the clutter on social channels and search engines.
Inbound marketing is traditionally a combination of owned media and earned media. Owned media includes a branded website or social media pages, and earned media is brand mentions by customers or discussions about the brand through word-of-mouth.
Paid media (paid marketing) is a crucial part of inbound marketing and should be used to complement owned and earned media. It could amplify the high-quality content that drives traffic to owned media. And it can be used to partner with industry experts to create earned media.
Integrating Google Ads into your Inbound Marketing Strategy
According to research, Google owns 85.55% of the global online search engine market share. It is only one reason you must consider integrating Google Ads into your inbound marketing strategy. Here are a few more.
- Google Ads is cost-effective because you only pay when someone clicks on the advertisement, which increases the chance of purchase and can expose potential customers to more of your products or services.
- It can take a while for consumers to notice and value content provided as part of your inbound marketing strategy. When your advertisement adheres to the quality standards of Google Ads, you might not only pay less but your brand will be exposed more speedily.
- Just like inbound marketing, Google Ads targets customers actively searching for a solution.
- As inbound marketing creates personas for its target market, advertisements can be targeted based on criteria such as gender, age, interests, language, geographic location, and device type.
- Your budget is manageable as Google will automatically stop showing advertisements as soon as your maximum budget is reached.
- Return on investment (ROI) is important to every business. Google Ads clearly shows how many leads your spending generates and how many converts into customers.
Social Media as an Inbound Marketing Tool
Inbound social media marketing allows businesses to connect with their audience where they are active. Use social media analytics, social listening tools, and general observation to determine what or who the target audience is interacting with. If they are using social media as a decision-making tool, use this knowledge as part of your inbound marketing strategy.
The information available on social media can inform your content strategy as it is a quick way to learn what content is effective. And it is an excellent platform to find out what your competitors or aspirational brands are sharing with their followers to identify gaps in your inbound marketing content.
Social media is an excellent community-building tool to create a sense of belonging among customers, making them eager to continue interacting with a brand. It can be used to serve as a support platform for products and is a great place to find out what your customers are thinking through customer feedback.
Maintain a consistent presence on social media as part of your inbound marketing strategy to build better customer relations, create brand awareness and increase sales.
Common Problems that Inbound Marketing Can Solve
Inbound marketing can solve many problems that businesses experience. A good inbound marketing strategy can create a great return on investments. Using the right inbound marketing tools can help your business increase revenue and build brand awareness. Here are some problems that inbound marketing can solve:
Problem #1: No or low brand awareness
A common issue associated with brand awareness is credibility. The problem with outbound marketing is that it doesn’t establish trust. Some outbound marketing messages even sound robotic or forceful. An example is outbound marketing which keeps telling people to buy something.
Inbound marketing doesn’t focus on pushing purchases but rather on delivering value to someone. It establishes trust but does not ask for something in return. You’re getting something for nothing and who doesn’t love that?
Problem #2: No lead generation
.Inbound marketing helps your business target potential customers by using tools to specifically hit a target audience. Your lead generation will multiply in time as you attract leads.
Problem #3: Low marketing budget
Marketing can be expensive. Trade shows, ads, and cold calls can take costs that your business probably doesn’t have, especially if you’re a start-up or experiencing financial difficulties. They also require a lot of time and resources. Outboard marketing, as helpful as it is, is also temporary.
You have to be consistent in putting out a lot of expensive marketing. Inbound content however lasts forever. When you put out a Youtube video, blog post, or graphic it will remain up for as long as you want (assuming it follows your platform guidelines). It doesn’t cost a fortune either. If you budget well, you’ll probably only spend money on the content that you need for the particular post or video and no more than that.
Inbound Marketing Content Types
There are many types of inbound marketing that your business can use to generate leads and increase revenue. Here are the most commonly used:
Blog posts can help your business to promote important information to your target audience. Most blog posts are made specifically for SEO purposes and link back to a business page or product page which can generate leads for your business.
Ebooks for inbound marketing are often given out when someone visits a website or via email. It is a good promotional freebie that can be used to boost your brand image and reputation.
Infographics contain important information and statistics. Imagine your infographic being used by a big business or newspaper? A good SEO strategy can help you here.
Webinars were popular due to the pandemic but remain common today. It’s an easy way to give out important information and promote your business.
Social media is probably the most important inbound marketing tactic you can use. It allows you to research and view buyer personas and create content marketing to target your audience. Popular social media marketing channels for businesses today include Instagram and TikTok.
Who Uses Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is used by everyone and should be utilized as a part of your marketing and promotion. Small businesses with a low following and credibility can benefit the most from inbound marketing as it will help them to grow their business fast.
Large companies that have a younger customer base can also benefit from inbound marketing that targets the younger generation of shoppers on social media. Corporations that have a big reputation or image to upload can also benefit by using inbound marketing to solve existing problems. Businesses in sales can benefit the most as they rely on the customer support that comes from most inbound marketing channels.
Businesses sectors that can benefit from inbound marketing include:
- Healthcare and beauty
- Financial Services
Why Use Inbound Marketing?
Here are more reasons why you use inbound marketing for your business:
- It empowers your customers
- Inbound marketing is a long-term marketing solution for your business
- It is affordable
- It helps the growth of your business
- Helps with converting leads
- Increases your search engine optimization
- Helps to get more traffic to your website
- It targets audiences who match your ideal customer profile
- Helps with visibility
- Builds credibility
What Exactly is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation is a marketing software tool that helps you to generate more leads. With marketing automation, you can measure your marketing and use this data to turn your business into a success.
If you want to create brand awareness you are going to need marketing automation to help you to keep growing. Marketing automation helps you track your activity, audience, and marketing channels.
A good example of marketing automation is a sales team that uses marketing automation to create leads so that the team can target these leads. Another example is automation tools to monitor your social media channel activity so you can quickly respond to a customer or comment.
How to Use Marketing Automation for Inbound Marketing
- Create a quiz or customer service
- Use YouTube SEO
- Send automated emails
- Creating a free course
- Create in-app messages
- Automating tasks
- Scheduling blogs and articles
- Automated responses
- SEO tools
- Scheduling social media posts
- Tools that help you to form CTAs
- Campaigns creation and monitoring tools
When choosing tools, make sure it is affordable for your business, as well as easy to use. Marketing automation can be complicated at first but with practice, it can help your business to gain leads that will increase your revenue. Hiring out inbound marketing professionals will make your life easier as they take care of all the automation and have the capabilities to grow your business by using tools within your budget.
Inbound marketing is the future in a tech-savvy world. Launching an inbound marketing strategy is a worthwhile investment that can help your business attract customers, build trust, and foster loyalty in the long term. As you plan your promotions, focusing on an inbound methodology is a wise choice that will positively impact your customers and your business.
If you would like to learn more about conceptualizing an inbound marketing campaign or want to get in touch with an expert who can improve your landing page and SEO strategy, we'd love to chat with you right now!