Inbound marketing is a marketing methodology that is designed to attract visitors and potential customers in, rather than outwardly pushing a brand, product or service onto prospects in the hope of generating leads or customers.
In terms of digital marketing, this means using a combination of marketing channels – most typically SEO, content marketing, and social media – in creative ways to attract customer’s attention. The goal of a successful inbound marketing campaign is to increase reach, and drive quality traffic, engagement and conversions using ‘earned’ and ‘owned’ media.
Inbound marketing software provider, HubSpot, coined the phrase ‘inbound marketing’. HubSpot defines inbound marketing as the process of attracting, converting, closing and delighting customers. Through using different types of content at the different stages of the buying cycle, the ‘inbound methodology’ is “the best way to turn strangers into customers and promoters of your business.”
Inbound marketing concentrates on drawing potential customers in, while outbound marketing is about outwardly pushing a business’s offering. Inbound marketing is about earning attention, while outbound typically involves buying it.
Inbound marketing uses owned and earned media to engage potential customers in creative ways.
Outbound marketing is typically associated with paid media or paid advertising. This could be traditional offline advertising, PPC and display advertising, or paid email services.
Paid media also includes social media advertising, for example Facebook advertising or LinkedIn ads, or Google Adwords.
Although typically associated with outbound marketing, social media advertising is often an effective way to boost the performance of inbound marketing campaigns. Advertising on Facebook, for example, allows you to promote your content and campaign to your target audience, no matter how niche it might be. This can be an effective ROI strategy to integrate into your marketing strategy.
By focusing your inbound marketing work on reaching the right audiences in the right places, you can attract your target customers in order to meet your digital marketing objectives. This is instead of spending money attracting traffic from people who are unlikely to ever convert or may not be interested in what you are offering.
Inbound marketing is all about giving potential customers the information they are looking for – even if they don’t know it – in a creative and engaging way. It’s not about pushing unwanted sales at every opportunity. Present your brand as a useful and reliable resource, the hope is they’ll come to you when the time to purchase does arise.
By pursuing quality traffic from various sources – organic search, social media referrals, affiliate marketing, and referrals from other websites talking about your awesome work – you reduce the reliance on one channel alone, and therefore the associated risk.
Measuring the impact of inbound marketing work in a way that demonstrates understandable ROI has always been a tricky one. The key is to be clear from the beginning.
It may be that you can’t track the number of leads generated as a direct result of your campaign, but you can track how many downloads your resource has had, the average duration people watched your video for, how many new social media followers you gained, etc.
When you’re planning your campaign, be clear about what it is you’re trying to achieve and measure that appropriately and honestly. That way, everyone’s expectations are set – and therefore, are more likely to be met.
Successful inbound marketing campaigns don’t happen overnight. They take time to plan, implement and refine. It can be labour-intensive too – you might need content creators, designers, developers, outreach specialists, social media marketers and a campaign manager to even get the thing off the ground.
That said, if you put your time and effort into the right evergreen campaign, you should have something that continues to provide value for the foreseeable future.
One thing you need to remember about inbound marketing, is the importance of tracking performance and adjusting your approach accordingly.
This is where testing comes in – discover what messaging, types of content, imagery, calls to action etc. is working best for your target audience and make sure you institute these on a permanent basis, and in your campaign's moving forward..