Inbound Marketing: All You Need To Know

Inbound Marketing: All You Need To Know

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Syed Aquib Ur
Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Senior Executive Content
Updated on Dec 26, 2023 17:19 IST

Any online marketing effort that helps you become visible without you reaching out to customers is inbound marketing. Find out how it works and why it is essential for any business to improve relationships with new and existing customers.

Inbound marketing

Inbound marketing stands tall as a transformative approach in the digital landscape,. It has ushered in a paradigm shift from traditional outbound methods. Coined in early 2000s, it's a strategic revelation that empowers businesses to be found organically, revolutionising customer engagement.

Table of Content

  1. Defining inbound marketing
  2. Importance of inbound marketing 
  3. How does inbound marketing work?
  4. Relationship between inbound marketing and content marketing
  5. How to create an inbound marketing strategy?

Defining Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a technique in digital marketing, and was first coined in 2005 by Brian Halligan – the co-founder and CEO of HubSpot. Put simply, it is a strategic method to let customers find you online on their own. And you can use any marketing activity for it, content marketing, SEO, social media marketing, email marketing, etc. 

With inbound marketing, you are not reaching out to customers directly. Instead, you are creating the means for them to find you organically. 

“Inbound Marketing is about getting found online, through search engines and on sites like Facebook and YouTube and Twitter…”, according to David Meerman Scott. 

The framework of inbound marketing addresses the change in dynamics between a brand and modern consumers. According to a 2018 Think With Google report, 82% of evergreen shoppers used a search engine related to their shopping. 

Now, this methodology gives importance to how a potential customer will come across your website or social media handle. That too, without disrupting the audience through unnecessary content, emails, etc, or outbound marketing methods such as cold calling. 

As you can incur, it focuses on pulling the potential customers through valuable content that informs, educates, or engages them. This way, the customer finds out about a brand through search engines, social media, etc only when they are looking for products or services that can genuinely help solve their pain points. 

Importance of Inbound Marketing 

Let’s look at some important figures that will give you an idea of why inbound marketing is important for businesses. 

  1. According to Invesp, 82% of marketers see positive ROI with inbound marketing. 
  2. Almost 80% of business decision-makers prefer knowing about a company through articles than search ads (Invesp)
  3. 82% of companies say they actively engage in content marketing (HubSpot)

Helps Build a Community

With inbound marketing, you can expand your online community. You can see which type of content works for your target audience. You can also find out which type of keyword your community is searching for. With quality content, your community can take care of various off-page SEO  elements, especially, link building. 

Related: On-Page SEO

Lets You Improve on Branding

Inbound marketing is customer-centric and is not sales-oriented. You can focus on offering personalised communication to your audience through the right content. Right content here refers to creating a long-term inbound marketing strategy that helps customers through every stage of the buyer journey. 

Related: What is Brand Management?

How Does Inbound Marketing Work?

There are different stages through which the inbound marketing methodology works. 

Stages in Inbound Marketing 

HubSpot mentions how the inbound methodology works in three different stages, keeping the customers in mind. 

Attract – Acquiring the right customer through content that they are likely to value. Here, you can start with a content strategy. 

Learn about the Difference between content marketing and content strategy to see what elements are used for attracting potential customers. 

Engage – Offering the best solutions to their pain points. This can be done through marketing automation and email marketing tools too. 

Delight – Providing a good customer experience at any stage of the buyer’s journey. For this aspect, you will need to integrate marketing automation tools that can trigger the right communication at the right time. 

Flywheel Concept in Inbound Marketing

In the inbound marketing methodology, the linear sales funnel where

Marketing efforts -> Sales -> Customers. 

…does not work. 

While you will get customers with the traditional model, it is not a guarantee for customer retention. More so, today’s customers do not want to be bombarded with unnecessary information. They would rather take the driver’s seat in the entire purchasing process from awareness to conversion.  

Let’s take a look at the flywheel concept. It comes from Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t (2001)

The book’s premise is that building a successful company requires ‘pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.’

The inbound flywheel developed by HubSpot is the diagram below. 

2022_06_HubSpot-Flywheel-diagram.jpg

When you apply ‘momentum’ to the three stages (attract, engage, delight), you are ultimately attracting and engaging strangers to become qualified leads and then you’re also working towards retaining them. 

Relationship between Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing 

Many marketing experts say that there is hardly any difference between the two terms. But they cannot be interchangeably used. 

Because the Content Marketing Institute also defines content marketing to be a ‘strategic approach’ that is needed to create and distribute ‘valuable content’. 

But if you see the above-quoted definition from David Meerman Scott, inbound marketing relates to all the efforts taken for online visibility. One of these efforts is content. 

Content marketing is much broader in scope. It deals with macroscopic elements such as distribution, conversion, customer retention, customer service, cross-selling, etc. It forms the backbone on which inbound marketing tactics can be used. To put it simply, you will need to have a content strategy for each inbound marketing effort

According to Joe Pulizzi, “if you only focus on inbound marketing, you will fail as a marketing professional.”

What he means is that after lead generation, you will need still need to create a plan for lead nurturing (develop relationships through every customer touchpoint) after pulling the audience through your content. 

Once the customer converts, you will also need to create a content strategy that focuses on customer service with the end goal of developing loyalty among your customers. And then a different content strategy for upselling or cross-selling your products or services will be required. For each stage, inbound marketing can be applied.

The main reasons for creating different types of content across the customer journey are the growing demand for personalisation and changing customer behaviour in the online space. A Stackla report stated that 70% of consumers expect brands to offer a personalised experience. 

Based on the above, you can say that both content marketing and inbound marketing together help in 

  1. Interacting with your customer, which lets them find and eventually trust you
  2. Developing brand reputation
  3. Gaining authority in the niche your business belongs. 

Further, you may read up on the difference between inbound and outbound marketing

How to Create an Inbound Marketing Strategy?

For a successful inbound marketing strategy, you can focus on the three elements – attract, engage, and delight, individually. Here is how you can go about it. 

Define your Target Market 

They can be anyone who comes across your website or social media online. You will need to keep a track of them. Some common types of contacts are

  • New and existing customers
  • Vendors
  • Industry experts

All these contacts can be stored in CRM (customer relationship management) software such as HubSpot or Salesforce CRM. 

Related: What is Salesforce?

Create Buyer Personas 

You will need to create content and choose types of keywords based on the buyer personas you develop. Only then will you be able to create content that truly engages your audience.  

Choose the Right Content 

Marketers leverage various types of content to turn visitors into customers. 

Here are some of the most common forms of content used in inbound marketing. 

Pillar pages and topic clusters 

Pillar pages refer to broad topics under which you can create multiple topics or clusters. Cluster content supports pillar pages. These kinds of pages are important for your business website. These are also essential from the SEO perspective, as pillar pages generally have high search volume.  

Blogs 

Blogs are one of the primary drivers of your website’s organic traffic. They can increase traffic by 434% (Techjury). You can create blog content on topic clusters and interlink it to your pillar content. But it is best to make your blog content amazing with recent insightful data, rich and contextual images, etc.  

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Whitepapers 

Ideal for inbound marketing in the B2B segment, they work better when you are not promoting your brand. Using whitepapers, you can build authority over a niche. 

Some other important forms of content are videos, emails, etc. Do keep on the lookout for the trends that will shape content marketing strategy

Distribute Content Across Buyer Journey 

The buyer journey broadly contains three stages. The first stage is awareness. In this stage, the potential customer has a pain point. Then comes the second stage – consideration. At this stage, the buyer is looking for an answer (typically on a search engine or social media) to resolve the issue. The third stage is decision. Here, the buyer collects a list of brands that can solve the issue.

Set Goals and Measure Them

Measure your performance and how those efforts are impacting your bottom line. Important metrics such as Customer Lifetime Value, lead-to-customer conversion rate, etc.  You can use digital marketing tools such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console. 

Case Study: Blinkjar's Successful Inbound Marketing for Louisiana Culinary Institute

Challenge: Louisiana Culinary Institute (LCI) sought a marketing strategy that matched their ambitious growth plans. They needed an agency capable of aligning with their vision, possessing strong work ethic, management skills, and technical prowess to enhance visibility, user experience, and lead generation.

Solution: BlinkJar stepped in to revamp LCI's online presence with a fast, mobile-friendly website catering to modern student search behavior. Their approach included:

  1. Crafting a comprehensive content plan showcasing the school's offerings through blogs, video content, and infographics.
  2. Optimising ad campaigns with targeted landing pages, enhanced Google Ads, and consistent communication through emails with students and the LCI community.
  3. Synergizing these strategies with detailed Facebook Ads, regularly reviewed for improvement in weekly meetings and analytics reporting.

Results: The collaborative efforts significantly boosted LCI's visibility in searches, improved the website experience, and generated increased leads, meeting LCI's marketing objectives.

Parting Thoughts

With inbound marketing best practices, you can refine your content marketing efforts, which will eventually result in increasing your ROI. If you are considering applying the core principles by understanding the buying behaviours of consumers, check out the Inbound Marketing Course from HubSpot Academy.

So, what do you think – should you be incorporating inbound marketing to grow your business? 

FAQs

What distinguishes inbound marketing from outbound marketing strategies?

Inbound marketing primarily focuses on attracting potential customers organically through valuable content and engagement, allowing them to find a brand naturally. It involves techniques like content marketing, SEO, and social media to pull customers in. Conversely, outbound marketing relies on direct and interruptive techniques, such as cold calling or TV ads, to push messages to a broader audience.

How does inbound marketing contribute to customer retention and brand loyalty?

Inbound marketing prioritises customer-centric communication, offering personalised content and guidance at every stage of the buyer's journey. By providing valuable solutions and continuous support, inbound strategies foster stronger relationships, leading to higher customer satisfaction, retention, and increased brand loyalty.

What metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) should be tracked to measure the success of an inbound marketing strategy?

Essential metrics or KPIs to track in inbound marketing include website traffic, conversion rates, lead generation, click-through rates (CTRs), engagement metrics (such as time on page), customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer lifetime value (CLV), and return on investment (ROI). These metrics help gauge the effectiveness of different campaigns and strategies.

What are the essential steps to create a robust inbound marketing strategy?

Creating an effective inbound marketing strategy involves the following steps. 

  1. Defining target markets and segments.
  2. Developing detailed buyer personas.
  3. Choosing appropriate content types aligned with audience needs.
  4. Distributing content across various platforms throughout the buyer's journey.
  5. Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals and regularly measuring performance against these objectives.

How can inbound marketing adapt to evolving consumer behaviours and preferences?

Inbound marketing stays adaptable by continuously monitoring consumer trends, preferences, and technological advancements. Embracing personalisation, leveraging emerging technologies, and remaining agile in content creation and distribution are key strategies to align with changing consumer behaviours and preferences. This flexibility ensures relevance and effectiveness in engaging with modern audiences.

About the Author
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Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Senior Executive Content

Aquib is a seasoned wordsmith, having penned countless blogs for Indian and international brands. These days, he's all about digital marketing and core management subjects - not to mention his unwavering commitment ... Read Full Bio

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