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If you’ve spent enough time around a marketing professional, you’ve probably heard the term “inbound marketing” thrown around quite a bit.
It’s not just a fancy buzzword that’s being thrown around to impress you—it’s a whole way of life…
We kid, it’s nothing that deep (for most marketers). Inbound marketing is a method. Let’s break down the madness.
What is Inbound Marketing?
It depends on who you ask, but it’s probably best to go straight to the creators of the invention: Hubspot.
According to Hubspot, “Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have.”
The History of Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing, like most inventions, was born out of necessity. Before the internet, brands were discovered through some of the outbound marketing techniques mentioned a few paragraphs down. You may even remember door-to-door vacuum and encyclopedia salespeople (Look it up; it was a thing).
But with the widespread adoption of life online, consumers were now able to research products and companies. Marketers began building websites to meet that need, but they needed to take it a step further.
Enter two MIT graduates, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. In 2005, the fellow grads noticed a shift in consumer behavior. No longer were buyers tolerating traditional outbound-marketing-style bids for their attention… they were starting to actively ignore them.
The two founded Hubspot on “inbound,” the notion that people don’t want to be interrupted by marketers or harassed by salespeople—they want to be helped.
The concept of inbound marketing began to make appearances on the internet in 2007, but it really took off in 2012.
Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing
Before we dig a little deeper into how inbound marketing is done, let’s talk a little bit about the difference between inbound and outbound marketing.
Outbound marketing disrupts and interrupts the consumer. The communication, from brand to consumer, is one-way and the content is created with the sole intention of making a sale.
Some examples of outbound marketing include:
- Internet ads
- Cold calls
- Spammy email
Inbound marketing is interactive. It engages the consumer, pulling them in with helpful content and solving their needs.
Examples of Inbound Marketing Include:
- Search engine results pages (SERPs)
- Social media
- Opt-in email subscriptions (email marketing)
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Viral videos
Inbound Marketing Strategies
Hubspot created this trusty flywheel to demonstrate the three ways inbound marketing can be applied. It’s a business model that shows the momentum organizations can gain by providing an exceptional experience to consumers using the three strategies: attract, engage, and delight.
Attracting strategies use content creation and development to target audience and buyer personas.
Creating and publishing content that provides value is key to this strategy. So, blogging, social media, and content offers might be used here to provide outlets to publish how-to guides, solutions to challenges, testimonials, and promotions.
Follow it up by optimizing all of this content with SEO so you can attract your targeted audience on the search engines.
This strategy is where you start thinking about how you are going to interact with your audience in an effort to build a lasting relationship.
You’re not selling them a product—you’re selling them a solution that provides value. Integrate this strategy into your customer service and inbound sales calls.
Use this as an opportunity to educate people who are interested in your business and want to know more about what you have to offer.
Keep your customers happy (even after you’ve closed the deal and they’ve made a purchase)!
In this strategy, you may send your buyer a survey or request feedback to learn more about their experience, and to find out how you can better serve them in the future.
Or you can show that your company is listening by paying attention to what your customers are saying online and making sure you use the opportunity to respond with helpful information or solutions.
“Lastly, the mark of an inbound strategy focused on delighting customers is one that assists and supports customers in any situation, whether or not your business gets any value out of it,” according to Hubspot.
What is the Future of Inbound Marketing?
AI: That’s right. Artificial intelligence is going to be increasingly used to help inbound marketers do their jobs. We’re already seeing it in brands like MailChimp.
Chatbots: Consumers might prefer to talk to a chatbot instead of a salesperson if they can avoid it. Also, a form of AI, Hubspot Co-Founder Halligan predicted in a podcast that we will be seeing more of them as they become faster and more advanced.
Lots and Lots of Video: This should come as no surprise. Video is already hot, but if your brand isn’t embracing it yet, the time has come to get started on a strategy. Consumers will not only appreciate it, but they will expect it.
More User-Generated Content: Candid images and unpolished video clips of your customers will be highlighted on your website and social media channels. Humanizing your brand builds trust.
Podcasts: They are becoming more mainstream every day as consumers decide this is a primary way that they want to consume content. As they grow in popularity, their inbound marketing potential does too.
Why Do You Need to Start Using Inbound Marketing?
By now you’ve probably figured it out. Traditional forms of advertising aren’t as effective as they used to be. Sure, it can be fun to watch the clever Super Bowl commercials, but for the most part, this isn’t how buyers are becoming engaged and interested in your brand anymore.
Buyers are more educated than ever, and they don’t have to take your word for it. That’s why trust and authenticity have become key cornerstones of marketing, and inbound methods are how your business leverages this social currency.
With inbound marketing, you have an increased chance of finding the right audience to help your business generate qualified leads.
What’s Next? Content Marketing.
For any marketing strategy to be effective, you need to have a well-shaped content marketing strategy in place. Content creation is a big part of the inbound marketing equation.
Once you have this down, you will be halfway to the finish line. Now all you need to do is successfully place your content so that your message gets in front of your ideal audience.