What is Inbound Marketing? Accountable, Efficient & Cost Effective.

As someone marketing a business (large or small), unless you have been living on a deserted island with no access to internet or the outside world, you have probably heard the term “inbound marketing” tossed around a time or two. Over the last five years, inbound marketing has grown in popularity as marketers have come to realize that individual tactics, such as SEO or PPC are become less and less effective all by themselves.

But, what is inbound marketing?

At its core, inbound marketing is a series of processes which include individual tactics we marketers know (and love/hate) such as SEO and PPC which lead buyers into your sales funnel. In this article, I want to try and keep it simple without digging too deep into the individual processes, by just giving a basic overview of what inbound marketing is.

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing

Cost per lead chart - inbound vs. outbound marketing

Traditional marketing is what is referred to as “push” marketing, whereas marketers are pushing a message and hoping it will gain traction with prospective buyers. Inbound marketing is referred to as “pull” marketing, whereas the marketers message is positioned before prospects when they are already actively searching for solutions that solve challenges they have. Positioning your business in the prospect’s mind while they are researching allows you to draw them into your sales funnel and soft-market to them until they are ready to buy – from you.

Inbound marketing doesn’t interrupt you at dinner time with a sales pitch, steal moments from your favorite TV show with a song and dance or compete with several other visuals on a page for your attention. In fact, to a consumer, inbound marketing doesn’t feel much like marketing at all; because it’s providing information when and where they are looking for it.

From searcher to buyer, your website is where it all starts

Inbound marketing success chart

Leveraging the many tactics available to get traffic to your website to view your content is where the process of inbound marketing begins: with the searcher. The “searcher” is the prospect that’s out there right now looking for the products or services you offer, they just don’t know yet that your business is the perfect fit for them. Placing great content in front of them when they are searching can position your business in their mind as a thought leader.

From there, you can offer them additional great content that’s just too tempting to pass up, in exchange for one little piece of information: their email address. It’s at that point a conversion takes place; A visitor is transformed into a prospect. They have raised their hand and said “I’m looking to buy” because they filled in a simple form to download a piece of content that will help them better plan their purchase.

Once a visitor is transformed into a prospect, the lead is nurtured over time by sending informational emails that not only help your prospect with their planning, but also warm them up to your service offerings and your company as a whole. When they are ready to make a decision, it’s not hard for them to decide what company to go with — they have a helpful contact who they feel they can trust. And your company in turn, has a prospect that’s ready to hear your sales message.

In a nutshell, the process of inbound marketing follows this methodology:

  1. Drive traffic – Using various methods of internet marketing, drive traffic to your website (preferably organic traffic, as it’s “free”)
  2. Convert traffic to leads – Create and offer specialized content for various personas and intents which allows prospects to provide you with a bit of information in exchange for the information they receive
  3. Nurture leads – Create a specialized series of emails that is sent to prospects over time. This allows you to create a conversation with your prospects before they are ready to make a buying decision and helps you grow trust in your brand.
  4. Analyze results – Analyze the results of each campaign and capitalize on the successful ones while culling “dead weight” campaigns that aren’t producing high quality leads.
  5. Repeat – Using ongoing knowledge obtained through analytic tools, repeat steps 1-4 focusing mainly on successful campaigns. Test new campaigns to continue to grow successes in the most cost effective way possible.

This process means your online marketing efforts are not only more effective than offline marketing, but that your efforts are more efficient. Each individual marketing campaign that drives traffic is accountable for its own ROI which allows marketers to analyze results and maximize return on the most effective method of driving qualified leads.

  • Samara, This is a great explanation of inbound marketing. Funny enough, it’s really simple when you “get” it, but I’ve found it hard to explain to people. My favorite part is #4 – I love that inbound marketing gives us so much data to work with to make future decisions.

    • Thanks Jeff, I am an analytics fanatic myself. Nothing beats watching your efforts making an impact in real time 😉

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