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Understand Inbound Marketing

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain what inbound marketing is.
  • Discuss ways inbound marketing is helpful for business.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Business executives are always on the lookout for ways to boost sales and reach new customers—and inbound marketing helps you do just that, by enticing those all-important buyers to come directly to you. Think of it as a way of meeting customers where they already are and engaging with them on their terms. It’s part of any well-balanced marketing strategy. Best of all? It’s likely something you already use.

Marketers today use a mixture of content across multiple platforms to connect with buyers at each stage of the buying cycle. How does that relate to inbound marketing? The idea behind inbound marketing is that creating content like white papers, infographics, digital guides, blog posts, and social media profiles familiarize customers with your brand. This is done with the help of targeted, subtle marketing efforts aligned to your customers’ needs and pain points.

Marketers who create search-friendly content—and then promote that content through social media, opt-in email campaigns, and other methods—are practicing inbound marketing. 

Customers Anticipate and Expect Inbound Marketing

Today’s buyers demand a more personalized, customized relationship with the businesses they buy from—and that’s why inbound marketing is so effective.

Inbound marketing works because it’s entirely based on what customers want and what they’re looking for in the moment. It’s not about putting your brand in front of customers—it’s about being there, and being ready, when they’re looking for the things you offer. Successful inbound marketing happens when you’re producing high-quality content that your intended audience really engages with.

Is Inbound Marketing Right for You?

Here are some tell-tale signs that your marketing strategy can benefit from inbound marketing.

  • You use your website to sell (or you want to).
  • Your target audience turns to the web to research or learn about topics you have expertise on.
  • You’re looking for new ways to reach target buyers.
  • You have time—and maybe a little bit of budget—to invest in creating quality content that educates or entertains your audience.
  • You understand your target buyer well enough to create personalized, relevant content that provides a great customer experience and portrays your brand as a thought leader.

How Does Inbound Marketing Work?

The idea behind inbound marketing is that the right kind of content attracts the right kind of customers. It uses thought leadership, education, and resources to help your buyers develop a relationship with your brand. And it focuses on providing helpful information that demonstrates how much you care about their success. Content can take the form of tricks and tips, best practices, and industry guides. With inbound marketing, you can draw in prospects who may or may not be looking for your company at that point in their buying cycle, by appealing to them on an informative level.

Of course, these aren’t the only types of content that work for inbound, but they work well at a high level to educate prospects about the potential for a product, rather than a product or service itself. This is why it’s important to combine inbound marketing with hard-sell or “outbound” marketing methods that move prospects through the sales funnel.

The real, ideal result of inbound marketing is brand awareness and an engaged audience. Great inbound marketing content serves to create genuine interest in your brand by the people you want to become your customers. It helps people get to know your products and services and provides helpful answers to their questions.

Common Inbound Marketing Content and Channels

So, what kind of content and channels are typically used for inbound marketing? Thankfully, they’re extremely common and incredibly easy to understand—your team might already be incorporating some of them into your overall marketing strategy. 

  • Blog posts and web articles
  • Print advertisements
  • Digital guides and white papers
  • Webinars
  • Social media
  • Research
  • Video

Combining these inbound marketing methods with their outbound counterparts helps you better target segments of your audience: from prospects to existing clients, to specific industries and job levels.

Your inbound marketing content has the potential to help a lot of people with their problems, generate repeat traffic to your website, and spark word-of-mouth promotion for your brand. If you’re doing inbound right, it also delivers a steadily growing collection of qualified leads to engage further with personalized content that results in sales conversion and recurring customer relationships.

Put Inbound Marketing to Work

Ready to get to work? We thought so!

Create a Strategy

Strategy is a big component of inbound marketing, so start by looking at your overall marketing strategy: Are you using advanced tools and software like marketing automation and data analytics? How closely aligned are your marketing and sales teams? Is your marketing multichannel? All of these answers play a role in how well you can integrate an inbound marketing strategy into your overall marketing efforts.

Inbound marketing is also about building customer relationships, so talking to your sales team about what helps them connect with your buyers on an individual level will give you good insight into what you can do at scale to build a strong relationship with your customers and create a streamlined buying cycle with your sales team.

Get Tech-Savvy

Plug in! If you're not on board with marketing automation and data analytics, you’re missing out. Lacking that tech also makes implementing inbound marketing much more time consuming—and significantly less easy to manage. Marketing automation takes the headache out of managing the more complex, multichannel campaigns that inbound requires. Because it’s so content-heavy, inbound marketing needs a robust marketing automation platform to help marketers keep up with the demands of content generation and campaign management. Plus, you can keep your sales team in the loop about all of your leads—allowing them to respond quickly when a lead created through inbound marketing shows signs of being ready to close on a sale.

Once you’re automated, data analytics becomes a must. Your inbound strategy hinges on creating the types of content that best resonate with your target audience. Tracking engagement becomes critical in order to gauge where prospects are in the buying cycle, what content to send next, and when to move them into your sales funnel.

Go Digital

While the idea behind inbound marketing is to draw prospects in your direction, you still need to be able to promote your content out. A strong web and social media presence becomes extremely important here, but you don’t need a profile on every social media platform to be good at inbound. Focus on the platforms where your audience is most engaged with your content.

Your website is also an important asset to inbound marketing. After all, it’s the face of your brand and, more than likely, an introduction to your brand as well. Test your CTAs (calls to action), experiment with content placement, and make use of interactive or visual media whenever possible.

Understanding the concepts outlined here give you the potential to help a lot of people, strengthen website traffic, and drive an increasing number of leads your way. It builds a relationship with customers before they’re shopping, and enables them to see you as a trusted and familiar resource when they’re ready to buy.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of inbound marketing, let’s show you how to take the guesswork out of managing leads in the next unit.

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