What Is Inbound Marketing?

If you’re well-versed in today’s marketing landscape, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard the term inbound marketing. However, if you’re a marketer who tends to rely on more traditional marketing techniques – like display advertising or paid search ads – or you haven’t delved into the thrilling and complex world of digital marketing yet, you might not actually have a good understanding of what inbound marketing actually is.

Understanding inbound marketing can help ensure that you’re harnessing as many helpful tools as possible to grow your business and expand your loyal customer base.

Inbound Marketing: A Basic Definition

In its most basic sense, inbound marketing is a type of permission marketing tactic, where a company uses high-quality content and valuable information in order to draw potential customers to their company – ultimately convincing them to become paying customers.

Inbound marketing is a term that was coined by marketing software company HubSpot, which defines the tactic saying:

“Inbound marketing is focused on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content.”

Neil Patel, one of the world’s foremost experts in digital marketing, also has a simple and succinct summary of how (and why) inbound marketing works:

“Instead of competing for ad space and buying slots, you focus on developing your blog, SEO presence and social media platforms. It’s meant to bring visitors to your content or site naturally (inbound), rather than going out and trying to pull them in with outbound methods like advertising.”

Inbound marketing is different from traditional marketing techniques in several important ways. One of the most crucial aspects of inbound marketing that sets it apart from many other marketing strategies is that the content created for inbound marketing purposes provides value to consumers at every step of their buyer’s journey. This means that no matter whether they’re just learning about your business or whether they’ve already done business with you, they can find some use or purpose for your inbound marketing materials.

For example: When a person is not even a sales lead yet, inbound marketing can provide consumers with general information that they find useful, interesting or entertaining; when they’ve already learned about a company, the company’s inbound marketing efforts can offer leads valuable information about a product or service offered, or why that product or service will be helpful to them; finally, once a consumer is ready to buy, inbound efforts make the conversion process easy and beneficial to customers (and after they buy, this content can even remind them that they should consider buying again).

Inbound Marketing Channels

Inbound marketing is a broad marketing genre that encompasses many specific marketing tactics. In order to reach customers with content, organizations rely on a wide variety of platforms and media, including:

  • Social media networks
  • Opt-in emails
  • Newsletters
  • Video publishing and sharing platforms
  • Blogs
  • Webinars
  • And many, many more

One of the most popular forms of inbound marketing today is called content marketing, where companies create, publish and disseminate high-quality content in order to draw potential customers in. Sometimes, marketers (inaccurately) use the terms content marketing and inbound marketing interchangeably – but the two terms actually mean something different.

We’ll get into that next week in Part II: Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing: What’s the Difference?