What Is Inbound Marketing? A Complete Guide
This post was last updated on May 21, 2020.
In order to run a successful business, it’s critical that your marketing efforts are up to speed with the latest trends. These days, business owners have learned that traditional marketing techniques like print ads and cold calls aren’t the best way to attract customers. Instead, you’re better off creating a website with useful, engaging content that your audience genuinely enjoys.
The practice of building your marketing strategy around valuable content is known as inbound marketing, and it’s proven far more effective than traditional approaches in attracting and retaining customers. In this article, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about this technique, from the definition of inbound marketing to examples and strategies of inbound marketing done right.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is a marketing methodology that involves creating engaging and relevant content pieces and experiences to attract customers to your brand. It includes building a professional website filled with great content, publishing compelling posts on your blog and social media channels, and boosting your website’s rank on Google (a practice known as SEO).
Inbound vs outbound marketing
Inbound and outbound marketing are two distinct types of marketing that tend to be defined in contrast to one another.
Outbound marketing, also known as interruption marketing or push marketing, is the use of old school sales practices such as print ads, cold calls, email blasts, and more. The aim of these tactics is to get the word out to as many people as possible with the hope that some of them will buy your products. Before inbound marketing gained traction, outbound marketing was the standard practice for businesses.
The downside of this technique is that it isn’t targeted toward any specific set of customers who may be interested in your product. Because the message is broadcasted to a large general audience, it won’t be relevant or interesting to most consumers - and will usually be ignored.
On top of that, outbound marketing is a one-way conversation. Rather than listening to consumers’ concerns and addressing their needs, push marketing methods simply talk about the product and the reasons to buy it.
As a result, many consumers stay as far away from outbound marketing as they can. If you use an ad blocker on your web browser, send marketing emails straight to your spam box, fast forward through TV ads, or drive past billboards without a second glance, I’m sure you can relate.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is like a magnet. Far from being loud, pushy, or aggressive, this type of marketing is more subtle but also more potent. By speaking to consumer needs, helping them solve a problem, and teaching them something new, effective inbound marketing builds trust and gently guides people toward a product.
Inbound marketing methodology
The key to successful inbound marketing is to engage with customers at every stage of the marketing funnel, from the first touchpoint through the final purchase. The goal of your promotional efforts should be to attract people to your brand, convert them into prospective customers, close sales, and delight them long after the purchase.
For that reason, the inbound marketing methodology is divided into four phases: Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight:
Attract: Generate leads by creating useful and engaging blog posts, social media posts, and other marketing materials. Aim to attract people who are already interested in your product or niche, as they have the highest potential to become customers.
Convert: Once you’ve drawn in strong leads, continue to target them with content that convinces them to convert into loyal customers. Start by gathering their contact information and personal details. You can do this using landing pages and CTAs (calls-to-action), or by offering free downloadable content across your site.
Close: After converting your leads into prospective customers, guide them even further down the funnel with compelling content that convinces them to make a purchase.
Delight: Inbound marketing doesn’t stop after the first purchase. Continue to delight your customers by rewarding them with meaningful interactions and high quality, informative content. This is key to building stronger relationships with your audience, establishing trust in your brand, and boosting the reputation and credibility of your business.
Inbound marketing examples
Now that you have a broad understanding of what inbound marketing is, it’s time to look at some examples of different kinds of inbound marketing. These include:
Blogs, such as our very own Wix Blog.
Infographics, like this one about website user stats.
Whitepapers, like these pieces from the Content Marketing Institute’s white paper library.
eBooks, such as these eBooks by SEMrush.
Case studies, like these case studies from Google.
Videos, like those on the popular Nintendo YouTube channel.
Webinars, such as these webinars by Microsoft.
Email newsletters, as shown in these newsletter ideas.
Podcasts, such as Slack’s Work in Progress podcast.
Social media posts, as seen on the Wix Facebook page.
Quizzes and entertainment, like these recipes by Nutella.
SEO, as explained in these SEO tips.
While there’s a wide range of options, you’ll notice that inbound marketing largely revolves around content marketing, social media marketing, and SEO. Together, these digital marketing tactics serve to drive organic traffic towards a brand and move customers through the sales funnel.
Inbound marketing strategies
Once you’ve looked through the different inbound marketing examples, consider the kinds of content that would be most relevant to your audience and brand. Are you thinking about creating a blog? Should you be posting more on social media? What about making videos?
As you develop your new inbound marketing plan, these marketing strategies can help you get started:
Know your target market
Shape the right brand identity
Create a blog
Start guest blogging
Get creative with your content
Optimize for SEO
Post on social media
Collaborate with influencers
Interact with your audience
Create powerful email campaigns
Use digital tools
Offer free value
01. Know your target market
Remember that inbound marketing, unlike outbound marketing, doesn’t involve shouting out your message to as many people as possible. On the contrary, it’s about attracting high quality traffic - users who are actually interested in your particular niche and who have the potential to convert.
That’s why the first step in mastering inbound marketing is conducting market research. Take the time to define and understand your target market - their interests, hobbies and professions, as well their demographic and geographic information. You can gather this data using website analytics and other marketing integrations.
Then, use this information to create buyer personas, fictional representations of your customers that you can use as a reference throughout your marketing strategy. With an in-depth understanding of your potential customers, you’ll be closer to marketing to them in a way they’ll find interesting and enjoyable, rather than spammy or intrusive.
02. Shape the right brand identity
Think about it: a business that markets to tech-savvy twenty-somethings will have a very different brand identity than a business that sells to retirees - even if they offer similar products.
To attract and retain the attention of your target market, build a brand that resonates with your potential customers. Every aspect of your inbound marketing efforts - from your blog content to your email newsletters to your social media branding - should use language, images, and color palettes that are relevant and relatable for your audience. This will show your audience that your brand addresses their particular needs, and they’ll form a stronger connection with your business as a result.
03. Create a blog
Content marketing forms the core of a powerful inbound marketing strategy. And while it encompasses a wide array of content types, blogging is its heart and soul.
Creating a blog is one of the best ways to attract new visitors to your website. In order to get found by prospective customers, you’ll need to post informative content that speaks to their needs and answers their questions. A high-quality blog also establishes your brand’s credibility and expertise, building trust among your target audience.
In other words, you can’t go wrong with a blog. Keep in mind that longer, in-depth, and actionable content produces stronger results than that which merely skims the surface.
04. Start guest blogging
In addition to publishing great blog posts on your own site, try to publish guest posts on other popular blogs. Guest blogging is a powerful way to promote your website, as it helps you capture the attention of new members of your target audience who might otherwise never have heard of your business.
Begin your guest posting efforts by reaching out to other blogs within your niche. Some of them provide special pages, usually entitled “Write for Us,” “Become a Contributor,” or “Editorial Guidelines,” that provide information for guest writers on how to proceed. If you don’t see these pages, email the company to ask about guest blogging opportunities and share some of your article ideas. You can also reach out to the writers directly over LinkedIn or Twitter.
To maximize the effectiveness of this strategy, be sure to write guest posts on a consistent basis. You should also link to your website or blog in the author bio, as well as in the body of the post itself. This will create backlinks, which play an important role in boosting your website’s SEO.
05. Get creative with your content
While blogging is a great practice, it isn’t the only content marketing method you’ll want to include in your inbound marketing strategy. You should also branch out into other forms of content, such as eBooks, podcasts, videos, webinars, and more.
For inspiration, take a look at these guides for how to create a podcast, how to live stream, and how to start a YouTube Channel.
06. Optimize for SEO
The ultimate goal of improving your search engine optimization (SEO) is to boost your content’s performance on search engines.
You can think of SEO and content marketing as two sides of the same inbound marketing coin. While content marketing is about creating well-written, informative, and engaging content, SEO is about making sure that content actually gets found on Google. If your content ranks 1, 2, or 3 in the Google search results, it’s far more likely to be read than if it ranks 50 or 100.
To improve your SEO, be sure to:
Conduct keyword research to place high volume keywords within your content.
Use long-tail keywords to target a relevant audience within your niche.
Include internal links between your blog posts and website pages.
Find opportunities to place backlinks on external web pages that lead to your own site.
07. Post on social media
Social media platforms are also an essential inbound marketing tool for drawing organic traffic to your brand. Start by thinking about which platforms your audience is using. Are they perusing pictures on Pinterest, swiping through Instagram Stories, or sending out tweets? Focus your efforts on creating posts on the social media platforms where your audience is most active.
Whichever platforms you choose, make sure to draw users to your brand by forming personal connections with potential customers. Post content relevant to their interests and needs, and engage with them in the comments section.
08. Collaborate with influencers
Another inbound marketing strategy on social media is to take advantage of influencer marketing. Influencers are people who have built a strong reputation and following on social media, typically centered around a particular niche. If their niche aligns with your product or service, their followers are likely the same people you want to be targeting with your brand.
To take advantage of the large following of these social media stars, build relationships with influencers relevant to your business goals. To get the ball rolling, reach out to them directly on social media platforms. Talk to them about how they can benefit from a collaboration - whether it’s free publicity, a complimentary gift, or another reward. This will help you expand your reach, add credibility to your brand, and stimulate interest in your product.