What is inbound marketing? The complete guide for strategic marketers

Published on 18/02/2021 by Capterra

What is inbound marketing? When running a company, it is important to understand this concept, as it can revolutionise how your business generates new business. If properly applied, an inbound marketing strategy can become self-running while successfully bringing in numerous new customers.

What is inbound marketing
In this blog, we’ll provide a detailed definition of what inbound marketing is and how marketing automation software can help. Plus, we’ll explain how it can work in four simple steps.

What is inbound marketing? 

An inbound marketing strategy comprises of three main areas:

1. Marketing 

The aim of the inbound methodology is to let customers come to the company instead of the company actively (and possibly intrusively) contacting and soliciting them. The potential customers are continuously supplied with added value through content. The aim is to enrich the customer on their buyer’s journey, build trust, and encourage them to become a paying customer.

The methodology also means that the potential customer is more likely to be familiar with the company or brand name. Additionally, they are more likely to have an idea of how your company can solve their problems or pain points.

2. Customer service

If the customer wants advice or has questions about a product, inbound customer service is a great option. Annoying advertising calls are a thing of the past with this method. For example, the customer is shown a chat window, a telephone number or an email address on the website that they can use to contact an employee. 

3. Sales

The transitions from inbound marketing and inbound sales are fluid. The easiest way to explain this point is with an example: A reader can find exciting information on the topic of SEO and content marketing on a company blog. The added value and the in-depth knowledge convinced him and aroused the need to deal with the matter further.

Since trust has already been created by the relevant content, the biggest hurdle has been cleared. If the company now offers a suitable product on its blog that will help the customer and build on the valued content, the customer is usually willing to buy it. Not because it was advertised dominantly, but because the customer was convinced of the company in advance through high-quality contributions.

What is inbound marketing and how does it differ from outbound marketing?

To understand inbound marketing even better, it helps to know the differences between inbound and outbound marketing:

Inbound marketing

Inbound marketing follows the principle that the customer will find their way to the company through appealing content and lead generation tactics. The methodology removes direct advertising measures and active advertising. 

Instead, content is used that will:

  • Advance the potential customer
  • Help them solve their problem
  • Convey useful knowledge
  • Simply entertain them well. 

This can be blog posts, e-books, whitepapers, social media posts, and more. Free online courses and webinars are also becoming increasingly popular as they are a great way to add value and introduce the company personally and concisely.

Outbound marketing

Outbound marketing is geared towards approaching customers and competing for their favour. This methodology tries to win customers by showing them the offers and making them palatable. There can be a fine line between satisfied and annoyed customers who feel overwhelmed and harassed. Companies should therefore be careful not to be too aggressive with outbound marketing, as this quickly scares off potential customers.

Outbound marketing methods can include email offers, advertisements, and sales calls. 

Inbound marketing and content marketing are similar, but not the same

Inbound marketing and content marketing have similar goals and are therefore often confused. However, a closer look shows that there are differences that are as small as they are important. 

Both methods should deliver added value to the customer and bring him to the company. In content marketing, however, the focus is more on attracting prospects to the company, while inbound marketing aims to build a lasting connection with the customer and accompany him on his journey.

The content is useful and interesting in both strategies, but inbound marketing puts the bigger picture more on the radar. This means that the method is aimed at long-term loyalty that creates a strong bond between the customer and the company. In content marketing, the prompt implementation and quick effect of the campaign are more in the foreground.

What is an inbound marketing strategy?

The inbound marketing definition is a good place to start to understand the strategy. However, the definition alone is not enough to really immerse yourself in the topic. Knowing how the methodology works show its full impact and relevance for companies and the marketing world.

The four phases of inbound marketing

Inbound marketing can be divided into four phases. Each of them deserves full attention, as the overall concept only works if all phases interact smoothly. Like gears that make a machine run. If one catches, all others stop. 

1, Attract

The first step is to attract the customer. Strong and attractive content acts like a magnet and arouses interest. A mix of real added value and well-implemented SEO strategies ensures that the potential customer finds his way to the company and deals with the offers. 

Search engine optimisation plays a central role here, as most people come across interesting offers and companies via search engines, social networks, forums and other platforms. No matter how good the content is, it is useless if no one finds it. In short, this phase is about attracting traffic through high-quality content and SEO optimisation.

2. Convert

Converting means that, in the second step, traffic becomes leads. So that the customer is not only attracted, but also puts a foot in the door of the company and continues to deal with it. This is usually done using a form in which they enter their details. 

Companies have to earn this. The best way to do this is through download offers with a practical use (checklists, e-books, white papers), email courses, call-to-action-buttons, forms, webinars and landing pages. If the customer sees a good reason to disclose their data, the lead is not far away.

3. Close

Just because the person has stored their data and has registered for an e-mail newsletter, for example, does not mean that they will also become a customer or buyer. The third phase is therefore the “hot phase” in which the aim is to continue to convince the customer with the content offered. 

Lead Nurturing doesn’t bear its name for nothing: The customer wants to be fed with content that suits them and relevant offers.

4. Delight

If the content and the end product are really good and delight the customer, something great happens, something that all companies strive for: The customer becomes an advertisement for the company by recommending it and its products. 

Advertising from customer to customer conveys a particularly independent and therefore serious impression that convinces interested parties even faster of the offers. The fourth phase is there to look after the customer so well beyond the purchase that he feels he has been given the best advice. It is this phase that decides whether the customer will become a regular customer who even really promotes the company.

Which metrics are important in relation to inbound marketing?

You can measure whether the inbound marketing concept is successful. The following metrics are some of the most important factors that provide information about the success of the strategy:

  • Visitors
  • Leads
  • Conversion rate, i.e. the percentage of the traffic that becomes leads
  • Customers
  • Sales
  • Costs
  • The willingness of customers to share and disseminate the content
  • Recommendations and referrals.

Which tools are necessary for successful inbound marketing?

As well as marketing automation software, there are some other tools suitable for implementing an inbound marketing strategy correctly and efficiently. Here are some examples:

The more of which you can automate in the strategy, the more it will allow your team to focus on existing customers and provide the best possible service.

Looking for marketing automation software? Check out our catalogue.

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.


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