What is inbound marketing?

Learning about inbound marketing

Imagine a world where your marketing strategy meets customers on their terms and at their level. You’re building relationships because you’re delivering meaningful and helpful content, rather than advertorial interruptions, and customers pay you back with loyalty, positive reviews, and increased revenue. Okay, now step back into reality, and let’s chat inbound marketing.

Say your company wants to generate leads and build their brand alongside their outbound marketing efforts. Inbound marketing is a way for businesses to reach and influence leads in a way that creates a lasting bond built on trust.

In this article, you’ll learn:

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a tactic focused on capturing a customer’s attention. Digital inbound marketing efforts involve putting the information out there for the consumer to find on their own. SEO is very important in inbound — brands can rank on search engines for the kinds of questions customers are asking and then present them with content. That content could be a blog, a web page, or an asset that's on a landing page, for example. The other big vehicle for inbound marketing is social media, as social media allows a brand to engage with customers easily and be a part of the conversations that are going on.

The key to inbound marketing is creating quality content that customers can find while researching or asking questions. You should also use data and analytics to see how customers interact with content and whether the information provided leads to conversions. Next, we’ll explain the differences between inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

Inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing

Companies use a combination of outbound and inbound marketing to reach customers throughout the buyer journey. Essentially, the difference is that outbound marketing is initiated by the marketer, while inbound marketing is initiated by the consumer. One way some companies differentiate between the two is to say outbound refers to any paid marketing, like paid search or paid social, while inbound refers to free methods.

Outbound marketing refers to marketing that uses direct advertising to reach customers. It could be any type of marketing where the company is actively reaching out to the consumer, like targeted display ads or cold calls.

There are strengths in both inbound and outbound marketing and situations in which one or the other will be the better option. Now let’s get into how inbound marketing works.

How inbound marketing works

Inbound marketing is all about attracting and engaging potential customers through content tailored to their needs. What questions are customers asking? What are their pain points? What features excite them? Content marketers can create materials that directly speak to those questions.

The main premise of inbound marketing is that luring customers to your product through valuable content is a great way to build long-lasting relationships and trust.

Next, we’ll explain how outbound and inbound marketing are a dynamic duo whose super strength emerges when you pair them together.

It works with outbound marketing

Like we mentioned earlier, both outbound and inbound marketing have their strengths depending on the situation. However inbound marketing is amplified by outbound marketing, and shouldn’t be your only marketing tactic. You can promote quality inbound content through outbound tactics. Say you’re a company that sells carpet and you write an extremely useful blog article on the 10 best vacuums of 2023. You could then promote the blog (inbound marketing) through a paid social media campaign (outbound marketing).

Less focus on sales

Inbound marketing places a heavy emphasis on building a positive reputation for a brand, as it leans into the idea that a trustworthy and reputable image attracts customers. By consistently providing useful content, businesses establish themselves as thought leaders and industry experts. This approach is particularly helpful for longer sales cycles, where nurturing trust is crucial for keeping them interested through the buyer’s journey.

It provides customers value

At the end of the day, you are providing a useful service to potential customers. By creating valuable content like eBooks, blogs, video, infographics, and more, businesses get into customers’ heads and directly address issues they may be facing. This positions the brand as a trusted source. When done well, you have a greater chance of attracting the attention of your audience and building a relationship with them.

Benefits of inbound marketing

Benefits of inbound marketing

Inbound marketing benefits you and your customer. Studies show that the most successful marketers prioritize creating content the audience’s informational needs over an organization’s sales/promotional message.

Here are some of the benefits of inbound marketing:

How to do inbound marketing

Now that you understand what inbound marketing is and its benefits, let’s explore general tactics for how to do inbound marketing.

Content and search engine optimization (SEO)

No matter how valuable and pristine your content may be, SEO is still the life force behind inbound marketing. If it isn’t optimized, it won’t reach your audience. You’ll need to use SEO to drive organic traffic to your site so that your content gets seen by valuable leads.

Use tools and technology as aids

Companies need a way to collect and analyze the data tied to their inbound marketing metrics. Tools help you track who the customer is and how they’re engaging across all channels. Then you stitch that information together to measure the impact of each touchpoint during the buyer journey. Automation is also a valuable tool that can keep track of multiple channels and platforms, as well as keep to a schedule.

Align marketing and sales teams

For whatever reason, it can sometimes feel impossible to sync marketing and sales. However, it’s so important to keep both departments in communication because knowing which inbound marketing content is engaging customers will help sales lead them through the buying journey.

Maintain your channels and platforms

It would be such a waste if you spent hours crafting the most compelling and concise blog article, only to discover the platform it lives on isn’t working. Make sure your website is free of bugs that could interrupt a customer’s journey. Test CTAs and links to make sure they are working properly. Next, make sure your customers can move from channel to channel seamlessly, such as from your social media content to your website.

Integrate with outbound marketing efforts

Again, inbound and outbound marketing is not an either/or situation. In fact, outbound marketing can boost the impact of strategically written inbound marketing content — and help spread the message to your target audience.

Manage your inbound marketing with the right tools

It may take more research, more strategy, and more effort than other marketing tactics — however, inbound marketing is also more likely to encourage brand loyalty and result in a greater return on investment (ROI).

When you’re ready to get started, evaluate the marketing software your company has so that you know your tools can support robust inbound marketing campaigns.

As a solution for complex buying journeys, Adobe Marketo Engage brings marketing and sales together to nurture leads, orchestrate personalized experiences, optimize content, and measure business impact across every channel. It natively supports both demand- and account-based marketing strategies to provide a single, integrated lead management platform from acquisition to advocacy.

Watch an overview or take an interactive product tour of Marketo Engage to learn more about marketing automation at scale.