What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is an approach that draws customers to a company through useful content and experiences tailored to that customer’s needs and challenges.
It differs from other forms of marketing in that, rather than sending out generalized messages to audiences, it attracts prospects who are actively looking for the solution you provide. Useful content is a key driver of inbound marketing.
Six Benefits of Inbound Marketing
Brand awareness. Most buyers today start with an online search. If your company’s content appears high up on the search results page, you are better positioned to attract that customer.
Demand generation. Inbound marketing not only helps generate qualified leads, it brings in leads at a 61% lower cost than other forms of marketing, according to HubSpot.
Sales and marketing alignment. Marketing is creating content that helps the sales team close more deals. Subsequently, the sales team uses and sees the value in this content.
Sales enablement. The content you produce helps your sales team offer prospects the information they need to make an informed decision (and purchase).
Credibility and trust. Brands build trust through inbound marketing when prospects find the content you provide useful. In addition, this content positions your company as an expert in your industry, building credibility.
Integration with outbound. Inbound marketing integrates seamlessly with outbound marketing efforts, often providing data to inform these efforts as well as content to support the campaigns.
Challenges of Inbound Marketing
Time. Building a high performing inbound marketing program can take time, especially for new companies. That said, when executed well, it’s worth the investment and the wait.
Consistency. Inbound also requires consistency — both in creating content and the quality of that content. For smaller organizations, consistent content creation can prove challenging, but starting with a strategy and content calendar will help.
1. Identify your goals. As with any successful marketing strategy, you should start with identifying your goals. Follow the SMART framework and create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
2. Define your buyer personas and create your customer journey map. Create a clear understanding of who you are targeting. For example, what are their interests, pain points, demographics? Where do they engage online? How do they find out about products or services like yours? What are their preferred communication channels? Then, create your customer journey map — a representation of the process your customer personas go through to purchase.
Get our How to Create Buyer Personas Ebook
3. Audit your existing content. Organize your content by type, target audience, stage of customer journey, and objective. Then analyze the content for relevance, clarity, accuracy, completeness, traffic, engagement, and conversions. Once you’ve audited your content, note any gaps you see that might provide opportunities for content in the future.
4. Create your inbound marketing plan. Now that you have your framework in place, create your inbound marketing plan. Identify what content you need to create, keywords you’ll target to reach your prospects, types of content you’ll need, cadence for blog posts, ebooks, and more. In addition, consider promotional channels (for example, website/SEO or social media), lead magnets (offers to convert website visitors to subscribers), and your website user path.
5. Identify your technology needs. To be successful, inbound marketing requires marketing automation software, a content management system, and a customer relationship management tool. Other tools may include a social media management system, a landing page creator, and analytics provider.
6. Create your content calendar. Remember how consistency was a top challenge for inbound marketing? Your content calendar is your solution. On an annual basis, create quarterly themes to inform your calendar. The schedule out your content on a quarterly and/or monthly basis. Leave some room for real-time content — content that covers trends in your industry and newsworthy events.
7. Develop your content. Next, develop your content. Depending on the size of your team, this process may include a content strategist, writer, designer, videographer, editor, and SEO specialist.
8. Promote your content. Refer back to your inbound marketing plan. Common channels include your website/search optimization, social media, email, influencers and thought leaders, and media. In addition, consider outbound marketing such as Google Ads.
9. Analyze and optimize. Test content, calls to action, offers, and messages using A/B testing to learn what drives engagement. Evaluate what’s working (and what isn’t). Use this data to inform your future inbound marketing and content calendar.