Marketing today looks a lot different than it did 30, 40, 50 years ago. Back then, there were only a few available options when it came to promoting a company and its products or services. Then the internet went mainstream and everything changed.
These days, we can get customers to come to us rather than having to always chase them down. This methodology is what's known as inbound marketing.
In this article we'll explain exactly what inbound marketing is, why it's beneficial, a few popular inbound marketing channels, and the top inbound marketing tools on the market. We have a lot of great information to share so let's get right to it!
What is Inbound Marketing
You've almost certainly heard the term before, but maybe you've never been completely sure of what it means. Or maybe you just need a quick refresher. Whatever the case may be, we want to start with a quick definition — just to make sure we're on the same page.
According to Optimizely, inbound marketing is:
"A marketing methodology that is designed to draw visitors and potential customers in, rather than outwardly pushing a brand, product or service onto prospects in the hope of lead generation or customers."
There are plenty of inbound marketing channels a company could use to reach its target audience. Blog posts, an inbound marketing video, and social media content are all fine examples. We'll discuss these strategies (and more) in a later section of this article. But for now, let's discuss inbound marketing vs outbound marketing.
Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketing refers to more traditional promotional methods such as TV and radio commercials, roadside billboards, and print advertisements. It's the practice of actively reaching out to potential customers and promoting a specific brand, service, or product to them.
In other words, outbound marketing is the exact opposite of inbound marketing.
The debate between inbound marketing vs outbound marketing has been going on for years. But here's the thing: both are viable strategies and most companies should invest in inbound and outbound marketing strategies.
For the rest of this article, we'll be focusing exclusively on inbound marketing: why it's so beneficial, popular inbound marketing channels, and top inbound marketing tools.
The Benefits of Inbound Marketing
Before we get into the how of inbound marketing, let's talk about the why. Why should your company invest in this strategy? While there are many potential reasons, we want to focus on three of them: lower cost, more trust, and better leads.
Let's look at each of these benefits individually:
Outbound marketing channels such as TV and radio commercials are expensive to produce. The costs associated with writing blog posts and crafting social media content, on the other hand, are almost non-existent.
We should also mention that for outbound marketing strategies to be effective, a company must continually invest in them. A TV commercial won't bring in leads for your company a month after it airs unless you continue to pay the networks to run it.
But a blog post or a YouTube video will live on the internet forever and will be able to reach your target audience for weeks, months, and even years after it's been published.
In general, inbound marketing strategies generate more trust between buyers and brands. Why is this? Because consumers are allowed to discover the brand on their own without a mountain of advertisements being shoved down their throats.
Imagine this hypothetical scenario:
You're currently remodeling your home. Over the past few months, you've read every blog post, and watched every video you can get your hands on regarding the topic.
When it comes to purchasing lumber for the guest room addition, would you rather buy from the company whose educational content you've been consuming for the past few months, or a company you just saw on TV, but you've never heard of before?
Most people would choose to buy from the first company because they've already developed a relationship with it through the educational blogs and videos and trust it.
Lastly, inbound marketing tends to generate higher quality leads. This is, in large part, because of the trust we just talked about. When a potential customer already knows, likes, and trusts your brand, sales are almost guaranteed.
There is one caveat: it takes time to build up relationships with consumers. A billboard or print advertisement can reach people much quicker than most inbound marketing tactics.
Inbound marketing is a more long-term strategy. But the wait is well worth it and almost always produces better leads than other marketing initiatives.
Popular Inbound Marketing Channels
By now, the benefits of inbound marketing are quite clear. It's time to get practical and cover how to use this marketing methodology to boost your business.
There are six popular inbound marketing channels that we want to talk about. They are blogging, video marketing, social media content, email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and live events. Let's take a closer look at each:
Blogging is the quintessential content marketing technique. It's a great way to drive traffic, build a relationship with your target audience, and display your brand's unique personality. That's why so many people and companies do it.
In order to find success with your blogging efforts, you need to make sure that your content is extraordinary. When writing, always ask yourself, "How can I make this post better?"
The answer might be writing longer, more detailed posts. Or maybe there are important niche topics that most other organizations aren't really exploring on their blogs. Whatever you do, look for an educational, entertaining, or inspirational edge that you can give your blog.
2. Video Marketing
Video marketing has exploded in recent years. Modern consumers want visual content and the king of visual content is undoubtedly video. That's why YouTube is the largest search engine other than Google and why Facebook Live videos are so popular.
While the video marketing channel isn't quite as crowded as the blogging channel we just mentioned, it's getting there. As such, you need to follow the same principles described above and create amazingly useful videos that outshine your competitors.
3. Social Media Marketing
Social media has literally changed the world. Human beings from every corner of the globe are more connected than ever before and brands now how unprecedented access to their ideal customers. This is an amazing advantage that your company should capitalize on.
If we had one tip for social media it would be this: be social! Brands that simply post updates and never engage with the social community don't tend to do well.
By all means, post links to your latest blog posts and videos and new product launches. But make sure you also ask your followers questions, respond to their comments and DMs, and take part in popular conversations within your niche.
4. Email Marketing
It may seem old-fashioned, a little boring even, but nothing trumps email marketing in terms of ROI. According to recent studies, every $1 invested in email brings $44 in return. That's incredible and an obvious reason to include email in your inbound marketing strategy.
Just to be clear, we aren't talking about cold emailing strangers in your niche in order to market your products. This is an outbound strategy.
Instead, we want you to attract an email list of subscribers and build a relationship with them through regularly scheduled messages. These messages can contain links to your content, special discount offers, new product announcements, and more.
5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the main reasons why inbound marketing is such a beneficial methodology. The ability to make your business discoverable without having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on advertising is amazing!
Stellar content is a major piece of the SEO puzzle. If you can craft value-packed blogs, videos, and other marketing pieces that people love consuming, you'll do better in search results.
But you also need to pay attention to important SEO details such as keyword research. Before creating a single piece of content, investigate the search queries your target market uses. Then craft blogs, videos, and more around these terms.
6. Live Events
In our digital world it's easy to forget that live, in-person events can still be effective. Conferences, training seminars, entertaining competitions, and other gatherings can be wonderful tools to attract a target audience and build relationships with them.
In fact, it could be argued that experiential marketing initiatives such as live events are one of the best inbound marketing strategies. Something special happens when humans get together.
But just because you don't currently have the budget to rent a venue, fly in top speakers, and throw the after party of the century doesn't mean you can't capitalize on this kind of inbound marketing tactic. Digital events such as webinars can be incredibly effective as well.
Top Inbound Marketing Tools
There are A LOT of inbound marketing tools and many of them are useful. We've assembled some of favorite ones below. If you can only invest in a few solutions to help you craft amazing inbound marketing campaigns, these are what we suggest.
HubSpot has created an entire suite of tools to help brands capitalize on inbound marketing. You can use the software to post blogs, organize leads, automate email messages and social posts, improve SEO performance, and more.
Even more amazing, much of its functionality can be used for the low price of $0 a month! Get started with your free HubSpot account today and dominate the inbound marketing game.
2. Google Analytics
When it comes to website data, Google Analytics is king of the hill. The free software will teach you just about anything you'd want to know about your web visitors. And when you understand how people use your website, you can optimize it to perform better.
Learning Google Analytics isn't a walk in the park — the software is very detailed — but there are plenty of free tutorials online to make it easier.
While the first two inbound marketing tools we mentioned can be used for free, SEMrush cannot — at least not after the free seven-day trial you get access to at the beginning. But the software is well-worth the $99.95 a month you'll pay for it.
SEMrush is a top SEO tool that can be used to research keywords, track backlinks, and learn about other search ranking factors.
Lastly, we have CloudApp, a visual communication software that gives users free access to screen and webcam recording, GIF creation, and image annotation features. For video marketing purposes, it's a true workhouse that you should definitely consider using!
Whether you want to create educational explainer videos or entertaining social media GIFs, or take screenshots and annotate them for clarity, you can do it with CloudApp.
Power Your Business With Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is a fantastic promotional strategy for most businesses. When used correctly, inbound strategies will help your company reach its target audience for less money, build a relationship of trust with them, and generate higher quality leads.
All you have to do is utilize the six inbound marketing channels we outlined:
- Video Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Live Events
Then use the four tools we mentioned: HubSpot, Google Analytics, SEMrush, and CloudApp to craft amazing content for each channel. Do that and you'll find success with inbound marketing!