What is inbound marketing? Building an inbound marketing strategy

The best brands don’t chase customers. They make sure that customers get attracted to them. This process and practice of attracting customers to a brand through a distinct set of marketing activities is called inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing definition

Inbound marketing is the practice of attracting and luring visitors and potential customers towards the brand rather than bombarding them with irrelevant messages in the hope of getting more customers.

In the digital marketing domain, this means using multiple marketing channels to attract consumers – for example, content marketing, search engine optimization, and social media marketing – in creative ways to attract people’s attention. A successful marketing campaign aims to increase reach and drive targeted traffic towards the business.

Common questions about inbound marketing

How does inbound differ from outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing refers to traditional marketing efforts. It includes television, radio, print advertising, telemarketing, and direct mail, etc.

Advertisers using outbound methodology use mass media to push their message and products out to the public hoping that with enough exposure, the business will reach its potential customer.

These marketing tactics were once effective but they are slowly being replaced by inbound strategies that use the technology to create a message for its audience segments.

Is inbound marketing better than outbound marketing?

It depends on what your goals are for your business; however, the short answer is a resounding, YES. Inbound techniques are proven to work because it’s less expensive and has a better return on investment compared with outbound marketing.

Is inbound marketing expensive?

Marketing expenditure depends totally on your long term goals and what you want to accomplish. There is no upper and lower limit of the investment that you have to make for your inbound efforts to be successful. Generally, you must be willing to allocate some budget for your marketing efforts for them to yield some returns.

How long will it take for an inbound technique to work?

The success of your inbound marketing campaign depends on the number of hours you are willing to put in daily. Keep in mind that not only do you need to put in a dedicated effort but you must continually adjust your approach to how the audience responds to your message.

It can take between six to nine months before you will start seeing a return on your investment.

How will I measure the success of my inbound marketing campaign?

Inbound methods give you plenty of metrics to measure your efforts. This includes measuring website traffic volume, lead quality, duration of time spent on the website, email opt-ins, etc. You can then compare these statistics with the industry benchmark and judge how well you are doing. If your implementations are correct, you will start seeing improvements in your metrics with the passage of time.

Why do marketing benchmarks for inbound campaigns change often?

The online landscape is consistently evolving, which means that marketers must change and adapt continuously. With every new search engine update, your marketing techniques must adapt and change to stay at the top of the game. Sadly, you do not have much choice here. If you want to dominate your industry, then you must be willing to ride the wave of change.

Four stages of inbound marketing strategy

Every inbound marketing strategy includes four key stages: Attract, Engage, Delight, and Convert.

Stage 1

Attract: The first step in marketing is analogous to building a relationship. As a business, you want to attract individuals who can become your potential customers for a lifetime. These prospective customers are also known as buyer personas.

Attracting your potential customers requires a focused marketing strategy that starts with generating quality content. The purpose of this content is to bring eyeballs to your business, which will compel the visitors to shift to the next step of the conversion process.

Stage 2

Engage: As a rule of thumb, when you want people to take a specific action, you need to offer something in return. The same rules apply to your marketing efforts. If you’re seeking contact information from your consumers in the form of phone numbers, and email addresses, you need to offer something of value to your visitors for them to be willing to disclose their contact details.

This “something of value” can be in the form of content – eBooks, free book chapters, cheat sheets, webinars, etc. – virtually any material that your audience would find valuable.

Step 3

Delight: Once your buyer’s persona has given you their valuable details, your goal is then is to establish brand loyalty, and to accomplish this, marketers need to add value continuously.

By consistently delighting your customers, marketers can create more significant sales opportunities – not only with your potential customers but also with their positive word of mouth.

Step 4

Convert: The final step in the marketing methodology is “closing” your warm leads and converting them into happy customers. This stage is a consumer-oriented, which is typically a collaboration between sales and marketing efforts. Your warm leads in this step will convert from strangers and acquaintances into paying customers.

Benefits of inbound marketing


Inbound marketing is very cost-effective compared to traditional marketing campaigns. Most small businesses generate leads from inbound marketing by spending only a third of what it costs them to get a lead from traditional marketing efforts.


Once a relationship is built, the bond will likely continue for a very long time. For example, when blogging, you consistently provide great content, which results in customer coordination for an extended period.

You can then reach out to your audience and connect with them every time you want to launch a new product or need feedback to improve existing products.

High reach

You can easily reach new markets because marketing is entirely online and geographical boundaries do not restrict the business. It means that your potential customers can buy from you from anywhere in the world. Ultimately, it’s is hard to gather money to advertise on a billboard in a foreign land but it is a lot easier to reach people via the internet.

It’s immediate

Results from marketing efforts can be measured immediately. You will not have to wait months to guess where your marketing efforts fell short. In fact, marketers can quickly readjust their strategies and make changes almost instantaneously.

Brand recall

Inbound marketing helps you stay at the top of your prospect’s mind round the clock. With a tailor-made message and quality content, you can expect to make your brand an industry authority.

Data analytics will give you information on what your potential customers want. You can then consistently provide better value than your competitors. It will inadvertently make you the go-to person in the industry considering the expertise and value you provide.

How to build your marketing strategy

Define goals, objectives & KPIs

To answer What is inbound marketing, you will need to comprehend why are you adopting a marketing methodology? What goals do you want to achieve that you weren’t able to with the traditional marketing approach?

You will need to set clear goals that will help you in achieving the final objective. You can set a long term goal – for example, a 5-year plan. Afterward, try breaking that long goal into bite-sized steps. This will give you an idea of what needs to be accomplished in a year, a month, a week. When setting goals, use the SMART goals setting technique that emphasizes that goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

Set benchmarks

Understanding where you stand against your competitors will give your company a better understanding of marketing activities that are needed to help in achieving competitive ground.

Whatever benchmark you set, find the industry leader, and follow in their footsteps. Do whatever they are doing, and with time and effort, you can start to become more creative with your work and hopefully overcome the industry leader.


Decide how you want your potential customers to see you. Positioning helps you clearly define who your best customer is, what your company will deliver, represent, or what does the brand means to your customers. For example, positioning yourself as an environmentally friendly brand will speak volumes to your prospects without extensive marketing efforts on your part. This will automatically attract the targeted individual to the brand.

Set buyer personas

Marketing to everyone won’t bring clarity to the message, and it won’t resonate with anyone. Marketers must pinpoint their target. A buyer persona can include an audience segment such as:

-Age 25-40
-Education (graduate)
-Earning between 50,000-80,000/year

Set buyer’s journey

Buyers will go through a lot of steps before they become paying customers. You need to make the buyer’s journey a smooth process. An example of a streamlined journey is when the buyer sees an ad, clicks on it, then enters his email address to receive a free ebook. Later, email marketing reminds him of the value of your main product. With enough exposure to the brand content, the potential customer goes through the journey and eventually buys the product.


You must set your inbound budget in accordance with your goals. Every marketing campaign is different; hence, every budget is different, too. When budgeting for marketing, you’ll have to include everything from social media advertising costs, google AdWords, CMS software, etc.

Search Engine Optimization

Having a website is imperative for inbound marketing success. However, without ranking your website in search engines, the website won’t be of much use. You will need to set aside time to do regular SEO or get marketing professionals to do it for you. Quality SEO takes time but it is worth its weight in gold.

Advanced blogging

This is a continuation of the last point. Marketers rely heavily on blogging to rank in search engines. You will have to write your articles around the “pain points” of your prospects so that when they enter the problem in search engines, your articles comes at the top.

Nurturing plans

Once a lead makes a purchase, marketers must reach out to them again with more information that answers their questions. The goal is to become an expert in the eyes of your consumer. This ensures visitors make repeat purchases.

Sales and marketing alignment

You must align your sales and marketing efforts. According to research, companies that optimize their marketing and sales cycles reduced their costs and experienced an increase in growth. Similarly, Aberdeen Group suggests that sales and marketing alignment (SLA) often leads to a 32% increase in year-over-year revenue growth.

Key elements of an inbound marketing campaign


There is a lot of competition to rank on the first page of Google. Not all those who try will get ranked right away. An excellent way to get eyeballs on your business is to use Google’s Pay-Per-Click advertising. By bidding on the advertisements, you can instantly start to appear at the top of search results for your keywords. This can help generate traffic to your business. In the meantime, try working n the SEO so that you won’t have to rely solely on paid ads.


When users search your brand’s name in search engines, your website must be present in the top 10 results. This is a great way to get organic traffic to your website. As you build an inbound strategy, you will start to realize that it can work wonders for the brand getting free traffic from search engines, most notably Google.

Content marketing

Content marketing is the lifeblood of online marketing. You will have to use Google’s keyword planner and Google trends to understand what your target market is looking for online. After a better understanding of the needs, you can start building content around those keywords to reach your potential audience.

Social media

People spend most of their time on social media and you can leverage this by posting your brand’s updates regularly and using paid ads. Paid ads will allow the marketing team to micro-target your audience saving a lot of time and money.

Top inbound marketing tools

  1. SEMrush
  2. Zoho Social
  3. Unbounce
  4. Sumo
  5. Hotjar
  6. Hubspot
  7. Clearbit
  8. ClickMeeting
  9. Zendesk
  10. Mailchimp
  11. Buffer
  12. Onesignal
  13. Slack
  14. VWO


Inbound marketing can feel like a beast if you are new to it. However, the benefits of a solid inbound marketing campaign are long-lasting. A well-planned approach can help you build brand reputation, gain loyal followers, and deliver long-term revenue.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available that can aid you in building your inbound marketing strategy and launching your first campaign. Just like all valuable things in life, mastery comes with patience, dedication, and effort.


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