Inbound Marketing: Definition, ROI, and Examples

Put a blog on your websitebring in customers.

Inbound marketing sounds like a dream right? Well, as you might expect, it’s a little more complicated than that, but it can have some amazing benefits for your business.

Here’s your guide to inbound marketing with definitions, ROI, and examples.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is the process of drawing prospects to your business through content and personalized experiences. It relies on the customer finding you in organic ways such as through a Google search.

This is in contrast to outbound marketing, where companies actively reach out to their target audience.

Inbound marketing is often seen in a positive light because it’s unintrusive. Rather than forcing your brand on people, you’re allowing them to explore it themselves. With the right experiences, this allows you to progress prospects through the sales funnel while building a positive relationship.

Traditionally, we tend to think of marketing in the outbound sense (sales calls, tv and radio ads, print ads), but increasingly, businesses are turning to a hybrid model. 57% of organizations say they are shifting to a hybrid model which maximizes the benefits of both inbound and outbound marketing.

Today, inbound marketing is extremely pervasive – take this article for example. It’s designed to be an informative guide that you come across organically. At the same time though, it introduces you to Mailshake’s brand, allows you to explore our products, and can begin a relationship.

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

What are the key differences between inbound and outbound marketing?

Essentially it boils down to who initiates the interaction. If the brand initiates the interaction by reaching out to the prospect, then it’s outbound marketing. If the prospect initiates the action, then it’s inbound marketing. This means each method has its own channels:

Inbound Marketing:

  • SEO
  • Website content
  • Organic social media reach
  • Emails to subscribers
  • Guest posts and reviews
  • Press releases
  • Video marketing

Outbound Marketing:

  • PPC advertising
  • Social media advertising
  • TV, radio, print advertising
  • Cold calling
  • Cold email
  • Direct mail
  • Trade shows

You may find people who claim inbound marketing is better and others who claim outbound marketing is more successful. The answer is, they’re both successful tools and it depends on your business.

There are a lot of benefits to inbound marketing. As it’s organic, you’re generally not paying to reach your audience, meaning it can bring in a good ROI. You’re also beginning the relationship with the customer on their own terms. Rather than interrupting their day with an ad, they’ve come to you to solve a problem, and this positions you perfectly.

On the other hand, there are no guarantees you’ll reach your target audience with inbound marketing. When you engage in outbound marketing such as PPC, you know you can immediately reach your target audience. Yes, you pay for the privilege, but you know you’re getting your brand in front of the people that matter.

Ultimately, this is why many people end up using a mixture of inbound and outbound marketing techniques.

ROI of a Successful Inbound Marketing Program

One of the big draws of inbound marketing is that it has relatively low up-front costs. Anybody can start creating their own content, work on their technical SEO and grow their social media profiles.

Of course, the key is doing inbound marketing well and while you can do this with a very limited budget, there are also companies investing huge amounts in this form of marketing.

The reason so much effort and money is being put into inbound marketing is that the stats show it works:

The return on inbound marketing is being further boosted by marketing automation. 44% of brands that use marketing automation report a return on investment within six months, and 75% see an improved ROI after a year.

The most important word in this title is “successful.” Because inbound marketing is more organic, it’s easy to think that you create a piece of content, put it out there, and people will come. When you read a blog on a great website, that’s what it might seem like from the outside, but it’s not the case. Successful inbound marketing is based on excellent planning, exceptional content, and consistency.

Lots of businesses dabble in inbound marketing without giving it their full commitment. There’s a ton of competition out there though, and if you’re not targeting your output to your audience, and making valuable content, then you’re not likely to see the returns you’re looking for.

Likewise, it takes time to build your inbound marketing assets, so you’ve got to be patient and keep going.

If you can do this, then inbound marketing can offer an excellent ROI.

Examples of Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is designed to take the customer all the way from awareness to loyalty. It does this by offering content that addresses their pain points and answers their questions at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

1. Attraction

The first part of marketing is always to get your brand recognized, but how can you do this through inbound marketing? You’re working hard to create amazing content, and now people are just supposed to magically find it?

The answer is (and this is where the frustration can come in with inbound marketing) it takes time. You’ve got to build your assets, grow your organic search profile, build your email lists, and expand your social reach.

So, what type of content can you use to attract new prospects to your brand?

At this stage, you need to be focused on three key aspects:

  • What does your target audience look like?
  • What are your target audience’s pain points?
  • How does your audience search for information?

When you have clear answers to these questions, then you can start to create helpful content that will introduce these people to your brand.

  • How-to videos, blogs, case studies, whitepapers, webinars, etc.
  • Social media campaigns, user-generated content, engaging competitions
  • High-quality collaborations with other websites

While the aim is to begin a relationship with the reader and position your brand as an authority, it’s important to remember your brand voice. People like personality, so understand how you want to portray your brand and give your content some character.

2. Nurturing

Inbound marketing is all about bringing leads to you, but it’s still got to be able to progress those leads through the sales funnel. Each piece of content has a goal and should look to lead people through the funnel – this is the nurturing aspect.

One of the most important parts of nurturing is touchpoints. The difficulty with inbound marketing is you bring people to your website – they may love the content – and yet, once they leave, you have no way of building the relationship with them.

This is where you rely on your other marketing mediums to continue to nurture the lead. You may re-engage someone through a social media post, or get them to sign up for your email marketing.

A great tool you have to help nurture your prospects is gated content.

In the beginning, you’re offering all your amazing information for free. However, as the lead progresses through the customer journey, you may start to ask for something in return for your valuable information. This may be something as small as a few contact details, but crucially, it allows you to build more touchpoints and have that direct line to the lead.

3. Conversion

To see a return on inbound marketing, you have to be able to turn leads into customers. Again, it’s important to remember that aside from offering value to your target audience, your inbound marketing (not overtly) has to be focused on your ultimate goal.

Understand the journey your customers take to becoming a customer and make sure you have content that answers their questions at each stage. This is another big benefit with inbound marketingyou can personalize the experience.

You know how people came to you, you get a good feel for the information they’re looking for, the pain points they have, and this allows you to serve them with the right content. You’ve done the inbound part of creating the lead, so now don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and really build on the relationship.

Great marketing has allowed you to create a prosperous relationship, so keep investing in it and growing it.

Final Thoughts

If you look at virtually any successful business’s website, you’ll see they’re actively engaging in inbound marketing.

At its heart, inbound marketing is about giving people the information they need, when they need it, and when done well, it results in a great ROI. There is no silver bullet in marketing, and inbound marketing takes time and effort to pull off, but it can offer a huge boost for your business.

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