With the internet as a primary information source nearing 25 years in existence (Google turns 20 in September 2018), it seems unnecessary to give marketing strategies labels specific to that platform. After all, EVERYONE is online in some form, right?
Yet, we still do specify a few distinct areas of marketing, and for good reason. Not all online marketing is created equal.
To get to the point:
You may have content; you may be doing digital marketing with your content; but neither of those alone are the same as inbound marketing. So what makes inbound marketing different and why should you be doing it?
Here is a definition of content marketing from dictionary.com:
Here is a definition of digital marketing from businessdictionary.com:
Content vs. Digital vs. Inbound
First and foremost, content and digital are both components in the overarching philosophy of inbound marketing.
But, if you're not putting it all together in a way that gets you found online and has more prospects coming to you through social media channels and organic search, you're not doing inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing’s foundation is in content—the same content mentioned in the definition of content marketing.
Inbound marketing relies on blogs, videos, social media and other types of content, most of which is not specifically product- or service-focused. It is content that is meant to inform, aid or entertain.
And, inbound marketing is without a doubt digital. While some print, broadcast or in-person marketing tactics may be used in conjunction with inbound marketing, the primary strategy behind inbound relies on digital channels—owned, earned and paid.
So what does inbound marketing have that simple “content” or “digital” marketing is missing?
Inbound marketing is focused on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage in your customer's buying journey, according to the HubSpot website. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media.
Content and digital marketing tend to center around traditional outbound marketing tactics that push content "out" to prospects. Inbound marketing, is different in that it does not need to fight for potential customers' attention.
HubSpot, the pioneer of inbound marketing, states that, "by creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business."
Understand the Nuances Between Outbound and Inbound Marketing
Regardless if you are focused on outbound marketing, inbound marketing, or doing a combination of both, it's important to have a content strategy that delivers content to prospects at every stage of the marketing funnel.
Traditionally, however, content marketing relies on outbound marketing tactics (such as the monthly email to the company's house list of prospects) to generate leads. Although important, creating a content strategy, developing great content and delivering it to prospects via outbound email marketing does not equal inbound marketing.
Don't get me wrong, it's important to include outbound emails in your marketing strategy. (We do it. We recommend our clients do it. It's tried and true.) The point is, those monthly marketing emails fall into the outbound category of marketing because the tactic reaches "out" to prospects.
Content marketing becomes inbound marketing when prospects find you when they search online and discover your blog posts and other content because it's optimized for organic search.
Content marketing becomes inbound marketing when prospects come to your website because they've gotten to know and trust your brand through content you've been sharing on social media.
Digital marketing becomes inbound marketing when it drives prospects to your company blog, where they are then presented with related, relevant content “offers”— most often a downloadable asset such as an ebook, webinar or tip sheet — so they can take the next step and become a leads.
Take Inbound Further with Lead Nurturing
Only 1 in 10 visitors to your website are ready to buy when they first “arrive.” That's why automated lead nurturing is another important piece of the marketing puzzle. It provides the vehicle for personalized continued engagement, establishing a connection by offering additional relevant content based on a lead’s initial actions on your website.
Working through the marketing and sales funnel, lead nurturing offers content to educate leads, help leads solve problems, and eventually consider and compare solutions to make a decision.
An automated nurturing system also tracks the steps leads take, including accessing additional offers, to determine when they have reached a point that warrants direct contact from sales. By establishing these trigger points, your inbound marketing approach, using progressive forms on landing pages, allows leads to, in essence, self-qualify by filtering out those who don’t seek further information or who are a poor fit for your product or service based on their answers to more in-depth landing form questions.
This saves time and money because your sales team is less likely to be chasing cold leads that will never develop into customers.
Use Your HubSpot Data to Help Sales Close Deals Faster
The information given and gathered through automated lead nurturing gives sales a running start when they do make contact with a lead, especially when you're using a marketing automation solution such as HubSpot that combines content management, automated nurturing and CRM.
Lead nurturing offers may have already provided the lead with many answers to their questions as they access bottom-of-the-funnel materials such as testimonials, product information sheets or interactive assessments.
57% of the decision process is made before B2B buyers engage with sales
67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally
80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information from a series of articles vs. an advertisement (Source).
Automated lead nurturing programs based on closed loop marketing also give your sales team a ready-to-review file with detailed information about the lead’s interaction on your website, including what offers they have accessed, to provide insight into the lead’s needs.
Not All That Glitters is Gold
All content marketing and digital marketing IS NOT inbound marketing. However, all inbound marketing IS content marketing and digital marketing.
Content marketing may glitter.
Digital marketing may glitter.
But, inbound marketing is gold.
Content marketing and digital marketing are both a part of inbound marketing, but they are really just the tip of the iceberg. If you are already creating a content strategy and using digital content, are you ready to see where implementing it into a full-blown inbound marketing approach could take you?
Get a peek into the results that could be around the corner in Your First Year of Inbound Marketing: What to Expect.