What is Inbound Marketing Strategy? - Examples & Definition

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

If you've ever opted-in to a brand's newsletter or social media account, you've said 'yes' to their inbound marketing. In this lesson, we'll define what that is, take a deeper look, and examine a few brand examples.

Drawing People In

If you're a marketer struggling to engage with your audience, maybe you need a shift in perspective. Consider this example from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital:

Renowned for its groundbreaking research and treatment at no cost to families, St. Jude has structured its marketing efforts around methods that are designed to draw people in. The hospital's Facebook page features an easy-access ''Donate'' button, and they share heartwarming stories of children who have been patients at the hospital and their families. Their strategy is to connect their mission and message to their audience in a meaningful way.

What St. Jude understands about marketing is that creating content that is useful. An informative and thoughtful message is more likely to draw an audience to them, more so than aggressive methods such as cold-calling people, direct selling, or sending materials to someone's house.

This new and developing attitude toward engaging with people and building relationships is called inbound marketing.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is outbound marketing's kinder, gentler younger brother. It's a way of getting your message out without being obtrusive or annoying. Where outbound marketing relies on pushing your message onto the general public, inbound marketing focuses on developing and sharing content that piques people's interest and makes them want to engage with you. Another big difference between the two is that outbound marketing relies more on traditional media platforms like television and print, while inbound marketing uses media like social networking, email, and blogging to link up with an audience.

Think about it like this, if St. Jude shares a heartwarming video on its social media channel, you're likely to be more engaged with it than an advertisement on the page of your favorite news website. It's less ''sales-y'' and more personal, which creates more interest and better engagement.

Where are you likely to see inbound marketing in action? Here are a few hotspots:

  • eBooks
  • Blogs
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
  • Websites
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Email newsletters

As you can see from these examples, inbound marketing typically requires some type of permission or participation from the audience: you must subscribe to an email newsletter or ''like'' a page on social media, for example. This means you already have some type of interest in the brand and want to hear what they have to say. Now, it's the brand's job to deliver valuable content.

Developing an Inbound Strategy

Inbound marketing doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, there's a fairly simple framework for making inbound your own. Here are some things to consider:

1. You want to attract the right audience. It's about quality over quantity here. Not everyone is the best candidate for your product or service. For example, if you have a babysitting service in your town, you want to find an audience among parents of young children. Attracting the right audience means understanding what they're looking for, what they need, and how to deliver it.

2. You want to convert that audience to your desired result. Maybe you're trying to get a newsletter sign-up or a free download. Whatever it is, you want your audience to choose to engage with you and give you what you want--their contact info.

3. You want to close the deal. After finding the right people and getting them to part with their email address or seeing them opt-in to your blog subscription or social media channel, it's time to get them from lead to sale.

4. You want to delight them forever. Just because they've opted-in or made a purchase from you, doesn't mean your job is over. You need to continue to deliver. Implementing surveys or doing a little listening on your social media channel can help you figure out what they want from you.

More Examples of Great Inbound Marketing

Here are a few more brands you're probably acquainted with that are getting inbound marketing right.

L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean succeeds at inbound marketing because they understand that brands don't need to continually post pictures or links to their products to generate interest. The marketing team for this brand, instead, focuses on activities beloved by its outdoorsy audience, including skiing, fishing, and hiking.

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