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B2B marketing 101: What is inbound marketing?

Posted by Chris Hubbard on Apr 7, 2013 12:10:00 PM

Inbound marketing isn’t a complex concept. You can find a lot of slightly different definitions, but at its essence, inbound marketing is simply about getting potential customers to like you.

And what’s a sure-fire way to get people to like you? That’s easy. You make them better off each time they deal with you.

That’s what inbound marketing does—with quality content being the benefit you give.

There are numerous ways you can provide this content—blogs, opt-in email newsletters, webinars, downloadable resources, SEO, social media, etc. The content you offer using these methods will drive potential customers to your website, dramatically increasing qualified leads and helping to create ongoing relationships with them.

Successfully implemented, inbound marketing will get leads to view you as intelligent, informed, trustworthy, and helpful. In other words, they’ll like you—and even in B2B, people tend to buy from companies and people they like.

What makes inbound marketing different from outbound marketing? Outbound marketing (e.g., traditional advertising, direct mail, email blasts) initiates the contact with the customer, while inbound marketing encourages customers to reach out to you.

Outbound marketing still has a vital role in any marketing effort. Inbound and outbound marketing don’t compete against each other—they complement each other. What’s changed is that outbound marketing can no longer stand on its own. You need both.

Why Is This Important?

Inbound marketing is an inevitable reaction to how technology has irrevocably changed the way businesses and people shop and buy.

Outbound marketing just doesn’t work as well as it used to. Potential customers aren’t as captive as they once were—they can tune you out. Outbound marketing is the stuff that you fast forward on your DVR, the pop-ups that piss you off as you close them, the junk mail you toss in the trash.

And people are no longer reliant on sellers for information. The Web took care of that. Today’s buyers can get most of their questions answered without ever having to make contact with sales. They don’t want a hard sell, they’re suspicious of what sales tells them, and they want no part of it until they’re almost ready to buy.

The reality is that sales can’t engage potential customers, or even qualified leads, as early as it once did.

What Can You Do?

Should you just forget about reaching potential customers and hope they pick you when they’re ready to buy? Of course not. You still want to influence potential customers at every step along their buying process—and that’s why inbound marketing has become so critical.

By providing valuable content that makes it worthwhile for potential customers to develop a relationship with you before they’re sales-ready, inbound marketing enables you to continue communicating with them early in their buy cycle—always nudging them toward sales, but never pushing. And it gets them to like you, so that when they do buy, you’re in a great position to get their business.

The Bottom Line

Technology-driven change in buyer behavior has made inbound marketing an indispensable part of modern-day marketing, allowing you to continue influencing potential customers at all stages of their buying process.


Topics: b2b, strategy, inbound marketing