Inbound Marketing: Definition & Strategies

Discover the value of inbound marketing and learn how to create a complete inbound marketing plan with goals, timing, tactics, and measurable return on investment (ROI).

In this inbound marketing guide, you’ll learn:


What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is the process of helping potential customers find your company. This frequently happens before the customer is ready to purchase. But making contact early can turn into brand preference and, ultimately, leads and revenue.

The technique uses many forms of pull marketing to create brand awareness and attract new business. These include: 

Whereas outbound marketing seeks out customers, inbound marketing focuses on visibility, so potential buyers come to you. Instead of “renting attention,” companies focus on new methods geared towards: 

  • Building awareness
  • Developing relationships
  • Generating leads


Benefits of an inbound marketing strategy.

These methods make you attractive to customers because they don’t make people feel like they’re being sold to. The content provided by inbound marketing is educational, entertaining, and may be more welcomed by consumers.

When done correctly, inbound marketing can return dramatically better results than traditional marketing. That’s because these classic methods disrupt prospects, rather than inbound methods, that give people an open invitation to engage if they want.

When consumers find your company this way, it has a stronger influence on their future marketing decisions and their feelings toward your business in general. The best part? Inbound marketing consists of entirely organic leads, so it relies on brains rather than budget.

Inbound marketing has many key benefits. These include its ability to:

  • Put customers in the driver’s seat, connecting you with people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.
  • Work wonders for social media shares, brand awareness, and search engine optimization efforts.
  • Let customers engage with your brand at any time, so you can generate qualified leads for much less money than traditional marketing.

As the creation of data continues to increase, according to IBM, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily, information abundance and attention scarcity will only continue to climb.

The empowered buyer has all the information they need to make a buying decision at their fingertips any time, any place. Detail specs, pricing, and product/service reviews are right in their pocket, not to mention social media’s impact on information sharing. To be successful in this evolving landscape, visibility through inbound marketing is key.


"Inbound marketing is so powerful because you have the power to give the searcher/consumer exactly what answers they are looking for at the precise point that they need it. That builds trust, reputation, and authority in whatever niche you are practicing this form of marketing in.”

– Joshua Gill, Inbound and SEO Marketing Consultant, Inbound Authority


The inbound marketing methodology explained.

Like every good marketing concept or discipline, inbound marketing is underpinned by theory. Rather than starting your inbound marketing randomly, in an ad hoc fashion, you should use this theory to understand why you are doing it and what you hope to achieve.

The Inbound Methodology offers three approaches to consider:

1. Attract. Create and publish content regularly to engage potential customers and address their needs, problems and wants.

2. Engage. Establish good relationships with potential customers or clients by talking to them about their challenges and offering solutions.

3. Delight. Prioritize retention/advocacy customer journey stages with a focus on post-sales content and comms.

Understanding Inbound vs Outbound Marketing


Common problems inbound marketing can solve.

When it comes to implementing a long-term strategy, inbound marketing is an investment that will help you increase brand awareness, preference, and ultimately, revenue.




I need to increase my brand awareness.

Up to 93% of buying cycles start with an online search. If your company appears at the top of search results, or is active on a searcher’s social network, you can organically increase your brand awareness.

To do that, ensure you have the right content and messaging in place in order to maximize performance on search engines. This will help ensure your company is visible when potential customers are searching for products and services you offer.

I want to improve my brand preference.

By educating, entertaining, and interacting with potential customers before they consider making a purchase, you build trust and increase the likelihood they will choose you when they are ready to buy. Never underestimate the impact of becoming a familiar face.

To do this, create the type of content that you know your customer base will be interested in and push this out to the places you know they will see it.

I need to generate more leads but have less to invest.

Inbound marketing is a long-term investment that builds on itself over time. Your results will multiply many times over as you become more adept at creating and curating content that naturally attracts organic leads.

If you have a small budget that needs to stretch far to achieve your marketing campaign goals, careful planning is needed to ensure you spend your money wisely – and in the right areas.

I’m not sure I have the staff or budget to do inbound marketing.

Like many things, the more you put into inbound efforts, the more you’ll get out of it. But, if you have a good strategy in place that outlines key themes, content, and distribution, you can make sure to avoid wasted efforts.

It’s about working smart with the resources you have. Work out exactly what capacity your staff have to contribute to your campaign and select the inbound marketing strategies to run with from there.

Learn more about what you need to get your inbound marketing program started with our Inbound Marketing Cheat Sheet.

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ROI of a successful inbound marketing program.

Inbound marketing generally has less of an upfront cost than other marketing efforts, and it can have a seriously impressive ROI when used correctly.

Inbound marketing: 

  • Brings leads to you. Inbound marketing generates three times more leads per dollar than traditional methods (Content Marketing Institute.) 
  • Boosts web traffic. Businesses with content marketing strategies say web traffic is their top two measurements for campaign success (HubSpot).
  • Has a proven ROI. Small businesses report getting the best return on investment from email marketing, a type of inbound marketing (Campaign Monitor.)

Learn how you can use these techniques to go beyond the competition in our guide Transformational Inbound Marketing - Your Secret Weapon for Acquisition and Retention.

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How to plan, implement, and optimize your inbound marketing program.

Creating killer content is about brains and commitment rather than budget. You can’t throw money at content and make it effective. You have to put your head and heart into it. Get started in 5 simple steps.

Step 1: Define your business goals and buyer personas.

Identify your target audience and learn all you can about them. You can’t write content to inform your customers until you know your audience.

Step 2: Provide content at every stage.

Preemptively answer the questions your customers are likely to have at each stage of their buying journey. Determine your unique, compelling story.

Transformational inbound leverages valuable content to attract and retain customers throughout their entire lifecycle, not just before they are a customer, but after as well. 

Step 3: Choose your delivery platforms.

The more valuable the content you create for you audience, the more likely you are to win them as customers. Determine the best way to reach them, whether it’s through Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, your blog, or elsewhere.

Step 4: Create and execute your content calendar.

Create a schedule that will consistently turn out fresh and relevant content to continue to engage your audience. By keeping a constant stream of content that addresses your customers’ questions, issues, and pain points, you’ll maintain relevance and build your brand as a trusted thought leader.

Step 5: Analyze results and optimize your inbound marketing program.

Whether you decide to analyze SEO rankings, inbound links, or the number of articles published, these resources will provide valuable insight into how your campaigns are performing. Set aside time for weekly analysis to gauge the effectiveness of your inbound marketing efforts and areas for improvement. 

How to create a content marketing strategy


Inbound marketing strategies explained.

When it comes to your inbound marketing strategy, there are different options to consider. These generally tie into the Inbound Methodology discussed previously:

  • Attract
  • Engage
  • Delight

But which option is right for you?

Attract — all about content.

In digital marketing, content is everything. This strategy is all about using content smartly to develop relationships with customers and prospects. Crucially, the content must be user-centered, it must address people’s needs, problems and wants.

  • Create a content plan based on SEO keyword research and ensure the content you create is optimized for search, with correct metadata, H-tags, and People Also Ask questions.
  • Mix up different formats, such as informational articles that answer questions relevant to your brand, such as how to guides and explainers, with benefit-led product and category pages. 
  • Curate content published on your blog and use across social channels, email marketing and more. Follow a publishing schedule for uploading new content.

Engaging — selling the solutions.

Conversations are at the heart of engaging inbound strategies. Here, you foster relationships with potential customers by building relationships through giving them your attention. Calls coming into your business are a huge focus.

  • Inbound sales execs and customer service agents are given more freedom to build relationships with prospects and manage these leads by getting to know them and understanding their issues.
  • Crucially, these execs avoid any type of hard sell. Instead, they focus on empathizing with the potential customer’s problems while looking for opportunities to suggest potential solutions rather than pushing products onto them. 

Delighting — post-purchase satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction, long after they have completed their purchase, is the focus of delighting strategies. It’s all about continuing to build a relationship with a customer post-purchase and ensuring they can find the help they need.

The aim, naturally, is to convert them into brand advocates.

  • Develop a post-purchase customer journey which serves relevant content at key stages. For example, a tablet. In the days after, an unboxing video, two weeks after, apps to download, three weeks after, seasonal-focused content to get more from it. 
  • Gain insights from post-purchase surveys, offer responsive replies to social media queries, and ask for opinions on the types of content people would like to receive. Inspire future purchases with discount codes and other exclusive content. 
Learn more about how to get inbound marketing working for you in our Inbound Marketing Success Kit.


Frequently asked questions about inbound marketing.

What are examples of inbound marketing?

There are many examples of inbound marketing. You may prefer a content-focused approach, which publishes timely and relevant editorial and video in line with key customer interests.

Alternatively, you may opt for a lead nurturing approach, which is focused on building relationship through conversations. Finally, you could prioritize building relationships with customers, after they have purchased.

What is an inbound marketing definition?

Inbound marketing is all about making connections with potential customers, by creating content and experiences that answer their problems and questions – all while enhancing their experiences as a customer.

Strategic techniques such as user personas, SEO optimization and lead nurturing are central.

How do you do inbound marketing?

There are different techniques for inbound marketing. One of the first things to consider is understanding your audience and what they want from you as a brand.

Once you’ve established this through data and research, you can work out how to engage and build relationships with them through inbound marketing. This could be launching a blog, creating an email strategy or speaking to your customers via social.