What is Inbound Marketing? And how does it work?

Inbound marketing

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Attract as many potential customers as possible without seeming too insistent. Turn your blog and social media pages into qualified lead magnets. Find the ULTIMATE bait to attract accounts with high sales potential without wasting your cartridges on cold emailing and telemarketing. That’s all you risk by deploying a (real) Inbound Marketing strategy!

Don’t know where to start? No need to panic. The Twilead editorial team has put together a step-by-step guide to getting started from scratch. Let’s go !

The brief history of Inbound Marketing

It was only in 2005 that the concept of Inbound Marketing was really formalized by a certain Brian Halligan, co-founder and CEO of HubSpot. The idea remained relatively confidential until the early 2010s. As the web has become part of the buying habits of consumers (B2C) and buyers (B2B), Inbound Marketing has naturally imposed itself in marketing departments as a major vector of value creation over time.

Overall, Inbound Marketing is a direct response to the saturation of traditional media and the negative reactions of consumers to mass advertising and buyers to direct, old-fashioned prospecting. For Brian Halligan, it was a matter of imagining a new way of doing marketing, by pushing potential customers to the company rather than the other way around. For marketers, it’s all about launching “bait” to attract more or less qualified leads, especially with useful content that allows everyone to move forward in solving their problem or satisfying their need.

Over the years, MarTech(marketing technology) has appropriated the concept to produce solutions and tools specifically designed to execute Inbound Marketing. Logically, HubSpot has played a decisive role in this dynamic.

What exactly is Inbound Marketing?

Like the “lead” and the “prospectthe ” funnel “or the ” flywheel “Inbound Marketing” is one of those concepts that are widely used in the business world but whose definition fluctuates under the weight of imprecision, approximation and ambiguity.

Before being a strategy, Inbound Marketing is above all a paradigm, a philosophy. In short, it is a matter of reversing the magnetic field, so that the customer comes to the company of his own accord, rather than pestering him with offensive and intrusive campaigns.

Concretely, Inbound Marketing consists of creating high value-added content on topics that interest the identified target, to attract potential customers to the company without actively seeking them out. To do this, the marketer mobilizes a set of techniques and resources, including:

  • Content marketing, to produce USEFUL content;
  • The natural referencing (SEO), so that these useful contents are visible on the search engines on determined requests;
  • Marketing automation, to create relevant workflows and automate all tasks that can be automated (emailing, landing page creation, etc.);
  • Community Management, to make visible and “surf” the contents on the social networks frequented by the company’s target;
  • Data analysis, in particular by analyzing the engagement KPIs on the content created and identifying good practices in order to generalize them (themes, tone, format, etc.).

To dare a dubious analogy, Inbound Marketing is a form of fly fishing. The company uses “bait”, i.e. content that is useful and sought after by the target, to attract customers rather than harpooning them with aggressive commercial messages as would be done with Outbound Marketing. The objective here is to create a pleasant experience for the website visitor, to then gradually convert him into an effective customer, then into an ambassador customer with lead nurturing techniques and then loyalty logics.

Concrete example: what is Inbound Marketing, and what it is not

Let’s take the example of a company that publishes customer relationship management (CRM) software for small and medium-sized businesses.

In an inbound scenario, the company will create a blog on its website where it will publish, on a regular basis, quality articles, written by qualified copywriters, on themes that are popular with its audience:

  • Buying guide: 10 key criteria for choosing the best CRM for your business ;
  • 7 FATAL mistakes that prevent you from retaining your customers ;
  • Case study: How ABC Company boosted its profitability with our CRM;
  • 5 data from your CRM to deconstruct to put your performance in orbit.

This content is massively promoted on social networks and via regular emailings. They are also subject to natural referencing optimization to make them visible on search engines for Internet users who enter certain queries. To capture the contact data of leads, the company makes access to certain high value-added resources conditional on the completion of a form. This will include white papers, ebooks, webinars and other
Lead Magnets
. Finally, it uses marketing automation tools to convert leads into customers and, more broadly, to automate tasks that can be automated to make its strategy more profitable and efficient.

Here is a summary table that compares, in this specific example, the Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing approaches:

Inbound Marketing

Outbound Marketing

Creation of high value-added content optimized for search engines.

Purchase of advertising space on traditional media (television, radio, billboards, etc.).

Use of social networks to promote content, engage the audience and redirect traffic to the website.

Sending unsolicited commercial mail + intrusive phone calls.

Implementation of a white paper download system in exchange for contact data.

Purchase of contact lists to send advertising campaigns.

Use of marketing automation to convert leads into customers.

Passive approach to converting leads into customers.

Is Inbound Marketing compatible with all industries?

Not all industries are equal when it comes to Inbound Marketing. B2B companies are generally more successful with this strategy, as their customers are professionals who seek detailed information about products and services before making a purchase decision. Also, the products and services marketed in B2B are :

  • More complex, which requires pedagogical work and documentation, with a great opportunity to create engaging content;
  • More expensive, which requires B2B buyers to do research and documentation to secure the purchase.

Professional services firms such as law firms, management consulting firms and investment advisory firms can also use inbound marketing to build their online reputation, present themselves as references in their industry and attract qualified clients.

In B2C, customers are generally more impulsive (impulse buying) and less likely to seek detailed information before making a purchase decision. However, B2C companies can rely on Inbound Marketing to create a community of loyal customers and especially to work on their top of mind*.

On the other hand, some business models are more compatible with Inbound Marketing than others. For example, companies whose business is based on subscription or “ongoing” services, such as SaaS, lend themselves perfectly to the Inbound paradigm. In B2C, high average ticket sectors such as real estate, automotive and travel are also in line with Inbound Marketing.

Top of mind
A company is said to be “top of mind” when it is cited first by consumers who were asked to mention brands in a given sector of activity. “Coca Cola” is a top of mind in the soft drink business, “Sage” is a top of mind in the ERP business, etc.

Steps to deploying an Inbound Marketing strategy from scratch

#1 Develop an in-depth knowledge of the target

Let’s go back to our fishing analogy : when you fish with a fly, you have to offer a bait that will attract fish. And to use the right bait, to cast your hook at the right depth and in the best ” spot “, you must know a minimum what you want to fish. In the same way, the company must know its target audience in order to create content and lead magnets that are likely to attract them and then distribute them on the right channels, i.e. those that the target audience regularly uses.

To do this, you can start by drawing up a profile of your ideal customer: what is his age, his sex, his profession, his interests, his aspirations, his problems, his pain points, his ambitions, his web browsing behavior, etc. Use your knowledge of your market, but not only :

  • Third-party study data ;
  • Data collected from your surveys ;
  • Data collected on social networks (what type of content generates the best engagement rate, for example) ;
  • Benchmarking and competitive analysis.

You can also rely on first-hand data, i.e. information collected from your current customers. This approach is interesting, as long as you have reliable and extensive information. In addition to demographic, firmographic and behavioral data, you can complete the profile with information on purchase frequency, average ticket, purchase cycle time, budget, etc. Analyzing existing customers is especially valuable if you have quality customers and want to attract accounts of the same caliber.

Once you have collected all this data (third party and first hand), you can create your buyer personas. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide for this crucial step that will help you develop a deep understanding of your target audience to fuel your content creation teams.

#2 Set SMART goals

Before using customer insight data to produce high-value content, you’ll first need to define SMART goals to focus your efforts and measure the success of your approach as you go.

As a reminder, the acronym SMART describes goals :

  • S e specific : your objectives must be clear and precise. They should not be confusing, and stakeholders should be able to understand them at first glance, especially when consulting the marketing action plan or the document that summarizes the company’s marketing strategy ;
  • M esurables : the defined objectives must be broken down into KPIs that can be measured realistically and with sufficient precision to evaluate the achievement of the objective ;
  • A mbitious : the objectives defined must be sufficiently ambitious to justify the means committed. In some conceptions of SMART goals, there is the qualifier ” Attainable ” for the letter ” A “… but we feel that this is a redundancy with the following…
  • R  : while goals should be ambitious, they should not be unrealistic or unreasonable ;
  • T emporementally defined : each objective must be associated with a precise deadline, with for example a progressive schedule.

Case in point: a car rental service company wants to increase online car reservations by 20% by the end of the year. To achieve this goal, it could define the following SMART objectives:

  • Increase website traffic by 10% by the end of the year by using paid search campaigns and improving the content of its website ;
  • Increase the conversion rate of visitors to leads by 15% by using contact forms and special offers on ;
  • Increase lead-to-customer conversion rate by 10% using follow-up emails and exclusive offers for hot leads.

The SMART method will not necessarily help you to ” identify ” your goals. Instead, it will allow you to verify that the objectives defined are valid and correctly formulated. If you have not yet defined your marketing and sales objectives, you will need to rely on the following :

  • Historical data on your company’s performance: previous years’ sales, profits, market share, growth rates, etc. ;
  • Economic conditions: general economic trends, interest rate fluctuations, employment trends, commodity prices if you are in industry, etc. ;
  • The investments made to boost your overall performance (recruitments in particular) ;
  • Competitor performance and benchmarks in your market ;
  • Management’s ambitions ;
  • Available resources: financial resources, human resources, technical capacities, etc.

#3 Content creation itself

This step would probably merit a dedicated practical guide. In short, you will use all the data collected on your Buyer Persona to create content that will attract your target (bait) and encourage them to exchange their contact information for white papers, ebooks, a webinar or a newsletter.

Even if the customer knowledge stage has been done properly, there is bound to be a trial and error phase before you have a clear understanding of your audience’s behavior. It is imperative to measure, in near real time, all engagement KPIs to identify the themes, formats and channels that generate the best results. Traffic analysis tools such as Google Analytics will be of great help.

Without giving you the WHOLE procedure to follow, here are some pro tips for successful Inbound content creation :

  • Don’t make your blog the umpteenth compilation of generic articles that are 99% rewritten from existing content. Be creative and find elements of differentiation, such as
  • … first-hand data ! To make your content truly exclusive, don’t hesitate to produce unpublished data. Example : Are you planning an article on Flywheel Marketing in two weeks? Take a short survey on LinkedIn or Twitter to ask your audience if they know about the concept. The results of the survey will make a nice introduction ! You can also conduct a small informal survey among your colleagues and use the results to illustrate your point. HubSpot is particularly fond of this approach ;
  • B2B blogs tend to use a formatted, cold, institutional speech… boring. Make sure you avoid empty phrases. Your audience expects punchlines, ultra-practical advice and position statements. For this purpose, do not hesitate to propose formats such as ” chronicle ” or ” editorial ” in addition to the practical guides and other classic formats ;
  • Attention : AI is now capable of producing generic and/or educational articles of surprising quality. You are expected to add value to the ” human “, for example with feedback, feelings, intuition, expertise, etc. ;
  • Use tools such as Google Trends, SEMRush, Ahrefs or Answer The Public to identify topics and themes of interest to your target ;
  • Identify 5 to 10 central and strategic themes for your target. Produce a complete content for each theme : definition, interest, stakes, key figures with illustration graphs, glossary, explanatory videos, advantages, disadvantages, etc. These strategic pages will be fed over time, each time you identify an area for further study or a relevant update. Objective : create the most complete content on the theme to attract qualified traffic ;
  • Finally, don’t forget to do some content recycling. A good white paper will give you 5 to 10 blog posts and countless social media posts ! Content recycling allows you to boost your visibility while reducing the cost of content marketing.

#4 Take care of your contact forms

Contact forms play a major role in the Inbound Marketing strategy, as they allow you to collect the contact information of your leads to launch a lead nurturing campaign. Here are some practical tips on how to care for them :

  • Don’t be greedy on the form fields. The longer the form, the less it will be used. For example, do you really need to know how the lead heard about your company ? Just provide useful information such as name, surname and email ;
  • Use a reCAPTCHA rather than a vintage captcha to avoid discouraging visitors from filling out the form ;
  • Make sure that the lead receives a confirmation as soon as the form is submitted. This can be a confirmation email and/or a thank you page on your website ;
  • According to Google, the auto-complete feature allows the lead to complete the form 30% faster. Don’t miss out ;
  • If it is a form associated with account creation, allow the user to sign up with Facebook or Google.

#5 Automate lead nurturing

Lead nurturing consists of nurturing the relationship with the generated leads to move them through the funnel. By keeping them interested in your offer, you move them forward until they convert, in an ideal scenario. In particular, you can :

  • Send them emails that add value, inspired by the content on your blog and with a minimum of personalization based on the lead’s interests ;
  • Offer them exclusive content, for example webinars (participation or replay) ;
  • Provide them with exclusive offers, such as promotions or previews ;
  • Invite them to a physical event organized by the company.

Lead nurturing in the broadest sense (including segmentation) is the part of the inbound process that lends itself most to automation. Twilead has all the features you need to shine at this level. At : advanced automation campaigns and more than 40 predefined actions and templates to drive your leads to conversion.

#6 Measuring the performance of the Inbound Marketing strategy

This is the step that will give you the keys to judge if your Inbound Marketing strategy has reached the objectives set beforehand. Track classic KPIs such as the number of visitors on the blog, the bounce rate, the engagement rate on social networks, the number of subscribers… but focus on the so-called “KPIs”. business This is why it is important to have a clear understanding of the “conversion rate”, the number of leads generated, the cost per lead, the number of sales resulting from the inbound strategy, etc. It is essential to monitor these KPIs ” in real time ” to adopt corrective measures as they are needed.