What is inbound marketing?


Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospect’s attention. 


  • Earns the attention of customers
  • Makes the company easy to be found and
  • Draws customers to your website with valuable and interesting content


  • Blogging
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Social Media Discussions (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • eBooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Case Studies
  • Instructional Videos (YouTube, Vimeo, and others)
  • Webinars
  • Infographics

You will notice that most examples are in electronic format.  That is no mistake considering that according to GE Capital Retail Bank’s second annual Major Purchase Shopper Study (2013), 81% of consumers go online before heading out to the store and they spend an average of 79 days researching options. Of those researching 80% start their search online.

Examples of outbound marketing

  • Print Advertising
  • Television, movie, and radio commercials
  • Telemarketing
  • Trade shows
  • Samples or coupons
  • Spam emails (emailing a list of purchased contacts)
  • Direct mail

Inbound marketing is customer focused.   It’s the opposite of traditional advertising where information is often shoved in your face and you have no choice but to see it.  Have you ever seen one of those late night commercials for Viagra or Cialis?  No offense to those that need or use those products, it’s just that you represent such a small percentage of the viewing audience.  However, advertising is similar in that it attempts to create material and message that is tailored to a target audience segment.  We call this a a buyer “persona”.

Here’s the definition of advertising from Merriam-Webster:

“the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements”

Surprisingly Merriam-Webster does not have a definition for “inbound marketing” yet.  That could be because it’s a relatively new term.  The term  was coined by HubSpot’s Brian Halligan, in 2005 and is synonymous with the concept of permission marketing, which is the title of a book by Seth Godin in 1999.

This type of marketing has more to do with a methodology to delivering the communication to prospects than it does about type of media or tools being used to deliver content.  In summary, Inbound marketing earns prospects time whereas outbound marketing buys their time.


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