Inbound Marketing or to some folks just “inbound”  is a term that has been getting thrown around like crazy over the last few years in the internet marketing industry.

This is a term that crept up on most of us without anyone telling us exactly what it means. For some of us, it is just a term that we use interchangeably with other terms such as “SEO” and “content marketing.”

We’ve learned a lot about inbound marketing in the past few years. There have been tons of discussions about what disciplines fit into inbound marketing and an entire industry created around the term itself.

Outbound marketing is pretty cut and dry: TV commercials, cold-calling, flyers, billboards all make up outbound marketing. The term (and now industry) of inbound marketing seems to still cause confusion amongst some people.

Defining Inbound Marketing

Before we figure out exactly what inbound marketing consists of, let’s define it first. Here are the most popular definitions of inbound marketing that I could find.


Inbound marketing is promoting a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, enewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing which serve to bring customers in closer to the brand, where they want to be.

Rand Fishkin

“…it’s about getting traffic from search engines, from content (blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, white papers and webinars) and from social media (Twitter, Facebook, the Blogosphere, forums and social news sites).”

In 2008 Rick Burnes of Hubspot stated simply:

“Inbound Marketing is marketing focused on getting found by customers…Instead of driving their message into a crowd over and over again like a sledgehammer, they attract highly qualified customers to their business like a magnet.”

My personal definition

“Inbound marketing is a culmination of a number of different strategies & disciplines in an effort to attract new customers and brand your business. Inbound marketing occurs when the customer is actively seeking a service, content, or product and finds your company.”

So What Exactly Does Inbound Marketing Consist of?

Don’t take this post as a literal definition of what inbound marketing is. The goal of this next segment is to elaborate on what disciplines, industries, and even tactics make up inbound marketing as a whole.

For anyone just learning about inbound marketing, inbound marketing consists of:

Search Engine Optimization

search engine optimizationAs long as their are search engines, there will be SEO. SEO is still one of the best ways for a company to get found on the internet. Any company that ignores this fact is ignoring a huge piece of the market.

SEO is a crucial part of inbound marketing for many companies. For some customers searching for a keyword and clicking on a result is the first experience they have with a company.

Blogging & Content Curation

blogging inbound marketingBlogging is an excellent way to connect with an audience and is gaining in popularity with each passing month. For a lot of inbound marketers blogging started out as a way to fuel their SEO efforts. In the past few years we have seen blogging take center stage in the inbound marketing industry. A company blog is a great way to put a face to your company and connect with your customers and potential customers.

A company blog can be the canvas for the content curated by that company. Every piece of content produced and shared by a company fits into inbound marketing. Examples of some of this content includes: charts, diagrams, podcasts, tools, videos and presentations.

CMS Development and Optimization

inbound marketing iconCMS’s such a WordPress and Concrete5  can do so much more than provide a blogging platform for a single user. A properly optimized CMS plays an integral part in inbound marketing. A CMS can drive inbound marketing in many different ways:

  • provide a blogging platform and comment system for your customer base and employees
  • serve customized landing pages for specific campaigns which might include call to action’s and user forms
  • personalize your brands message for different customers
  • integrate with other marketing channels such as social media and email marketing
  • assist with reporting and analytics
  • much, much more

Conversion Rate Optimization

conversion rate optimizationCRO is a huge part of inbound marketing. Essentially, conversion rate optimization is the art of making whatever it is you are doing better so that you get more conversions. This could be an ad, a landing page, a social media snippet, or a meta description. Anytime you tweak your UX / UI for the purpose of getting more conversions you are inbound marketing.

CRO has evolved into an entire industry in and of itself. There are dozens of products, services and frameworks that have been devloped within the past few years which have revolutionized the conversion rate optimization industry including and many others.

Optimizing a website for conversions is an art. There are so many factors that play into this category including design, speed, copy, and more.

Social Media

social mediaAnother aspect of inbound marketing is interacting on the social networks where your potential customers reside & engaging with them.  Social media fits into inbound marketing in so many different ways:

  • by attracting customers initially
  • following up with current customers or even responding to certain customer support issues
  • remarketing customers that might have visited your site at some point
  • notifying customers of new services and opportunities

Email Marketing

email marketing inboundSure, cold emailing a list is part of inbound marketing but there is so much more to email marketing than just that. Email marketing has matured so much even in the last 2 years. With the latest technology in shopping cart abandonment, responsive & mobile email campaigns, and re-engaging with customers via email & newsletters email marketing can be an extremely powerful tool in your inbound marketing campaign.

Customer Relationship Management

crm marketingModern day CRMs and sCRM’s (social customer relationship management) tools can play a huge part in inbound marketing. The CRM’s in today’s business world are much different than the ones used a decade ago which merely kept track of client information. Today’s CRM can not only help you optimize your sales funnel, but can play an active role in your social media campaigns, linkbuilding outreach, and email marketing campaigns.


Example 1 – Molly G needs a new blender. She really isn’t actively looking for one but really needs one. She is reading a blog about weight loss one day and notices a link to an eCommerce site selling the blender. She clicks on the link and buys the blender via the eCommerce platform. Molly is automatically added to the company’s CRM program. A customer profile is generated and she receives offers in her email for related items.

Example 2 – Paul C purchased a pair of shoes that he found on a website via Google search. When he receives them he notices a defect in the shoes. He reaches out via Twitter and the company offers him a refund or replacement. The company also offers him 10% off his next purchase which he later redeems. Paul now regularly sees offers for this company on his social networks.

I hope this post helped some of you better understand what makes up inbound marketing. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out via email, Google+ or Twitter. Thanks!