Inbound Marketing and How to Get Started
There was a time when marketing pitches were preceded by three succinct raps on the door. Then the reassuring salesman became a charismatic and frightfully persistent phone voice – and later a clickbait header on an email. The pace of marketing trends means there’s always new opportunities to jump on, and ample space to stumble.
But inbound marketing (a concept coined by marketing guru HubSpot) isn’t just the next step in marketing; it’s an evolutionary shift, almost a total reimaging of what marketing can be.
Inbound marketing is marketing with a devilish twist; it’s inverse – the marketer no longer ventures out to find prospects, but generates numerous hooks, awareness and pulls to draw customers in. Instead of a salesman coming to the door, it’s the salesman driving past your house in a respectable car with little more than a greeting scrawled across its side and an offer of free goodies. You’re interested – and there’s something to gain.
Inbound marketing is regularly confused with content marketing. It’s easy to understand why – they both fulfil a primary objective of creating a whirlpool of interest through engaging content. Neither sells directly (hence inbound not outbound) but turns prospects into interested parties by cultivating a credible market voice, with authority as a valued resource. Inbound marketing is any activity that draws prospects in and engages them in a sales funnel, including email, SEO, social media, videos, podcast, infographics, blogs, or webinars.
Content marketing is, however, the most popular (and successful) form of inbound marketing, and the form upon which the concept is precipitated. Just look at these numbers: 68% of people spend time reading about brands that interest them, and 80% appreciate learning about a company through custom content. 
The written word can be used to imbue personality to brand, and tantalise readers. Effective content marketing is the crux of an effective inbound strategy – as it’s the point in which a company’s personality is developed and succoured. Prospects engage with personalities and appreciate brand presence. It means they’re able to ‘know’ a company as they would their local shop – it’s intimate.
Inbound marketing reimagines the relationship between company and customer. When our attention is pleaded for, we’re loathe to provide it – especially if hundreds of companies are doing so at the same time. Inbound marketing isn’t overt or officious in its approach. It enables companies to be found – exposing them, but without insisting upon their presence.
An inbound plan requires significant capital investment. But it continues to pay dividend long after its delivery, and considerably more so than the alternatives. It means you’re investing into a brand and personality – assets with far longer shelf lives than spitfire marketing campaigns. Inbound marketing campaigns take months and in the first days – when the demands on content creation are enormous – perseverance to build a database of useful information.
But it’s worth considering content marketing as the foundation to a long-life inbound marketing strategy. Additional content and campaigns can be built around it – but the company’s kernel identity will be the content it creates. And it’s these voices that make or break the consumer relationship. People are prepared to trust companies – to see them as more than profit machines. Inbound marketing through content creation is the start of that.