Inbound marketing is typically defined as all marketing tactics, techniques and even channels that aim to "pull relevant prospects and customers towards a business and its products online". This focus on the pull makes techniques, such as direct mail, trade shows, or telemarketing fall under the category "outbound marketing".
It is really not a very scientific categorization since, in reality, inbound and outbound marketing is rather used to express an evolution whereby inbound techniques (such as blogging, social media marketing, etc.) are more embraced by marketers, among others because the cost-per-lead appears to be lower but most of all because potential customers use more inbound channels in the buying journey they increasingly control.
Inbound channels and techniques become more important
That inbound marketing is not a clearly defined reality but rather a simplifying model of an underlying complex reality can be easily understood when looking at a few simple realities:
- Businesses blog (inbound) and they tweet their posts, in other words, they "push" content and even promotions via social media, that are typical inbound phenomena.
- People voluntary come to trade shows: if they want to visit your booth, where is the push in that?
I can go on for a while and talk about email as well, but the message is clear. Taking into account the traditional definitions of inbound marketing, however, it is safe to say that prospects and customers indeed use inbound channels more often than before.
Although people really are channel agnostic, it has made us, marketers, focus more on inbound techniques and invest more in inbound marketing. As HubSpot's "The 2011 State of Inbound Marketing" showed earlier this year, 54% of surveyed business professionals are increasing their inbound marketing budgets. More neutral research confirms a growth of inbound spend as well.
The changing behavior of people is not the only reason for that: the lower cost of several inbound techniques, with blogs taking a predominant place, along with a lower cost per lead, certainly attracts more marketers. The latter is probably also one of the reasons why email marketing is still doing well, especially when taking into account the needs of recipients, and along with increasing possibilities to segment and personalize. Permission-based email, by the way, is defined as inbound by HubSpot.
Inbound after the initial pull: from anonymous visitors to personal and behavioral targeting and profiling
When it comes down to inbound marketing, experts and marketers typically focus on search engine marketing, social media marketing and blogging.
However, there are other techniques that you might want to take a look at. What people do when you have "pulled" them to your website, blog or other online destination matters more than how they got there. The criterions regarding your mix of attracting people in the end is quite simple: the techniques that offer the best cost to bring the most relevant prospects towards your business, are those you will focus on.
With techniques such as content marketing (white papers, for instance), click-to-call, click-to-chat, dynamic telephone number insertion, IVR, QR codes and many more, you can broaden your inbound marketing set of tactics. Many of those enable people - by inviting and thus pulling them - to get into touch with you in a more personal and data-focused way that enables you to connect inbound marketing visitor profiles with "real" profiles, while providing choice of interaction channels and still focusing on the "pull" dimension.
Moving from a simple connection, visit or a well measured semi-anonymous visitor profile towards a more personal profile and potential business relationship is ultimately your goal.
Measuring and understanding visitor profiles, proposing them behavior targeted content and inviting them with many of the above-mentioned techniques to trust you their personal data or give you the permission for a personal relationship is inbound marketing as well.
The hottest topic in marketing and communication is without any doubt social media marketing.
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