Inbound: hype or here to stay?

Inbound marketing is, as the name suggests, marketing activity that focuses on drawing customers proactively in to an organisation, rather than reaching out through, say, adverts, emailers or classic cold calling.

As a marketing category, inbound is the driver behind numerous tools and processes that your business may have been trying to get behind over recent years. SEO and social media, blogging and creating white papers – all these are forms of inbound marketing. And they’re all about creating content. More specifically, compelling content that shows readers why they should get beyond your first sentence, internet wanderers why they should explore your offering in more detail, and ultimately, why browsers should, at some point, become buyers.

As a result, content creators, marketers and managers have become increasingly important members of the corporate workforce.

But how influential has inbound marketing really become? Just because we’re reading about it everywhere, does that mean it’s more than hype? Is inbound marketing here to stay?

The 2014-2015 State of Inbound Marketing Report by HubSpot found that ‘the percentage of marketers that cited inbound as their primary lead source was double that of outbound’.

And that ‘inbound-sourced leads are more knowledgeable prior to speaking with sales than outbound leads’.

And that ‘marketers that measure ROI are more than twelve times more likely to be generating greater year over year ROI (vs. lower ROI)’.

From this, the message seems pretty clear. Yes – inbound is an established, long-term marketing strand, with a real place in businesses of the future.

HubSpot’s claim that inbound-sourced leads are more knowledge (about the company’s products or services) before speaking with sales is particularly important. It underlines inbound marketing’s role in communicating vital information about an organisation’s offering. Such information helps ensure that inbound-sourced leads are not ‘warm’ merely in the sense of being ready to buy, but in the sense that they truly know and understand what the company in question can do for the them – and they are still enthusiastic about its offering.

Indeed, this sentence underlines a critical advantage that inbound holds over outbound – it is far more effective at filtering out the irrelevant and the disinterested. A regular blog reader wants to keep coming back to your website.

HubSpot, however, is a marketing automation Software-as-a-Service provider. In other words, it’s a major supplier and supporter of inbound marketing – in fact, it’s been suggested that it coined the term.

So what other sources can we turn to?

This blog provides a more measured perspective. One key argument it makes is that marketers don’t have to choose between inbound and outbound – and indeed, they shouldn’t. Both are hugely useful, and both (with the right application) can be hugely effective.

Another key argument is that inbound marketing usually takes longer to show results. If you’ve implemented an SEO or PPC strategy you’ll know this to be true. It takes time. It takes trial and error. But once you’ve got it right, once your website is rating highly on Google for search terms that you know your business can solve – well, then inbound marketing’s promise of bringing interested and relevant parties directly to your services can be seen in action.

So, to answer our original question – inbound marketing is far more than hype. It is certainly here to stay – it is part of an increasing move to personalisation and customer-centric activity. But it should never be considered either a quick fix or a replacement for more traditional outbound marketing. Rather, like so many other facets of your business, your marketing department must be multi-faceted and flexible.

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Sara Brian
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