Why Inbound Marketing is the Future of Marketing.
Where It All Began
‘Inbound marketing’, a term coined by HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan, has had a profound impact on marketers’ view of digital marketing, quickly becoming the dominant methodology for attracting new customers and propagating the growth of brands online. In its origins and outlook, inbound marketing is synonymous with ‘permission marketing’, a buzzword coined by marketing guru Seth Godin. Specifically, both permission and inbound marketing espouse a radically different approach to marketing that depends on ‘pull’ rather than ‘push’. That is: instead of forcibly feeding customers a marketing message, customers are lured in with quality content and conversations. The end result is a more defined brand identity, drastically reduced marketing costs and stronger customer loyalty.
Push vs Pull
To fully understand inbound marketing, we must turn all conventional marketing knowledge on its head. Traditional above-the-line activity such as the ubiquitous 30-second ad spot and print ads constitute ‘push’ marketing, where customers are force-fed advertising which often intrudes on their experience (as anyone who has switched channels during annoying TV ads would know).
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is ‘pull’ marketing. Here, customers are seduced by free, useful information, knowledge or entertainment, and are being engaged in conversation. The aim is to establish the brand as the authority in a particular field, which eventually helps to attract customers (who are naturally drawn to category experts).
Inbound marketing is particularly relevant in meeting online marketing needs, as content is both easy to produce and consume on the Internet. In addition, brands and marketers can directly engage and converse with their customers through social media. Through blogs (leveraged with effective SEO), free e-books, whitepapers and social media accounts, brands can establish themselves as experts in their field and ‘pull’ customers in. The costs associated with inbound marketing are low compared to above-the-line activity, and conversion rates are much higher because customers are naturally pulled into the buying process (and hence experience less friction). It’s a win-win for both customers and brands: the former get free knowledge, the latter get more buyers at a lower cost. It can be said that inbound marketing helps to build better brands, and indeed, better customers.
Case Study: Mint.com
Inbound marketing is being employed to rousing success by an increasing number of brands. One famous example is that of online financial planning brand, Mint.com, which successfully leveraged blogging, infographics and e-books to drive visitors to its website and sign up for a free account. So successful was this strategy that Mint.com was able to go from 0 to 1.5M users in three years and a $170M exit to Intuit without spending a dime on traditional advertising – results that most markets would be envious of.
Case Study: AdMob
Mobile advertising network AdMob is another inbound marketing success. Once the largest mobile advertising network before Google acquired it in 2009 for $750M, AdMob marketed itself solely through its whitepapers and research data on the state of the mobile ad industry. These impressively researched whitepapers were hotly anticipated by bloggers and journalists alike, so much so that they helped to establish AdMob as the leading authority in the mobile ad space. Thus, through the sheer power of word-of-mouth and ‘pull’ marketing, AdMob was able to build a multi-million dollar business.
The Bottom Line
Inbound marketing is set to account for an increasing share of marketing dollars in the near future. In the words of digital entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, ‘Software will eat the world’, and as the world continues its online migration, marketers will increasingly turn to inbound marketing to establish their authority and stand apart from the noise of ye olde interruptive marketing.