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How has Inbound Marketing Changed over the years?

How has Inbound Marketing Changed over the years?

The famous Greek philosopher Heraclitus once blazoned, “Change is the only constant.” This simple phrase has become gospel to humanity and organizations in multiple sectors,  who have evolved consistently during the digital era.  

These “changes” have brought about revolution after revolution to various spheres of humanity - Technology, Healthcare, and even activities such as Fishing and Farming. So,  it is but natural to see businesses themselves bring about an evolution in their functioning such as viz. business processes, task management protocols, and communication, to name a few. 

One vertical to face extensive change is marketing and sales. Gone are the days of physical outreach. The modern era dictates that engagement and customer-centricity should be key pillars around which businesses must build sustainable operating models. This shift in ideology has given birth to inbound marketing. 

According to Hubspot, 55% of marketers say that Inbound Marketing is their primary strategy on the digital front. Furthermore,  45% of surveyed marketing professionals in the US say that Account Based Marketing (ABM) has gained critical relevance in recent times as personalization increases, according to SmartInsights.  

However, a major bane for companies is that as many as 45% of the companies don’t have a coherent digital marketing strategy, especially on the inbound marketing front. According to Weidert, 76% of all companies in North America use inbound marketing strategies. However, it’s a major problem if your company doesn’t know the benefits of the marketing model.  

This blog on Inbound marketing dives into the world of the latest marketing phenomenon described above - its characteristics, and evolution. It aims to help you understand the positive impact it has on businesses and why you should consider inbound marketing strategies. 

Introduction to Inbound Marketing

Despite the concept of inbound marketing being propagated throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries, it was only coined so in the 21st century. Marketing platform Hubspot co-founder Brian Halligan first coined the term in 2005, when he opined that a more customer inclusive method was slowly replacing the aggressive tactics followed by the organization to generate leads. 

To this effect, defining inbound marketing is easy. It focuses on letting customers find your business, interact with your product, services, and offerings. An organization then extends an invite to these prospects to be clients after they have shown the desire and interest of your bouquet. Simple enough? No? 

Well, on a broader scale, the technique is used to “attract, delight, and engage” consumers to create a lasting relationship with them, according to Hubspot. The method is a collective effort of multiple “pull” marketing techniques - which include content marketing, social media marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), to name a few - to promote the brand without engulfing the users with tiring promotional campaigns.

It is important to remember that inbound marketing is a strategy built to engage with the customer and form lasting relationships with them through marketing tactics under the umbrella mentioned above. Blogs, webinars, e-books, social media campaigns, viral marketing collateral, etc., are examples of methods to attract customers to convert and retain them. 

What is the Need for Inbound Marketing?  

One study revealed that there are nearly to 5.8 billion searches conducted per day. Even the total amount of data produced per day by the entire human population is expected to exceed 2.5 quintillion bytes in 2020, according to a Social Media Today report. Phew! There is enormous scope to magnify this opportunity. 

The above data suggests that there is plenty of reason to build a competent inbound marketing strategy.  Capturing customers’ attention to draw them toward business offerings through ‘organic’ or owned channels must be the primary focus of such efforts. This particular aspect is where SEO and Social media campaigns bring in brownie points.  

The idea is to be present as a plausible solution to the customers’ query at their point of search. This method promotes exceptional quality traffic, onto a company’s website or platform. This process will further the reach of the business, help convert prospective buyers, and build the brand through a unique identity with the user.    

Well executed inbound techniques result in more customers gravitating toward the business irrespective of the buying stages in which they find themselves.  Content must be accessible and resonate well with the prospects. The inbound strategies are non-pervasive, which means we let users choose rather than forcing a choice on them - a cherished hallmark of many users in the digital era. 

What is the purpose of Inbound Marketing? 

The technique helps customers experience the brand first hand and allows them to buy into the messaging - with their consent. Inbound strategies emphasize the need to customize these vital interactions to serve as many customers as possible. 

With buyers looking increasingly for products and service offerings customized to their needs, it becomes significant for businesses to hone in communications and marketing efforts to a 1:1 level to ensure EVERY customer resonated with the brand. 

Inbound marketing strategies, provided they’re well designed, should be able to draw in consumers who’ve never interacted with your brands and convert them into buyers, or patrons, or loyalists.   

Inbound marketing (Then)

The concept of inbound marketing first made an appearance in the 19th century. Tiffany’s & co. published their ‘Blue Book’ to help shoppers glean information on products. It served as a modern-day catalog, only it was presented to the user, at the stores, with beautifully published information. 

Over the next two decades, inventor Cyrus Hall McCormick and Businessmen Richard W. Sears and Alvah Roebuck added to the list with their inbound marketing techniques.  The former used information to educate and interact with customers, to pique interest in his farming innovation. 

The latter duo created a catalog of information for customers to browse through and order their products quickly.  

This method was so effective, and it helped capture user information effortlessly, creating an effective sales funnel for the organization, which grew the catalog from 80 to 300 pages in the blink of an eye. 

These new methods were messengers for the inbound marketing techniques of the mid-20th century. These versions implemented in the 1800s had just one mission - to educate customers about the product to generate interest.

The level of engagement in the inbound tactics was limited - Customers could opt to shop or not. Also, feedback mechanisms helped hone the entire customer-oriented selling process.  Tactics were limited to in situ content marketing channels. There were limited measurement tactics - highlighting only what customers shopped. Also, inbound marketing tactics were uni-dimensional. Catalogs, flyers, and market research forms were the order of the day. 

The 1960s saw advanced market research methods designed and implemented. Here, companies made great efforts to study user behavior, preferences, and map out their journeys.  From here on in, the ad campaigns generated could be more precise.  The mission was to involve end customers in the sales journey. 

However,  the result was anything but so. The condensation of outbound marketing techniques grew stronger post the ‘60s and well into the new millennium. Zero engagement was the strict pattern followed in many of these tactics - which involved TV and print ads, billboards, door-to-door salespeople, and cold-calling. 

The mantra became one of the ‘market at’ customers and not ‘market to’ them. Sophisticated measurement parameters blossomed - TRPs, reach, conversions, sales-to-awareness ratios, etc. Yet, all of the lead generation methods tended to provide lower returns because of the intrusive nature of campaigns. Feedback was again rarely implemented, as they were mass-market campaigns designed only to push the brands to consumers.    

Peter Drucker, a management guru, claimed at the time that greater impetus should be on consumer experiences and interactions, and ensure companies offered solutions to customers across the spectrum in terms of personalization. The above premise was the cornerstone of inbound marketing in the 21st century. 

How has Inbound Marketing changed over these years? 

Inbound Marketing has grown leaps and bounds since the explosion of the internet and the formation of a global community.  

Today, inbound marketing considers a variety of channels to reach consumers. Some of them are as follows - 

Topical Blog entries - When individual users communicate ideas through personalized blogs on platforms such as WordPress and Medium, why can not companies? A dedicated blog page is a fundamental necessity for a business to engage users with the conversation on ideas and topics close to them. This helps convey brand messages in a clear and concise way to authors seeking solutions to their pain-points. These also sharpen the overall content marketing strategy of your website. 

E.g., Hubspot is a titan in the inbound marketing universe. All their blogs are targeted toward the audiences who have specific interest in melding their marketing efforts on the digital front with exceptional content. 

SEO - The best way to enhance page rankings, and thereby traffic, is to perform exceptional SEO upliftment on your website. SEO constitutes good content and exceptional structure of your webpage so that it scales to number one on Google’s SERP when a user queries a relevant search keyword. 

E.g.,  Many of your favorite websites, irrespective of the genre, rank number one on Google searches. This is because of the superior SEO strategy. SEO involves the use of content marketing for keyword placement, and top-tier web page architecture. The more you follow the rules in these two parameters, the better your ranking on Google and other search engines’ SERP.

Social Media - Everyone knows that Social Media Marketing is the new battleground for companies looking to capture millennial traffic. A State of Social Media report stated that over a billion users frequented at least one platform per day. SMM demands conversationalist content that resonates with the hopes, dreams and tastes of the targeted user base. The right strategy will reap rich rewards.  

E.g., Fast-food joint Burger King is renowned for its quirky takes against competitors (McDonald’s, Wendy’s) and eye-opening campaigns on popular Social platforms that have boosted it’s appeal to youngsters. 

Email Marketing - Despite being outwardly outbound in nature, email marketing is the best ROI generator for B2B businesses with an estimated 44% return rate. Email marketing has exceptional pros. It can engage audiences and drive leads to your website. IT can also tell a story on it’s own, enough for audiences to forward and make a viral effect.

Influencer Marketing - Influencer marketing has cropped up as one of the best modes of inbound marketing. Getting influencers on board your brand mantra and promoting your products or services has an intangible quality to it, which can never be easily replicated. 

E.g., Digital Gaming brand Konami promoted its revolutionary game PES 2020 through branded content tie ups with influencer gamers and online sellers to highlight the pros and unique benefits of the game. PES also used journalistic publications to promote the game, considering the business platform itself as a chief influencer to the millennials.  

A recent survey by GoodFirms sought to determine the most popular inbound marketing techniques among companies, especially during COVID-19. The results are attached below - 


Key Takeaway:

Users are now consuming data on company blogs, and company authored webinars which give organizations the opportunity to directly interface with prospective clients. This leads to better trust, and a sure shot chance to generate valuable leads in a cost effective way. 

Inbound Marketing Process Currently

The entire inbound marketing process resides on four major pillars. They are as explained below:

Capture - To ensure you connect with the right audience for your business, you first need to perform a persona analysis. Following the definition of your target audience, you need to develop a robust inbound marketing strategy to draw in YOUR consumers, distilled from the previous task. 

The chances of generating a perfect lead increases by defining the tone, clarity, and solutions answered by the content on the website.  Remember, the content is one of the most significant solutions in your basket of inbound strategies - blog writing, video content, well-written ad copies, and smart social media posts will help pull the target audience toward the brand. 

Involve – The second stage deals with interaction. By conversing with users in different stages of the funnel, businesses set the tone for relationships to flourish. Engaging customers involves sharing content on a personalized communication channel - more so like a one-to-one basis. The use of email marketing and chatbots strengthens ties between consumers and businesses. 

Prospects must be assimilated into the system through carefully crafted communications via the sales personnel. It creates a bonhomie between the business and the customer, allowing a conduit for future sales. 

Enchant -  To evolve customers from mere buyers of your brand’s products to advocates and loyalists, you need to delight them at every step of the journey. This includes post-purchase communication and engagement. Businesses must create particular outreach programs and offer tie-ins that are irreplaceable. The channels of outreach must turn to be more personalized - such as email marketing campaigns and other 1:1 mediums - so that users may still feel connected to the brand. It creates ambassadors who are delighted to be associated with your brand. It also opens up the opportunity for brands to upsell products. 

Nurture -  Promoters willing to endorse your brand online are a fillip to many organizations. For businesses, engaging with promoters is essential. In the later stages of their purchase journeys must be converted to sponsors so that the right word of mouth, social endorsement, and tactful influencer marketing can grow lead generation. 

Why should businesses focus on Inbound Marketing?

A recent GoodFirms Survey highlighted the importance of having a structured digital marketing strategy for firms. The results are attached below. Furthermore additional surveys indicate the growing importance of inbound marketing methods.  

 Survey CRM 

Key Takeaway - A majority of users now find the experience of interacting with brands online similar to the real world. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing brands to re-evaluate their digital strategies, it’d be wise to know customers are now seeking solutions  to tasks - shopping, comparing options, and even banking - on the web with greater fervour.   

Some of the primary reasons why businesses must choose inbound marketing are as follows - 

  1. Cost Efficiency: Businesses running inbound campaigns don’t have to invest as much in their marketing funnel as do outbound marketing-oriented counterparts. A 2017 Hubspot study revealed that cost savings in inbound strategies were close to 61% of the total money invested outbound.

  1. Greater ROI: Besides being just cost-saving, inbound marketing resulted in more significant ROI for businesses - offering 13x higher returns on average, to be exact. 

  1. Lead Generation: On average, inbound marketing-generated close to 51% higher leads as compared to its counterpart. The quality of the points also grew manifold, with businesses able to use the strength of their platform to promote their services. 

  1. Credibility: As consumers interact with your brand directly, they develop a sense of trust with you. It is believed 84% of consumers always buy from a brand they follow on multiple mediums. What’s more, 85% of consumers do extensive research before purchasing a product. By being a voice of authority, coupled with good content strategy, a business can help consumers make a natural choice - thereby becoming a voice of trust for them.     

  1. Real-Time Learning: Inbound marketing strategies are easily trackable online to understand key statistics - engagement, likes, shares, views, leads, conversion ratios, and soon on. It helps in quick course correction and amplification of methods already working. 

  1. Feedback: Once established, a feedback loop is a powerful tool a business can leverage to understand where exactly they’re excelling or lacking through the eyes of the consumer. Quick and effective feedback help make these methods more profitable.  

  1. Consumer-centricity: Through inbound marketing, customers get to interact with the brand rather than merely read or hear of a product’s facets. Inbound strategies allow companies to put the interests of a consumer first, allowing them access to information they need.  

Inbound Vs. Outbound

Depending on the ambitions of the company executing marketing campaigns, inbound and outbound marketing are two sects of the divide that help achieve goals through widely different methods, 

Inbound marketing operates on the principle of pull marketing. This form of marketing involves the dissemination of content via blogs, social media, and SEO channels to help consumers find businesses on the internet. 

Inbound marketing tactics help ensure personalized experiences for users, in terms of both product and service. Inbound marketing strategies promote customer conversations. There is a distinct sense of bonding between customers and businesses using inbound techniques. 

By sharing information and helping your content over their channels/accounts, customers essentially become brand ambassadors and promote your brand. This overall process is the genesis for better Customer Relationship Management

Outbound marketing focuses exclusively on push marketing techniques, and it usually involves traditional tactics such as cold calling,  radio and TV ads, trade shows, and telemarketing.  Notoriously, it is known as intrusive marketing as well. Here the onus is to promote buying behavior amongst target segments without the inclination of forming relationships.  

Outbound marketing does not foster customer relationships and is purely transactional. There is little regard for personalization of content to help spread awareness of the brand and get users into a conversation. There is no impetus on customers promoting your brand, considering the short transactional nature of relationships. 

Common Inbound Marketing Mistakes

Setting up an online presence through inbound marketing isn’t as hard as one may have thought. However, even veteran inbound marketing specialists often make mistakes that may seem implausible. 

Here, GoodFirms lists out common mistakes, which when avoided, will take your Inbound Marketing to superior levels. 

  • Lack of Planning: Before you even begin an inbound marketing campaign, you need to plot out a strategy for the same. Planning the right mix of email, social media, and content marketing is essential for any campaign to succeed. Subsequent investment can nurture leads generated by the above method. A strategy also needs to accomplish what the business’s ultimate goal is - Awareness, lead generation, or conversion.   
  • A recent study indicates that a whopping 49% of B2B companies have no coherent digital marketing strategy as part of inbound campaigns. IT is necessary to plan the channels, investment, and future campaigns well-before embarking on an inbound marketing strategy.     
  • Ineffective focus on multiple Inbound Marketing channels: Organizations feel the need to attack all inbound marketing channels for the best-desired results. The result is that they are overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs doing on all these fronts - including great SEO and web design. The sheer analysis and campaign implementations leave them at sixes and sevens. It is better to focus on channels that have the potential to drive maximum results to your business, 
  • Inefficient goal setting: Businesses don’t often follow the SMART method. Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals are necessary for businesses to achieve results according to their ambitions. Several times, the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are erratically set. Thus, unplotted results and analysis lead to sheer confusion if the business’s campaigns are achieving its goals. 
  • Absence or reporting & campaign analytics: If correct goal setting is an Achilles heel for businesses when it comes to inbound marketing, then the reporting structures for the campaigns are simply inconclusive many a time. 
  • Omitting the need for a Blog: Several organizations don’t create blogs to further their inbound strategies. Every new blog page represents an opportunity to convert a lead. Every blog published on the platform opens up indexing opportunities to be ranked well on Google and other relevant search platforms. Every blog is an extension of your company’s communication strategy, which audiences should find relatable. 
  • Drumming up content quantity over quality: It’s easy to think that regular content updation is the only way to make content marketing strategies work. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Through blog entries that address customer pain-points, establish conversations, snd convert customers must be efficiently published. Whether on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly plan, ideal content should be relevant to consumer queries and must be a capable vehicle in conveying consumer ideology. 
  • Non-diverse device optimizations: Businesses don’t often segregate their traffic based on devices. Integrated inbound marketing strategies depend on the correct deployment and development of web pages, content optimization, and relevancy of users searching on various devices. 
  • Lack of customer-centricity: For inbound marketing to work, the content must center around his/her taste, query, and format of content consumption. The inbound marketing collateral must be on-point by speaking to the customer and forming engagement patterns for future relations to blossom.    

Tips on Effective Inbound Marketing

So, you’ve read about mistakes inbound marketers make and the bearing it has on a competent inbound marketing strategy. Now, let us give you useful tips on how to make inbound marketing work to the best of your needs. 

best tips for inbound marketers

How does the Flywheel model affect inbound marketing for businesses? 

Using a marketing flywheel, businesses can address shortcomings in their traditional lead generation and conversion methods. 

Businesses can attract strangers using good content and savvy social media marketing techniques. This leads to better engagement within audience pools. A personalization of the experience leads to better customer interaction and loyalty.  Post purchase delight stage includes keeping in touch with the consumer, ensuring they know businesses care for them long after their purchase cycles are over. This, in turn, fosters a feeling of  mutual trust, the beginning of brand advocacy and ambassadorship.  

Those mentioned above have fundamentally altered the way businesses look at a sale and customers in general.  With higher profits resulting from the implementation of inbound marketing, companies feel more invested in the process alongside consumers. 

Implementing this methodology helps businesses improve their CRM activities as well. Check out the Buyer’s guide on GoodFirms’ CRM page on tips to choose the best CRM software. Also, you can read GoodFirms’ Top 7 Free and Open Source Software to choose the best software for your business. 

lifecycle inbound marketing

COVID-19 & the future of Inbound Marketing 

The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has forced B2B marketers into unfamiliar territory. With face-to-face interactions and traditional forms of marketing all but scythed for the year ahead, marketing specialists need to innovate around newer forms of marketing to ensure customer acquisition and retention. 

One of the most popular methods looked at is inbound marketing. In fact, inbound content marketing strategies are now leading to better  lead generation numbers. Some of the methods cropping up  that actually reflect well through inbound marketing are: 

Video Marketing:

More and more businesses are making it a point to communicate and engage with audience groups with the power of video communication. Webinars, well worded educational videos, exceptional promotion video content, etc., go a long way in attracting consumers off the web.   

E.g., Ed-Tech companies and video conferences have established control over the market through exceptionally marketed video content and webinar sessions designed to draw in customers, at almost minimal cost. They are addressing a strict gap in the market with demand high for e-learning and training solutions.   

Artificial Intelligence:

People using AI-powered devices and tools have risen to 77 percent in just over half a decade. AI tools provide inbound marketers with the perfect opportunity to study consumer behavior and attract them with suitable choices and content online. Imagine customers in India on an e-commerce platform connecting with your business in America, owing to the deep-lying AI tech integrations. AI's importance is set to grow in the marketing sphere considering its potential for mass success.

E.g., Alexa from Amazon. The AI system powering Amazon’s subsystem has been exploited by many companies in the past to get product offering right to consumers. 

AI fits inbound marketing

Virtual Reality:

Have you used a VR headset before, whether for gaming or for other purposes? 

Yes? Well, the good news is that VR software is no longer limited to just headsets. Mobile phone cameras can also be converted into VR devices with appropriate programming.
Users can turn their phone cameras into VR devices and scan objects in the vicinity to get information on them, akin to performing a local search. The possibilities for inbound marketing are endless in this regard. 

These searches can highlight brands, without users actually having to be at a location or physically interact with the entities. 

E.g., Google’s Android phones come with a lens feature which helps convert objects into searchable text or image queries to garner more information on them. This is a sort of marketing that is priceless!  

Quick Wrap

Inbound marketing is now one of the most popular marketing branches. It has ushered in an era where customer’s share of voice and choice are second to none. Inbound marketing offers a plausible way of generating brownie points for the brand and excess revenue. 

Through this blog, we have looked at the evolution of inbound marketing - straight from it’s basic set-up to it’s more sophisticated implementations. We have also traversed through its many advantages for business. The blog also offers you tips on how best to improve your inbound marketing strategy. 

The blog also highlights common mistakes made while implementing inbound marketing campaigns,  along with the explanation on the impact of the flywheel methodology.  

Please feel to add any feedback you may have on this article in the comments section below. Check out GoodFirms’ superbly curated Software Directory in case you are on the hunt for technology solutions.  

Jason Adams
Jason Adams

Jason Adams is a writer with keen interest to continue learning and develop his research abilities. Avid reader and an eye towards growth, he is associated with GoodFirms, a frontline and evolving reviews and rating platform.

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