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What is Inbound Marketing? Not These 4 Things

By Jessy SmulskiDec 24, 2015

inbound-marketingGoogle it, and you’ll turn up more than 9 million results for inbound marketing. And yet, many organizations are still getting it wrong. Marketing departments fail to obtain leadership buy-in. Feuds between marketing and sales are permitted to wage on. Campaigns are haphazardly tossed into the Web-o-sphere. And targeting? Not always on point. When goals aren’t reached, executives begin to question whether inbound marketing is all it’s cracked up to be. But the problem isn’t the marketing approach, it’s the lack of understanding about what inbound marketing actually is. To help you more easily explain what inbound marketing actually is to your organization’s stakeholders, let’s look at the other side of the coin.

Here are four things inbound marketing is not.

1. Inbound Marketing IS NOT a Campaign

A campaign is a fraction of all the moving parts that amount to inbound marketing. Campaigns focus on a single product or service, and use coordinated steps to promote information about it. Once the promotion is live, analytics track engagement to determine if and how any sales resulted. The number of sales can then be compared to the overall cost of the campaign to determine ROI and decide whether the campaign was effective or not.

Inbound marketing encompasses numerous digital marketing actions. Its focus is on the brand, not a single product, and its goal is to educate and provide value to buyers by delivering helpful content at the right time in the right place. Inbound marketing relies heavily on analytics and audience insights for continuity because the more a marketer understands about her audience, the more she can tailor content and targeting to better reach and serve the buyer.

In other words, a campaign sells a product or service. Inbound marketing builds brand reputation and caters to the wants and needs of the buyer via many modalities.

2. Inbound Marketing IS NOT Social Media

Just because you decide you want to step up your social media game doesn’t mean you are deploying inbound marketing. Again, social media is just one piece of the inbound puzzle. If it stands alone, it’s simply managing social media accounts. Only when it is paired with lead intelligence, audience targeting, content creation and analytics can it be considered inbound.

Think of social media as a distribution channel. Organizations should use it to share their content and collect audience intelligence. But on its own, social media is not inbound marketing.

3. Inbound Marketing IS NOT a Cost-Cutter

If you think inbound marketing is a way to cut back on the cost of outbound strategies, like direct mail and event marketing—you’ve got it all wrong. And you definitely don’t want to sell an inbound marketing budget to C-suite on that point. True, the overall cost per lead tends to be much lower with inbound marketing strategies (60 percent, actually) but this isn’t the type of marketing success that happens overnight.

How long before you’ll see results? Sorry to break it to you, but there’s no telling. Inbound marketing is about building momentum, and that means consistently investing time and money until eventually, you get it right and your audience begins to recognize you as a thought leader within your industry.

It starts with investing in the right marketing platforms. You also need to conduct thorough market research and set SMART marketing goals. This alone can take a few months. Once you begin creating and distributing content (and a lot of it), it takes several rounds of refinement before you begin hitting your targets. As of 2013, HubSpot reported that it took seven months for 83.9 percent of companies using inbound marketing to increase leads.

We’ve all heard the saying, it takes money to make money. Inbound marketing is no exception to the rule. But the payoff is worth the upfront investment. HubSpot also estimated that the average company saves about $20,000 per year by switching from outbound to inbound marketing. And the average cost per inbound lead in companies that generate between $250,000 and $10 million in revenue is about $26 to $50.

4. Inbound Marketing IS NOT a Single Channel or a Tactic

It’s more like a philosophy from which all marketing strategies are based. Inbound marketing is the belief that buyers are more willing to purchase from a brand they trust and respect than a brand that pushes products and focuses intently on the sale.

Inbound marketing shows reverence for the buyer, sees the buyer as an individual and intends to build a long-term relationship with the buyer by giving them what they want: valuable information that consistently meets their intellectual and entertainment expectations. When done successfully, organizations benefit from more than just a sale, they gain a brand advocate that repeatedly returns and brings friends.

You can’t try inbound marketing once and expect magic. You can’t half-heartedly participate, or delegate the responsibility to one person. To reap the benefits, you must fully invest in and dedicate your marketing efforts to the philosophy of inbound. From sales, revenue and bottom-line profitability to customer experience and reputation, with the right people and tools in place, inbound marketing has the power to positively impact every part of your organization.

PIVOTING YOUR PLAN with Inbound Marketing

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Jessy Smulski
The Author

Jessy Smulski

Jessy is a professional creative writer with over 8 years of experience working with businesses, marketing agencies, news papers, and magazines. Intrinsically empathetic, her talent is transforming the experiences of others into meaningful recounts that connect brands with customers, readers with stories and words with purpose. She also specializes in brand development and content marketing. When she’s not creating content, you can find her snowboarding out west, backpacking or capturing life through the lens of her camera. She takes her coffee black, her wine red and her books non-digital. Catch Jess on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter @Jsmuls.
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