So, What is Inbound Marketing?


photo via Flickr

As a somewhat recent college graduate, I’ve been asked what I do for a living more times than I can count. And thankful as I am that the answer isn’t “nothing,” trying to explain what a writer does at an inbound marketing agency isn’t always fun or easy. (I won’t lie; if I’m not feeling particularly chatty, I’ll just say I’m a copywriter and leave it at that…which is mostly true, depending on how you look at things. I think at least a small percentage of people I’ve said that to have gotten the misguided impression that I’m actually Peggy Olson, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The fact of the matter is that inbound marketing is one of those things that a lot of people don’t completely understand, and I get that. It’s evolved, changed, and grown in even the time that I’ve been doing it, and I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to keep up with the subtle shifts in the online marketing industry in their spare time (especially when that time could be much better spent (re)watching Mad Men).

But 60% of companies have invested in inbound marketing this year, and marketers’ spending on inbound was projected to increase at a near-50% pace. If nothing else, inbound marketing is not something to be ignored.

The Emergence of Inbound Marketing

The term itself was coined by Hubspot co-founder Brian Halligan in 2005. He used it to describe marketing efforts that are meant to earn the consumer’s interest, as opposed to interruptive outbound techniques that demand their attention. So TV ads that are bought to run during specific shows are part of outbound marketing, but blog posts (such as this one) that are published with the intention of attracting readers are an inbound tactic.

Inbound marketing is marketing done through blogs, social media, e-newsletters, and other forms of content creation and sharing.

It can include anything from blog posts to whitepapers to tweets, all of which should be created with the intent of educating, informing, or entertaining the consumer. The benefits of successfully doing this are many—shareable content helps accumulate SEO strength and increases your brand’s reach, thoughtful articles help position your company as an authority within your industry, and it all comes together to drive traffic, leads, and sales.


Look at it this way—you can spend your entire marketing budget on outbound efforts like direct mailing and cold calls, which have a tendency to arrive at inopportune times and fall on deaf ears. Or you can focus on inbound marketing, which puts your targeted content at the fingertips of your customers whenever they decide they want to find it. Between search engine optimization and the creation of high-value content, you will be found by more qualified leads.

Alex Francis is the content manager at Highly Relevant. She’s a grammar enthusiast who will adamantly defend the serial comma, and when she’s not at work writing and editing copy, there’s a good chance you’ll find her doing handstands somewhere.

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