Inbound Marketing: How Does It Work?

Inbound Marketing: How Does It Work?

Inbound marketing focuses on the most important aspect of any thriving business; how to convert strangers into clients? Broadly defined, inbound marketing is a way of leading potential customers to specific products or services with the help of content, social media marketing, and search engine optimization.  

Inbound marketing describes the road along which a prospect becomes your customer.

Related Reading: [Tools to Streamline Your Inbound Marketing Campaigns]

If done properly, this type of marketing can benefit your business by:

  • Building strong brand awareness and greater reach
  • Enabling clients to interact with your brand whenever they want
  • Builds trust with customers
  • Generates high-quality lead 
  • Being cost-effective

Related Reading: [How to Build Qualified Traffic to Your Website]

However, it’s crucial that the content be valuable so as to grab your prospects’ attention and draw them in.

Also, this way you will generate far more qualified leads for less money than if you relied on traditional forms of marketing.

To understand the need and power of inbound marketing, we must first understand the world in which we live.

We are constantly bombarded with a vast amount of information which leads to attention deficiency. It’s estimated that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created on a daily basis!

On top of that, consumers are empowered today like never before. The internet offers the consumer instant information about specs, pricing and reviews of products and services with a few clicks.

Also, social media platforms push them to share and make comparisons.

By doing so, inbound marketing successfully creates trust, reputation and authority in whatever industry it is employed.

Outbound Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing

Businesses that want to reach customers have two main marketing approaches at their disposal: inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

The fundamental difference between these two marketing strategies is in the way they reach prospects and customers:

  • Inbound marketing gets customers’ attention and attracts them to your offer
  • Outbound marketing seeks out customers and shows them your offer

Outbound marketers look to cast a wide net in order to reach the largest number of prospects possible.

As you can imagine, outbound marketing has serious flaws.

One of the major problems with outbound marketing is its forceful nature that pushes the message onto customers. It states the benefits of a product/service whether the prospect asked for them or not – it speaks at people.

Communication is a one-way street with this marketing strategy. As a result, it is sometimes referred to as “interruption marketing.”

The other major issue has to do with its messaging. Since the goal of outbound marketing is to reach a large audience, the messaging must have a broad appeal – it has to be appropriate to virtually everyone!

That makes targeting specific segments of your audience impossible because the message has to be general in order to include everyone.

However, if you want to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. Outbound marketing makes it difficult to address specific challenges and pain points of many of your potential customers.

Examples of outbound marketing include:

  • Print ads & Radio advertising
  • TV commercials
  • Cold calling

In addition to these inherent problems, outbound marketing also has trouble with actually reaching consumers:

Outbound marketing is better suited for an era that’s long gone; it doesn’t take into account the power consumers enjoy today.

Consumers now can simply avoid contact from businesses in which they aren’t interested. In fact, GDPR has made marketing to people without their consent dangerous. 

Related Reading: [What does GDPR Mean for Digital Marketing]

An increasing number of businesses are relying on inbound marketing to build brand awareness and foster relationships that will ultimately lead to leads and sales.

Perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of inbound marketing is that it gets to your prospects in the early stages of their decision-making process. By doing so, this form of marketing establishes a strong influence on consumers.

The “inbound” in the inbound marketing is the process of attracting, engaging and making people happy in order to grow a business. It must offer value and build trust.

Inbound marketing is part of a global business movement that looks to find a more effective way to do marketing. The idea behind this approach is “what is good for the customer is also good for the business.”

As a result, your business achieves sustainable growth over a long period of time.

The underlying methodology behind inbound marketing is to draw in prospects and customers to your website through exciting content. You can no longer interrupt individuals who are in the middle of doing something completely unrelated to your business or brand.

You attract prospects by publishing compelling content which offers solutions to problems facing your audience. This simply means solving common problems and responding to any potential concerns or questions your prospect may ask.

Customer Value Maximiser Framework

Inbound marketing is composed of four key stages: attract, convert, close and ascend, and delight. Each stage is designed to offer value to your audience. Also, each leg of the journey comes with a group of marketing strategies and metrics to gauge results.

From a commercial viewpoint, this approach provides growth to your business with satisfied customers being the energy that contributes to growth. Your customers grow your business either directly when they buy from you or indirectly when they promote your product to others in their space.

On the flip side, if you target people who are not interested in what you are selling or if you don’t deliver on your promises then you create unhappy customers. Unhappy customers will slow business growth or kill it altogether. Therefore, pay close attention when running inbound marketing campaigns.

Each member of your team must be on board to provide a satisfying all-encompassing experience to your customer. Each stage of the buying process needs to be seamlessly tied to the stage before it and to the stage after it.  The inbound process works perfectly with technology to keep them ready to respond to changing needs of the market.

This encyclopaedic blog post contains all things inbound related. Let’s now take a closer look at the 5 main stages of Inbound Marketing:

  • The Attract Stage
  • The Convert Stage
  • The Close Stage
  • The Ascend Stage
  • The Delight Stage

Each stage contains specific inbound methods of marketing to your prospects and customers that will help you grow your business.

The Attract Stage

The first goal of the process is to raise awareness of your business and introduce prospects to the things that you offer. You must engage with prospects that you have attracted with your content, and make them happy.

In order to grab the attention of your audience, begin by publishing valuable content in various formats: blogs, guides, information about discounts, or customer testimonials.

Now, you should be specific about who you want to attract to your website. Ultimately, you want the individuals who are most likely to become your future clients. The best way to attract them is with relevant content posted exactly when they are searching for it.

SEO Strategy

Search engine optimisation is an effective inbound method of putting this content in front of your audience. An effective SEO strategy [A4] optimises content for specific keywords and phrases associated with your business and what it offers.

Related Reading: [Best SEO Practices for 2020 – Start the Year Right]

As a result, when prospects go to Google to search for information related to your product/service, your business will appear organically on the results page.

The aim is to have your business on the top of the first results page. Ideally, you want some of your content to appear as a featured snippet on Google.

Related Reading: [SEO: How to Go from Hero to Zero]

Share your written or video content on all social media networks your business uses. Build your reputation in search and rank for the topics about which your prospects care the most with content strategy tools.

In other words, you want your website to be SEO optimised so that it appears higher up on search engine results page, thereby generating more organic traffic.

In order to do so, you need to implement a well-thought-out search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy.

A SEO strategy is a process meant to improve a website’s search engine rankings. It’s designed to assist search engines to recognise the searcher’s intent when typing in specific keywords.

This is achieved if the website’s content is organised according to topic. If each page is optimised for specific topics, along with keywords associated with that topic, then search engines will recognise the website’s expertise. This in turn will improve your ranking for long-tail keywords associated with that topic.

There are three components of an effective SEO strategy which businesses need to consider:

  • On-page SEO: The process of optimising individual pages of a website in order to improve ranking and attract organic traffic. The focus is on both the content and the structure of the website’s HTML code. The content is optimised in order to rank higher for particular keywords.  
  • Off-Page SEO: This describes actions taken not related to the website which are meant to increase rankings on the results page. The focus here is on other websites that are linking back to your website, also known as “backlinks.” This helps establish a website’s relevance, trustworthiness, and authority. In essence, these websites are vouching for your content. Therefore, earning a high number of reputable backlinks will boost your website’s ranking on the search engine results page.
    Related Reading: [How to Get Backlinks (In a Completely White Hat Way)]
  • Technical SEO: As the name implies, this optimisation method’s core focus is on a website’s technical set up. Search engines analyse both the source code and content when ranking websites. Therefore, an SEO specialist must ensure that the website’s backend is properly configured.

These are the three pillars which SEO specialists can use to put their content in front of the right audience.

Use pay-per-click ads to raise awareness of your brand among your potential customers. However, make sure that you’re familiar with the importance of “ad scent” before you start advertising online.

Related Reading: [The Ultimate Guide to PPC] and [Ad Scent]

Naturally, throughout each stage of the process you will be analysing the efficacy of your work.

This way you’ll know what’s working and what needs tweaking, tinkering, and improvement.

Social Media

Sharing content on social media platforms is a proven way of attracting prospects and customers.

Related Reading: [Social Media Marketing]

One important thing that makes social media platforms such powerful marketing channels is their ability to reach virtually every consumer demographic.

There are over 3 billion social media users worldwide, which means that your audience is on social media.

This is why developing a robust social media strategy is an effective way of attracting potential customers to your business.

However, there’s more to marketing on social media is than simply posting content – many moving parts are involved in implementing a social media strategy that works.

A lot goes into making a successful social media marketing campaign. At a bare minimum, businesses need to under which social media platforms work best with which demographic:

  • Picking the right social media platform: Many factors go into choosing the right platform to attract your audience. Look at the demographics of each platform’s core user base and find out whether you can promote your content in their feeds easily. Which platform will let you build an engaged customer base for your brand? Start with that platform and then you can migrate to others once you start seeing results.
  • Produce high-quality content: The best way to attract potential customers is to post first-rate content that speaks directly to your audience. Create insightful industry-related content and make sure that you follow social media image-sizing recommendations so that your content looks good on social media.
  • Set up a posting schedule: Consistently posting content is essential for every successful social media marketing campaign. If you post sporadically, your brand won’t be at the forefront of your followers’ mind – they might forget about you altogether! Share content on social media at peak times using various scheduling tools, which will improve your visibility.
  • Work with influencers: Hire “thought leaders” from your industry to promote your business. This is also known as influencer marketing and is a strong way of boosting your social media marketing efforts.
  • Interact with followers: Give your brand a “personality”, and avoid overwhelming followers with dry fact-based content. Write informal posts when appropriate and conduct fun surveys that will not only be engaging, but will also provide you with important data on your followers – what are they interested in, what do they dislike, etc. This will in turn allow you to create content that’s better suited to your audience.

Leveraging the popularity of social media to build brand awareness and attract potential customers to your business is a powerful inbound marketing tactic.

Content Marketing

Successful businesses use compelling content designed to provide value to reach their audience and convert prospects.

This tactic is called content marketing and is a great way to:

  • Build brand awareness
  • Boost conversions
  • Increase revenue
  • Establish a loyal following

Companies use content marketing to demonstrate to their audience how the products/services they offer solve a problem that is preventing them from fully enjoying their lives. By educating prospects on the benefits of their product/services, businesses connect with their audience.

The guiding principle behind content marketing is that only honest, relevant, educational content made for a specific audience is able to build brand awareness and trust, which are two necessary conditions for converting prospects.

Content marketing is a broad concept and comes in various formats. To better understand how this digital strategy can help grow your business.


Blogging is probably the most common type of inbound marketing, which is why businesses across industries rely on this type of content to attract and nurture leads.

Blogs are an effective and cost-efficient content marketing tactic designed to build brand awareness and establish a relationship with your audience.

Related Reading: [How to Optimize Your Blog Content]

Blogs are trustworthy – they humanise your business.

There are more than 600 million blogs on the internet and 86% of marketers have included blogging into their overall marketing efforts. In fact, more than half of content marketers claim that blogging is their main inbound marketing tactic.

Blogging is a wonderful tool for small businesses that are looking to attract quailed leads to their website.

The best way to promote your blog post is to share it on social media – 95.9% of bloggers use social media platforms to promote their content.

Video Marketing

Video [A14] is the most popular form of content marketing, ahead of both blogs and infographics. They are compelling and enjoy a lot of shares across social media networks –more than 50% of consumers choose video content over other formats such as blogs and social.

Related Reading: [Getting Started With Video Marketing]

Keep in mind that they are more labour-intensive and require investing a good deal of time and energy.

However, the fact that this format captures people’s attention so effectively makes it well worth the investment.

A YouTube video on how to give a newborn baby a bath from a brand that sells baby products is an effective way of engaging with the right audience.  

Customer Avatar

When targeting your ideal group of customers, you should build what is known as a customer avatar. This is an imaginary customer who has all the characteristics of the type of client you want to attract.

Related Reading: [How to Build Your Buyer Personas]

A customer avatar represents the right type of person you want to visit your website; an ideal customer. And as such they should take into account the aspirations and goals, but also worries and challenges facing these types of customers.

It should include the type of information to which these individuals might have access. By keeping the customer avatar in the forefront of your mind when making content, you are able to attract your target audience and acquaint them with your brand and business.

For example, if you want to market to luxury watch dealers in the New York area, then you probably shouldn’t rely on getting prospects from a guest post on Wired. Instead you should use highly optimized content on Hodinkee.

What sort of content might you put out to attract potential customers? There are numerous industry-specific topics that you can use to attract your target audience. If you sell watches, for instance, then discuss new technological developments in the watchmaking world, new brands coming out along with reviews of classic models.

The key takeaway from this stage is to produce relevant and engaging content that is optimized for search and distributed in specific places where your target audience can come across it.

The Convert Stage

Now that your audience is aware of your business, you need to convert them. It’s still too early to expect from them to make a purchase – they don’t know enough about you to make that leap.

Therefore, we need to grow our relationship with prospects.

The best way to do this to establish a conversation with them is by using entertaining and/or educational content. It’s important to note that nurturing your relationship with your audience is an on-going process; prospects who become customers should continue to receive valuable content from your business.

Let’s look at some inbound strategies you can use to properly engage with your audience.

This is a difficult part of inbound marketing and you have to be very creative – you are after your prospect’s personal contact information.

That includes their email address, phone number and perhaps even their social media account information.

Basically, any means that will allow you to get in touch with them.

Once you have accomplished that, now you have a fully-fledged marketing qualified lead.

Lead Magnets

A critical part of your converting strategy is obtaining the prospect’s personal contact information.

This can be tricky because people are constantly bombarded with content and ads, which makes competing for their attention challenging.

As we all know, people are not going to just give you their personal information because you asked for it (even if you do it politely).

Naturally, people want to avoid being spammed, which is why almost everyone is reluctant to give away their email address so easily.

The key to gaining access to their contact information is to make them an interesting and useful offer in exchange.

This is where lead magnets come in handy.

Related Reading: [Attract Your Leads with a Powerful Magnet]

Lead magnets are relevant pieces of content or useful service which your prospects can unlock and access if they provide you with their personal contact information. You can think of it as a “virtuous bribe.”

Once you get their information, you then add them to your subscriber list and continue nurturing this relationship.

In order for this tactic to work, your free offer must be useful to your audience.


For example, a realtor creates a webinar about the dangerous mistakes many new homebuyers make when choosing their home.

Related Reading: [A Beginner’s Guide to Webinars (Best Practices Included)]

Then a recently-married man signs up to the webinar and is given the URL along with time and date of the presentation.


One of the most important pieces of personal contact information you can get from a prospect is their email address.

Email marketing is a powerful marketing, which is great for:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Engagement
  • Driving traffic to a website
  • Receiving referrals
  • Sales
  • Customer acquisition and retention

Related Reading: [A Simple Tutorial in Quickly Becoming A Pro in Email Marketing]

Therefore, it is not an outmoded marketing tool; in fact, email has an amazing ROI – $42 for every $1 spent.

Email is great for moving prospects along the different customer stages.

For example, in the Convert stage, a financial institution sends an email to a father of 3 explaining the best ways to save funds for his children’s university tuition.  


Content marketing provides marketing tools at virtually every stage of the Customer Value Maximiser marketing process.

Infographics are a popular content marketing tool that businesses across various industries use to convert their prospects.

Present relevant data in a compelling way with a visually powerful infographic. This a great format to display a lot of data in an easy-to-read format.

Effective infographics use a combination of concise sentences, simple phrasing, and visually appealing images to clearly convey the message.

Case Studies

Potential customers need to know that your brand is trustworthy. This is no easy feat, but case studies can help you earn their trust.

It’s one thing to claim that your product/service is the best solution for a particular problem. You can also boast that your competitors can’t compete with your product/service.

However, one of the best ways to convince potential customers that you’re the best is to prove it. This is why case studies are important.

A case study describes how a customer (who shares important similarities with your prospects) solved a problem using your solution.

Therefore, people who are looking for a solution to a problem and encounter your business can see that you have a successful track record of providing value.


A powerful way to generate leads and attract prospects, an eBook is usually longer and more detailed than blogs and can be downloaded. The best way to use eBooks is by pairing them with blog posts.

So, if readers would like to learn more about the topic, they can click to go to a landing page where they download an eBook after entering their email address.

This way the reader gets more information on the topic and the business gets a new lead.

You should always keep in touch with your target audience members. Conversations are the best way of establishing fruitful and long relationships with prospects on the networks they use.

Countless Options

These are only some of the many different content types that content marketers can use to reach their audience. It takes time and creativity to develop an effective content marketing strategy but is a powerful inbound tool when properly implemented.

The Close Stage

Now that your audience has converted, it’s finally time for them to take that leap and make a purchase.

The key to success at this stage of the process is to make a high-value offer at low-cost price. It’s still too early to expect from your prospect to make a costly purchase.

This is about acquiring customers, which is one of the most expensive aspects of marketing. So, right now you just want them to pull trigger and buy something from you. Profits are not important at the moment.

An example would be a $10 coupon for two persons at a newly renovated restaurant.

At this stage, the best you can hope for is to cover the cost of acquiring the customer. But don’t worry; it’s all worth it in the end!

You want them to make a commitment to your business. Once they become your buyer, it’s much easier to market to them and make high-value offers.

The Ascend Stage

At this stage of the process, your customer is ready to make a larger purchase and more frequently.

If your business has a principal offer, now is the time to make that offer. It’s your chance to upsell or cross-sell – when the customer makes a purchase, show them other relevant offers.

An ascension example could include:

  • A first-year university student buys a laptop, and includes a high-resolution monitor, wireless keyboard, and headphones.
  • A web hosting company offers a website builder and email with its hosting packages.

A properly implemented ascension offer not only generates more revenue for you, but it also provides value to your customers.

They will be grateful for the offers you made!

The Delight Stage

Making your customers happy is vital to your bottom line. Reward them with attention for choosing your business via newsletters, surveys and personalized product offers.

You need to build excitement around your brand so that customers are always engaged and looking forward to hearing from you.

Satisfied customers are going to tell everyone about the great experience they’ve had with your brand – they’ll go on social media, write online reviews, and even tell their friends and family about their experience.

There are many ways to generate brand advocacy:

  • A business requests that a customer write a review online in exchange for a discount coupon.
  • A brand could organise a contest to win a brand new product in exchange for filming a short video clip and posting it on the company’s website.
  • A woman uses an online service for free for a month because she arranged for 2 other people to sign up for the service.

Dropbox used a referral program to grow rapidly in the early stages of the company when they were a newcomer to the market.

The key is to always provide compelling content to all your prospects and customers as they’re going through their buying process.

Use content marketing, email marketing and SEO for prospects in the Attract stage.

At the Convert and Close stages, your focus is on building excitement about their interaction with your brand.

Make sure that prospects and customers are receiving value from you. Create content that will allow them to enjoy your product/service as much as possible.

For example, a streaming music service platform could send an instructional video via email to a new customer showing explaining how to make a playlist.

Keep track of where in the Customer Value Maximiser Framework your prospect or customer is so that you can deliver relevant content at the right time and place.

The right type of nurturing content for your particular lead is more important than even the amount of times you send them your engaging content.

This stage is necessary to secure referrals and increase volume of sales with existing customers. Every business needs these to continue growing.

By engaging with your customers, you also create willing promoters of your business.

Final Note

Inbound marketers use technology to streamline their efforts .

Related Reading: [How Marketing Automation Can Help Grow Your Business]

Automate your email sequences, use conversational bots[A20] , live chat and various social media platforms to optimise your customer service and to keep in touch with your prospects.

Related Reading: [Understanding the Role of Chatbots in Digital Marketing]

By offering exciting and valuable content made specifically for your audience, you have a great chance of turning complete strangers into loyal clients!