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Guide to Inbound Marketing

Apr 12, 2022   |   Digital Media Marketing, SEO
Guide to Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a methodology that focuses on drawing customers in, rather than pushing a company’s message out. Inbound marketing is about creating valuable content that pulls people in and helps you build trust and credibility with potential customers.  

We’ve touched on content marketing (a subset of inbound marketing) and have shown it costs 62% less, while being 300% more effective in reaching an audience. Here are a few other interesting statistics on inbound marketing:  

  • 92% of businesses and marketers report content as a valuable business asset (Review42). 
  • Inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound marketing leads (99Firms).    
  • 46% of marketers reported inbound marketing provided a higher ROI versus 12% reported outbound marketing (41% did not answer or know), perhaps because inbound marketing can be hard to measure whereas with outbound marketing, for example Google Ads, you can calculate exactly how much a lead costs based on your ad spend (Ironpaper).

As a result of these statistics and the decades worth of data before it, we’ve seen a strong shift from allocating resources from outbound to inbound marketing. The challenge, however, is doing inbound marketing effectively.  

90.63% of content receives zero traffic from Google, with only 0.78% of users visiting content on the 2nd page of Google.  

If you’re looking to get started with inbound marketing, this guide will show you the basics, what you need to do to get started, and strategies for an effective inbound marketing campaign.

Here’s what we’ll touch on:  

  • What is inbound marketing and how is it different from outbound marketing?  
  • How do you do it?  
  • How do you staff it?  
  • How do you measure it? 
  • How does it connect to the customer journey? 
  • Which channels can help with inbound? seo, website, social, pr, referral 
  • Who is doing it well in the hotel, financial, retail and healthcare industries?  
  • When do you start outbound marketing?  

What Is Inbound Marketing and how is it different from outbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a methodology that focuses on drawing customers in (think blogging, SEO, social media) rather than pushing a company’s message out (think ads, telemarketing, etc.). 

Inbound marketing is focused on getting found by potential customers in a permissive manner, rather than seeking them out. In other words, inbound marketing is all about making it easy for your target audience to find you.  

For example, in the hospitality industry, most customers aren’t going to find you because they saw your television or print ad. They’re going to be searching Google initially for information about activities in Hawaii, and it is your chance to connect with that consumer before they connect with your competing properties.  

This isn’t to say that outbound marketing techniques don’t work. They clearly do, we see it everyday. They can still provide a demonstrable and immediate ROI for businesses, the key is combining your inbound and outbound marketing strategy to maximize your bottom line.  

Inbound marketing can often take months, if not years to show a return on investment, depending on your competitive landscape… but think about it like planting a tree. The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. The second best time? Now.      

How do you do inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is more cost-effective than traditional outbound marketing techniques such as print or online advertising, direct mail, and television commercials. This is because inbound marketing focuses on generating leads through activities that are free or low-cost, such as content marketing, search engine optimization, and social media. The challenge for you, as a business, is finding a team of writers, digital marketers and social media savvy individuals. So while you’re not directly spending on advertising (eg. Google or Facebook ads), you’re investing in a team that can provide an ROI for your business. 

Inbound marketing can be adapted to any budget. Even if your company has a small budget, you can still succeed with inbound marketing… The issue becomes time. As a small business, you as the owner can start blogging and creating content, it doesn’t cost anything to hit “publish” – but it will cost you time. 

The objective for any business should be finding the channel that delivers the greatest ROI. We’ve created multiple guides on subsets of inbound marketing and we recommend the following reading before proceeding:  

How do staff inbound marketing?

You could use internal resources or your existing team, however, it might pay to find a team that specializes in specific areas of inbound marketing. You can go with the agency model – and hire a firm like Milestone, or you can find freelancers on websites like Upwork and Fiverr.  

Buyer beware though because a lot of businesses are enthralled with the idea of outsourcing content for pennies on the dollar to third world countries, but remember that 90% of content produced for the internet isn’t even seen. While companies were able to game Google’s SEO algorithm more than a decade ago, a large number of updates have made it extremely difficult for “black hat” marketers to succeed – and even if they do in the interim – there’s no telling what a future Google update will do to their website. A number of businesses fell victim to the first Google Panda and Penguin update that targeted spammers and those producing low quality content, some have never recovered, and others have had to invest a lot of time in reworking content or disavowing links that once drove them traffic. 

How do you measure inbound marketing?

When it comes to measuring your inbound marketing success, you’ll need to measure the same metrics as you would for any other type of marketing. The challenge is that it isn’t as direct as outbound marketing.  

For example, let’s discuss the difference in measuring results between Google organic rankings (SEO – inbound) vs Google Ads (outbound).  

Let’s use the aforementioned example of the Google search, “Hotels in Hawaii.” 

Using Google’s Keyword Planner that query shows an estimate of 60,500 searches per month. The estimated Cost Per Click (CPC) is about $2.50 according to Google. 

With Google Ads we can setup code snippets throughout the website (eg. landing page and booking confirmation page) that can directly measure conversions, eg. for every $50 you spend in Google Ads, it results in one conversion.  

Measuring ROI with a SEO strategy is a little less direct, but it can be estimated with available data. For example, there’s numerous data on Click-Through-Rate (CTR) based on your position on the Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERPS). You’ll want to rank locally (in the local 3-Pack) and organically. A number of different sources estimate the CTR for the #1 position to be about 40% (it varies depending on keyword).  

40% of 60,500 is about 24,200, but you’ll be ranking on two positions in the SERPS, so let’s generously estimate your traffic to be about 30,000 per month if you hold the #1 position in the local 3-pack, as well as an organic ranking.  

Using your conversion rate from your Google Ads campaign, for this example we’ll use 3% (about the average eCommerce conversion rate). 3% of 30,000 is 900 conversions per month. Using your data on the value of a customer you can calculate how much inbound marketing can contribute to your bottom line (eg. $500 per customer is $450,000 per month based on 900 conversions).   

How does inbound marketing connect with the customer journey?

Inbound marketing is essential for nurturing and building relationships with your customers. As you implement inbound marketing, the results can take time, but if done effectively, it will produce an ROI. Key performance indicators (KPIs) will show improvements in your click-through rates, conversion rates, and lead volumes. Like with anything in marketing, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see success (at least immediately) with all areas of inbound marketing, the key is finding the channel(s) that drives the most success.  

Which channels can help with inbound marketing?

The pillar to a successful inbound marketing campaign is creating good content, but that’s such an ambiguous term that’s used by marketers – what does it actually mean?  

The skyscraper technique is based on the model of creating the best piece of content for a given query. That means the piece of content that your business creates, needs to be better than everything that’s currently in the SERPS for that query. You’ll want better on-page SEO, a lower bounce rate, a longer dwell time, more backlinks, etc. 

Start your focus with on-page SEO, good content should naturally have a lower bounce rate and longer dwell time. Become a topical authority in your niche by producing dozens (sometimes hundreds) of pieces of content. Then utilize one of the many available ranking trackers and measure your rankings. From there, you’ll want to drive backlinks (or more internal links) to the content that isn’t ranked on the first page. You could do that with direct outreach, PR, promoting the content on social media, etc.        

When do you start outbound marketing?

Depending on your business, you could start with outbound marketing to get an idea of what your KPIs are. For most, running concurrent inbound and outbound marketing campaigns is ideal, but again, this depends on your business. 

Final Thoughts   

The benefits of inbound marketing for small businesses are numerous. In fact, every business type—regardless of industry or size—can benefit from inbound marketing. Whether you’re a local hair salon or a multi-national apparel company, inbound marketing can help you reach new customers at no or low cost. Once you’ve developed an inbound strategy, stick with it. Iterate as needed, but don’t go jumping from one marketing tactic to another unless you have the resources to do so. Remember that your first goal should be delivering an ROI. Consistency is one of the primary reasons why inbound marketing works. If you stick with your plan, and continue to build trust with your audience, the rewards will come.  

Milestone increases acquisition by enhancing digital experience and increasing content visibility. Contact us at [email protected] or call us at 408-200-2211.

Read blogs on Milestone’s other digital marketing guides:

Guide to Choosing the Perfect CMS in 2022
Guide to Content Marketing in 2022
Guide to Social Media Marketing in 2022
Guide to FAQs and How to Do It Right
Local Marketing Guide & Framework
Guide to Video Marketing

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