What Is Inbound Marketing? (How To Build a Profitable Strategy)

What Is Inbound Marketing? (How To Build a Profitable Strategy) – 2024 年新更新

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If your team primarily uses outbound marketing tactics, then you’ve probably noticed how hard it is to grab a slice of audience attention these days. It turns out, folks don’t like disruptive marketing techniques such as cold outreach and programmatic advertising.

Fortunately, inbound marketing is the exact opposite. An inbound strategy helps you attract potential customers when they’re ready to act, nurtures the relationship, and delivers exceptional value through content marketing.

In this article, I’ll define what inbound marketing is, and how it works, so you can create a more diversified and sustainable sales pipeline.


What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing refers to the strategic creation of valuable content to attract, engage, and delight customers. The inbound marketing methodology is a form of pull marketing that was introduced by HubSpot in 2006.

Inbound marketing vs outbound marketing

It’s easy to get turned around when trying to understand the concept of inbound marketing because some channels fit into both columns depending on how you use them.

For example, if you use email marketing for cold outreach, then it’s an outbound channel. However, if you use marketing automation to deliver personalized email content to subscribers, then you’re using it as an inbound channel to nurture leads.

In short, outbound marketing pushes a generic message out to a broad audience that didn’t raise their hand and ask for it. Think of commercials and telemarketing, for example. In contrast, inbound marketing focuses on attracting and engaging a specific audience by creating valuable content they want.

Examples of inbound marketing content

Inbound strategies use several different types of content marketing and formats, including a mix of informational, gated, and promotional content. The idea is to generate brand awareness and develop strong relationships while also baiting the hook to capture contact information, and ultimately close the deal.

So, while you develop your plan, think about how you can attract potential customers throughout the entire content marketing funnel.

Top-of-funnel (TOFU)

  • Social media campaigns
  • Public relations
  • Byline articles
  • Blogs
  • Guides
  • Infographics

Middle-of-funnel (MOFU)

  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Free tools
  • White papers
  • Email campaigns

Bottom-of-funnel (BOFU)

  • Case studies
  • Pricing pages
  • Product comparison pages
  • Sell sheets
  • Testimonials

If you want to learn more about funnels, then read our article, “What the Heck is TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU?”

4 stages of inbound marketing

Inbound marketing is about much more than website traffic. It’s a full-funnel marketing strategy that activates your audience at each stage of the journey. Let’s look at the four phases of the inbound methodology.


The first inbound phase is attraction marketing. Your objective is to introduce your brand to new audiences and drive traffic to your website. Content that works best in this stage include social media posts, bylines, public relations articles, and blog articles.

Blog posts based on the topic cluster framework are ideal because they cover many related themes from different angles.

Helpful software in this stage includes tools for keyword research, content optimization, social media monitoring and scheduling, as well as email outreach tools.


In the second inbound marketing stage, you need to engage your audience and convert interest into action. This phase is all about lead generation.

Your goal is to entice potential customers to exchange their contact information for valuable insights. Then, you can nurture them with drip campaigns until they’re ready to speak to a sales rep. The best types of content for this phase include white papers, market reports, e-books, and webinars.

Tools to consider here include landing page generators, conversion rate optimization tools, and email marketing software.


The third inbound marketing stage is closing the deal. Your objective is to clarify your value proposition, reduce fears, and demonstrate dependability. The best content marketing examples to include here are website solution pages, case studies, sell sheets, online reviews, calculators, and testimonials.

Valuable tools to close deals include a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, pitch decks, and sell sheets.

Delight & upsell

The fourth stage of inbound marketing is about delivering exceptional value to customers so they can’t function without you. In other words: help them see why they can’t live without you.

Your goal in this phase is to strengthen your relationship and highlight your results so they keep asking for more. Content that works best includes slide decks, quarterly business review (QBR) reports, social media posts, direct emails to POCs, video testimonials, and case studies.

It’s harder to nail down specific tools in this stage, but your CRM would be valuable to track data about your POC, as well as performance dashboards and data visualization tools.

How to develop an inbound marketing strategy

Traditional outbound marketing techniques like cold calling aren’t enough to fill your sales funnel. If you want to flood your sales team with qualified leads that convert into new customers, then you also need an effective inbound marketing plan.

Here’s how to create one.

Research your target audience

Inbound marketing is about attracting and engaging your target audience with relevant content. So, if you want to be effective, then you need to understand your customer segments.

Gather data from your sales and product teams about your existing customers to understand your customer lifetime value (CLV) and customer lifecycles. Which segments stay with you the longest, and which ones are most profitable? On the other hand, do some customers cause friction, drain your customer support resources, and eat away at your margins?

The more data you have, the easier it is to segment them into groups so you can create customer personas.

Develop buyer personas

Market research is an invaluable step in the inbound marketing process, but it’s not very user-friendly. To develop effective marketing campaigns that resonate, you need to distill that research into something more actionable. In other words, you need a buyer persona that represents your ideal customer.

Customer personas should include vital information to help you understand how each audience segment thinks and behaves.

It’s a good idea to create several buyer persona examples based on each of your customer segments to personalize your marketing efforts.

Map the buyer’s journey

One of the strengths of inbound marketing is that it reaches potential customers throughout the funnel. To ensure you don’t miss key decision-making moments, map the customer journey from awareness to conversion.

Include every inbound digital marketing channel where you can interact with your target audience as well as friction points to overcome and opportunities to move prospects through the funnel.

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