November 25, 2015 | Emily Winsauer

Inbound Marketing for Dummies

Maybe you're a business owner who's new to marketing, or perhaps your traditional advertising approaches are no longer working. Regardless, inbound marketing can feel like a strange new world—and it helps to have a map.

To get you started, here are some of the most common terms involved in inbound marketing, along with a few in-depth resources about each so you can dig a little deeper if you want.

Inbound Marketing

Let's start with the basics. "Inbound marketing" refers to marketing activities that attract visitors using their own interests and pain points. Outbound marketing, in contrast, requires pushing your message out to prospects using interruptive tactics like TV ads, direct mail, magazine ads, and billboards.

For a little more information about how inbound marketing differs from traditional techniques, read our posts What's the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing? and Inbound vs. Outbound Leads: Who Will Buy First?.

Buyer Personas

The cornerstone of effective inbound marketing, buyer personas are fictional, yet data-driven profiles of your ideal customers. You use these personas to make marketing decisions like which customer pain points to address, what kind of content to produce, and which social media networks to focus on.

We've written a lot about personas, and I even created a free buyer persona master class that will walk you through creating a persona for your business. These posts have everything you need to catch up on the most important element of inbound marketing:

Content Marketing

Though some people use the term "content marketing" synonymously with inbound marketing, in reality, it's more like the foundation of inbound. In this context, content means informational and educational materials like blog posts, premium content offers, videos, infographics, and podcasts.

Content marketing uses buyer personas to create content that will appeal to potential customers at the various stages of their buyer's journey. From the customer's perspective, this journey follows the path of awareness, consideration, and decision. To the marketer, it can be expressed by the "inbound marketing methodology": attract, convert, close, and delight. All of the content you produce serves one of those goals.

If you want to understand content marketing a little better, here are a few posts you can read:


So, how do these ideal customers find your carefully-crafted content? Often, they do so using search terms that describe their problems or interests, the options they're considering, and any hesitations they have about making a purchase. When you optimize your content around the right keywords, you make potential customers much more likely to find it.

Learn more about keywords in these posts:

Premium Content Offer

You may attract interested visitors to your website using keyword-optimized "top of the funnel" content like blog posts and website pages, but you still need to hook 'em once they get there. Premium content offers are pieces of gated content that give consumers more of the valuable information they want in exchange for their contact information.

These offers can be free assessments or consultations, but they are most frequently a form of content, like an ebook, white paper, webinar, podcast, or template. Read Effective Inbound Marketing Campaign Step 1: Develop an Offer to get started on a premium content offer today.

Call to Action

Calls to action (CTAs) are exactly what they sound like: anything that asks you to take an action and gives you a way to do so online. Though CTAs usually look like buttons or graphics, they can be as simple as in-text links that make explicit requests (e.g. "Click here for a free thing!").

While CTAs encourage higher click-through rates, they have another important purpose: tracking. Creating special tracking links for each CTA lets you compare how well they perform and improve them in the future. For more about CTAs, you can read our posts The Anatomy of a Call to Action and How to Design a Great Call to Action.

Landing Page

A landing page is a page on your website dedicated exclusively to the exchange of your offer for some information from the visitor, thereby converting them into a lead. It features an image and description of the benefits of your offer, as well as a form for visitors to fill out in order to receive the resource you’ve created.

There's a lot that you can do to optimize your landing pages, but just like any other element of your inbound marketing campaigns, be sure to conduct your own tests! Start here: Effective Inbound Marketing Campaign Step 2: Killer Landing Pages.

Marketing Automation

If you come from a traditional outbound marketing background, you're going to love how much easier it is to track the results of your efforts with inbound marketing. Another benefit: you can automate your lead nurturing using email workflows and even smart content modules that display different content to different people based on past behavior.

When someone becomes a lead, you can automatically send them a series of nurturing emails. If they take you up on one of the offers in the emails, a closed-loop marketing software like HubSpot can automatically take them out of the first workflow and move them into another. Nice, huh? Learn more here: Effective Inbound Marketing Campaign Step 3: Automated Lead Nurturing.

So, that's everything you need to know to start developing your own inbound marketing strategy. As you implement each tactic, remember that inbound is all about the data. Research industry best practices, then test different things to find out what works for your business! And if there's anything we can do to help you, let us know in the comments.

Did you find this post helpful? Check out our Inbound Marketing Ebook for more details.Free Inbound Marketing Assessment


Emily Winsauer

Emily Winsauer

As VIEO's content director, Emily Winsauer was responsible for content strategy for VIEO and our clients for over 5 years. She recently moved to Seattle where she's still creating compelling content in her new role.

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