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Defining Inbound Marketing in 2012

So just what is Inbound Marketing, anyway?

Image: Open Dictionary

I recently became curious about the origins and evolution of the term ‘inbound marketing’, so I did a little Googling on it to learn more.

Here are some highlights, based on the Google search: define “inbound marketing” 2012.  I wanted to get only fresh results, so I added 2012 to the search phrase.

The term ‘inbound marketing’ has in fact been around since 2005 (Brian Halligan of HubSpot gets credit for coining it).  The Wikipedia entry for it is very helpful, with references to marketing industry heavyweights Brian Halligan, David Meerman Scott, and Seth Godin.

Per Wikipedia… “Inbound marketing is based on the concept of earning the attention of prospects, making yourself easy to be found, and drawing customers to your website by producing content customers value.”

And of course HubSpot — the inbound marketing platform vendor and leading proponent of all things inbound marketing related — provides their definition and a wealth of useful related resources via their Inbound Marketing Hub.

A late March 2012 post by Pam Dyer (see www.pamorama.net) provides some of the now-standard inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing comparisons, including a nice infographic that is none too kind to traditional outbound methods.

There are several good reader comments on that post as well, including some that defend traditional outbound methods.

Bob Ruffolo of Impact Branding and Design offers this recent post: ‘What is Inbound Marketing?’, and this summary definition:  

“Inbound Marketing is a permission based methodology that focuses on driving relevant traffic to your website, converting that traffic to leads, and finally, turning those leads into sales.”

It’s a good summary post that includes a breakdown of the components of a typical inbound-focused program.   

A March 2012 post by Eric Wittlake of B2B Digital Marketing on ‘A New Definition for Inbound Marketing’ provides a little twist on other definitions, stating that:

“Inbound marketing is marketing focused on being found through the recommendation of others and delighting everyone that finds you.”

The point of his brief post is to offer an updated definition of inbound marketing, and to call out some of the more ‘spammy’ tactics that are creeping into the practice.

Steve Olenski of SocialMediaToday.com recently published a good inbound marketing post, including a definition borrowed from Trust eMedia:

“Inbound Marketing is a marketing strategy where businesses implement tactics to ‘get found’ by customers. Inbound Marketing involves creating and providing valuable content for your customers, promoting your remarkable content, building customer relationships, and overall ‘pulling’ the customer toward you. Inbound Marketing strategies create brand awareness, improve Search Engine Optimization, create thought leadership, develop valuable customer relationships, establish credibility, and build trustworthy reputations.”

Steve’s post is really more about inbound lead gen responsiveness, but I included it here since it includes the definition above (and the post ranked well in my Google search… way to go Steve!).  His post was also featured as a May 2012 Forbes article, which by itself is a lesson in the power of good blog content getting picked up by mainstream media.   

AssistSocialMedia.com provides another very recent discussion on the topic, including a reference to the Wikipedia entry I mentioned above, and another colorful infographic titled ‘How Inbound Marketing Works’.  Lots of commentary in the post comments on this one.

Key Takeaways

In summary, I’ll just offer a few key points that struck me while doing this brief bit of research.

  • Despite the term ‘inbound marketing’ being around for several years now, there’s obviously still keen interest in defining and exploring what it really means.  There’s a fair amount of recent web content out there on the topic, as evidenced by my search results isolated to 2012 alone.
  • The core elements of inbound marketing have remained fairly constant over time, though there’s evidence that the definition is evolving a bit as tactics and practices evolve.  The elements relating to ‘permission based marketing’ and ‘pull vs. push’ are still firmly in place.
  • High-quality, informative and compelling content remains at the very foundation of inbound marketing (vs. clever ad creative, for example). 
  • The marketing infrastructure to support inbound programs (software platforms, inbound marketing agencies, content specialists, etc.) is definitely growing.  It’s a hot topic, and a decent ecosystem has formed to engage and deliver these services.
  • The defenders of more traditional ‘outbound’ tactics are still present and active, arguing that at the very least, a blended outbound/inbound (i.e., push + pull) marketing approach makes the most sense.  In other words, many folks are not ready to drink all the inbound marketing Kool-Aid just yet.
  • There are many compelling charts, graphs, and infographics out there that show the apparent supremacy of inbound tactics vs. outbound.  They make for good reading, but my caution would be to take some of them with a grain of salt in any particular market segment.  As they say… ‘your mileage may vary.’

What are your thoughts on inbound marketing vs. outbound / traditional tactics?  What’s working well for your company or marketing agency today?  Any guesses as to where you will likely stand on this in 3-5 years?

And if you need any help with your company’s B2B marketing strategy and tactics, or just don’t have time/resources in-house to explore this further, feel free to get in touch with us here at iBeam for assistance.

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