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Inbound Digital Marketing: What it Is and How it Works

Businesses that market online are finding that traditional outbound tactics aren’t as effective as they once were. Online consumers are now bombarded by so much outbound information from marketers, they tend to tune most of it out. In today’s online world, consumers don’t just sit around and wait for ads about products and services they’re interested in to find them. They proactively search for information about those products and services. In response to this phenomenon, businesses began using an inbound digital marketing approach. That is, they position themselves to be found by proactive consumers, and work to create and nurture a relationship with the prospective customer before they ever buy anything.

How Inbound Digital Marketing Works

According to the marketing experts at HubSpot, there are four action steps in the inbound marketing process:

  1. Attract
  2. Convert
  3. Close
  4. Delight

These action steps are accomplished using tools blogs, keywords and keyword phrases, social media, online forms, calls-to-action (CTA), landing pages, customer relationship management (CRM), email, workflows, surveys, smart content, and social monitoring.

Let’s get into some detail about these action steps.


Step 1: Attract Prospects

In the context of this article, attracting prospects means getting strangers interested in exploring your company and its offerings. There are three tools you can use to accomplish this: a blogs, keywords and social publishing.


A business blog is a website that presents information about a company and its products, services, and industry. Most blogs are interactive, allowing visitors can leave comments or ask questions. This is what distinguishes a blog from a static business website. The interactive nature of a blog also makes it a great social networking tool. Publishing a search engine optimized blog is an excellent way for a business to attract strangers to them and their products.


In addition to driving traffic to your company’s static website, keywords and keyword phrases help drive traffic to your company’s blog. Keywords and phrases are what the search engines use to find content that people are looking for on a particular topic. People interested in a particular product typically start with an internet search about that product. For example, someone interested in click tracking tools can simply type that phrase in their browser’s search bar and they’ll get over 70 million results with the most relevant ones appearing at the top of the search engine results page (SERP), just below the paid ads.

Social Publishing

Social publishing is another tool for attracting visitors to your company blog or website. While search engine optimization (SEO) can help people find your content, it also exposes them to everyone else’s content on the same topic. Social media, on the other hand, allows you to share your content on the social web where it can be re-shared countless times. The most common social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Social media also enables you to engage with your prospects in real-time, thereby putting a human “face” on your brand.

The three tools we’ve discussed here are the primary ones used to attract visitors and should be part of all inbound digital marketing strategies, but they’re not the only ones. As we discuss steps 2 thru 4, consider how you might use the tools associated with those steps to also attract visitors.

Infograph explaining inbound digital marketing

Step 2: Convert Visitors

As you begin getting people to explore your company and its offerings, it’s time to convert them from strangers into leads. The three primary tools for doing this are calls-to-action, landing pages and online forms.


You probably know what a call-to-action is in marketing, but do you understand the psychology behind it? According to Kissmetrics, there are four psychological elements to calls-to-action.

  • People expect a call-to-action
  • The call-to-action piques our curiosity
  • The call-to-action feeds our anticipatory tendencies
  • The call-to-action reinforces a sense of reward

By understanding and applying the psychology behind the call-to-action, you’ll be able to create calls-to-action that will naturally lead visitors to the next step in the conversion process.

Landing Pages

A landing page is a web page that captures a visitor’s contact information in exchange for something of value through a lead-capture form. Good landing pages target a narrowly defined group of people rather than a broad spectrum. So smart marketers use multiple landing pages, each targeted at a different group. For example, you might use one landing page for people you sent an email offering to. Another landing page might target people who click on a pay-per-click ad. Still another might target people responding to an offer you made via a paid social media ad. The possibilities are endless.

In addition to creating leads, landing pages can capture contact information as well as buyer persona information.

Online Forms

Every landing page that captures information from visitors contains an online form. Your lead capture form can contain as little as the prospect’s first-name and e-mail address and as much as their full name, e-mail address, phone number, mailing address, gender, age, level of education, etc. There’s really no limit to the amount of information you can collect on an online form but you shouldn’t get carried away. Carefully review your lead generation goals and balance the amount of information you need against how much information your prospects are likely to provide on an online form – particularly an initial form.

Step 3: Closing Leads

As you begin to convert visitors into leads, you’ll start to feel like your inbound digital marketing strategy is really taking off. But don’t get too comfortable. After all, leads don’t pay the bills or generate profit until you turn them into customers. The primary tools for accomplishing that are customer relationship management (CRM), e-mail and workflows.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

According to TechTarget, CRM refers to the various practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer data and interactions throughout the customer life cycle. The goal of CRM is to enhance a company’s business relationships with its customers, improve customer retention and drive sales growth.

There are currently several CRM software products on the market. Common features of this software include:

  • Marketing automation that enables you to automatically send marketing materials to sales leads via social media, e-mail or sms text.
  • Sales force automation (aka. sales force management) that automatically tracks all contacts and follow-ups between prospects and sales people.
  • Contact center automation that minimizes the repetitive elements of a contact center employee’s job. Examples include pre-recorded audio clips that contain various pieces of information and assist in customer problem-solving.
  • Location-based services that enable you to create marketing campaigns for specific geographic locations. This technology can also be used as a contact management tool in order to find prospects based on their location.


One useful holdover from the days of outbound marketing is e-mail. The difference when you use email as an inbound marketing tool is the prospect initiates the contact. For example, a visitor may click on your call-to-action button or fill out an online form but still not be ready to become a customer. In these cases you can send the prospect a series of emails focused on useful, relevant content. These automated e-mails can go a long way in building trust with a prospect and help them become more ready to buy.


Another term for workflow is advanced lead nurturing. In fact, workflows are just like a lead nurturing email series. But there’s more to it than just e-mail. Workflows include all communications with a lead, and gather more information from the lead. The more information you have about a lead, the better able you are to pre-qualify them early in the lead-to-business relationship, and automatically keep them involved with your brand.

Step 4: Delight Customers

Step 4 is probably the most fun because it leads to the best of all sales and marketing tools – the referral. Just because you’ve closed a lead and they’ve written you a check, given you their credit card information or sent you money via PayPal or Apple Pay, doesn’t mean you can just forget about them. That’s the time to up-sell them and make them promoters of your brand. You can do this by continuing to nurture the relationship after leads become customers. The primary tools used here include surveys, smart content and social monitoring.


The best way to up-sell customers is to learn more about them so you know what more they might need. Surveys are a great way to do just that. Creating surveys is easy with services like FluidSurveys and SurveyMonkey. You can even tailor your surveys to specific customer groups. Then simply post them on social media or send them via e-mail to specific customers.

Smart Content

Once you’ve sold something to a customer, you have more definitive information about them and their preferences, based on what they bought and their survey responses. You can use this additional information, along with what you already knew, to deliver even more remarkable content to them.

This can include relevant information to help them overcome challenges and achieve their goals. It can also include introductions to new products and features that might be of interest to them. This content can also include smart calls-to-action that present customers with customized offers based on their individual buyer persona and life cycle stage.

Social Monitoring

There are three marketing related categories of social media monitoring: attracting new prospects, lead nurturing and customer care. In the context of this post, we’ll focus on customer care.

Social media sites have evolved beyond being just social platforms. More and more consumers use social media to ask questions, lodge complaints, or report satisfaction with a product or service. Smart marketers monitor social media for just these types of messages so they can be more responsive to their customer’s needs. The challenge is finding the time to effectively monitor the various social media channels for that information. Automated social monitoring tools like HubSpot’s Social Media Inbox are designed to make this process easier.

When you’re responsive to your customers, you can turn dissatisfied customers into very satisfied customers and make satisfied customers even happier. In both cases, your customers will become happy promoters of your brand.

Of course an important element of any inbound digital marketing strategy is a robust tracking and analytics capability that tells you how visitors got to your website or blog. To learn how Taveo Analytics can help you with this, we invite you to learn more today.

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