What is inbound marketing? Being the honey, not the bee

Bee on honeycomb symbolising the purpose of inbound marketing

Inbound marketing is a strategy that focuses on creating relevant, engaging content to bring qualified prospects and customers to you rather than pushing out content that competes for the market’s attention.

Or, as Gary Vaynerchuk puts it:

“I’m a big fan of becoming the honey and letting the bees come to you.”

So, why go inbound?

Well, partly because traditional, outbound forms of media are becoming less effective in today’s technological world. Cold calling can be countered by caller-ID, spam filters can block mass emails and TV advertising is suffering as more people tune in through subscription networks like Netflix. Traditional marketing is also interruptive – it takes you out of the user experience to get its message to you, serving to frustrate as much as educate.

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Inbound marketing turns the traditional marketing model on its head by giving control to the user, not the marketer. Inbound empowers potential customers by offering them content marketing they want to see rather than interrupting them with messages that probably don’t want to see. And should that content be sufficiently interesting, useful or entertaining (or, hopefully, all three), the decision to carry on the customer relationship is in their hands, not the marketers’.

Magnet used to show the benefits of inbound marketing and answer the question 'What is inbound marketing?'

The law of attraction: putting your customers first

Unlike most forms of traditional marketing, inbound is purely customer-focused. It puts your customers’ needs first and does it in a non-intrusive manner.

Essentially, inbound marketing is helpful content that people want in their lives and actively go looking for. And by supplying it, you become the go-to, trusted authority in your field, putting you at the forefront of customers’ minds and one step ahead of the competition.

What does inbound marketing look like?

Well, chances are you’re already using it. It’s that problem-solving blog instead of a billboard ad; it’s a killer bit of video content on a Facebook group instead of a winter-time radio slot advertising sun glasses; it’s a product review on Facebook or Amazon instead of a magazine editorial; it’s your shiny website with an engaging UX instead of a glossy brochure.

And it’s all underpinned by best SEO practice and analysis that puts you at the top of the digital pile.

By creating relevant content that taps into the needs of your users, inbound marketing attracts potential consumers, converts prospects into brand believers, closes the deal by generating sales and delights customers with post-sales services.

Graphic showing the difference between outbound and inbound marketing and explaining What is inbound marketing?

But if you’re going to be the honey…

…make sure you taste sweet.

That means creating expertly produced content your audience will actually want to see. It means understanding your audience – their demographics, social preferences, economic outlook, etc. – so you can solve their problems, provide interest or keep them entertained.

Once you know your audience, you can get to work producing that 2-minute video on how to cook the perfect fillet steak, that in-depth thought piece on the impact of social media on today’s political landscape (ahem), or that social media feed that’s not only educational but more entertaining than the latest Netflix series.

So, what is inbound marketing? It’s putting the customers’ needs first through engaging, relevant, and educational content. It’s being the magnet, not the megaphone. The honey, not the bee.

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