What is Inbound or Automated Marketing? How Does It Work?

In the 20th century, marketing and advertising were a natural fit in the media culture that was gradually building in America. Old-school marketing methods like door-to-door sales and cold calling were effective but soon replaced with direct mail, billboard, print ads radio and television. These new mediums were adopted not because they were more effective on a one-on-one basis but because they could leverage the message to the masses at a minimal cost per person and harness a larger number of sales.

As the internet evolved, our access to it became more mobile, our eyes and ears redirected from what’s up to what’s down on our handy smart devices. Early advertisers approached this new advertising medium the same way they approached the mass mediums of the past. Display became the norm and consumers reacted with ad blockers and are making it known that they think content should be free and open to all with out paid advertising.


Even some video streaming services like Hulu offer options that block ads from appearing before or during any available programming.  Netflix, on the other hand, doesn’t include advertising with any of its streaming programming. Music services like Spotify have similar premium options.  Obstacles like these can shift advertising into a relatively passive experience, which doesn’t help companies reach out to new customers, much less crystalize their brands. When navigating the ever-evolving digital space, what kind of marketing campaign can your company execute to succeed?

The answer depends on the quality and context of your content. Does your content solve a problem? Does it provide information that’s vital to your target audience? Does it at least spark topical conversation? And most importantly, can it convert a prospect into a brand advocate.

How can you leverage your content to build a relationship with the consumer. This is what’s called inbound marketing. A term coined by the co-founder of marketing software developer HubSpot. The methodology behind inbound marketing focuses on:

  • Attracting strangers to your brand by creating personable connections through blogs, keywords and social media messaging to encourage them into visiting your online marketplace.
  • Converting those visitors into leads by inviting them to landing pages where they engage in calls to action or supply simple information, like a name and email address that allows them to receive e-newsletters, which turns visitors into leads.
  • Closing deals that make them customers go from possible to probable after they’ve signed up to receive emailed content that’s relevant and timely to their interests.
  • Delighting new and returning customers with engaging content and access to exclusives, so they feel like a valuable part of the brand and become your regular promoters.

Shared through social media, blogs, video and other interactive engagement tools, content that’s relevant and helpful to your target audience can be your company’s magnet for leads to new and returning customers. Once you attract the lead, the system goes to work with an automated marketing process of content, emails, posts and even display to drive the prospect into a customer. Each step is tracked and can be created with “if-then” scenarios automating the right message based on the prospects behavior. Amazing, right?

If you’re having doubts about the effectiveness of inbound marketing, consider what brands you’ve been drawn to because of online content. HubSpot offers several examples of brands that have successfully implemented inbound marketing. Here are some highlights:

  • Starbucks consistently posts beautiful photography that highlights cup styles, store locations and seasonable flavors. But it also uses the company’s Facebook page to share job postings, contests and features for its mobile app. The Facebook page also includes a store locator in case visitors suddenly are thirsty for a cup of joe.
  • GoPro’s YouTube channel streams videos created by its customers to show off the durability of the mobile cameras in different environments. From jumping from a plane to observing wildlife, the videos highlight the experiences that customers have captured using the company’s products.
  • Airbnb’s personalized emails uses the customer’s search history to notify them when rentals become available in cities they’re interested in visiting. The emails are also timed to remind customers that they should take time to relax and recharge.

These examples reveal some of the best practices behind inbound marketing: the right content at the right place and at the right time. Additionally, the ROI delivered is typically less expensive with inbound marketing than the offline methods. The best marketers and their agencies analyze their results and optimize where necessary to adapt to changing factors and trends relevant to their target audiences.

If you know what’s important to your target audience, then you can develop the right message that will turn today’s strangers into tomorrow’s ambassadors for your brand.

Today, inbound or automated marketing is an important part of any brand’s ecosystem. If you are looking for advice or just want to chat about inbound marketing email Alex to set up a call at Avanwinkle@vanwinkleassociates.com.