I spend zero dollars marketing my business. “Marketing” in its traditional sense includes advertising, baiting media outlets with press releases and, to paraphrase David Meerman Scott, buy, beg and borrow for leads and attention. The way people find out about my business is through two primary mechanisms: Word-of-Mouth recommendations and finding me through search engine results.

Word-of-Mouth, in this instance, is inclusive of people passing recommendations online. If an account manager at a public relations firm is looking for a social media consultant and asks his or her network online for a recommendation and my name surfaces, that’s word-of-mouth. When that recommendation comes from an electronic source, we have a tendency to say it’s not word-of-mouth. Machines don’t have mouths so we can’t quite wrap our head around the inclusion.

But when we’ve spent only time and energy producing digital footprints that enable machines to make those recommendations, we’re not buying or begging for the attention. We’re simply making it easy for potential customers to find us. This is called, “inbound marketing.”

Raised hand by Charles B. Ming Onn on Shutterstock.comSome examples of inbound marketing:

  • You blog about interior design and, because you use several relevant terms to people searching for an interior decorator, begin to climb in organic search rankings. Emails or phone calls come in (inbound) from people asking if they can hire you to decorate their homes.
  • You find and share valuable content with people interested in stock market tips on Twitter. Some of your followers start reaching out to you asking if you can help with their investment advice.
  • Your thoughts about your industry become noted by your peers and you wind up ranked on a Top 10 List of blogs relevant to your field. Potential customers go searching for experts in the field and find the Top 10 List, thus finding you, and call you to inquire about your services.

Friday I took a call from a gentleman who makes speciality software for a niche industry. He has little reason to know who I am or even where to turn for social media, public relations or Internet marketing advice. He spent a couple of hours last week researching those three topics online and, “my name kept popping up.”

This is inbound marketing at its finest. I spent nothing more to acquire that customer (I haven’t yet, but for the sake of argument, let’s say I do.) than the 45 minutes or so each day I spend sharing good content on Twitter and Facebook, 3-4 hours per week I spend writing blog posts and 3-4 additional hours per month I spend writing my monthly newsletter. That equals about 20 percent of my time, which is about what many businesses spend on marketing in some manner.

I provide content that is of interest to people wanting to learn or know something about social media, public relations and Internet marketing. I share similar content from other people who do the same. And the calls, emails and other messages keep coming in.

This is your primary reason for using social media marketing. Yes, there are others. No, I don’t recommend most businesses use only social media and/or inbound marketing techniques the way I do. But if you’re looking for a way to get a leg up on the competition, there’s a pretty good chance they either aren’t using inbound marketing, or they aren’t doing it well.

The pros and cons of inbound marketing are interesting to consider as well. While you can spend significantly less money than traditional, outbound marketing, you can also spend considerably more time producing the content and other digital footprints that attract leads. Depending upon your business, you audience, your content and so on, this varies.

Perhaps the biggest pro, in my opinion, is that the leads you gain through inbound marketing are pre-qualified and are looking to buy your particular product or service. This not only enhances your chances of making a sale, but makes a world of difference on the relationship you can build with that customer. They come to you ready to spend. They want to give you their money. If you “sell” someone on your services, there’s a cautionary skepticism about spending their money with you.

When your customers choose you rather than you targeting them, you are more than a vendor.

For more about inbound marketing, you should get to know the folks at Hubspot, come to an Inbound Marketing Summit or do a search for the term and see who’s talking about it.

But inbound marketing isn’t new. People have been doing forms of it for years. Think on the process a bit and let me know how you’ve been performing inbound marketing. The comments are yours.

IMAGE: Raised hand by Charles B. Ming Onn on Shutterstock.com.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • ShaneRQR

    Great post!
    Inbound marketing is a very interesting and important concept. It's definitely the way to go, as more and more diverese offers are available and people are more likely to find the perfect match for what they are looking for. That's what all the long-tail and niche marketing business is about, after all.
    Don't try to be the guy who sells the best batteries. Be the guy who sells the best weather-proof batteries for Nikon cameras intended for outdoor use, including a solar-panel charging device. :)

  • http://twitter.com/davemorse Dave Morse

    Jason – Totally agree with your article, but then again, I'm in the choir. The biggest challenge we face (in large and small companies alike) is getting traditional marketers to wrap their minds around content marketing and social media – specifically, the stuff that gets spread online is not self-centered blubberish about your products, but rather, value-added content that the readers/recipients value. Traditional marketers are sooooo conditioned to talk about/focus on their own products – it's really tough to break that thinking and get across the point that content and conversations that focus on EVERYTHING EXCEPT products and services is the better approach. I wrote a similar (but longer) article on the subject of Inbound Marketing a.k.a. “Why I Hate the Term 'Social Media'” – http://davemorse.net/2009/09/02/why-i-hate-the-

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, David. Always appreciate the perspective and links for further
      reading.

  • http://twitter.com/davemorse Dave Morse

    Jason – Totally agree with your article, but then again, I'm in the choir. The biggest challenge we face (in large and small companies alike) is getting traditional marketers to wrap their minds around content marketing and social media – specifically, the stuff that gets spread online is not self-centered blubberish about your products, but rather, value-added content that the readers/recipients value. Traditional marketers are sooooo conditioned to talk about/focus on their own products – it's really tough to break that thinking and get across the point that content and conversations that focus on EVERYTHING EXCEPT products and services is the better approach. I wrote a similar (but longer) article on the subject of Inbound Marketing a.k.a. “Why I Hate the Term 'Social Media'” – http://davemorse.net/2009/09/02/why-i-hate-the-

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks, David. Always appreciate the perspective and links for further
    reading.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Well said, Shane. Thanks!

  • http://primecutsblog.com justinlevy

    Thank you kindly for the conference nod. :)

  • http://primecutsblog.com justinlevy

    Thank you kindly for the conference nod. :)

  • anne jaa

    Well that's good and helpful information you have given!I didn't know much about inbound marketing and its effects.So now i will keep looking around for more information.

    investor business daily

  • anne jaa

    Well that's good and helpful information you have given!I didn't know much about inbound marketing and its effects.So now i will keep looking around for more information.

    investor business daily

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks, Anne. Glad we could give you food for thought.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks, Anne. Glad we could give you food for thought.

  • http://www.blog.beevok.com/ Yst

    Thanks for the great information about inbound marketing.
    You recommended not to only do inbound marketing. In this day and age, what do you feel companies whom deal with many customers each paying a bit (e.g. social network, niche amazon) do for outbound marketing that would be most effective?
    PS: You'd be surprised how clueless some “senior” executives are about some things. I can share a story with you privately about a big company I once worked with.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the comment. I think your marketing mix is dependent upon a lot
      of factors. If you can reach a mass audience with effective direct mail,
      outdoor advertising, television, etc., then you use that to drive people to
      the engagement points on- or off-line. But it depends on where your audience
      is and if a mass marketing appeal would drive the type of interactions you
      want. I know that's a broad and generic answer, but it really is how I would
      approach it.

  • http://www.blog.beevok.com/ Yst

    Thanks for the great information about inbound marketing.
    You recommended not to only do inbound marketing. In this day and age, what do you feel companies whom deal with many customers each paying a bit (e.g. social network, niche amazon) do for outbound marketing that would be most effective?
    PS: You'd be surprised how clueless some “senior” executives are about some things. I can share a story with you privately about a big company I once worked with.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for the comment. I think your marketing mix is dependent upon a lot
    of factors. If you can reach a mass audience with effective direct mail,
    outdoor advertising, television, etc., then you use that to drive people to
    the engagement points on- or off-line. But it depends on where your audience
    is and if a mass marketing appeal would drive the type of interactions you
    want. I know that's a broad and generic answer, but it really is how I would
    approach it.

  • socialmediaexpert258

    Inbound marketing refers to the efforts you put it in that drive customers to find you. Using social media sites is essential for effective inbound marketing.

  • socialmediaexpert258

    Inbound marketing refers to the efforts you put it in that drive customers to find you. Using social media sites is essential for effective inbound marketing.

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  • annejaa

    The most important part of a successful inbound marketing strategy is creating great content that will bring people into your sales process. Another important element is ensuring that you have a site that is optimize to close leads into deals and engages visitors once they land on your website.

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  • http://twitter.com/patrickboegel Patrick

    Hey Jason, I've been playing around with some numbers for a few client projects and in the process was looking at some off our “marketing” efforts and comping them against content strategies. Riffing off of your post in early January, this one here as well, found some compelling real time costs under the hood. It is somewhat apples to oranges, but to steal a line from Mr. Portokalos “in the end we all fruit”. As everyone is hashing out these value metrics, just thought I'd share a little bit of insight http://bit.ly/9tiQdh

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Awesome. I'll go read ASAP! Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/patrickboegel Patrick

    Hey Jason, I've been playing around with some numbers for a few client projects and in the process was looking at some off our “marketing” efforts and comping them against content strategies. Riffing off of your post in early January, this one here as well, found some compelling real time costs under the hood. It is somewhat apples to oranges, but to steal a line from Mr. Portokalos “in the end we all fruit”. As everyone is hashing out these value metrics, just thought I'd share a little bit of insight http://bit.ly/9tiQdh

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Awesome. I'll go read ASAP! Thanks.

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  • http://brentongieser.com/ Brenton Gieser

    Hey Jason,

    Inbound marketing is absolutely essential especially for service based business models. It's cost effective, authentic and it drives qualified leads (for the most part).

    On the other side of the coin it takes a long time to gain influence, it's harder to measure than outbound and sometimes it produces more questions than business opportunities (don't worry I do see the value in every opportunity and understand that it's beyond sales conversions).

    What do you think is the best inbound practices a new company or consultant can do? I believe it may take a little more creativity and working with some influencers for anyone to gain traction in a saturated space (like social media consulting).

    Would love to hear your thoughts…and the community's thought.

    Thanks as always Jason!

    -Brenton Gieser

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Brenton. I think generalizing here is a little dangerous. Inbound
      marketing in general can do a lot of different things and serve a lot of
      different purposes. It's also not always harder to measure (measure the
      effectiveness of a billboard vs. the search results won organically because
      of a blog, for instance) and while building trust and relationships takes
      time, it can also be something that happens quickly. (Dell Outlet on Twitter
      started selling stuff and had 10s of thousands of followers almost
      overnight.)

      If I were to pick one inbound marketing method to employ, it would be a blog
      focused on winning keywords your business is focused on. Recent research
      I've helped with (along with Chris Baggott, Debbie Weil and Jay Baer) shows
      us that 85% of corporate blog traffic comes from first-time visitors (search
      engines and referring sites), not a community of followers. By having
      strategically written blog focused on capturing keyword search results, then
      having specific calls to action to capture those visitors once on site, you
      have an inbound marketing funnel driving business.

      • http://brentongieser.com/ Brenton Gieser

        Thanks for the additional insights my friend.

        I had to make the generalization for the sake of time and space (I can only imagine how exhausting it must be responding to 30 comments each posts :).

        Thanks for illustrating some strong examples!

      • http://twitter.com/inblurbs Dragan Mestrovic

        Remarkable content is the most important factor to get found.

        The more posts you produce the more outposts and chance you have to get found and seen from target audience.

        Great post :)

  • http://brentongieser.com/ Brenton Gieser

    Hey Jason,

    Inbound marketing is absolutely essential especially for service based business models. It's cost effective, authentic and it drives qualified leads (for the most part).

    On the other side of the coin it takes a long time to gain influence, it's harder to measure than outbound and sometimes it produces more questions than business opportunities (don't worry I do see the value in every opportunity and understand that it's beyond sales conversions).

    What do you think is the best inbound practices a new company or consultant can do? I believe it may take a little more creativity and working with some influencers for anyone to gain traction in a saturated space (like social media consulting).

    Would love to hear your thoughts…and the community's thought.

    Thanks as always Jason!

    -Brenton Gieser

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks Brenton. I think generalizing here is a little dangerous. Inbound
    marketing in general can do a lot of different things and serve a lot of
    different purposes. It's also not always harder to measure (measure the
    effectiveness of a billboard vs. the search results won organically because
    of a blog, for instance) and while building trust and relationships takes
    time, it can also be something that happens quickly. (Dell Outlet on Twitter
    started selling stuff and had 10s of thousands of followers almost
    overnight.)

    If I were to pick one inbound marketing method to employ, it would be a blog
    focused on winning keywords your business is focused on. Recent research
    I've helped with (along with Chris Baggott, Debbie Weil and Jay Baer) shows
    us that 85% of corporate blog traffic comes from first-time visitors (search
    engines and referring sites), not a community of followers. By having
    strategically written blog focused on capturing keyword search results, then
    having specific calls to action to capture those visitors once on site, you
    have an inbound marketing funnel driving business.

  • http://brentongieser.com/ Brenton Gieser

    Thanks for the additional insights my friend.

    I had to make the generalization for the sake of time and space (I can only imagine how exhausting it must be responding to 30 comments each posts :).

    Thanks for illustrating some strong examples!

  • http://www.workwithcherry.com/ Cherry Rahtu

    Hi Jason,I am from Singapore, your blog post is impressive, I do see the value and potential of inbound marketing, it will benefit lots of small business, I am not a computer savvy but really interested into IM, I am currently taking inbounding marketing university courses, I love the interesting program and I would like to learn more from you. Best Regards!

  • http://www.workwithcherry.com/ Cherry Rahtu

    Hi Jason,I am from Singapore, your blog post is impressive, I do see the value and potential of inbound marketing, it will benefit lots of small business, I am not a computer savvy but really interested into IM, I am currently taking inbounding marketing university courses, I love the interesting program and I would like to learn more from you. Best Regards!

  • http://www.contactcenterphilippines.net contact centers philippines

    Great article.. Inbound Marketing and social media have leveled the playing field for small businesses who couldn't afford outbound marketing.. They don't need it anymore.. For a fraction of the big businesses outbound marketing budget ,the small businesses can get found via inbound marketing and play with the large businesses.
    Great article.. Thanks for posting.

  • http://www.contactcenterphilippines.net contact centers philippines

    Great article.. Inbound Marketing and social media have leveled the playing field for small businesses who couldn't afford outbound marketing.. They don't need it anymore.. For a fraction of the big businesses outbound marketing budget ,the small businesses can get found via inbound marketing and play with the large businesses.
    Great article.. Thanks for posting.

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  • http://twitter.com/xenappblog Trond E Haavarstein

    When I add new content to my It's all about applications and virtualization” Blog, I use a lot of pictures.

    This way the readers always know what do do next instead of gettings lost in 250 pages of documentation. Keep It Stupid Simple

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    I agree your article. Our biggest challenge is becoming a marketing traditional wrap their minds around the content marketing and social media – especially the material that is distributed online is not egocentric blubberish you products, but rather readers of a value-added content / value recipients. This is an interested article. I like this post very much.

  • http://www.theonyxcard.com/ best prepaid credit card

    I agree your article. Our biggest challenge is becoming a marketing traditional wrap their minds around the content marketing and social media – especially the material that is distributed online is not egocentric blubberish you products, but rather readers of a value-added content / value recipients. This is an interested article. I like this post very much.

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  • http://twitter.com/vtmarcotte Vanessa Marcotte

    Thanks Jason for the great post on Inbound Marketing. As an aspiring marketer myself, I would hope that more companies and professionals alike begin to adapt to this effective and quite necessary approach. I really liked how you point out that, “the leads you gain through inbound marketing are pre-qualified and are looking to buy your particular product or service.” This nicely summarizes the whole Jaffe/ Flip the Funnel urgency for marketers to invest more in the retention of existing customers and letting the acquisition of new customers follow suit. I like to argue the same methodology on my blog: http://www.missnewmarketing.blogspot.com. Hope you will check it out. Thanks again!

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  • Darren Davis

    Great article Jason!

    3 years later and Inbound Marketing has only gotten larger, more popular and changed the way I’ve done business. I personal just became a Certified HubSpot Partner at my company http://LinkCaffeine.com and am very pleased at the results it’s brought myself and my clients who have signed up with HubSpot :)All my best,
    Darren Davis

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