March 31, 2021 | 5 min reading time

Despite popular belief, marketers are not the guys that print out T-shirts and notebooks for special events. Marketing used to be a lot about that, but ever since this amazing thing called “inbound marketing” was created, the world has taken a different path. A much better one, if you ask us. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here and ask the important questions: what is inbound marketing, why should you care, and how do you run PPC on inbound? 

Want to learn what is inbound marketing (for real)? Keep reading, we’ve got answers. 

So, What Is Inbound Marketing? 

If you are wondering what is inbound marketing, you are not the only one.

Inbound marketing is a business approach that focuses on building meaningful relationships with leads before converting them into actual customers (and well after, by loyalizing them to the brand). 

Inbound marketing aims to attract people (strangers) towards a business by providing them with genuine value from the get-go, and slowly magnetizing them around the brand using engaging and delighting strategies. 

The “slowly magnetizing” part is usually done according to a clearly established buyer journey (which includes three main stages, as well as their appendixes: Top of the Funnel/ Awareness, Middle of the Funnel/ Consideration, and Bottom of the Funnel/ Decision). 

It all sounds very complicated when you first bump into it, but if we were to give a very simple answer to the question of “what is inbound marketing”, it would be this: marketing that’s real and human and focuses on building lasting, fructuous relationships with people. 

Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing

So, wait, non-inbound marketing is not human and real? 

No, not at all. 

There is something very human about pretty much any kind of marketing, and that includes the “old-school” ways too. Billboards and T-shirts are just as human as anything else, and they’ve worked pretty well for companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, and many other giants. 

It’s just that inbound marketing aims to nurture leads, rather than interrupt them from their normal program. So, in other words, the main difference between outbound and inbound marketing lies in who initiates the conversation. 

If the business initiates the communication, then they are doing outbound marketing. 

If the customer initiates the communication when they need the product, the company holding that product is doing inbound marketing. 

Inbound marketing is usually a long-term game that centers around showing people how great you are before they even know that they need you and your product.

Inbound is selfless. It shares knowledge and entertainment without clearly expecting something in return from those who consume the content. It doesn’t nag them as they walk down the street, minding their own business, but creates content and experiences that are so good people are naturally drawn to it. 

Groove is a very good example in this sense. By creating an entire marketing strategy that focuses on being genuinely helpful, this productivity app has built solid followership. When those people are ready to switch to a new productivity app, Groove will be automatically on their minds. 

Smart, right? 

Is Inbound Marketing Just a Content/ SEO Thing? 

We’re afraid there’s no yes/ no answer to this question (just like the question of "what is inbound marketing" cannot be answered in just a few paragraphs).

It is a “yes” because inbound marketing focuses on creating content that attracts, engages, and delights people. And by default, that includes SEO as well (since you need to optimize your content if you want to be “seen”). 

However, inbound marketing is not just a content or SEO thing, but an integrated approach to marketing as a whole. And yes, that includes all branches and channels of communication in the digital space: 

Does PPC Have a Role to Play in Inbound Marketing? 

OK, we kind of gave this up in the list mentioned above, but to give a more extended answer: yes, PPC does have a role to play in inbound marketing. 

The reason you might be asking yourself this is because Pay-per-Click advertising can be quite disruptive, sometimes. In many situations, it is a transposition of old-school advertising into the digital space. 

However, PPC does have an important role to play in inbound marketing, as it can boost its efforts by pushing content and campaigns forward and making them more noticeable in the eyes of customers. 

Some of the main ways you can use PPC in inbound marketing include the following: 

  • Accelerating a fresh inbound marketing campaign
  • Helping you collect data on keywords 
  • Target a very specific audience that “hits” very specific parameters (such as a certain age, location, range of interests, and so on)
  • Bring enough traffic to a page you want to A/B test from one perspective or another 
  • Boost your reach in social media 

While PPC might not lie at the core of inbound marketing, it can definitely be a supporting channel (and one you shouldn’t just ignore). In the end, everyone adapts marketing strategy theories to their business, industry, and market, and it might just be that PPC suits you more than you think, regardless of how much of an inbound marketer you might be. 

Is this all there is to say about "what is inbound marketing"?

Absolutely no. We could go on and on, for an entire book. But if there's one lesson to be drawn from this is that you can do marketing without disrupting your potential customers. And that, yes, PPC does have a pretty important role in this type of approach.

Jason is the CMO @ ClickGUARD. He is passionate about all things PPC, SEO and has extensive customer acquisition experience. When not writing about SEM he can be found surfing the wildest ocean waves of the South American coast.