Why Inbound Marketing Has Become So Popular

by Dustin J. Hall | 4 MIN READ

inbound marketing

If you've taken a look around the digital marketing landscape lately, you've realized that inbound marketing is pretty darn popular. My ski buddies would even go as far to say, "It's like, sick popular, brah." Which I think is pretty much the same thing.

Anyway, the term "inbound marketing" made it's official debut in 2006 when HubSpot's co-founder Brian Halligan coined the term and set the wheels in motion for what would be a virtual revolution in the world of marketing.

Since that time, more and more business owners, marketers and agencies have adopted this methodology with notable success.

So what the heck is it and why has it so quickly become a staple in the 'ole marketing tool shed?

What is Inbound Marketing?

In its most simple terms, inbound marketing is the art of using content to attract customers to a brand online. If you want to get real nerdy, you can check out this more specific and evolving definition of inbound marketing.

So what types of content are businesses using to make "inbound" happen?

Here's a quick list:

  • blogs
  • ebooks
  • white papers
  • e-newsletters
  • email
  • social media
  • SEO
  • video

Other forms of content can include podcasts, infographics, slideshare presentations, case studies, etc.

Basically, any type of content that can be found online and used to draw people into a brand. Marketers then strategize how best to deliver the right content to the right place at the right time.

Being present and available where customers already spend their time online is the key (Google, social networks, etc) to ensuring that the brand is capable of answering the customer's questions within the customer's very own online environment.

This is pretty different from traditional, often more interruptive methods of marketing which most of us are slowly tuning out.

Even seemingly similar methods like growth hacking are still noticeably different from inbound.

A Quick Look at Our Daily Lives (Some Interesting Numbers)

Before we get too far, I'd like you to think about your typical day and how many marketing messages you receive throughout that day.

You wake up, check your emails and messages on your phone, drive to work likely checking your phone a few more times (c'mon, we're all guilty here), get to the office and get on your computer to check your emails...again, then Google whatever you need to research that day plus visit your social media accounts a few times (checking your phone a few times in the interim), hopefully eat see where I'm going with this.

We spend a lot of time online - seeking answers to our questions, hanging out in our social networks and staying up on recent happenings. And given the speed and accessibility of the internet, we expect to find the answers we seek almost instantly.

On top of that, we are exposed to a ton of marketing messages. And I mean a TON (see numbers below).

Whether through subconscious adaptation or relative desensitization, we are becoming impervious to these daily attempts to interrupt our lives. Go humans!

Some Interesting Numbers on Ourselves and Our Internet Use

To drive this point even further, here are some interesting numbers by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, The U.S. National Library of Medicine, The Associated Press, Pew Research, Nielsen & Forrester.

  • 12 - the average number of seconds in a person's attention span in the year 2000.
  • 8 - the average number of seconds in a person's attention span in the year 2013.
  • 9 - the average number of seconds in a goldfish's attention span.
  • 30 - the average number of times an office worker checks their email inbox per hour.
  • 87 - % of U.S. adults that use the internet as of January 2014.
  • 34 - the numbers of hours U.S. adults spend on the internet using their smartphones per month.
  • 47 - % of U.S. adults accessing their social media accounts on a daily basis.
  • 2,900 - the average number of marketing messages a person is exposed to per day.
  • 90 - % of a customer's journey that is self-directed (vs. directed by sales team).

What these numbers tell us...

People are using the internet more, using smartphones more, are drowning in marketing messages, have shorter attention spans and control a majority of the buying process.

Whew! That's a lot to take in.

But it also helps explain why inbound marketing is becoming increasingly popular.

Why Inbound Marketing is so Popular

The genius behind the inbound methodology is that it doesn't seek to combat the numbers listed above, but rather seeks to fit within them. And it's had some serious success in doing so.

The 2014 State of Inbound from HubSpot which surveyed over 3,500 marketers, helped share some numbers of it's own.

  • 13x - how much more likely marketers are to see positive ROI from blogging.
  • 74 - percent of B2B companies who increased their inbound budget.
  • 85 - % of marketers engaging in inbound in 2014 (up 25% from 2013).
  • 80 - % of companies practicing inbound with annual marketing budgets under $25k.
  • 42 - % of companies citing inbound as their primary lead source (vs. 22% outbound).
  • 37 - average inbound marketing cost (USD) per lead for companies <25 employees.
  • 102 - average outbound marketing cost (USD) per lead for companies <25 employees.

What these numbers tell us...

More companies are adopting inbound, spending more on inbound and realizing improved ROI, lead generation, and cost-per-lead figures based on their efforts.

From my personal perspective just last September, Hubspot's Inbound14 conference had over 10,000 attendees and well over 1,000 inbound agencies like ours from around the globe. The Boston Convention Center was almost bursting at the seams with marketing professionals buzzing about performance metrics, content strategies and other such marketing nerdery. Yes, I'm aware nerdery is not a word (even though it should be).

At the end of the day, we're seeing more inbound producing more results for less money than it's interruptive outbound counterpart because it's focusing on those we care about most...our customers.

The Future of Inbound

Heaven forbid I pretend to know the future of anything. But if I had to make an educated guess, I would say that inbound marketing will continue to become a top priority among marketers and sales professionals alike. It will occupy a greater area within overall marketing budgets as practitioners become more content savvy and effective in their delivery of that content.

Finally, I'd go the extra mile and predict that those companies who break down the traditional silos of sales and marketing, aligning them both with the inbound methodology will see the greatest results of all.

What do you think?


Originally published October 30, 2014. Updated March 29, 2018.