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Marketing efforts that produce leads, qualified prospects, or customers that are ready for your business to follow up with or take orders from are referred to as “inbound” marketing efforts.

The concept is distinguished from traditional “interruption” marketing efforts, which involve investing resources in trying to distract uninterested buyers from their day-to-day lives or operations and convince them to pay attention to your message.

With inbound marketing efforts, your message (often in the form of content) gets in front of the people you hope to sell to by way of their own efforts to find answers to their questions, locate solutions to their problems, and so on.

A simple example of an inbound marketing campaign working well might look like this:

  • Sally has a problem that your widget solves
  • Sally runs a Google search asking a question that is very important to her
  • A blog post you wrote which endeavors to answer that question is shown to Sally as a relevant Google result
  • She clicks through to your blog post and is presented with an offer for free information which is irresistible to her based upon her exact situation.
  • Sally willingly exchanges her email address in exchange for your free offer
  • Your automated follow-up system emails Sally a copy of the free information, which she downloads
  • Your automated system continues to send Sally additional information which is of value to her over the next few days
  • Sally clicks on a link in one of your email messages requesting additional information
  • Sally fills out a form which is designed to give her a way to register her interest
  • Your sales team receives a notification with Sally’s request for information and you have a highly interested prospect who already finds your information trustworthy, valuable, and credible.

From your perspective, you haven’t invested money in trying to get the attention of scores of people who are not interested. Instead, you created content that was of particular interest to someone just like Sally because you knew and understood the needs and wants of people like her. In effect, you have created a trail of bread crumbs that led Sally right to your front door.