INBOUND MARKETING: How to Get Customers Without Really Trying

Inbound Boomer and friends reading the book, Inbound Marketing

Reading 'Inbound Marketing' @ Phil Jacobs

What is Inbound Marketing?
By now, most people who have anything to do with marketing their businesses have heard of Inbound Marketing (or at least social media). For those who are unfamiliar with the term, I will answer the following question, ‘What is Inbound Marketing and how does it differ from traditional or Outbound Marketing?’

When I first heard the term, Inbound Marketing, and began to read and research everything I could about it, I heard many amusing and educational stories. The first story was the graphic means used by Hubspot, the company that became synonymous with the term, to illustrate the difference between the newer ‘Inbound’ versus the traditional ‘Outbound’ marketing.

HUBSPOT: The Home of Inbound Marketing
The folks at Hubspot are very creative. The company, formed by two students who met at the Sloan School of Management at MIT, coined the term, Inbound Marketing. They, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, then formed the company Hubspot. They hired some very talented and energetic people. They must have given them free-range to express their ideas because some of them are quite amazing. At time, they come out with very creative and amusing promotional materials.

Anyway, in the early days, as they like to say, the graphic explanation for the difference between, the traditional, intrusion or Outbound and the newer, attraction or Inbound Marketing was like the difference between getting customers/clients by hammering them over the head to convince them they needed what you were selling or attracting them like metal to a magnet to find exactly what they were seeking to purchase which was exactly what you were promoting to sell, a marriage made in Inbound Marketing heaven.

The Inbound Marketing Machine: Step One
The whole idea was and still is to create a marketing machine or wheel. Why reinvent it, right? A website is its HUB and the various types of social media, a blog, videos and other technology are the spokes. When spinning properly, the machine attracts leads and then, like a funnel or a vacuum cleaner, attracts or sucks them down to the next level.

This is how it works. First, visitors are lured in by something of value for ALMOST nothing. The only ‘something’ required is their name and e-mail address. Aha, once a company has this information, the prospective client is theirs, unless this lead unsubscribe from future e-mail contact. But if a company provides products and services of continued value by speaking to the needs or ‘pain’ of a consumer, the prospective client is likely to stick around and at some point make a purchase.

The Inbound Marketing Machine: Step Two
The second step, after value has been proven without a charge, is to attract and syphon the prospect down through the leads funnel to the products or services that are fee based. If the value is irresistible, then there is the likelihood that the prospect will become a loyal customer, and possibly an affiliate or even a partner. But we will leave that topic for another blog post.

It’s as simple as that. It’s how to get customer without really trying. Do you believe it? Then as the saying goes, ‘I have a bridge to sell you’. Don’t misunderstand me, I think the mechanism is brilliant and I believe in Inbound Marketing totally, at least in theory. But in the two to three years that I have known of the term, I personally am still working on getting all the pieces together, to first build my wheel so that my Inbound Marketing machine will turn ‘effortlessly’.

The Inbound Marketing Machine: Step Three
Do I discourage others from believing in this system and building their wheel? Absolutely not! I am a true believer. It is just that it takes time and resources to build this wheel. It included, the hub, or website (which is never quite right), the spokes or a solid, reputable social media presence on facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. In addition, one must have a frequently posted blog, continually uploaded videos, a regular eNewsletter, and whatever else I may have forgotten to mention from the ‘must have’ list.

But once it is all in place, the Inbound Marketing machine can work like a fine timepiece. At least that is what I have been told repeatedly and have been aiming towards. But I am still in the process. I have all the parts and will let you know when my machine is all together and functioning seamlessly. Perhaps, I won’t have to let you know. You will just be attracted to it.

The Inbound Boomer Family

The Inbound Boomer Family @ Phil Jacobs

Does The Inbound Marketing Machine Work?
In the meantime, those of you who have gotten your Inbound Marketing machine working like a charm will have to let my readers and me know if I am headed in the right direction. Your encouragement and comments are requested.


Alison Gilbert is a Digital Age Storyteller and photojournalist. She is a regular contributing author to DBME, writes The Marketing Byte Blog and is The New York Graphic Design Examiner. Alison is the owner of MARKETING BYTES Solutions 4 Local Biz. She has been a marketing pro and entrepreneur for over three decades. Her company specializes in local/small and start up businesses with a boutique (very personal style) approach to client service.

The MARKETING BYTES ProTeam consists of experienced marketing, design, technology and writing professionals offering the latest online Inbound Marketing technology, social media, graphic and web design, illustration, photo and video, content management as well as the best of traditional advertising. Her client base has covered just about every commercial industry.

Although located on Long Island, NY, MARKETING BYTES serves clients everywhere there is Internet access. To learn more, visit our site, Marketing Bytes, our local biz facebook page, Marketing Main Street USA, and join our local biz facebook group, Local Biz Is The Solution.

To contact us: e-mail or call 516-665-9034 (EST, NY, USA).



  1. Interesting play of words, this Inbound Marketing. no matter what you call it, in layman’s terms it is just MARKETING.

    • Yes, it is marketing but I believe there is a difference between the old ‘intrusion’ style of cold calling, spammed e-mail, junk mail, etc. versus ‘attraction’ marketing using the lure of value for free and the availability of finding products and services that one truly seeks.

      I recently read another blog post that also questioned the use of the term, Inbound Marketing, as well as other new terms that make no sense to the layman or potential client, like social media.
      The term suggested to describe what we marketing folks do is ‘Sales Lead Generation’. I think that is very straight forward and understandable to anyone. What do you think?

      Thank you for your comment, smsharif.

  2. Offer value, get amplification without (further) incentivisation

    • Hello Leon,
      Yes value is the bottom line. Amplification is what SEO and local SEO are all about. Unfortunately, amplification requires the use of other tools so one who has a superior product or superior marketing is seen more easily.

      As with traditional advertising the one whose word travels loudest and farthest gets to customers. Whether it is traditional ‘word of mouth’ or ‘word of mouth on steroids’, the fact of the matter is incentivisation (?) is part of the marketing game.

  3. great article. I am with Smsharif. Rather than call it inbound, consider marketing as an evolving concept.

    • Hello Jason Flaugh and thank you for your comment. Please look at what I wrote to SmSharif. In addition, I agree with you totally. Marketing is both an art and a science. They are evolving concepts. As we learn better how to do them, we will do them better. In addition, as the technology continues to evolve, we will have more tools with which to do this art and science of marketing.

  4. The terminology is a bit dressed up, but this rings to basic marketing. It’s good information and presented well.

    • Dear mandyf,
      Thank you for your comment. Please read what I wrote in response to both smssharif and Jason Flaugh.

      I appreciate your positive feedback. The irony of the situation is this:
      • business owners are in the business of selling and therefore needing to advertise their products and services
      • marketing professionals are in the business of finding bigger and better ways to promote their ability to advertise for the business owners
      • the technologies(art and science) of marketing, advertising and promotions keep evolving.

      Is it still consumerism? Yes, it will always involve the sale of products and services but hopefully less intrusively and more seamlessly.

  5. I would also like to thank Erik Van Erne of wolframpublications and Steve Schrader Bachar of IowaHomeLoans for liking this blog post.

  6. Great article, Alison. As marketers, we have to realize we no longer control the message, our customers do, and that is where the term “inbound” marketing comes from, I believe.

    Provide great content, have it spread, and the clients will find you.

  7. Online Marketing has so many different branches. Each branch has it’s own niche. I got to know more from your videos 🙂
    Thanks for the update!

    • Glad to be of assistance. There is so much to learn. The company that is the primary ‘distributor’ of Inbound Marketing info is Hubspot. They send out so much info daily that if you really want to immerse yourself in it, this is the place to go, Good luck and feel free to contact me with any other questions, Swayam.

  8. Great summary – thanks, Alison!

    • My pleasure Suzanne. If you ever have any questions, please feel free to ask. I love all this new technology but I know how confusing and overwhelming it can be at times. I am going to check your site to see what you do. I enjoy staying in touch with people who take the time to comment on my work. I consider it an honor and a great compliment. Thank you!

  9. I am with you 100%. I like the example of Jonathan Stewart. We love to watch him. Good post. I just wrote one on ‘Remarkable Content’ and would be interested to hear with you think about it. Thanks!

  10. It has been discovered that a reference to this article exists on the Wikipedia page defining ‘Inbound Marketing’

    I am listed along with some impressive other authors. I am right after David Meerman Scott and slightly before Brain Halligan and Dharmesh Shas. It just proves that if one studies and works hard enough, the Wiki gods will reward us:

    ^ a b c d e f Leary, Brent (January 27, 2012). “Jeanne Hopkins of HubSpot: All Leads Are Not Created Equal”. Small Business Trends. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
    ^ a b c d e f Basu, Dev (June 29, 2011). “Inbound marketing: The customer finds you”. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
    ^ a b Benner, Michael (January 19, 2012). “Get Found: 7 Steps to Fire Up Your Inbound Marketing”. Business2Community. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
    ^ a b c d e Prescott, Bill (February 5, 2012). “Business Sense: Inbound marketing”. Times-Standard. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
    ^ David Meerman Scott. (2010). The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly. (2 ed.). Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN 0-470-54781-2.
    ^ Gilbert, Alison (February 4, 2012). “INBOUND MARKETING: How to Get Customers Without Really Trying”. Digital Brand. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
    ^ a b Pollitt, Chad (October 21, 2011). “The New 5 Step Inbound Marketing Methodology”. Business2Community. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
    ^ Halligan, Brian; Shah, Dharmesh (2009). Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs. John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN 0-470-49931-1.
    ^ a b “Disruptor of the Day: Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah & HubSpot – Taking The Hassle Out of Marketing”. Daily Disruption. February 8, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
    ^ “What is Inbound Marketing with Brian Whalley”. Internet Marketing Podcast. February 21, 2012.
    ^ Drell, Lauren (October 30, 2011). “Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing [INFOGRAPHIC”]. Mashable. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
    ^ a b Nakano, Chelsi (October 31, 2011). “INFOGRAPHIC The Decline of Outbound Marketing”. CMS Wire. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
    ^ Sheridan, Marcus. “The Most Important Customer Review of Hubspot You’ll Ever Read”. The Sales Lion. Retrieved March 2, 2012.

  11. I agree and thank you for your comment.


  1. […] Inbound Marketing. no matter what you call it, in layman’s terms it is just MARKETING.” My reply: From Leon De Silva: “Offer value, get amplification without (further) […]

  2. […] that regularly provide informative, non-salesy content reap the cost-saving benefits of “inbound marketing“, where prospects are attracted to you, rather than the more expensive “megaphone […]

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