Last Updated: November 20, 2020

For years, companies have tried to reach consumers on the Internet using traditional advertisements like banners and embedded videos. Unfortunately, these companies often fail to make an impact thanks to new ad-blocking software that is becoming more widespread.

To address this, the online technology magazine Ars Technica ran an experiment in 2010. For 12 hours, the website’s administrators launched a program that would make content invisible to any visitor using ad blocking software. The program worked, showing blank pages to any viewer who had installed software to filter advertisements out of the page.

The public response to the experiment was mixed. While some readers lauded the effort, others clicked away angrily. Leaders at Ars Technica had to contend with the fact that many Internet users hate advertisements. Traditional methods of advertising have suffered on the Internet, as users have grown more accustomed to an ad-free experience.

What is inbound marketing?

As the experiment at Ars Technica demonstrates, many Internet users find forms of “outbound marketing” like banners and imbedded videos to be more annoying than engaging. This is because these are all examples of content the user doesn’t choose. Instead of interrupting a user’s content with advertising, an inbound approach turns the ad into the content itself. (See also Outbound Marketing)

Inbound marketing is the strategy of connecting with potential customers through materials and experiences they find useful. Using media like blogs and social networking, marketers hope to entertain and inform viewers with content they seek by themselves.

Examples of Inbound Marketing

  • Topical blogs
  • Social media campaigns (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
  • Ebooks
  • Search Engine Optimized (SEO) website text
  • Viral videos
  • Web-based seminars (Webinars)

Inbound marketing engages with an audience by connecting them with useful content through organic means, such as search engines and sharing links with friends. For example, a skillfully crafted blog post about a blogger’s favorite product will speak to this potential customer in a way a banner ad can’t.

This more personal approach to marketing has the added advantage of reaching those who have already taken the first step toward a purchase. Instead of using an outbound approach (strategically placing ads where it is assumed customers will be), inbound marketing provides value to conumers who are already actively searching for information about a product.

Search Engine Optimization at a Glance

Google, the most-used search engine in the world, implements a complex algorithm to determine where web pages appear on a ranked list. Inbound marketing materials that use unique, keyword-rich text get high rankings, and the more people visit a page, the higher its rank climbs.

Who uses inbound marketing?

While inbound marketing is especially well-suited to any business that operates on the Internet, the truth is that it’s an effective strategy for a wide variety of organizations in multiple fields.

Non-profit organizations have had great success with inbound marketing materials like social media campaigns and viral videos. These strategies help NPOs connect their stakeholders with the organization’s cause, not only reaching individuals who are already interested in the topic, but also providing easy-to-find information for others. (See also Viral Marketing)

Political campaigns are also major users of inbound marketing. Everyone from city council candidates to those at the top tier of national elections have seen very impressive numbers come from blogs, social media, and interactive online materials. The Washington Post reported that President Barack Obama raised over $500 million in Internet donations during his 2008 campaign, which had a significant inbound marketing component.

The audience that responds the best to inbound marketing tends to reside on the younger end of the spectrum, but this is only because of the relative newness of the Internet. Inbound marketing is inherently driven by choice and interactivity. An audience that has become accustomed to the interactive content of the Internet will naturally find inbound materials more engaging.

Developing an inbound marketing strategy

The 2008 Obama Campaign

Advertising Age named then-Senator Barack Obama their Marketer of the Year in 2008 for his successful presidential campaign, beating the likes of Apple and Nike. They cite the unprecedented use of “Web 2.0” collateral like social media marketing, strong website copy, and viral videos as the core of a grassroots campaign that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in small donations from individuals who gave to the campaign online.

When you pursue an ideal inbound marketing strategy for an organization, you should concentrate on a three-step framework: Plan, Analyze, Revise.

  • Plan. Before you create any marketing materials and put them into action, you should take some time to devise a proper plan. Determine what your ultimate goal is, whether it’s selling a particular product, signing up new customers for a service, or any other desired outcome. Once you know what you want your inbound marketing campaign to accomplish, decide what you are going to offer the potential customer on the way to that goal.
  • Analyze. Establishing a plan will make it easier to analyze the impact of the marketing materials used. It is important to check relevant figures related to materials at regular intervals, such as how many views a blog post receives, how many readers clicked through to the sales page, and whether or not sales have increased since the start of the campaign. It helps to set incremental goals and benchmarks in your planning phase to give these figures comparative value. (See also Analytical Marketing)
  • Revise. You should revise your strategy once you have implemented your marketing plan and have collected data to determine its effectiveness. You can compile what you have learned and synthesize the lesson into a stronger campaign instead of starting from scratch every time. Keeping good records and making thorough reports is vital for this learning process.

Inbound marketing careers

Marketing of any sort is a team effort, especially for content-heavy strategies like inbound marketing. There are many career opportunities at each stage of the campaign, from the creative side of things, to more numbers-focused or managerial positions.


What do they do?

Inbound Marketing Salaries

  • Copywriter
    Junior: $28,000
    Senior: $55,200
    Top Earners: $109,000
  • Data Analyst
    Entry Level: $33,350
    Median: $60,570
    Top Earners: $111,440
  • Marketing Manager
    Starting: $41,480
    Median: $83,890
    Top Earners: $166, 400

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

A marketing strategy is only as good as its materials. Creative jobs such as copywriting concentrate on developing marketing materials. Copywriters create blog posts, whitepapers, website text, taglines, and any other kind of content that engages with the customer.

It is important for a copywriter to have a firm understanding of SEO principles, the tone and message of the company’s brand, and the audience the materials are intended to reach. Most of all, a copywriter needs to have solid writing and editing skills, from the very basics of grammar to the artistry of sentence structure.

Education and Skills

A copywriter should have a bachelor’s degree in English (or the employer’s preferred language), marketing, or in some cases business. It is also vital to have a strong portfolio of past work. This can be developed through freelance opportunities, hands-on class work, or simply creating fresh copy for the express purpose of filling out the portfolio.

Data Analyst

What do they do?

The success or failure of a marketing campaign is in the figures that emerge from data analysis. An analyst will use different kinds of software to quantify behaviors and determine the effectiveness of a given strategy. This includes how people view a website, the relationship between customer behavior and a change in sales, and many other valuable data points in a marketing strategy.

Data analysis is a technical, numbers-focused field, so a good analyst will have a strong mind for figures and a high level of comfort with technology. Marketing analysis software changes frequently, so an analyst should also be a fast learner who stays up to date on emerging technology.

Education and Skills

A data analyst should have a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing, business, math, or statistics. Some high-level positions will require a master’s degree as well. Most analysts will start in entry-level positions but will advance to better-paying, higher-responsibility jobs on a regular basis.

Marketing Manager

What do they do?

The efficiency and effectiveness of a marketing team often hinges on the quality of its leadership. A marketing manager’s primary role is as a facilitator of communication between different members of the team. The manager helps people in creative positions share information with people in technical roles and keeps the entire team focused on common goals. It is the manager’s duty to keep each campaign on time, on budget, and properly documented.

Because marketing managers need to work with every member of the marketing team, the manager should be conversant in every aspect of the campaign. Though the manager does not need to be an expert in any given field, he or she needs to have a firm grasp on the data and materials that constitute the campaign. This allows the manager to give helpful feedback to the team and set ambitious but realistic benchmarks for the campaign’s performance.

Education and Skills

Marketing managers need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or business, though an advanced degree such as a Master of Business Arts (MBA) is highly valuable as well. Regardless of one’s degree, a manager will need to have several years of experience in the field of marketing to be qualified to oversee a full team.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

There is no “easy way” to learn the ropes of marketing, but some ways are more efficient than others. It costs a lot of time, effort, and money to learn purely by reflecting on mistakes, but comparatively little to learn by example from successful experts. Marketing school allows potential marketers to work with professionals in the field who are dedicated to sharing their experience in a structured, education-focused environment.

Inbound marketing is an emerging and fast-moving field. Marketing school puts today’s most advanced strategies in the context of a business with a lot of history. This helps tomorrow’s top professionals avoid the outmoded, outdated concepts of the past while concentrating on how today’s trends will change the way we market in the future.

Your experience at marketing school will begin with basic and intermediate course work like:

  • Core concepts and values of marketing
  • Data assessment
  • Intro to management

As your education progresses, you will learn more advanced principles, including:

  • Management strategies
  • Resource allocation
  • Consumer behavior analysis
  • Brand creation
  • Advertising communications