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What is inbound marketing?

image of inbound marketing

The world has changed. The combination of an unprecedented amount of available information and entertainment and decreasing attention spans has created a difficult world for marketers. Inbound marketing has emerged as a perfect fit in the fast-paced, digitally driven world. So, what is inbound marketing?

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing represents a methodology that has gained momentum in the digital age. It focuses on attracting customers, clients, members, or prospective students through relevant and helpful content. The core principle is to contribute value at every stage of the prospect’s decision journey, with the ultimate goal of earning their business. The digital world is increasingly the hub of purchasing and decision making, so future customers often find brands through channels like blogs, search engines and social media. However, Inbound is about more than being found. Calls to action, downloads, and automated (nurturing) emails continue to provide value as the prospect gets closer to a decision.

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How does inbound differ from outbound marketing?

Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing does not need to fight for prospects’ attention. Outbound marketing (billboards, TV and radio ads, newspaper ads, etc.) interrupt the consumer’s focus and introduce something they are probably not interested in. Inbound marketing creates content designed to address someone’s problems or needs as they search for solutions. Quality content provides these solutions, while building trust and credibility. As prospects research their options, evaluate their choices, and ultimately make a decision, you are there to help them. 

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What does a customer’s experience with inbound look like?

Consider a mid-thirties professional who is interested in going back to school to finish their degree or get a master’s degree. While they will probably discuss with family, friends, or co-workers, it won’t be long until they start a Google search. Likely, they won’t just be looking for information on specific schools but will have a broad range of questions they want to answer before they even consider specific schools. For instance, they may want to know about the benefits of different degrees, or career prospects and financial opportunities in different fields, and so on. Where will they find that information? Say they come across an insightful article on your school’s site about their field of interest. If they want to learn more, you provide the option to receive an in-depth report on the job prospects in that field.

Now that you have their email, you can nurture them by sending send helpful and informative content via automated marketing emails. Eventually, they will be ready to speak to an enrollment advisor. At this point, inbound marketing has successfully pulled a lead into the sales funnel. Imagine this process being repeated over and over again.


To learn more about inbound for higher education, download our resource “Intro for inbound for higher ed.”

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