How to Get Started with Inbound Marketing

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover inbound marketing strategies, such as the use of lead magnets. Learn why inbound marketing is effective and its four stages

[Featured image] A female, wearing a white business casual outfit and glasses, is leading a meeting with the marketing team, two males, in her office. She is standing in front of her laptop and a screen showing a graph of the effects of inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing is a great tool to attract customers to your business and to keep them returning. You can use many strategies to get started, including social media, creating content, and signing up customers directly through your website. It’s essential to create an experience that’ll appeal to customers by supporting their goals—rather than using a traditional marketing model that uses physical materials like a billboard or newspaper. Inbound marketing can help you build relationships with consumers and grow your business.

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a strategy that attracts people to your business and ‘pulls’ them ‘inbound.’ You can achieve this through creating content and experiences that will help you build lasting relationships with your customer. The experiences and content should empower them to act and keep them returning. 

The main focus of inbound marketing is to provide value to consumers and convert these consumers to customers. Creating valuable content positions you as an expert, building trust and allowing consumers to experience what you offer before becoming customers.

Inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing

The key difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing is that with inbound marketing, you give the consumer reasons to use what you’re offering to solve their problem. With outbound marketing, you advertise your message and present what you offer in hopes that someone will buy it. Think of inbound marketing as pulling customers in and outbound marketing as pushing your message out. 

Typical outbound marketing strategies are exhibiting at trade shows, advertising on websites or magazines, and cold calling. Standard inbound marketing strategies include creating engaging social media content, offering lead magnets, and automation. 

Read more: Marketing vs. Sales: What's the Difference?

The stages of inbound marketing

Inbound marketing generally has four stages. You'll use different methods and strategies to achieve results at each stage. Whichever strategies work best for your business, the stages will follow suit. 

1. Attract 

The first stage is to attract customers by providing content that solves their immediate problems. You may only want to attract people who will buy your products or services, so this stage focuses on understanding your ideal customer. You'll target them with engaging content that will help solve their problems and empower them, ultimately compelling them to learn more.

Read more: What Is a Target Market? And How to Define Yours

2. Convert

Once you attract your ideal consumer, you need to turn them into customers. In the converting stage, you continue to provide value until they purchase your product or service. This could be capturing their information so you can add them to a mailing list or getting them to click on your landing page or social media profile. To do this, you need to give something to make them take this step, such as a lead magnet or ask them to complete a survey (more on that later).

Read more: What Is Content Strategy? + How to Create Yours

3. Close 

Now that you have a way to contact your potential customers, you can take the step to close a sale. At this point, if they align with what you offer, they should be ready to buy from you. 

4. Delight

Once you convert someone to a customer, this isn’t where it ends. You have built customer trust since they value your offerings. If you continue to engage with them, add value, and provide them with more solutions to problems, you can gain returning customer loyalty. 

What are the benefits of inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is becoming a more popular option since outbound marketing can be intrusive to customers. Pop-ups, constant emails, and cold calls can bother potential customers. Inbound marketing has many benefits that trump outbound marketing, although that’s not to say that outbound marketing doesn’t have its place. 

1. Increased visibility

Inbound marketing focuses on content creation that naturally attracts people to your brand and products. The content you create will be through several channels and, if effective, can lead to new customers. Therefore, your visibility increases as people engage with your content. 

Read more: What Is Content Marketing?

2. Get more qualified leads.

Creating engaging content is essential, but as we’ve seen from the stages of inbound marketing, converting interested consumers into qualified leads is the next step. This happens through building relationships and demonstrating knowledge in your field that solve your audience's problem. 

Focus on the consumers you want to convert to customers with a targeted approach that solves their problems. This means you’re more likely to attract people interested in your offer. 

3. Bridge between marketing and sales.

With inbound marketing, sales seem more natural as they result from customers believing in your brand and product and buying as a result of your value. It doesn’t appear pushy.

4. Save on cost.

Big advertisements or ad campaigns for the mass market can be expensive. Inbound marketing means you can niche and target specific customers, build trust through compelling content, and have them come to you. While costs are still involved, it allows you to spread out your efforts rather than spending on mass marketing. 

A HubSpot study found that the average cost per lead for outbound marketing costs $346 per lead versus inbound marketing, which costs $135 per lead [1].  Inbound marketing costs more than $200 less than outbound marketing, a considerable amount if you’re just starting your business. [1]

Strategies to get started

Understanding the four stages of inbound marketing is vital in identifying effective strategies. The following strategies will fit into one of the four steps related to building testing relationships and adding value to convert interest to sale leads and loyal customers. 

Social media

Using social media is part of stage one (attract). Social media is a great place to create content that gets noticed. If the content is good, readers will share it, and you’ll get organic views that may lead people to want to learn more. This is a great way to generate leads. Social media can be a teaser of your product and move people onto the next stage where they read your blog or sign up for your newsletter. 

You can also use social media to run paid ads that target your audience. 

You may also consider working with influencers in your niche to engage their followers if they are your target demographic. 

Create content.

Content in all forms is essential to inbound marketing. To attract customers, you need relevant content and lots of it. Content could be social media posts, YouTube videos, blog articles, guest posts on other people’s websites, ebooks, and newsletters. 

Whatever means you choose—ideally a combination of more than one content strategy—it needs to be something people notice. For this, it must be engaging and set you apart as an expert. How you achieve this will depend on your audience.  


This strategy fits under the convert and close steps. Landing pages and email signups are a great way to convert interested consumers into leads. Once they sign up for your email list, you have their contact and can continue to target them. 

If you want people to engage with your landing page and carry on through your site or sign up to your mailing list, your website must be easy to use and in line with your message. If people get this far, it is because they like your content, so your website needs to be a continuation of this. 

Consider using a lead magnet, which consumers get for free if they are willing to part with their data (email address or phone number) so you can continue to contact them. This could be an ebook, a consultation, or an online course. 

Make sure you include call-to-action buttons so viewers can navigate where you want them to go, access your lead magnets, and buy your products and services.

Customer feedback

Moving onto step three—delight. You must have a strategy to keep customers returning. It’s helpful to get their opinion on the product or service you sold them and the customer experience you created. You can do this using customer surveys, asking for feedback, and through live Q&A sessions if you engage with consumers through a webinar or live chat. You can also use social listening to monitor social media channels to understand what customers say about your products and services. 

Customer service also plays a part here. Strategizing for improved customer service is a great way to make customers feel valued. 

Learn more

Understanding inbound marketing, why it’s useful, and how to identify strategies can help your marketing initiatives. To understand a specific aspect of marketing that can help you with your inbound marketing strategies, consider taking a marketing course. Some popular options include courses on social media marketing and content marketing offered on Coursera, including, An Introduction to Social Media Marketing offered by Meta and Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content offered by the University of Pennsylvania Online.



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Article sources

1. HubSpot. “Inbound Leads Cost 61% Less Than Outbound [New Data], Accessed July 27, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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