How to Get Started with Inbound Marketing

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

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

[Featured image] A marketing manager, wearing a white business casual outfit and glasses, leads a meeting with the marketing team in an office. The manager is standing in front of a 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 posting on social media, creating content, and signing up customers directly through your website. It’s essential to create an experience that will 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 by creating content and experiences to 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 into customers. By creating valuable content positions, you, as an expert, build trust and allow 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 in customers and outbound marketing as pushing out your message. 

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

What are the benefits of inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is becoming a more popular option since outbound marketing can be intrusive to customers. Some people don't appreciate pop-ups, emails, and cold calls. This gives inbound marketing an advantage over outbound marketing and leads to these benefits.

Increased visibility

Inbound marketing focuses on content creation that naturally attracts people to your brand and products. Ideally, the content you create travels through several distribution channels that can reach new customers. Your visibility increases by creating content that attracts an audience and encourages engagement.

Get more qualified leads.

Creating engaging content is essential to the process, and converting interested consumers into qualified leads is critical. This happens through building relationships and demonstrating knowledge in your field to help your audience solve a 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. 

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.

Save on cost.

Large-scale advertisements or ad campaigns for the mass market can be expensive. Inbound marketing means targeting specific customers, building trust through compelling content, and having them come to you. Whilst costs are still involved, you can spread out your efforts rather than spending on mass marketing. 

A HubSpot study found that the average cost per lead for outbound marketing costs about ₹28,000 ($346 USD) per lead versus inbound marketing, which costs about ₹11,000 ($135 USD)  per lead.  This is a savings of more than ₹16,000 ($200 USD) — a considerable amount if you’re just starting your business. [1]

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. 


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.


Once you attract your ideal consumer, you need to turn them into customers. In the converting stage, you 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 (also known as a lead magnet) or ask them to complete a survey.


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


By the time a consumer becomes a customer, you've earned their trust because they found value in what you offer. Now is the time to continue engaging with them, adding value, and providing solutions. This is how you gain returning customer loyalty.

Strategies to get started

Understanding the four stages of inbound marketing helps you identify effective strategies for each stage. The following strategies fit into one of the four steps to build relationships and add value that helps convert interest into sales leads and loyal customers. 

Social media

Social media is a great place to create content that gets noticed, which makes it a natural fit for stage one (attract). If the content is good, readers will share it, and you’ll get organic views that can generate leads as they want to learn more. For example, you can use social media to tease 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. 

Consider working with influencers in your niche to engage their followers if they are your target demographic.


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.  


Landing pages and email signups are a great way to convert interested consumers into leads, which makes a website well-suited for the convert and close steps. 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 for 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. Your website needs to be a continuation of this. 

Consider using a lead magnet, like a free e-book, consultation, or online course, to give each person who shares their data (email address or phone number). With this information, you'll be able to continue contacting them.

Ensure 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

It is essential to 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 solicit feedback through customer surveys and live Q&A sessions or use social listening to monitor social media channels and understand what customers say about your products and services. 

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

Learn more

Understanding inbound marketing—including why it’s useful and how to identify strategies—can help your marketing initiatives. Continue developing your marketing skills by earning the Google Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate offered by Google on Coursera. You can explore tools you can use in your inbound marketing campaigns, including Google Analytics, HubSpot, Canva, and Twitter. The programme includes seven courses you can complete online at your own pace.

Article sources

  1. HubSpot. “Inbound Leads Cost 61% Less Than Outbound [New Data], Accessed March 10, 2023.

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