Once upon a time, sales and marketing were a straightforward concept. You promoted your product in flyers, ads, billboards, TV and radio spots and people would buy it. The more effort you put into promotion – a.k.a. outbound marketing – the better your results usually were.

But thanks to the Internet, marketing has evolved. Consumers no longer rely on these traditional methods of promotion to learn about new products because they are empowered by the web. Now, consumers find and research brands and products on their own time; and make decisions on what to buy without ever talking to a customer service representative.

In fact, according to a 2012 survey, 61% of global Internet users research products online. A 2014 study of B2B users finds this number above 80%. 

This systemic shift has required a new approach to marketing communication – inbound marketing. 

Inbound sales and marketing teams focus on developing strategies to earn consumer interest rather than buying it. You’re not talking to your customers; you’re talking with your customers.

So while outbound sales still exists, it tends to be more transactional. Think of retail sales – consumers walk into a store, browse the merchandise, speak with a sales person and may or may not make a purchase. Business Development is also outbound, and still tends to be a slow relationship build.

Inbound marketing educates potential clients before they even walk in the door, which is why it is a key component of a sound B2B marketing plan. An inbound marketer manages ad word buys and SEO content, writes blogs, create infographics and creates discussions on social media channels. The entire process is more about lead management and business development than it is about sales.

Although at the end of the day, potential customers sometimes still want to talk to a real live person so inbound sales teams need to also be good at being at the receiving end of a phone call.

In a future blog post, we’ll look at how to measure inbound marketing activities.

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