Inbound marketing is about building a non interruptive funnel to draw people into your brand. So when you throw in things like emails (which are traditionally interruptive forms of advertising), it’s hard to still call it inbound marketing. You’ll find that there are differing viewpoints on the role of email when it comes to inbound. Some marketers will say it’s outbound, whereas others will say it’s inbound. I’m in the camp that says it’s a little bit of both depending on how it’s being done.
Inbound is A Conversation
A theme of inbound marketing is that it’s about developing a conversation with your audience and engaging them with good content. Marketers who are forcing the conversation by purchasing lists or sending unsolicited messages are not sticking to this theme.
Email can be totally in the inbound marketing arena if consumers have opted to receive communication from a business, and if that business delivers on its promise. For example, if a prospect signs up to receive an ebook or newsletter subscription, a company should only send emails related to or containing those forms of content. In that way, the relationship becomes a give and take, or a mutually beneficial one.
In the video below, Joel Book (Marketing and Research at Exact Target) mentions a statistic posited by Tim Schigel (Founder & Chairman at Share This). Tim said that 50% of all content shared on the Internet is done via email. That is a pretty huge chunk if that stat is at all accurate.
Regardless of whether the 50% figure is true or not, sharing functions in emails play a crucial role in email’s position as an inbound marketing function. When emails are sent to recipients from companies, they have to fit a certain criteria in order to be a part of inbound marketing.
When ANY email is forwarded to, or its contents shared with others online — regardless of how the original recipient received the email — that is totally inbound marketing. It’s because those brand advocates are selling your products or services for you without compensation, and because they feel the content is useful to the people they know.
Check out the other responses from industry professionals on whether or not they feel email is an element of inbound marketing or not.
Email can also be used in a nurturing function for inbound marketing. When prospects sign up to receive content via your company in the form of ebooks or newsletters, they may find other things interesting as well.
In this regard, you can keep the conversation going by mentioning other content that people may find useful. You can further your relationship with a prospect, nurture them down the path to making a purchase and maintain the essential character of inbound marketing in the process.
Do you think email is an outbound or inbound marketing tactic? Do you think it’s both? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.