“What is inbound marketing?” 5 useful lessons I learned about inbound marketing at an inbound marketing conference in Boston, Mass. called “INBOUND”

Kendall Sq Inbound Platform

I have a confession to make.

I don’t know everything there is to know about selling, and I don’t really know everything about marketing, either.

But I’m trying to learn everything there is to know by trying things for myself and learning from what works and what works even better.

I want to continue building success and helping B2B salespeople sell 10X faster by automating their two biggest time-drains: prospecting and pre-call research.

By automating these two critical but lengthy processes, salespeople can spend more time selling and less time Googling for contact info and company info before picking up the phone and having their first sales conversation with a prospect.

That’s why I constantly seize new opportunities to learn new skills and gain more useful knowledge on a fairly regular basis.

A great way to learn new skills and make important networking contacts (two essential elements of running a successful business) is by attending industry conferences.

I recently attended a marketing conference in Boston called INBOUND.

About the INBOUND conference

Many expert speakers presented at the INBOUND conference, including Ramon De Leon, Social Media Visionary & Global Keynote Inspirational Speaker who offered these words of sage advice in his memorable presentation.

From August 19-22, 2013 over 5,300 marketing professionals (including myself) packed the Hynes Convention Center in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood for the annual INBOUND marketing conference.

The event is put on by HubSpot, a marketing software company based in the neighboring city of Cambridge, home of Harvard, MIT, and the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.

Here’s an awesome video about the INBOUND conference made by Lani and Allen Voivod of Epiphanies, Inc. that tells the story of what happens when a lot of marketing people get together:


Before I attended the INBOUND marketing conference in Boston this week, I had these 5 burning questions about inbound marketing that needed answers:

  1. What is inbound marketing?
  2. What is the difference between outbound and inbound marketing?
  3. Why does my business need inbound marketing?
  4. What are the essential components of inbound marketing?
  5. How does inbound marketing help people?

After attending this year’s INBOUND conference, I am confident that I have learned enough to blog about inbound marketing in this latest blog post entitled:

“What is inbound marketing?”
Plus 4 other burning questions about inbound marketing answered at an inbound marketing conference in Boston, MAss. called “INBOUND”


1. What is inbound marketing? 

Imagine just sitting down to dinner with your family after a long, hard day at work.

Suddenly, there’s a ring at the doorbell.

You get up from the table before you even had a chance to take a single bite of your gluten-free pizza and grumpily head to the door.

Who the heck is it?” you grumble aloud, but not so loud that whoever is at the door could possibly hear you.

When you open the door, you are surprised to find…nobody is there.

But sitting on the ground is a flyer for a local pizza place that doesn’t have gluten-free pizza.

However, this pizza parlor still spent money on marketing to you…even though you cannot consume anything with gluten because you have celiac disease.

That’s right, you’ve just been…MARKETED!

Or more specifically, you’ve been a target of outbound marketing.

Meaning you were rudely interrupted from a nice meal with your family and marketed to, eventhough you are not that particular pizza parlor’s target market.

For many years, this type of “outbound” marketing was the law of the land for marketing professionals.

As an outbound marketer, you were bound to piss off a few people with your deception and wasted resources.

But for the most part, these “spray and pray” outbound marketing strategies would result in a steady stream of customers to your door time and time again.

Until one day, the Internet was invented.

Inbound marketing requires useful and educational content that builds knowledge and trust in your customer.

When your customer gains more knowledge from your content, that builds trust in your business.

People are more likely to buy from and recommend companies that they trust.

Social media and blogs are an opportunity for customers to “talk” back to brands and have their opinions heard.

The only way to have these conversations is if your business has an inbound marketing plan.

Otherwise, your customers will conversate with others…such as your competition.

Without an inbound marketing plan, you make it easy for your competition to influence your customers and get their business.

You don’t want that to happen…right?

2. What is the difference between Outbound and Inbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing is the equivalent of dropping flyers on doorsteps and hoping a few customers call your pizza parlor for pizza with gluten.

Inbound marketing is not about interrupting people and pissing them off.

Because believe it or not, when you do that, people tend to have no interest in buying your products, ever.

Instead, inbound marketing is providing useful and educational content online in blogs and in social media such as Facebook posts and Tweets.

3. Why should a business do inbound marketing?

Let me ask you something.

Who would you trust?

A) A stranger you don’t know


B) Somebody who has provided you with useful knowledge and answers your questions


You’d probably say “B”, right?

By providing useful and educational content on your company blog and social media, you are increasing the chances of people finding your post in Web searches.

Providing useful content is a surefire way of gaining trust and loyalty in your customer base.

The more a customer trusts and knows a brand and a company, the more likely they will buy from them.

4. What are the essential components of inbound marketing?

There are basically two essential components of inbound marketing that virtually any business can begin using now:

  • A blog
  • Transparency

“They ask. You answer.” – Marcus “The Sales Lion” Sheridan

An easy and relatively inexpensive inbound marketing technique you can begin right away is blogging.

One of the speakers at the INBOUND conference, Marcus “The Sales Lion” Sheridan, is a perfect example of how to use inbound marketing (especially blogging) to save your small business from the brink of failure.

In case you are unfamiliar with The Sales Lion, he is just a regular person like you and me.

And this regular dude worked a regular job, which in his case was co-owner of a swimming pool company in Virginia and Maryland that was close to tanking (pun intended) back in The Great Recession of 2008.

So how did The Sales Lion save his company?

He did what a lot of folks do when they have a problem to solve. He turned to the Internet.

He decided to blog about swimming pools on his swimming pool company’s blog.

And he didn’t just blog about random, useless stuff on his swimming pool blog.

No, instead he blogged about useful content that swimming pool lovers were searching, such as “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?

In fact, that was the first blog post he wrote for his company blog.

And then, he wrote other blog posts about swimming pools.

These were primarily answers to the most common questions that customers typically asked him and his swimming pool sales staff.

Here’s a great video of Marcus “The Sales Lion” Sheridan telling his story and how he harnessed the power of blogging as part of an effective inbound marketing strategy that saved his swimming pool company from the brink of disaster.


“If it’s not uncomfortable, then you’re not being transparent enough.” – Rand Fishkin

Another easy inbound marketing technique you can easily begin implementing today is to make your communications more “transparent”.

What does “transparent” mean in a business sense? 

It means “see-through” or “clear”.

Or something like that. 

Maybe it’s one of those words that can never truly be defined, but it can be “felt”. 

Another awesome speaker at the INBOUND conference was Moz CEO and Founder, Rand Fishkin.

In addition to having a cool and unique name, Rand also share with us a great video about comedian Louis CK that shows the concept of “transparency” in action.

Transparency can be used to make your inbound marketing and communications with your customers (and potential customers) more useful, unique, and fun.

5. Inbound marketing can save lives and change the world

The final keynote speaker at INBOUND was Scott Harrison, founder of charity:  water.

This non-profit organization builds wells in the poorest of the poor areas of third world countries (think about that…the poorest of the poor) that do not have proper drinking water systems.

charity:  water are not just an excellent charity, but are also an excellent example of excellent inbound marketing.

The company has the most followers out of any charity on Twitter and was one of the first brands on Instagram.

You do not get these types of accolades if you are not utilizing good inbound marketing techniques.

I was so inspired by Scott’s story and the charity:  water message, that I have started a charity:  water campaign for The Idea Hunters.net. You can read more about that and donate by clicking here.

Even if you do not donate to my campaign, I ask that you just take a few minutes out of your busy day to click the below video.

I hope it helps you understand what is going on in the world.

I also hope you understand how we can all be part of a solution to a problem that can be fixed…but only if we work together:


Inbound marketing is an essential component of any successful business.

Traditional, outbound marketing like print ads, commercials, outdoor signage, and other techniques can be effective, but only when seen by the target customer for the right business.

Inbound marketing, such as social media content and blogs, simply flips the script and allows the target customer to find the right business.

And hopefully…that business is yours.


Did you attend INBOUND in Boston?

Do you have any favorite inbound marketing tips and tricks to share with us?

I have an idea…Why don’t we freely exchange our knowledge and ideas in the Comments below!

That way, we can help each other with our businesses and lives.

Does that sound like a good idea?

James K. Kim About James K. Kim
James K. Kim (Jim) is a commercial real estate advisor with Pyramid Brokerage Company of Albany, Inc. in the Capital Region of New York, specializing in helping business owners expand into new locations or sell/lease a commercial retail, office, industrial, or investment property.

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