If you’ve ever tried to explain inbound marketing to anyone outside the marketing landscape, it’s not exactly easy. “You get paid to write? I should try that.” “So you’re basically a telemarketer without a phone.” “I don’t understand what you do. It must be a millennial thing.”

Oh boy.

Not everything in life is worth arguing over. We must pick our battles carefully, and so you’ve probably learned over the years when it makes sense to clarify what you do and when it’s better to leave it alone. In other words, you can tell when someone is genuinely interested in what you do for a living compared to someone who has already made up their minds that your job isn’t relevant.

Selling Yourself as an Inbound Marketer

While you may be able to tolerate Dad’s complaining about how he sent you to college “to write articles on the internet,” you can’t take this approach with everyone. What happens when a potential customer asks about inbound marketing and why it’s important for their company? It’s likely that the person you’re speaking to is the same age as Dad and doesn’t understand the value in inbound marketing. It’s up to you to show them.

Inbound marketing is about strategy. But you must also be able to sell the idea. When customers approach you wanting to know more about what you do and how you do it, you need to be prepared to give a thoughtful, honest response. You must believe that inbound marketing works but also stress the importance of patience and diligence. And since we know that inbound marketing isn’t always perfect, you must be proactive about handling potential challenges.

Let’s discuss inbound marketing and how to explain it to others, whether it’s an important client you want to sign or Uncle Larry at Thanksgiving dinner.

Inbound Marketing: A Simple Explanation

You’re not writing a book. You’re delivering an answer. Simple is best, as rattling on will only bore or confuse who you’re speaking to. When defining inbound marketing, it can go something like this:

Inbound marketing is a marketing approach that is non interruptive. It attracts customers through interactions that are timely, relevant and helpful. This way, customers can connect with brands through blogs, social media and search engines and start building a relationship.

What makes inbound marketing better than traditional outbound marketing is that it’s not interruptive. People don’t want their dinner disrupted by a telemarketer or bothered on a Saturday morning by a door-to-door sales rep. It’s difficult to set the stage for a positive brand-customer relationship when a contact is being forced to listen.

Inbound marketing is also advantageous because it takes some pressure off brands. Instead of being the loudest and proudest company out there, brands can focus on their qualities. With helpful, relevant content being posted online, brands are able to attract qualified candidates and build trust and credibility.

Four Actions of the Inbound Methodology

Some people learn better by looking at a visual construction of a sales model, so it’s a good idea to have one to share. Here at SEMGeeks, we love HubSpot’s methodology because it’s simple and direct. You can view their inbound methodology here or create your own flow chart. Potential clients, in particular, will appreciate the opportunity to visualize the steps you plan to take to attract, engage and sell to customers.

Here are four actions that inbound marketers must take to be successful with inbound marketing.

1. Attract. The first action is to attract traffic, but not just any traffic. Brands need people who are most likely to become leads and then customers. To determine the best customers, brands create a buyer persona. The tools used to bring in this qualified traffic include blogs, SEO, optimized web pages, keywords and social publishing.

2. Convert. The second stage in the process is to collect information on the visitors. It can take several touches before a customer converts depending on the industry, so patience is key. To encourage people to take action, utilize calls to action, landing pages and lead forms. Keeping an updated contacts database is also important.

3. Close. Up until this point, the relationship has been nurtured. Now is the time to make the sale, which can be facilitated by tools such as email, workflows and CRM. It’s highly important that interactions are personalized at this stage, which is why marketing automation is an excellent tool to use.

4. Delight. How does the customer like your product or service? Find out through surveys, social monitoring and smart content. When you understand what customers like and dislike, you can continually improve your product and customer service. This is helpful for retaining customers and bringing new ones in.

Giving a Comparison: The Food Analogy

We highly recommend checking out this article from HubSpot that offers up a few ways you can explain inbound marketing to a table full of critics. If we had to pick a favorite, it would be using a food analogy. Why? We can all relate to food, so it’s an easy way to connect people to your story.

Let’s talk lead nurturing.

Summer is rapidly approaching and who wouldn’t love a delicious piece of blueberry pie? But, would you give someone an uncooked piece of pie? Of course not. You would bake the pie so that it looks and smells delicious, plus won’t make anyone sick.

What you’re doing is nurturing people toward your pie. When the blueberries are bubbling out the top and there’s a golden crust around the edges, it’s difficult for people to turn away. But, they probably didn’t know they wanted that blueberry pie before seeing/smelling yours.

Lead nurturing works in the same way. Contacts need to be warmed up to your brand. When you serve them something relevant and meaningful, they are interested in what you have to offer. They realize that there is a void in their life that can be filled with your product, and they are open to learning more.

Comparison #2: Annoying Telemarketer

Here’s another analogy that works well, and again, something that everyone can relate to. When explaining your purpose, ask the person how they feel when they are interrupted by a telemarketer or hunted down by a salesperson at the mall?

It’s guaranteed that you will get an answer along the lines of annoyed, frustrated or bothered. No one likes to be interrupted, especially when they’re at home or shopping. This is their personal space and personal time.

Explain how inbound marketing is the complete opposite of interruptive marketing. Instead of brands calling and bothering people, customers come to them through blogs, search and social media. It’s on their time, so they are happier and easier to work with, too.

What you’re doing here is playing into the pain points that all people have. No one likes to be interrupted, and brands don’t want to start relationships off like this. Inbound marketing is the solution for everyone.


Inbound marketing isn’t a difficult concept to understand, but it’s not something that comes natural to everyone. Many people in the working world have grown up with outbound marketing – TV commercials, direct mail, billboard advertisements, cold calling – and it’s what they’re used to.

That’s not to say that older generations like everything about outbound marketing, but they’re not going to accept an entirely new way of advertising just because you say so. Being able to explain what you do, why you do it and why it works is important for your own sanity as well as the ability to effectively sell your service to clients.