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Who invented inbound marketing?

Ever wondered who invented inbound marketing? In this blog, we explore the past, present and future of inbound marketing strategies.

Who invented inbound marketing: past, present and future

If you’re a business owner, we’re sure you’ll have heard of the term ‘inbound marketing.’ But where did it come from? Where did it start? Where is it going? Who invented inbound marketing? In this article, we explore a brief history of inbound marketing, including everything you might want to know about this popular marketing strategy – but remember, this is constantly evolving, so regular research is crucial for success.

Who invented inbound marketing? Table of contents

  1. What is inbound marketing?
    i. Inbound vs outbound marketing
  2. Who invented inbound marketing?
    i. The birth of inbound marketing
    ii. Pre-inbound marketing
    iii. Inbound marketing today
    iv. The future of inbound marketing

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What is inbound marketing?

In simple terms, inbound marketing involves developing lasting and meaningful relationships with your customers, creating valuable and attractive content based on your business. The methodology takes into account 3 steps: attracting, engaging and delighting customers. The ultimate goal is for customers to be satisfied with your product or service, consequently sharing this success with others – your potential future customers.

However, it’s easy to get confused between inbound and outbound marketing, so let’s clear that up first.

Inbound vs outbound marketing

There are many differences between inbound and outbound marketing, the main being the way customers are approached. If you are using outbound marketing strategies, you will be actively finding and reaching out to customers, encouraging them to consider your products and/or services. In comparison, inbound marketing refers to the content you create, which will hopefully draw potential clients to your website.

Inbound marketing at a glance

  • Involves interactive digital content such as blogs, podcasts and social media posts
  • Messages may be tailored to individual customers depending on their preferences
  • A general marketing strategy is used across numerous channels
  • Makes use of digital marketing software

Outbound marketing at a glance

  • Content is not digital and is instead displayed on TV, in direct mail and in magazines
  • Messages need to compete with all other advertisements
  • The strategy is more linear and channels are more limited
  • Harder to track marketing progress due to physical marketing strategies

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Who invented inbound marketing?

So, we’ve covered what inbound marketing is – but where did it come from? We have highlighted the main turning points below, but if you’re interested in a more comprehensive timeline, you can check out HubSpot’s ‘The History of Marketinghere.

The birth of inbound marketing

The initial concept originated back in 2005, by HubSpot founder Brian Halligan. According to Nextiny, there was evidence of such marketing strategies online in 2007, but it never really took shape until 2012. Years later, this concept is known to business owners around the world as inbound marketing and SEO.

Pre-inbound marketing

If Management Consultant Peter F Drucker is to be believed, the principles of inbound marketing actually began evolving over a century before its official conception. First, we had Cyrus McCormick, who is thought to have developed basic market research strategies in the 1850s, allowing him to measure customer interest in up and coming farming technologies. Then followed Alvah Roebeck and Richard W. Sears, who published a catalogue for mail orders which grew to become a successful and innovative sales tool across the globe.

A modern take: the value of market research

As you’re probably aware, effective market research must identify and implement a customer’s interests and actions. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, Drucker had already identified this paramount fact, pointing to General Electric’s research tools as evidence for his assumptions. When discussing what he describes as ‘The Marketing Concept’ in 1974, he said:

‘Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy. All that should be needed then is to make the product or service available; i.e., logistics rather than salesmanship, and statistical distribution rather than promotion.’

Inbound marketing today: The Flywheel

As the company who invented inbound marketing concepts in 2005, modern-day HubSpot has created The Flywheel – a business model designed to show businesses how to gain momentum and deliver a fantastic customer experience.

Forces for a business’ Flywheel include effective strategies to retain existing customers and acquire new ones. While this might seem simple for big businesses with an abundance of resources, smaller companies may struggle.

If you’re in need of some top tips, check out these 10 easy content marketing strategies for small businesses.

In an ideal world, your business will only see forces. However, it is more realistic that you will also experience friction – factors that may slow the process of your Flywheel. These may include organisational issues or lack of communication between your internal teams, which can cause friction for your customers. Having a transparent and effective business structure is the key here!

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The future of inbound marketing

As a business, it’s incredibly important to keep up to date on the newest inbound marketing strategies and trends – you don’t want to risk being left behind. We had a look at a Digital 22 interview with Brian Halligan, the person who invented inbound marketing, giving his opinion on the concept’s future:

‘Whereas humans used to read a lot, they don’t read as much as they used to. And they found everything through Google. And they certainly read still, and they find stuff through Google, but behaviour seems to be changing in humans. More and more want to watch videos. Wi-Fi’s improved, cellular networks have improved, mobile phones have improved. Then video, as a medium for consuming things, is much better, and humans prefer it.’

‘And then, humans seem to like to share and talk about that stuff on social media. So if it was all, 11 years ago, about written text and video at the top of the funnel, today’s feels much more about video text and social. So there’s a shift going on in human behaviour, and I think inbound marketers are catching up.’

A final word

Don’t forget, inbound marketing can be the key to business success, so keep an eye out – it will inevitably continue to evolve.

✏️ An integral aspect of inbound marketing is producing quality content to engage your readers and drive sales. Whether this involves blogs, articles or web pages, why not hire a professional copywriter?

Header image: UX Indonesia

Embedded images: Krakenimages,, Austin Distel

Tiegan Mehmi

Tiegan graduated with a First-Class BA (Hons) in English Literature, Creative Writing and Practice from Lancaster University. She is now enjoying working as a Project Manager at Copify and hopes to continue writing and editing in the future.

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