Adam T. Sutton

Email Marketing: An inbound tactic?

A quick look at the calendar shows that tomorrow is the deadline for entering your campaign into our 6th Annual Email Marketing Awards. To those who haven’t entered yet — enter here! Thank you to all those who have entered — and please don’t forget that multiple entries are accepted.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to wrap my hands around the concept of Inbound Marketing. While it’s clear that content development and SEO are inbound tactics, there are many tactics that are not so clearly included.

Email marketing is one of these tactics. People can read your email newsletter referenced in other blogs. They can see your email promotions featured in social media networks. These are clearly inbound marketing concepts. But when you email an audience, can that really attract more customers?

When Emails Are Like Billboards

I recently spoke with Mike Volpe, VP, Inbound Marketing, HubSpot, who shared his insights on this issue. Volpe will also be presenting a case study titled “The Role of Email Marketing in an Inbound Marketing World” at our Email Summit in January. Whether an email program uses an outbound or inbound strategy depends mostly on how the marketer acquired the email addresses, he says.

“Some people will go off and purchase a list of people who have never heard of their company, and they’ll add them to their email newsletter or they’ll put them into some sort of drip email program… To me, that’s a very outbound-centric strategy,” Volpe says.

The key here is that the people receiving the email never expressed an interest in the company. This approach is similar to billboard advertising in that it reaches people who did not give an indication of wanting to be reached.

Shared Emails Can Grow an Audience

On the other hand, sending high-quality emails to an opt-in list reaches a relevant audience. This audience can secondarily attract more relevant people to your site. Here are two examples how:

Example #1. Your team emails a two-for-one promotion to your list. Subscribers click the social sharing buttons in your email and send the offer to friends on Facebook and Twitter. This pulls more relevant prospects to your website.

Example #2.
A blogger writes a post referencing an article featured in your newsletter. The reference drives more relevant prospects to your site.

The prospective customers in these examples are interested in your industry. They’ve expressed that through their social networking and blog reading. By emailing valuable content and making it easy to share, you’re encouraging subscribers to extend your reach to like-minded people.

The concept is very similar to blogging. Regularly generating high-quality content attracts a relevant audience. But in this case the platform is not a blog — it’s an email.

Is this a bit of a stretch? Probably. But Volpe’s opinion has settled the case for me. Email marketing has potential as an inbound marketing tactic. Do you agree? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

Related Resources

Call for Entries: MarketingSherpa’s 6th Annual Email Awards

Agenda Release: Email Marketing Summit 2010

New Chart: Chief Challenges to Email Marketing

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Email Marketing



  1. December 7th, 2010 at 04:47 | #1

    I think seo and email marketing’s are almost same.This blog inform more about that.thanks for sharing with me.

    email marketing

  1. December 2nd, 2010 at 10:38 | #1
  2. December 3rd, 2010 at 12:32 | #2
  3. March 3rd, 2011 at 03:02 | #3