What is Intelligent Inbound Marketing & Sales?

More than 20 years ago in a 1997 rematch after man initially beat a computer, IBM’s Deep Blue defeated the top-rated chess player in the world, Garry Kasparov. For years following, Garry was at the center of man-versus-machine conversations, while computers around the world became more intelligent by the day and quickly were the consistent winners in man-versus-machine battles. When recounting that day, Garry stated in a 2017 Medium article, “May 11 should be a Victory Day for Deep Blue’s ingenious human creators, for human science, for human creativity, and for the wonderful human process of making our machines and our lives better.”

When I was first introduced to inbound marketing a decade ago, I laughed at the idea of marketing. Marketing was something that Mad Men did to make more money by ineffectively throwing up TV ads, billboards, and faces on bus stop benches. To me, the best way to create a successful future at the time was the human mind; the world we live in began transforming our minds with technology.

Again, marketing was far from an evidence-based practice. Meanwhile, advances in things like fMRI and data science made psychology and neuroscience a passion worth making a career out of—at least, until I took a job at a management consulting firm. There, I discovered inbound marketing and sales and the exact thing that Garry described in that 2017 article: “the wonderful human process of making our machines and our lives better.”

Although the inbound marketing and sales that I fell in love with and ultimately made a career out of was much different from what it is today, what makes this kind of marketing different from old-school Mad Men marketing is the same: a focus on drawing potential customers to you.

If you take inbound marketing and sales a step further, however, you begin to see the power behind what Garry saw of his ’97 match—the power of combining humans, systems, creativity, and technology. You see the power of Intelligent Inbound™ marketing and sales.


At the center of any successful inbound marketing campaign is a person. Whether you market to multiple people within an organization or simply target one individual, there will always be a real human being in need of consideration. To truly put your customers first, you need to know who will engage with your brand, what they find valuable, when they want to be approached, and crucially, why they are seeking you or a solution out. Intelligent Inbound puts customers first and is consistently human-centered.

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Technology- & Automation-Powered

Garry was optimistic about his loss to Deep Blue, as we all should be when we think about how technology, especially automation, can create a better human experience. When you understand the humans on the other side of the technology, you’ll quickly realize the kinds of automated triggers that could transform a person’s interactions with your brand. Intelligent Inbound is all about leveraging technology and automation to create a better human experience.

Channel Agnostic

We humans spend half of our days on one platform or another. The exact platform we are on depends on a lot of things. And I mean a lot. Their age, gender, and motivation all factor into the kind of channel you use. You may be hosting a podcast and connecting with your users through their earbuds or the first click on a search result with exactly the information that your customer is seeking.

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The reality for today’s marketing and sales teams is that customers are everywhere and you have the opportunity to meet them exactly where they are. Intelligent Inbound focuses on the channels that matter most when they matter most for your customer, whether they are traditional tactics like a newspaper ad, or data and tech-driven like a geo-ad served up on mobile. If you define your target customer first and get to know them, the right channels will reveal themselves.

Organizationally Driven

Intelligent Inbound goes far beyond the walls of marketing and sales teams. To successfully execute Intelligent Inbound, an organization must be fully committed to the reality of their customer. Putting the customer and their journey first is important and requires orchestration across the organization. For example, you may need your engineering team to contribute their expertise to content, your sales team to align on messaging, and your customer success team to streamline and minimize major customer concerns. If you are going to successfully use Intelligent Inbound, you have to make an organizational shift toward an inbound methodology.


We live in a distracted world. Marketers, especially, have a lot of distractions. Your sales team, C-suite, and everyone in between will want your time and resources. With Intelligent Inbound, marketing and sales, both teams work together to avoid any distractions and focus efforts on driving results, which means you have to carefully consider the KPIs and benchmarks you need in order to be successful and revisit them often. Finally, you need to ensure the results draw from solid data, which is derived from the insights you gain from data, not driven by the exact data points, which leads to the next aspect of Intelligent Inbound.

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We live in a data-driven world, but that doesn’t mean data is what should drive us. As a marketer, it’s easy to get sucked into a vortex of data that ultimately does little to drive impactful results. Intelligent Inbound is all about collecting the right data, focusing on the data that matters, and making actionable plans to drive forward with data that’s impactful. When it comes to data, there’s more advice to share than I could ever include here, but the most simple advice I’ve appreciated is “trends are your friend.” Don’t get excited over small pieces of data and only derive insights from data in areas where you’ll see the highest impact. Derive the right insights and data will drive you to success.

Intelligent Creative

My mom is a florist, and ever since I can remember, she has been creating something new to serve the current times. My mom will admit, however, that when she gets the same $40 arrangement order for roses over and over, there’s only so much she can do creatively.

I see this same scenario play out with inbound marketing where companies keep pushing SEO, demand generation, and optimized conversions to drive better performance. Intelligent Inbound breaks that mold by creating campaigns that any maker can hang their hat on. Intelligent Inbound campaigns make us all stop to appreciate the remarkable fine finishes, flawlessness, and overall wow of the creative elements.

Flawless Execution

Knowing what to do and actually doing it make all the difference. Intelligent Inbound is all about flawlessly executing campaigns and closely collaborating with sales, product, customer success, and every other department responsible for communicating and engaging current and future customers.

Intelligent Inbound is all about creating human-centered experiences by leveraging data and technology to drive results across the organization. It’s not the Mad Men perception of marketing that I once had. It’s intelligent.

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