Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing and content marketing: What’s the difference?

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Inbound marketing and content marketing: What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between inbound marketing and content marketing? Are they the same thing? These two questions have been pondered by many before you; which is hardly surprising in a world where there is so much confusion around marketing terminology and jargon.

In fact, the two terms are often used so interchangeably, 9% of marketers think they are synonyms1. However, the two concepts do differ from each other in the following ways.


What is content marketing?

Content marketing, in the broadest sense, describes using content to market products and services. It’s about creating content that is relevant and valuable to your prospects and placing it where they can find it, with the aim of delivering profitable results.

Content can come in the many different shapes and forms. If it’s written content, it can be used to drive traffic and sales to your business. Some of the most common types are:

  • Blogs
  • Landing pages
  • Infographics
  • Email newsletters
  • Videos
  • Guides, eBooks or whitepapers
  • Webinars


What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a methodology that focuses on attracting the right type of customer to your business. It’s a systematic approach, using a set of tools, technologies, and processes that work together to generate high quality sales leads from anonymous visitors, nurturing them until they become sales ready.

Inbound takes into account the fact that buying habits have dramatically changed, as people will no longer tolerate being bothered or interrupted. The process focuses on making your company easily locatable when people come looking for you or a product or service you offer, as opposed to attempting to interrupt people who are not looking for something you offer.  It’s about capturing a prospect’s attention as opposed to forcing it upon them.

In addition, inbound marketing is much more than just content, it’s about the tools, technologies, and process, which includes the following:

  • Contact capture via forms
  • Downloadable content offers
  • Call-to-actions
  • Landing pages
  • CRM integration
  • Email marketing integration
  • Marketing automation
  • Social media marketing
  • Blogging
  • PPC advertising
  • SEO

As you can see, inbound covers a broad spectrum of activities, including content marketing, so it’s easy to see where the confusion comes from.


So how do they work together?

In short, inbound marketing and content marketing work together as components.

Inbound marketing won’t work without content marketing, and alone, content marketing is void of the tools, tech and strategy that is required to successfully nurture leads into customers.

An inbound marketing strategy cannot be executed without content, including blogs, eBooks, social media content and website content for example. However, it also goes much deeper than just content. Inbound is a metrics and result driven methodology, therefore your content marketing needs to be tightly integrated with your conversion strategy.


The similarities

By now, I’m sure you can see why the two marketing strategies are often confused with one another.

They both:

  • Use quality content.
  • Start with attraction as the main way to drive business.
  • Have a defined marketing goal in mind.
  • Target a specific audience.
  • Focus on the prospect and use an attraction method to get them to a specific destination.
  • Strive to satisfy the needs of the reader before satisfying the company’s need to make a sale.
  • Are non-intrusive and rely on building a relationship between the prospect and the company.


The Differences:

Although both inbound and content marketing are very similar, both strategies have some distinct differences. Whilst content marketing puts all the focus on content, Inbound focuses on the bigger picture.

Inbound marketing is about creating a website, devising content, and driving visitors to perform a specific action. e.g. download an eBook, sign up to an email list, etc. While inbound marketing strategies can involve content marketing, it also encompasses a wider variety of methods. Content marketing is about creating content and distributing it across multiple channels to ensure that it gets read and shared.

Both activities are invaluable parts of your marketing strategy, but it’s also very important to be able to distinguish the two.


Regardless of your opinion on content marketing vs inbound marketing, one thing’s pretty clear; The two are very similar. However, there are a few very distinct differences. The worst thing you can do is adopt inbound or content marketing at the total exclusion of the other. Content is without a doubt, essential to the inbound marketing process, but content alone can't drive traffic, capture leads, and turn them into customers the way inbound marketing does. Whilst you need content for inbound, you also need a host of other inbound marketing tactics in order to deliver results.



1 HubSpot


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