inbound marketing vs. Content Marketing: Key Differences

Within the marketing universe it is common for there to be confusing terms, especially when talking about strategies, techniques or methodologies and two of the most common are inbound marketing and content marketing .

They are the same? Can one exist without the other? That and more I will solve in this post, the key differences between inbound marketing and content marketing . 

So let’s see what each concept refers to, how they are similar and how they are different to have a clear picture.

What are inbound marketing and content marketing?

Inbound marketing , as we know it today, emerged in 2006 and was first mentioned by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, founders of HubSpot.

Inbound marketing is a methodology whose objective is to attract customers and convince them to search for companies, instead of bombarding them with typical traditional marketing messages . 

It is about seducing ideal customers and accompanying them all the way, from the first contact, until they buy and become loyal to a brand. The process consists of attracting traffic, converting them into leads and then into customers.

On the other hand, content marketing is a marketing technique, which consists of creating valuable and relevant content and distributing it to attract potential customers and get them to convert into customers. 

Through content marketing, free value is provided to users, so that this investment is recovered over the months.

Differences between inbound marketing and content marketing

1. Contact with the audience

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is here to put an end to intrusive ads. 

Through inbound marketing, contact is created by understanding the pain points of the audience and providing solutions.

Thus, it is possible to narrow down the participation strategy even more, creating marketing personas and providing relevant and personalized content.

content marketing

Content marketing targets a much broader audience and therefore tends to maintain a more general tone, for example on websites.

Both personalized and general content can be in the same space, but you should always be very clear about the objective of each one in order to optimize it based on it.

2. Strategies

inbound marketing

Content marketing is the backbone of inbound marketing, but it is not everything. 

Strategies such as SEO, digital advertising, conversion optimization, social networks, email marketing and much more also come into play.

If you want to opt for inbound marketing, you must have the following ready:

  • Responsive website and with CMS
  • Blog
  • Presence in social networks

content marketing

Sure, you can execute a content marketing strategy on its own. However, you can’t have a multi-channel approach, instead you have to monitor the performance of each piece independently.

If you want to write content and upload it to your site, that’s fine, but you’d only be doing half the job. 

It’s like going to the doctor to tell you what you have, but without prescribing a treatment to cure the symptoms. 

Content marketing is just one piece of a complete inbound strategy. 

3. Distribution

inbound marketing

In Inbound marketing, personalized messages are used and, therefore, broader positioning techniques are often used. 

This methodology gives space so that several topics can be dealt with at the same time and that they are distributed through different active channels. 

In general, the different audiences are segmented and content is created for them, which is made known through different platforms: blog, social networks, email, etc. 

For example, there are companies that have different niches, such as marketers, salespeople, and managers, and content must be created for each blog in order to convert them. 

content marketing

In content marketing, a large-scale distribution tactic with personalized content for each audience group is less likely to be employed.

In general, it tends to focus on a few topics for a single audience. 

For example, if you’re emailing your entire subscriber list on the same topics, chances are you’re running a brand focused on content marketing and not inbound.  

4. Objective

inbound marketing

Inbound marketing is practically synonymous with conversion marketing. Its objectives are very clear and specific:

  • increase traffic
  • Increase conversions
  • grow sales

Within this methodology, there are two types of conversions: 

  • Macro conversions : buy, pay, create an account, subscribe to a newsletter, request a demo, etc.
  • Microconversions : visit a website, search for something within a site, interact with the content of a brand (like, bookmark, add to cart…).

content marketing

Much of content marketing tactics is based on multifaceted goals geared toward relationship management and customer engagement. In addition, priority is given to increasing traffic.

To do this, each piece that is created and shared must be optimized, depending on the main goal, which can be:

  • Generate engagement (likes, shares, comments)
  • web traffic
  • community growth
  • Positive comments or reviews
  • Sales

5. Process

inbound marketing

The inbound marketing process is more complex and time-consuming than content marketing, as an entire customer-focused environment must be created to generate top-quality leads. 

For this, key steps must be taken into account, such as:

  • research the competition 
  • Create buyer personas
  • Optimize the website for search engines
  • Create valuable content
  • Build an email marketing sequence strategy
  • Have a networking calendar and marketing plan
  • Adjust conversion elements, such as CTA, web design, forms, etc.
  • Design a multichannel marketing strategy

Once this is done, you should follow up to find out what works and what doesn’t and, if necessary, make adjustments on the fly to enhance the results.

content marketing

I will say something obvious but necessary: ​​content marketing focuses a lot on content creation. 

Therefore, the process, although it is still complex and requires quality, is a little simpler. 

People and research are part of it, but lead generation is only a secondary focus. 

The process should focus on creating and delivering relevant content and distributing it to the right audiences. 

It is simply a step within inbound marketing. 

Let’s summarize the differences between inbound marketing and content marketing

Now that I have explained in detail the main differences between inbound and content marketing, let me briefly summarize them so that there is no room for doubt.

#1 Difference between inbound marketing and content marketing

Content marketing is one of the strategies that are part of inbound marketing, since the latter uses content to attract potential customers and guide them during their decision process. 

However, the content is not the only thing; Email marketing, social media, etc. are also used.

#2 Difference between inbound marketing and content marketing

Content marketing is not by itself inbound marketing. It will always depend on the way it is used.

Content marketing can be done from a more traditional perspective and it’s not bad. It doesn’t always have to be from an inbound approach.

For example, mass email marketing implies content marketing, but it is not through the inbound methodology, as it is intrusive. 

#3 Difference between inbound marketing and content marketing

While inbound marketing has to deal with the entire process of guiding customers through the sales funnel (from attraction to conversion), content marketing does not.

It can simply help in some stages of that path, for example, customer acquisition or the decision process. However, it should not be used in all phases.

#4 Difference between inbound marketing and content marketing

Content marketing is great for driving web traffic or boosting through social media, but by itself it cannot convert visitors into customers.

To achieve this, you have to use other tools, such as email marketing, SEO, SEM, forms, etc. 

These are the main differences (summarized) between inbound marketing and content marketing. 

Inbound marketing + Content Marketing = perfect set

As we have seen, inbound marketing and content marketing have many points of difference, but they can also work together effectively if you have a defined strategy.

Content marketing is most often viewed as part of a broader inbound strategy, but a stronger alignment between marketing and sales should be sought through these two weapons.

Learning to use inbound and online content for well-grounded and broader business goals can generate long-term returns.

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