inbound marketing vs content marketing

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Inbound marketing vs content marketing? Is that even a subject of debate? Aren’t these two the same thing?

Before getting my hands dirty in content marketing, I thought these two marketing terms were synonymous.

I was wrong until I discovered the differences between these two marketing strategies.

I’m now a seasoned content marketer, and I have a better understanding of how to use what has been coined as the marketing channel of the future.

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Inbound marketing is more active in nature thanks to technology, while content marketing focuses on creating high-quality content that acts as a guide for your target audience.

This article will teach you everything you need to know about both terms so that you can better understand these marketing tactics and put them into action in your business.

By creating relevant, high-quality content these businesses will be distributing valuable information to their future customers.

With a well-planned inbound marketing strategy, companies are able to build rapport with their consumers without having to spend an arm and a leg on advertising budgets.

But with the development of digital marketing inbound techniques have become more commonplace and to be equally effective as a marketer you must understand what makes each technique unique yet complementary.

Content marketing is all about building relationships with your target audience over time by providing them with value through your written, video, podcast, or photo content.

Inbound marketing is a powerful strategy that relies on your audience coming to you and engaging with you, whereas content marketing is the creation of original pieces of content that have promotional value.

Let’s take a look at what these approaches entail, examine their pros and cons, and compare who they’re most effective for and where they can be used in tandem.

Content Marketing can be defined as the process of producing written or multimedia content with the intention of acquiring new customers, engaging current customers, and encouraging repeat business.

Inbound Marketing vs Content Marketing | Their Definitions

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound Marketing is a strategy that draws customers to your business website by providing helpful and valuable information (i.e. content) to your potential clients, which makes them want to buy your products or services.

In more simple words, inbound marketing refers to an online marketing process of attracting customers with content that entices customers through offering interesting, relevant, and useful content instead of interrupting them with ads or hard-sell messages.

Another definition of inbound marketing is this:

Inbound marketing is a holistic company-wide strategy that uses customer-centric web content to drive targeted traffic to your site.

Inbound Marketing uses a set of processes, interactive tools, and techniques to attract, convert and delight customers.

Although inbound techniques are more common among large companies that have complex business models and huge budgets, small businesses have started picking up on the trend as they become more familiar with blogging, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and social media marketing.

Small businesses have been adopting digital marketing techniques to grow their business and stand out from their competitors.

In fact, about 80% of digital marketers consider themselves inbound marketers, which means that the inbound methodology is quickly becoming “the way to go” for small businesses looking for a winning digital marketing plan.

What is Content Marketing?

Content Marketing can be defined as the process of producing written or multimedia content with the intention of acquiring new customers, engaging current customers, and encouraging repeat business.

In addition to attracting customers through online content, content marketing has the purpose of converting leads.

Content marketing is more focused on educating your audience, creating a bond between you and your potential customers, and offering solutions to their problems.

Therefore, a content marketing strategy puts content creation at the center of your marketing strategy with the objective to establish trust, credibility, and brand awareness and obviously to drive leads and sales.

Content Marketing is very effective in the B2B sector because through content creation and distribution, you are actually getting in front of your ideal customer, which raises brand awareness and trust, as well as encourages more sales.

By providing useful educational material to qualified prospects via your articles, social media posts, and video or podcast content, you’ll also be able to convert your audience into customers and brand loyalists.

So, now let’s further debate a few proven facts about inbound marketing and content marketing.

Content Marketing is a Variant of Inbound Marketing

As we’ve seen earlier, inbound marketing is the umbrella, and content marketing is one of the strategies that can be employed under it.

So, content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing as confirmed by 60% of content marketers from a study conducted by Hubspot.

Under the entire inbound marketing strategy, we can also include technical SEO, social media, email marketing, referrals, lead nurturing, content marketing, website optimization, and so on.

All these techniques contribute to a few common business goals; drive more leads and sales to your business.

These are the most important goals of any business and both inbound marketing and content marketing will help you achieve them.

Inbound Marketing Strategy & Content Marketing Strategy are Long-Term Games

There’s no debate around the fact that an inbound marketing strategy and a content marketing strategy are both long-term marketing plans.

They both require lots of great content, creativity, critical thinking, and a good dose of patience to see positive results.

This is mainly because it takes time for the search engines and social media algorithms to start trusting and ranking your content. And this is the same for all content distribution channels.

Content Marketing is Part of Inbound Marketing

I’ve already mentioned this before but what I want to emphasize is the fact that content marketing is not all-important for inbound marketing.

As we just saw in the illustration above, content marketing is only part of inbound marketing.

So, this means that you can have an inbound marketing strategy without content marketing.

For example, you can achieve your business goals using PPC only.

You’re still doing inbound marketing but are not including written blog posts, videos, or podcast creation which are part of content marketing.

However, it’s not recommended to avoid content marketing. It offers so many benefits for your business, as I’ve already explained, it’s one of the most important factors in your success and growth.

A complete inbound marketing strategy always wins.

Content Remains the Heart of Both Strategies

Inbound marketing and content marketing are both built around the creation of compelling content. Remember that inbound marketing is made up of:

  • Content marketing
  • SEO
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Lead nurturing

All of the inbound marketing techniques are built on high-quality content and both content marketing and inbound marketing are slow-and-steady strategies that help you grow organically over time.

This means that you should focus on your audience by providing them with engaging and relevant content that helps you build relationships with your potential customers.

When creating content, you should keep in mind what your prospects are interested in and are looking for.

This will allow you to create content that educates, entertains, and sells your products and services.

Both Have a Positive Effect on Your Business

Inbound marketing and content marketing are two of the most popular digital marketing strategies because they come with amazing benefits for your overall business.

A few benefits of both strategies are:

  • Inbound and content marketing help increase brand awareness, customer loyalty, trust, and credibility.
  • Both inbound marketing and content marketing help you acquire new potential customers.
  • Inbound and content marketing improve your search rankings, which in turn will improve organic rankings.
  • Inbound and content marketing build a relationship with your audience, which is the key to long-term business success.
  • Both tactics promote the growth of your business through high-quality content that educates, entertains, and sells your products or services.

Both Inbound and Content Marketing Benefit from High-Quality Content

There’s a saying that goes like this:

“You don’t have to be the best to win; you just have to be better than your competitors.”

So, inbound marketing and content marketing shouldn’t rely on poor-quality content that would underperform.

Instead, both strategies should use the best possible content for the desired results. Lousy content can harm your business and brand.

This is exactly why inbound marketing and content marketing are both built around the creation of high-quality content that is highly relevant to your audience.

There are certain elements of high-quality content that you should look for when developing inbound marketing and content marketing strategies:

  • Originality (i.e. No copy/paste)
  • Relevance to your visitors/customers’ needs and interests.
  • Interesting, informative, entertaining, and well-written.
  • Accurate, current, and up to date.
  • Include relevant keywords your audience use to look for you
  • Use images or videos that further engage with your readers
  • Stay consistent in the flow of your content
  • Have a clear message, call to action, and a purpose behind it.

Both Focuses on the Needs of Your Audience

Both inbound marketing and content marketing focus primarily on the needs of your audience instead of using hard-sell messages and interruptive advertising.

When you create content that speaks to your customer’s needs and provides them with relevant and useful information, they will be more likely to become your fans, followers, or even customers.

Maintaining a dialogue is vital to building trust, loyalty, and engagement.

When it comes to providing solutions to your target audience’s problems, inbound marketing, and content marketing are really good as they help you understand what your audience needs.

The better you understand your audience, the more you can focus on their needs and wants.

And the more you can do this, the better your chances will be at creating the type of content that they come to expect from you.

How to Get Results With an Inbound Marketing Strategy

I’ll say it again, content marketing strategy is part of inbound marketing.

With that being said, content marketing only won’t bring astronomical results in terms of conversions and sales. So what should you do next?

1. Create SEO-optimized content

We’ve seen earlier that SEO forms part of inbound marketing, right?

And this means that you cannot escape from having to create SEO-optimized content if you want concrete results from your inbound marketing strategy.

It’s actually the key to your success as it will help you rank for specific keywords in search engines and generate more qualified leads and sales than you could ever imagine.

Thus, moving the needle for your business.

2. Website Optimization

Website optimization is a supporting role to SEO.

Before putting out content, you must ensure that you have a great website that’s appealing, fast, and easy to navigate.

Many studies have revealed that 75% of online consumers link the credibility of a business to its website.

So, this is enough to say that a good-looking website has the potential to capture a visitor’s attention. So don’t miss that opportunity.

Then you can move to optimize other areas of your website for user experience with the aim of improving visitor engagement, conversion, and retention rates.

The idea here is to make your landing pages and blog posts load faster so that you don’t lose potential clients.

Also, the loading speed of your website is one of the most crucial ranking factors for Google.

If your site has a slow loading speed, the visitor will bounce back immediately and this will send a bad signal to Google.

Consequently, your site will perform poorly in the search engines, in terms of ranking positions in the SERPs.

3. Get Visible on a Few Social Media Platforms

Nowadays, if you are not visible online, you do not exist. I’m also making reference to a social media presence.

Since social media has taken over the way people spend their time online, you need to make sure that you are visible on a few platforms.

This might sound crazy but people can even doubt your brand’s credibility if you don’t have a Facebook or an Instagram account these days.

So, set up a content marketing process to build a powerful social media presence and dominate your niche.

You can start by taking over your customers’ feeds with engaging content that they will find valuable.

The social media networks you will use to promote your brand will depend on where your audience hangs out.

So, make sure to put your efforts on 1-2 social networks that make sense to your business and brand.

4. Email Marketing Since Day 1

Inbound marketing covers email marketing which has always been coined as the “king of digital marketing” and it’s still very much alive and kicking in today’s digital kingdom.

This is because email marketing has 36x ROI, which means for every dollar you spend, you can expect to get $36 back.

So don’t leave this one out of your inbound marketing strategy.

Make sure that you capture your audiences’ email addresses using opt-in forms on all your landing pages.

Setup a list, start sending content to them regularly, and nurture them with relevant and engaging email sequences and automation.

5. Prioritize Your Sales Funnel

Without a sales funnel or a content funnel, your business will leave a lot of money on the table.

It is the process of bringing visitors to your site, converting them into leads, and then nurturing them until you convert them into revenue-generating customers.

A marketing funnel is so important if you want to convert your visitors.

And to properly and seamlessly get them through your funnel, you need to provide them with the right content in their buyer’s journey.

So, do an audit of your sales funnel. Check where you are falling short and start to fix it.

Quality content is the king of inbound marketing.

In line with the other factors, producing quality content will help you boost your organic traffic, generate leads, and increase sales in a steady manner.

Great content can also build up your brand’s top-of-mind awareness among your target audience and get you more visibility online.

Wrap Up

I hope you have grasped something good from this inbound marketing vs content marketing debate.

Although content marketing is only part of the big umbrella of inbound marketing, it’s no less important.

To sum it up, these two strategies have a lot in common with each other and are absolutely essential for your success and growth.

You might still ask this question though “Which is better, inbound or content marketing? I say both are vital to your business’ success.

Both inbound marketing and content marketing focus on the needs of your audience in order to accompany them in their buyer’s journey and provide them with solutions to their problems.

Both inbound marketing and content marketing provide content that will help you establish a relationship of trust and credibility with your target audience.

They both result in higher engagement with your brand on social media and they both are part of the long-term success strategy.

So, if you are hungry for a successful business, you should definitely consider trying a complete inbound marketing campaign.

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Nat Caesar is the Owner, Senior Editor & Head of Growth at Myndset. She is also the Founder of Caesar Media, a Digital Media Agency based in Mauritius. Since 2014 she has worked with more than 250 companies around the world including a few reputable brands like Adobe, Starbucks, Lacoste, and Pinterest Labs among others. Nat is also a seasoned SEO copywriter in the SaaS & B2B space. Feel free to reach out to her at [email protected]