Inbound Marketing vs. Content Marketing

by | Jan 7, 2020 | Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing

If you’re in the marketing world at all, you know that these two terms are the heavyweight champs of modern marketing. But how do they fit together? There’s a lot of confusion out there about inbound marketing vs. content marketing. Are they the same thing? And if they’re different, how?

We’re going to break it all down for you in this marketing terminology matchup of inbound marketing vs. content marketing.

Inbound Marketing vs. Content Marketing

Most marketers generally confer — content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing. I like to think of it this way:

  • Inbound marketing is a big umbrella. A whole bunch of marketing tactics make up the umbrella’s individual components. SEO, social media marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and so many more tactics make up everything from the waterproof fabric to each little rib that forms the shape of the umbrella. 
  • If inbound marketing is an umbrella, content marketing is the pole and handle that holds the umbrella up. Content marketing forms the base and the foundation for a quality inbound marketing strategy.

So to answer the questions posed in the intro: yes, content marketing and inbound marketing are different things. 

Inbound marketing refers to the overarching marketing strategy that draws in qualified leads. Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing, but one of the most important inbound marketing tactics that lays the framework for the larger inbound marketing strategy as a whole.

Got it? Not quite? 

No worries. We’re going to keep on rolling with some more information to make that distinction a little clearer for you. Let’s take a closer look at what inbound marketing is, what content marketing is, and how they work together to deliver you the leads you want when you want them.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a marketing method that focuses on drawing in qualified leads and potential customers, rather than blasting information about your company to the general public. 

Inbound marketing is specific and tactical. 

The methodology requires that you know who you’re selling to, who you want to sell to, and that you market to those specific buyers in a way that is helpful to them. 

Inbound marketing was born out of the modern consumer’s desire to discover solutions to their own problems. Today’s consumer despises telemarketers, spam emails, and other poorly targeted advertising techniques that don’t feel personal, relevant, or helpful.

Inbound marketing recognizes this consumer pain point, and works to find a solution.

Inbound marketing is successful when a consumer seeks a solution to a problem, navigates to a resource that answers their questions, and self-selects the product or service that ultimately resolves their pain point. 

For the consumer, this is a seamless transition. 

They search their problem, find the ideal solution, and make a purchasing decision. The trick of inbound marketing is offering up relevant content and improving your company’s visibility so that consumer gets their seamless transition from you. And this is where content marketing comes in. 

What is Content Marketing?

Inbound marketing is built on content marketing. Though inbound marketing is made up of a variety of marketing tactics, like search engine optimization, email marketing, workflows, and so much more, content marketing is certainly the heavy lifter. 

Think about it:

  • What would you promote in your email marketing campaigns if you didn’t have content written? 

  • Where would you direct conversions from pay-per-click ads if not to a page of content? 

  • How would you optimize your website for search engines without content?

Content marketing forms the backbone and the foundation of any inbound marketing strategy. It’s everything from the optimized content on your website to your weekly blog posts to your monthly email newsletters to that new vlog you’ve been trying out.

Content marketing is what creates value for your potential leads, and its what draws those qualified leads into your sales funnel. 

If you want a more specific outline of the different types of content marketing and how to implement them, I suggest you check out our content marketing page. If you’re already familiar with content marketing, let’s move on to how inbound marketing and content marketing work together: 

How These Strategies Work Together to Bring You Qualified Leads

As we mentioned earlier, inbound marketing functions on the premise that today’s consumer ignores disruptive, non-personal messages. Inbound marketing instead encourages consumers to self-qualify, and search for and find the information and the solutions that best fit their own problems and pain points. Content marketing is a major component of that inbound marketing methodology, especially in a consumer’s early stages of the buyer’s journey. 

While your sales team might already have a great, inbound-focused method of converting leads into sales, content marketing is one of those key tools that brings those leads to your marketing and sales teams in the first place. 

I like to think of content marketing as the fuel that feeds your inbound marketing funnel or flywheel. 

Without content going out regularly, answering your ideal customer’s questions, solving their pain points, and nurturing them further down the buyer’s journey, your sales team might not get the chance to exercise their awesome, inbound-focused sales process in the first place.

While content marketing is also used extensively in the later stages of the buyer’s journey, it’s most commonly thought of as a way to draw in the right, qualified leads, so your marketing and sales team can apply the rest of your inbound marketing strategy to nurture and close those leads. 

Inbound Marketing + Content Marketing = A Successful Growth Strategy

In the end, it’s best to think about inbound marketing and content marketing together, rather than inbound marketing vs. content marketing. Both tactics are useful methods to draw in and close qualified leads, and they work best when used in conjunction. 

Content marketing forms the foundation of your inbound marketing strategy, drawing in the right leads with helpful, personalized content. Then, your inbound marketing strategy can do the rest of the work — taking the leads your content marketing strategy generated and converting them into customers and future promoters for your brand. 

Still have questions? We’ve got answers. Check out our inbound marketing and content marketing pages for more specifics on both strategies, and always feel free to give us a call or drop a line — we’d love to chat. And if you’re just not sure what an inbound marketing strategy can do for you in real life, check out the case study below. 

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