The Difference Between Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a broad, high level, descriptive term for marketing tactics that, instead of pushing interruptive messages ‘out’ to clients, engage prospects and pull them ‘in’ to your business. 

The goal of this approach is to help prospects get to know, like, and trust your company

Build on your client's comfort until the moment they're ready to hire you. Then maintain the relationship.

As one of the more successful inbound marketing agencies, we have our own perspective. One that is based on our own experience of using both inbound and content marketing to help our clients get found, get leads and close sales.

Content marketing is a part (an important part) of inbound marketing the same way your website, email marketing, lead nurturing, video marketing, search engine optimization and other tactics are part of an integrated marketing machine.

Content is such a big part of inbound marketing that we believe you wouldn’t be able to execute an inbound marketing program without content marketing. On the other hand, you could have content marketing as part of a traditional outbound marketing program.

Most of the content marketing experts believe that content marketing stretches beyond the traditional sales funnel and into ongoing customer communications, but our perspective has always been that you need to communicate with customers in an ongoing basis. Using content to stay in touch with customers gives you opportunities to reinforce your value proposition as well as work on cross-selling, up-selling and improving renewal rates.

Content marketing is a broad topic and includes a lot of different types of marketing tools. Video, webinars, emails, eBooks, whitepapers, presentations, infographics, podcasts, and other content vehicles all fall into the content marketing bucket. The trick (often overlooked by the experts) is deciding what to create when and how to use it in both your new customer acquisition process and current customer communication process.

Inbound marketing provides a context for making those content decisions.

Best practices include mapping both processes by target market and then applying the right type of content in the right format across the process. This ensures that content is delivered in context for each prospect at the perfect stage in their purchasing process. This isn’t easy to do but it’s the right way to do it.

Another approach that works well is the campaign approach. This focuses your content on one specific message for one specific target market for a period of time. So the webinars, whitepapers, videos, infographics and online tools all deliver the same message to the same set of prospects.

We typically run a campaign for anywhere between four and eight weeks. Once the campaign is complete, we measure the effectiveness vs. the goals we established before the campaign launched.

Once we know the metrics, we decide whether to run a similar campaign targeted to the same set of prospects with new content or move on to a new set of target prospects with new content.

This approach works well for focusing your attention and making sure you have all the appropriate pieces in place to drive program performance.

Actionable Advice – Make sure content marketing is part of your overall marketing portfolio. If you are practicing inbound marketing, you’ll need other tactics to support content marketing. Consider either the campaign approach or the content mapping methodology mentioned above to ensure your content is applied properly. Either way, adding content to your current marketing efforts is going to help your prospects get to know, like, and trust your business.