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What's The Difference Between Content Marketing And Inbound Marketing?

By William Steward on Fri, Aug 23, 2013

This opens one big can of worms. It's a debate that rages on in the blogosphere. Almost everyone seems to have their own opinion. Of course, behind almost every opinion is a motive. Our view is that inbound marketing is a broad term, used to describe all marketing activities involved in pulling people in to your company, rather than pushing interruptive messages out to people. The purpose of inbound marketing is for people to find you when they are trying to solve questions or problems your company can help with, and convert those people into sales ready leads over time, by sharing excellent content with them.

content marketing
Content marketing requires a whole lot of typing & editing.
Photo credit: ~merete

Content marketing is the backbone of an inbound marketing strategy. Without it, there is no inbound marketing. But there are also many aspects of inbound marketing which I feel aren't suited to the content marketing wrapper. To name but a few examples:

  • You need to be continually optimising your website so that it generates more business. This involves data analysis and ongoing testing.
  • You need to optimise your website's structure for SEO, and ensure that your technical SEO is spot on.
  • You need to decide how sales and marketing will integrate to ensure that marketing knows about every sales lead closed, and sales know where every lead has come from.
  • You need to develop workflows.
  • You need to design call to action's (CTA's) for all your landing pages.
  • You need to analyse sales data to determine when to mark a lead as sales qualified.
Some people claim that content marketing actually incorporates all of these things, but to me it just doesn't make sense as a descriptor. Content marketing implies it's exclusively about content. Unfortunately with so many different companies using so many different definitions of words like content marketing, permission based marketing, relationship marketing, inbound marketing and digital marketing, it can be hard for a business to know what they need.

My advice is to ignore the buzzwords.

Focus on what is being included within your strategy. If you are trying to find a content marketing agency, make sure that their offering includes everything you need. The same goes for if you are searching for an inbound marketing agency, a digital marketing agency or a relationship marketing agency. Are they just a glorified SEO agency, social media agency, or pr agency? Or can they implement a top-to-bottom marketing strategy for your business, that achieves everything from attracting prospects to converting them into customers and delighting them?

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