Inbound vs Content Marketing: How to See the Difference

Inbound vs Content Marketing: How to See the Difference

I was recently asked, “What is the difference between inbound marketing and content marketing?” My first thought in response was, that’s not the question to answer in order to help someone understand inbound marketing and content marketing.

Inbound Marketing vs. Content Marketing

What is important to understand about these two terms is not the difference between them, but the relationship between them. Content marketing is a critical part of an inbound marketing strategy, along with website design (specifically growth-driven design), SEO, social media, and lead generation and management.

To quote Julia Roberts in “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” I’m better with food. So think of it like this: Asking the difference between inbound marketing and content marketing is like asking the difference between a chocolate chip cookie and a chocolate chip. The chocolate chip is an integral part of the chocolate chip cookie. Without the chocolate chips, it’s not a chocolate chip cookie. The same relationship exists between inbound marketing and content marketing. Content is part of what fuels an inbound marketing strategy. Without content, you don’t have inbound marketing.

Let’s look more at that relationship between content marketing and inbound marketing. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the definition of content marketing is to create, curate, and publish information (content) for a targeted audience in order to educate, engage, and move prospects through the sales funnel. This happens by converting strangers into visitors, visitors into leads, and leads into long-term customers and promoters of your brand.

Content fueling an inbound marketing strategy can take many forms:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Whitepapers
  • Ebooks
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Landing pages
  • Informational emails
  • Curated content*

*To be effective, curated content needs to include your own “take,” be of the highest quality, and be timely if related to current events. Otherwise, you’re just cluttering up your audience’s feed.

There are four stages of inbound marketing: Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight. Content plays an important role in each of those phases:

  • Attract: Content created for this phase generally appeals to people who aren’t aware of your brand yet or are doing preliminary research related to the product or service you offer. It may include blog posts, a video tutorial, infographic, or social media posting.
  • Convert: Content for this deeper phase of customer research may include a landing page with a form that leads to a whitepaper or ebook.
  • Close: Content for the close phase might include an informational email related to a product or service your lead has expressed interest in but has not yet purchased.
  • Delight: Once you’ve closed a lead, you want to keep them happy so they stick around and tell everyone they know about you. Some of the same kinds of content used in the Attract phase can be used here but should be tailored to where your customer is on their buyer’s journey with your brand. Provide custom content that is informative and educational, but assumes the frame of reference that exists for these customers.

In every phase of inbound marketing, content must both be goal-driven and provide information that is actually helpful to your target audience. Generic, keyword-stuffed, self-indulgent pieces focused more on your bottom-line goals than the needs of your customers won’t get you anywhere in terms of engagement and conversions.

What Kinds of Content Get the Most Engagement?

There is not a simple answer to this question. Several factors are in play when it comes to engagement:

Visual content, in particular, video, is a powerful medium for delivering information. Sixty-five percent of people are visual learners, and there is significant research indicating that the brain is able to retain visual information better than written information. Video traffic is projected to be 82% of all consumer web traffic by 2021. If you haven’t started yet, here are some tips for how to use video in inbound marketing.

How Long Until I See Results From Inbound Marketing?

When a solid inbound marketing strategy is consistently executed, you will see results. Check out these statistics from HubSpot’s ROI Inbound Report. They’re tough to argue with:

  • 85% of companies using inbound marketing see increased traffic within seven months
  • 83.9% of companies using inbound marketing see increased leads within seven months
  • 49.7% of companies using inbound marketing see increased sales within seven months

Analytics are critical to understanding how well your inbound marketing strategy is working, which type(s) of content resonate the most with your audience, and what adjustments need to be made to increase results. Some of what Synectics Media considers the best analytics tools include HubSpot, Google Analytics, Moz, and Lucky Orange.

For the Synectics Media team, the question is not, “How are inbound marketing and content marketing different?” but rather, “How can quality content be leveraged to power an inbound marketing strategy to increase conversions, close leads, and keep customers coming back again and again?” Do you agree? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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Posted by Sharon Stanton

Sharon Stanton

Content Producer - As a content producer, Sharon is thoughtful in her approach. She knows the best results come when you have the full picture, so she listens, and strives to make meaningful connections with people. Sharon likes to convey her message in as few words as possible. Sometimes an ironic emoji is all you need.