Even the most experienced marketer may have trouble telling the difference between content marketing and inbound marketing.
Believe me. I’ve been asked, “What’s the difference between…” many times, and not from marketing newbies.
The question is so common that HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales platform company, surveyed 3,500 marketers and sales professionals to describe the difference between content marketing and inbound marketing.
HubSpot asked, “Which of the following best describes the relationship between ‘content marketing’ and ‘inbound marketing’?” and provided five options:
The majority of marketing and sales professionals agreed that content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing.
However, this was a HubSpot-delivered survey, over half of the respondents are HubSpot platform users, and inbound marketing is a term coined and merchandised by HubSpot.
What happens when you look at this same question and split the responses by HubSpot users vs. non-HubSpot users?
Perhaps thanks to HubSpot’s very active and convincing marketing, the results showed that nearly half of marketers who don’t use HubSpot still believe content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing.
It seems that the collective body of marketing and sales professionals have come to a consensus on which came first, the chicken or the egg. But how are these two marketing tactics defined?
Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
— Content Marketing Institute
Inbound marketing is an approach focused on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful — not interruptive. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines and social media.
When it really comes down to it, the difference between content marketing and inbound marketing is really slim because the intent and many of the tactics are the same. Both believe that nurturing and educating customers is the way to attract more leads, increase sales and diminish the cost and time associated with closing a sale for a lower acquisition cost.
In this effort to educate prospective customers, content marketing and inbound marketing create collateral to nurture someone along the buyer’s journey.
The idea is that someone trying to fix a problem requires different content than someone who is further along in the buying journey when they are evaluating two potential solutions.
Inbound marketing takes this evolution found in the buyer’s journey to the next level with its inbound marketing methodology. The inbound marketing methodology takes the buyer’s journey and assigns greater explicit stages, as well as recommended tactics for moving someone from stranger to a brand or product to a brand evangelist or promoter.
If you’re familiar with the HubSpot platform, you’ll notice that the tactic assigned for moving someone from the stranger stage to promoter directly aligns with the support mechanisms the platform includes. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of.
Whether you practice content marketing or inbound marketing is purely based on objective.
Now this is the appropriate moment to mention that Jacobs & Clevenger is a partner agency with HubSpot. We have inbound and content marketing clients using its marketing software and tools, but we also have clients who don’t rely on the platform to accomplish their goals. The marketing technology stack J&C uses in partnership with our clients is purely based on their needs and budgets.
Download the Content Marketing Template Tools Kit to get started developing the content you'll need for either a content or inbound marketing strategy.