Q: I keep hearing the terms inbound marketing and content marketing being thrown around. Pray tell, what's the damn difference and should I be referencing one or the other based on the specific marketing activities being utilized?
A: Content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing.
Let me explain.
First, let's review the definitions of inbound and content marketing. (Experts have done this already, so no need to reinvent the wheel here...)
Inbound marketing, as defined by Hubspot: "Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer's interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close and delight over time."
Content marketing, as defined by the Content Marketing Institute: "Content marketing is a 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."
The two common words in each: quality content and attraction.
These definitions tell us that content is inbound's lifeblood. And there is no true inbound marketing without content.
And content is a broad topic that includes multiple tools: video, webinars, emails, ebooks, whitepapers, presentations, infographics, podcasts, etc. The trick is deciding what to create when and how to use it both with your potential and current customers.
Content marketing is a collection of tactics, whereas inbound marketing is an overarching strategy. Use your inbound strategy as a blueprint that tells you how to use the tools and materials (enter content), to complete your goals.
That said, it shouldn't be an "and"/"or" decision when it comes to the content/inbound relationship. Content does help fuel your inbound engine, but there are several other valuable inbound projects to consider: SEO, interactive tools, freemium trials, social media, email marketing that usually exist outside of content marketing.
Or maybe just worry about creating the kind of marketing that people love, and let the pundits attach terms to your output.
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