Rather than focusing on how they differ in terms of tactics – which is where they have a lot of crossover – it’s better to focus on where they differ in terms of objective. That is, what you’re looking to achieve by investing time, money, blood, sweat and tears into them. With that in mind, I’m going to take you through the difference between content marketing vs inbound marketing, and how to know which approach is right for your business.
Content marketing – the foundation
I’ve sort of started off by positioning content marketing and inbound marketing as two sides of the same coin – but this isn’t necessarily true. I prefer to think of content marketing as the base on which good inbound marketing is built on. The objective of content marketing is to tell a story about your business or your industry and share it with your ideal customers. I think that there are benefits to all businesses of doing content marketing.
Telling a story
To be successful in marketing in 2023, you need to be invested in some sort of content. Content is how you tell the story of your brand – and it’s how you get people engaged with your business. Whether it’s blog posts, whitepapers, LinkedIn Pulse articles, videos, podcasts or a well curated Instagram account, beautifully crafted content that provides value and insight to your customers is the currency the marketing world currently runs on.
To my mind, every business should be doing a bit of content marketing. You don’t have to be the New York Times trying to push the boundaries of journalism and uncover stories no else has, but there’s a lot of value in providing your organisation’s take on topics closely related to your customers and their challenges.
Having a digital pulse
In a world where every one of your potential customers carefully researches any purchase before they make them, they’ll be on your website and social media looking for signs of life. That is – if you haven’t tweeted since 2017 or uploaded a blog post since 2015 – to a potential customer this looks like a red flag. In a world where customers want instant gratification – if you’re inactive on social media, does that mean they’re not going to get a response from you? If you haven’t updated your blog in years, have you gone out of business? While I wouldn’t encourage writing content for the sake of it, as I’ve already said, there are other benefits to sharing content regularly – so letting potential customers know you’re still knocking around is an added bonus.
Inbound marketing – ramping it up
Producing and sharing the right content with the right people is doing content marketing – using this content to move and nurture people through a marketing funnel to becoming a qualified lead is inbound marketing. For content marketing vs inbound marketing, inbound is a way of framing content marketing so that all the good things that come with it – telling your story, building trust, creating awareness – are all harnessed to constantly move people to the next action. The objective of inbound marketing is to use a range of tactics (including content) to move people through a series of desired actions until you can deliver them into sales like a delicious warm Texas BBQ stuffed crust pizza.
Defining the journey
We’ve banged on about the inbound journey more than enough on this blog – details here, here and here – so I won’t go over it again in massive detail now. Basically, with inbound, you’re thinking about the journey of the customer as they interact with your content and simultaneously moving through your sales funnel. The main stages are awareness (when a prospect becomes aware of a potential problem), consideration (they’re considering solutions to that problem) and decision (they’ve decided your product or service is a solution to their problem, and they’re shopping around for providers). You’ll want to produce suitable content for each of these stages – and you can move people from stage to stage using various tactics, including producing whitepapers or guides they can download in exchange for their details, and subsequent nurturing emails, messages and other content. Inbound is taking content marketing and making content do the work for you.
Linking with sales
Inbound requires you to be wearing your marketing hat, but you should probably be wearing some sales socks. Not only do you want to make your visitors feel all warm and fuzzy with your amazing content, you’ve got to have that eye on the next stage of the buyer’s journey, thinking about how you might use the content you have to drive them through. This is where sales come in – the best inbound marketing campaigns get salespeople onboard early. What kind of content would they find useful in closing customers? What do they want to send to people who are engaged with them, but not quite ready for an appointment or a demo? Content marketing sits fully in the domain of marketing – but to execute a truly successful inbound marketing campaign, you need to think like sales a little bit.
Which one is right for you?
There are multiple differences and similarities between content marketing vs inbound marketing. I said earlier in the post that it’s my long-held opinion that every business should do a bit of content marketing – the frequency, medium and focus will depend on your business. Inbound, on the other hand, isn’t for everyone. To be successful, inbound requires a lot of website traffic, and relevant website traffic at that, which can take years to build up. It requires a tight link between sales and marketing, which again can take years to build up. For some businesses, outbound is still the channel that works, and converts, and if that’s the case, content marketing can be a great addition to that approach.
Whether you want to elevate your business with content marketing, or you’re looking to really drive lead generation with inbound marketing – we can help. Inflowing provide amazing content and meticulously planned inbound campaigns for a range of B2B organisations – from start-ups to billion dollar global businesses. Let’s chat about how we might help you – get in touch to book a friendly, no-strings attached call.