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Smarter Content Marketing Versus Inbound Marketing

Recently, there seems to be a lot of confusion between the terms “content marketing” and “inbound marketing.” Both are suggested to include the ideas of SEO, social media, email marketing, content creation and distribution, and other forms of owned and earned media.

At Covario, we favor the term “content marketing” for a few reasons.

First of all, the specific term “inbound marketing” is limited in its meaning and application:

  • Inbound marketing refers to earned media strategies and tactics to drive traffic and conversions to a marketer’s website.
  • In that sense, one might ask why that is any different than all marketing outside of paid advertising.

Meanwhile the phrase “content marketing” has both more deliberate and broader connotations:

  • In content marketing, the emphasis is placed on the piece of content – whether text, image, video or other – and appropriately distributing it and measuring its effects.
  • In content marketing, the focus is to take each piece of content out to the best places where the targeted consumers are most likely to find, friend, follow and forward it.
  • In content marketing, the emphasis is not necessarily to create traffic and sales leads back to a marketer’s website (although that may be one of the goals), but to create conversations and conversions wherever that marketer’s products or services may be – in store, on line, on the phone, or in person.

Finally, the “inbound marketing” phrase seems to have been adopted and promoted primarily by two vendors and their followers – Hubspot and SEOMoz, while the “content marketing” term appears to be used more widely by the industry, including advertisers, agencies, publishers, analysts, and software vendors.

At the end of the day, whether you call it content marketing or inbound marketing, it is an important and critical new discipline to do more of, using smarter content in a smarter manner.

5 replies
  1. Anthony Mullen
    Anthony Mullen says:

    No doubt – these are different beasts altogether. Inbound marketing is really just a description of a desired traffic direction (in its simplest form).

    Content marketing is a much wider idea but even then might be better described as topic marketing! From a directional POV content marketing can happen anywhere and doesn’t obsess as heavily with driving traffic towards owned properties. In fact, smart content with HTML5 bells and whistles embedded continues to remove the need to go back to owned domains altogether – your website travels with the content.

  2. William Steward
    William Steward says:

    Is it really much more than semantics in the end? I think this blogpost on the Content Marketing Institute’s website sums it up pretty well:

    “Content strategy / Content marketing / Inbound marketing…let’s all get over ourselves. It’s pretty much all the same s**t”

    There’s so many different definitions of each, and so many arguments raging on about what “inbound marketing” is, and what “content marketing” is. Eventually the industry will pick out a winner, but for now, why can’t we focus on what makes a successful marketing strategy in 2013? It’s a lot more productive than arguing over semantics.

    The best way to describe the strategy depends entirely on who you are talking to.

  3. Asher Elran
    Asher Elran says:

    I think that the names speak for themselves. Content marketing is a content distribution across the web. Inbound marketing does not have to be necessarily content, in can be for example a comment on someones blog (just like this one) that will drive visitors to the website.

  4. Kasie
    Kasie says:

    You can have a successful content marketing program without inbound marketing: Blogging, Social Media, Email marketing, Video marketing, SEO, etc, can be done without a program like Hubspot.

    You cannot have a successful inbound marketing program without great content marketing: marketing automation/ workflows, lead segmentation, monitoring your leads, etc, require a software like Hubspot, and the knowledge and capability to implement.

    Here’s the rub:

    If you are selling and charging for an inbound marketing program, but only implementing a content marketing program, you are doing your customers a disservice… and in my opinion its unethical.

    If you aren’t determining your buyer personas, or setting realistic goals, or KPI’s, or breaking down the buying cycle, or creating workflows specific to buyer persona and lifecycle, or monitoring your leads in social media, or creating A/B split tests…. you aren’t doing Inbound Marketing.

    You’re going to have to use some sort of platform to implement your content marketing (wordpress, constant contact, hootsuite), so if you like a program like Hubspot (or infusionsoft or marketo or pardot, etc) to make it easier for you, then charge just for the content marketing portion, and pass through the cost of the software as you would if you were using a different platflorm. You aren’t really utilizing it the way you should, so why make your customer pay for your lack of knowledge, expertise, or time to do all the work?

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