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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistWed, Sep 30, 2015 6 min read

Inbound Marketing Or Content Marketing? Do You Know The Difference?

Why Inbound Marketing Needs Content

Differences Between Inbound Marketing And Content MarketingA lots been written about inbound marketing, and even mores been written about content marketing. If you Google "content marketing," you'll find almost twice as many articles than you would if you searched for "inbound marketing."

But, make no mistake: Inbound marketing is NOT content marketing, and content marketing is NOT inbound marketing.

So, if you’re doing content marketing and expecting it to help you hit your revenue goals, you might be in for a surprise. I’m not saying it’s not a valuable portion of your marketing effort, but it’s just that: a portion.

Here’s how you should think about content and its role within a larger inbound program.

Inbound Marketing Needs Content Marketing To Thrive

Inbound touches every aspect of your marketing: your website, your emails, your educational materials, the offers on your site, where you publish your content, what influencers you work with, the webinars you host, how you get found on the Web, what people say about your business on social media, how you move people through the sales funnel and what your actual sales process looks like. It’s extremely complex and requires a solid marketing strategy as a foundation to the entire process.

If you skip a step, cut a corner or take a short cut, you should expect to see the results directly impacted.

Inbound needs content to produce results. It needs a steady stream of blog articles written with search engine optimization in mind. It needs website messaging crafted from the prospect’s perspective. It needs to impact all the on-site and off-site SEO efforts in terms of tags, descriptions and even URLs. These all need a content strategist's touch. Get the content piece wrong, and the rest becomes much harder. Get the content piece right, and watch the leads flow in.

Content Marketing Without Inbound Marketing Is Only A Partial Solution

You can create a new whitepaper every single day, but if you don’t promote it properly, write it with contextual search in mind, build a proper landing page for it, deliver it in a remarkable way, market it effectively on your website, publish it on outside channels or share it with influencers, you’re going to be very disappointed in the results.

Inbound gives you all the tools required to get the biggest return from your investment in content. It offers you a road map on what to do and when to do it. Perhaps even more important, it enables you to see exactly what’s working and what's not. This allows you to make adjustments and improve performance weekly.

Why They Work So Well Together

Content fuels inbound. That's why these two related approaches are often confused or wrongly substituted. To simplify the entire effort: The more you blog, the more visitors you attract to your website. And the more educational content you publish on your site, the more leads you get. This may be an extreme simplification, but it illustrates how important content is to inbound and why inbound needs content in order to be successful.

How To Know If Your Doing Them Properly

Most of the people practicing content marketing are driven by the desire to produce assets: Last month, we delivered 16 blog posts, two e-books, an infographic and one guest blog article. Mission accomplished. Sure, assets are easy to deliver and easy to track, but this approach is definitely old-school. It’s just as bad as the SEO company that thought their job was done if you were on the first page of Google. The job isn’t done until someone clicks on the entry, visits your site, converts into a lead and closes with you. 

The same applies to content. Simply producing the materials is only the first step. You have to use those materials to drive more traffic to your site, convert those visitors into leads (and then sales-qualified leads) and turn those people into new customers. "Click to close" is the new way of thinking, and content only takes you so far without inbound to support the rest of the process.

Don’t make the mistake of expecting your content to deliver on the promise of inbound. Content might impact your website’s ability to turn visitors into leads, and if you consider blogging part of your content, it might help your company get found on Google. But, it’s not going to do everything a comprehensive inbound program would.

Start Today Tip – If you’re weighing the benefits of inbound versus content, the first thing you need to do is make sure your goals are clear. If lead generation is your concern, this requires inbound – and everything associated with it. If, on the other hand, prospect education, sales enablement and conversion improvement on your website (the combination of which would have a smaller impact on lead gen) are your objectives, content marketing might be just fine. Know your goals first. Then, select the marketing tactics and methodology that match.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.