The marketing industry has its share of jargon - that's for sure. And over recent years, various strategies and approaches to marketing have emerged that shake up the old principals of the 4 P's - product price, promotion and place - primarily driven by digital and insights into the way people research and buy using online channels.

Two strategies that have emerged to address this change are Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but are they really the same or are they different? 

In this guide we explore the two strategies from a local context and how we see businesses and agencies 'doing' content marketing versus inbound marketing. 

Content production vs content marketing

Content really is 'King'(or Queen or Hir). Ever since the birth of the internet, this phrase has been used by marketers to emphasise the need to produce great content in order to generate results from your digital investment. This could not be truer today - albeit we'd prefer to avoid the gender reference!

We all know that people are searching for solutions to their problems online...and without words, pictures, videos ....your digital assets are literally, empty. And we all know that content is what drives SEO as we spend thousands of dollars every year chasing Google rankings.

Which is why, when you're entrusting your hard-fought budget with agencies purporting to provide content marketing services, be sure you know what you're getting.

Be wary of agencies who claim they are content marketing specialists when in truth, they are simply really good content producers. Content 'marketing' infers some degree of strategy behind the delivery of content. And any strategy must be underpinned by a methodology that is tied into results.

We all need great video producers and digital content producers, writers and graphic designers. But if you're not given a solid strategy that this content forms part of, then you're not going to get the results you're looking for.

Related content:

Building the case for content marketing


Inbound Marketing as a philosophy

To help make sense of the difference (or similarities) between Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing think of Inbound as a philosophy that compares against traditional marketing - otherwise known as 'outbound marketing'.

With traditional outbound marketing, the approach is based on attracting attention through interruption. Think: ads on TV; ads in magazines; emails that hit your inbox uninvited. Big budgets. Poorly targeted. Traditional channels. Annoying.

Inbound Marketing on the other hand, focuses on attracting your ideal customers to your brand using content that is relevant and helpful. With inbound marketing, the people that you are targeting (your potential customers) find your business when they need to primarily through search engines and social media. You're not interrupting them. They're finding YOU. The trick is having the right strategy to ensure your content is discoverable at the right time and place.


Commonalities between Inbound and Content Marketing

Inbound and Content Marketing (done right) share two vital ingredients.

  • A deep appreciation for personas
  • Understanding of persona buyer journeys

Understanding your personas (fictional representations of your ideal customers) is key to the success of any content programme. Understanding their goals and pain points means you can identify the topics and types of content that will resonate with them.

And understanding the journey they take with their research allows you to distribute that content in a way that lets people discover it at the exact right time and place that they need it.

The two combined allow you to create compelling content that resonates with your ideal customers, and in doing so, builds trust in your brand.

Inbound Marketing is more than content

So it's becoming clear that you can't do Inbound without content. And if you do content right, you're doing Inbound. But, there are different degrees of Inbound Marketing that go much deeper than simply attracting people to your brand with content.

Lead Generation
Inbound 'proper'is all about attracting people using great content with the purpose of identifying quality leads for the business. For many businesses, lead generation is not so much of a requirement - for them, content engagement is a perfectly satisfactory metric. However, most organisations (particularly B2B) are in the game of generating leads that convert to customers, therefore they need to be able to track, influence and measure ROI on their content investment. This is where content is one (very important) cog in a bigger wheel underpinned by strategic methodology and marketing automation software.

  • Read more about Inbound Marketing and Lead Generation [Inbound pillar page]
  • See a content marketing case study [TradeMe]

Marketing Automation
Marketing automation software enables leads to be nurtured intelligently and efficiently. It enables lead generation and therefore inbound marketing to be done well, at scale. The volume of digital channels combined with the high expectations of people online means that you cannot run a sophisticated lead generation or inbound programme without it.

  • Read more about Marketing Automation [Marketing automation pillar page]
  • See a content marketing case study [TradeMe]

Related content:

How to create marketing personas

The importance of content marketing strategies 



So in summary, in our view, Content Marketing is a subset of Inbound Marketing. For many businesses, done well, Content Marketing is a perfectly suitable strategy - using content to attract people to your brand. However, for other businesses, content is tied into a deeper strategy that is all about generating leads and converting leads into sales. Same same. But different.

We hope you've found THIS content helpful.

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