What’s The Difference Between Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing? It’s not all just writing…

Content marketing and Inbound marketing are often confounded, and with reason, to an extent. Inbound marketing does involve written content. Nevertheless, these two practices are not synonyms. The purpose of this post is to clear up any confusion you might have between the two.


Content Marketing

Content marketing generally refers to the practice or job of creating written content for marketing purposes. It is usually conducted by writers, be they copywriters, bloggers, journalists or other kinds of non-fiction writers.

Written marketing content includes, but is not limited to, copy for web sites, brochures, white papers, advertisements, emails, request for proposals (RFPs), blog posts and annual reports. There is any number of written items with which a company or non-profit organization might need help. Content marketers are those to seek out for such writing jobs.


Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a methodology that was developed by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, the cofounders of Hubspot. Back in the early 2000s, they noticed that regular marketing and sales activities were no longer effective. Rather than having information pushed at them, Halligan and Shah noticed that consumers wanted to be helped. They also noticed that communication technologies had changed the way consumers interacted with brands. If they needed to buy something, they usually researched the product before coming into contact with any supplier.

As they write in their book, “Inbound Marketing: Attract, Delight, and Engage Customers Online,” “Inbound was about pulling people in by sharing relevant information, creating useful content, and generally being helpful.”

Any good writer will compose a piece of copy with the target audience in mind, but inbound marketing goes a step further. It believes that to truly engage your potential customers, you need to know who they are. For this reason, part of the inbound marketing methodology involves creating personas of your target users in which you outline all sorts of real and relevant information, such as their challenges and goals, their work habits, the sites and magazines they consult, etc.

Once your personas are complete, you must create a list of each of their top keywords. Keywords are the words a customer taps into a search engine to find the information they are looking for online. You must put yourself into the shoes of your target audience and deduce what words they are using to find the type of service or product you offer. Several analytics tools and practices exist to help you pinpoint the best key words that will match you to your target audience.

These key words will be used in the copy you create, the structure of your web site and blog, and in social media outlets. The purpose is to get search engines to identify you as one of the top suppliers (ideally on the first page of search results) that your target audiences are looking for.

Inbound marketing advocates giving information out for free, be it via podcasts, white papers, eBooks or other types of content, with the objective to educate the customer and to position the company as an expert in its field. That way, when the customer is ready to buy, the company with good inbound marketing will most likely be the first supplier to be approached.

Content Type
Another distinction is that in the context of inbound marketing, content is not only written copy (though it often is!). Content can be video, sound or apps. Content can be anything that can be automated and that demonstrates value to prospective customers.

In effect, a marketer who practices inbound marketing seeks to create remarkable content to attract the most suited customers, therefore handing over to their sales team highly-qualified leads.

This is a heavily summarized description of inbound marketing. There is much more to it. Visit the Hubspot web site for more information on inbound marketing.



I hope this gives a good idea of the distinction between content and inbound marketing, but in case these paragraphs have caused more confusion than clarity, allow me to define these two terms in a nutshell:

  • Content marketing: written copy for marketing purposes (usually to push information to potential customers).
  • Inbound marketing: marketing methodology that seeks to pull in customers via remarkable and fit-for-target content.

In a way, content marketing is a piece of the inbound marketing pie.


Photo by Stanley Dai on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *