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What is the Difference Between Inbound and Content Marketing?

What is the difference between Inbound and Content Marketing? Although related, the two practices have some key differences that are often confused. Inbound Marketing refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects' attention. It earns the attention of customers and draws them to your brand by aligning original quality content with your customer’s interests.

Content Marketing focuses primarily on the process of creating/distributing content to attract a customer audience. Both methodologies serve a purpose, but what should be clarified is that content marketing is a subset of inbound.

Ads don’t work. Cold Calling provides marginal gains. Trade magazines are a shell of what they used to be. Emails from sales people get ignored.

As a result, technology marketers have turned to content marketing to showcase their thought leadership on the Internet. This has led to an increase in emphasis on SEO and email. And now the relationship between content and promotion becomes important. Some call this Inbound Marketing.

But Inbound Marketing is much more than simply putting your thought pieces out there in a blog or downloadable eBook and promoting the heck out of it. Inbound is about moving your audience through a sales funnel in a methodical fashion.

Marketers need to think in terms of “who is my audience” and “what are my objectives” prior to addressing the content/promotion relationship. While success relies on both, if you have not thought through steps failure can be caused by just one.

Content may help fuel your inbound engine, but there are similarly valuable inbound techniques -- like technical SEO, freemium trials, interactive tools -- that may exist outside of the content marketer’s scope. If you aren’t availing yourself of the full spectrum of inbound practices, you are limiting the potential impact you can have as a marketer or marketing leader. In other words, your inbound initiative should be a superset -- inclusive of your content assets, but not limited to them. There are implications for organizational structure, roles and responsibilities, as well as skills procurement. 

Content now encompasses a diverse set of multimedia (blogs, video, whitepapers, infographics etc.) and inbound is based on applying and mapping it correctly to the intended audience and their location in the sales funnel. Inbound can be used to both attract prospects and retain customers but only when executed properly and with the right support.

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