yet somehow i’d forgotten all about it until a couple years ago, when someone asked me to explain the difference between “content marketing” and “inbound marketing.” i suggested she let others fret about terminology and instead focus on creating awesome stuff that doesn’t even feel like marketing in the first place. so as part of our annual state of inbound survey, we put the question to more than 3,500 marketing and sales professionals. i believe content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing, but like the arc reactor to iron man, there is no inbound without content. front-office (marketing, sales, services) professionals generally agree that content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing. when we first saw the above data, we felt validated, but skeptical. after all, hubspot sells inbound marketing software, and nearly half of our survey respondents are our partners or customers — so perhaps we were sampling an audience that had been preconditioned to favor inbound?
in fact, nearly half of marketers who don’t use hubspot believe content is a subset of inbound marketing – that’s five times as many as those who feel inbound is a subset of content marketing. finally, we wanted to ask the same question of a completely different audience. though the data is a bit more variable than the responses to the hubspot state of inbound survey, respondents were three times as likely to consider content a part of inbound than vice versa. marketers should think in terms of “and” not “or” when it comes to the content/inbound relationship. in other words, your inbound initiative should be a superset — inclusive of your content assets, but not limited to them. or you can worry about creating the kind of marketing people love, and let the pundits attach terms to your output.
content creation requires a strategic framework, as does inbound marketing. in short, content marketing is essential to inbound marketing — but it’s not the only vital component. according to the experts at the content marketing institute: “content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” that content could be a web page optimized for seo, a blog post targeted to a specific audience, a visually arresting infographic that’s easily shared (here’s how to build one), or a video. in general, a content marketing strategy involves focusing on your brand stories, which can be intriguing and even entertaining.
going back to the definition above, “profitable customer action” — the ultimate goal, of course — happens when you plug that relevant content into a strategy based on the inbound marketing methodology. so, while helpful content engages prospects looking for answers, inbound methodology provides a framework for everything in your marketing mix — from strategy to content production, distribution to promotion, seo to lead nurturing, and marketing and sales alignment. you want content to drive results and help you achieve your goals. because inbound marketing is a data- and result-driven methodology, your content marketing is tightly integrated with your conversion strategy. the link below will take you there, and you can download a copy to take with you as a convenient, shareable guide.
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