Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing

1 June 2023
Reading: 3 min

Inbound and content marketing are commonly used interchangeably, but they have some differences. You will learn about them in this article, see the relation of these marketing techniques to other marketing approaches. While both inbound and content marketing revolve around making content, there are additional nuances and key principles that make each type to stand out. We’ll talk them through too and highlight the things to pay attention to. If you feel tired of attracting the leads, time for the leads to beg you for your attention — this is the power of inbound and content marketing.

What are inbound and content marketing

Inbound marketing refers to ad campaigns, where the user engages with the brand first, and not vice versa. Inbound marketing is about winning over customer attention, instead of convincing to pay attention via hard sells. Is it native? — yes! Is it efficient? — you bet! What’s the catch? — like any high-level technique, it requires time, patience, and clear understanding of who your target audience is.

Inbound and content marketing are interrelated, but not the same thing. The former is a way to attract new customers and retain the old ones through content creation and interactions that are helpful and meaningful to the final user. As the name suggests, inbound marketing is the opposite of outbound marketing, a.k.a. traditional or interruptive marketing.

Content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing, because the latter goes beyond than simple content creation and includes such practices as search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing (SMM), web design, blogging, and email marketing. Here is the diagram to facilitate your understanding of what are inbound and content marketing.

Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing

Source of confusion

Many inbound marketing techniques are actively used already, like SEO. In order not to get confused, you have to remember about the ultimate goal, so you can make a clear distinction between seemingly similar concepts.

  • Inbound marketing: the goal is to create a relationship with the customer and earn their trust, through relevant and helpful content. Even if it means losing short-term profit.
  • Content marketing: a subset and core of inbound marketing. The goal is to become a thought-leader in an industry and garner trust with the audience.
  • Native marketing: this type of advertising must look and feel like the context it is surrounded by. The goal is to make the ad more appealing and less intrusive.
  • SEO marketing: a subset of inbound marketing and strategy to optimize website and content to rank higher in search engine results page (SERP). The goal is to attract more organic traffic to the website.
  • Influence marketing: a partnership with an opinion leader, or any other influential person, to leverage their credibility. The goal is to reach a big audience and fast.
  • Advertorials: a type of content that ought to look like an editorial one. This technique traditionally refers to articles but is not limited by them. It shares the same goal with the native marketing, but occasionally might be non-native at all.
  • Product placement: an advertising technique used in movies, TV shows, or other media, where a product is integrated into the storyline. The goal is to create brand awareness and promote the product naturally.

Basically, many of the techniques mentioned above intersect but have a different focus and, sometimes, different historical applicability, e.g., advertorials and product placement. Inbound marketing, to some degree, incorporates them all, so there is no big mistake if you use the terms interchangeably.

Key principles of inbound and content marketing

Content marketing foundations

Since content marketing is an integral part of inbound marketing, we will focus on the former and switch to the latter. Content marketing boils down to 3 key ideas: attract, engage, convert.

  • Attract: you need to know your audience before generating any content, since tastes differ, and you cannot please everyone at once. However, the content strategy goes beyond that and includes your goals, distribution channels, publication schedule, metrics analysis, etc. For the content marketing to work, anything you publish must address a pain point of the reader, which is why knowing the audience is crucial. You can jump start with guides, infographics, and e-books published via social media and email newsletters.
  • Engage: encourage the audience to be the active members of your community. A basic example would be to ask to sign up for a weekly newsletter. This way, the audience makes a deliberate choice to join and becomes permanently hooked, provided, you publish actively. Keep up delivering useful and helpful content for the metrics to grow in your favor.
  • Convert: your content found its way to the audience, and the users voluntarily clicked on it. They signed up for it and didn’t resign later. Clearly, you have established some level of trust with the audience. Now, you can ask to make a purchase and offer the products that are aligned with the customers’ desires, needs, and pain points.

High quality and engaging content is a matter of respect toward the user. If you clearly understand what they want, you can deliver the content that caters to their needs. Inbound marketing does basically the same things but on a greater scale.

Inbound marketing foundation

In case of inbound marketing, the attracting stage also involves SEO, SMM, blogging, ad campaigning, video making etc. Most importantly, however, your website should be properly optimized and load in 3 seconds or less. If that’s not the case, you are running the risk of losing more than a half of prospects. Test your webpage speed, using Good PageSpeed Insights.

Don’t forget to design your content. It has to match the context and be visually appealing. It is not only about page colors but spans to font selection, text formatting, and text color. Likewise, it also concerns the usage of unique stock images, unless you are fine with your user seeing the same picture over and over again.

Regarding the engagement-conversion stages, you need to make a clear and distinct call-to-action button, so there is no room for confusion. Moreover, your website must be mobile-responsive, since the majority of the internet users prefer mobiles to desktops. Finally, no cluttered layouts and confusing navigation — basic stuff that can kill even the best ideas.

Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing

Be sure to sell the solutions, not the product features. Optimize the lead flows as usual — say everything what must be said, but don’t overload the user’s short-term memory with information. Automate your marketing efforts with chatbots and warm up the audience in advance with email marketing.

Inbound marketing is highly user-centric, and the user’s journey does not end with a purchase. To top it all, you need to provide proper customer support, make sure they are happy and satisfied. Chatbots can ease your burden here. Alternatively, do things manually and send out surveys to assure the best user experience (UX). Don’t forget to monitor social media used for promotion to squeeze out the most of the information and meet the wildest expectations.

Promotional content and channel

When it comes to picking the ad formats, you are limited by a single thing — your audience must get hooked and initiate the acquaintance with your brand. This is the case of “the end justifies the means”. Which is why you can promote videos, e-books, social media content, blog posts — anything. A great way of engaging with the audience uniquely is storytelling. After all, no brands share the same story. To make even bigger bang for your marketing buck, add a social media sharing plug-in, so that each post of yours can easily be shared on other platforms. Remember, inbound marketing is about turning strangers into your brand advocates.

Platforms are also limited by a single factor — they ought to work and generate potential customers. Use websites, blogs, social media, and email newsletter. Just make sure to do your homework and see how the average platform user looks. Then, compare them to your own customer persona. This way, you will filter out the platforms that won’t make a cut.


Inbound marketing and content marketing are intertwined strategies that prioritize valuable content to engage and build relationships with customers. The key principles involve attracting, engaging, and converting through targeted content and effective channels. Success lies in understanding the audience, optimizing websites, providing clear calls-to-action, and delivering a positive UX.

The goal is to build connections, drive engagement, and achieve long-term success. And if the users do not understand your marketing efforts, perhaps it is time to change the tactic and let them be and dedicate the resources into building up the content base and the related promotional channels. This way, you will get a much more stable customer base.

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