What’s The Friggin’ Difference Between Inbound Marketing vs. Content Marketing?

By: David Tile | Founder @ Article-Writing.co
Posted On: December 10, 2019

Ah, inbound marketing vs content marketing. What’s the difference between the two? Should you apply one or both to your overall marketing strategy? It’s true what you’ve heard: they’re very similar. So similar in fact that they often get confused for one another. That said, there are differences between them and we have the answers to all your burning questions.

Inbound Marketing vs. Content Marketing

The first thing we ought to do is define both terms and get it out of the way. Content marketing is the practice of strategically creating valuable, relevant content. The purpose of promoting said content is to retain customers. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is a way to attract customers through a variety of means, not solely through content.

Content Marketing Breakdown

Content marketing begins with the creation of valuable, unique, relevant content. When you have content available, you then promote it across a variety of platforms to retain customers and build brand awareness. But, the buck stops there. Content marketing isn’t concerned with any of the backend methods (such as website design) to attract customers’ attention. Its main goal is to reach out to your target audience and promote your work.

A lot of work goes into ensuring this happens. You can find content marketing in a lot of places, including:

  • blog posts
  • social media posts
  • PPC
  • advertisements 
  • social engagement (groups, communities)
  • Quora and Reddit posts

This branch of marketing includes many facets, all of which require hard work and patience. Though some have argued that content marketing is dying, that’s not entirely true. The old ways of doing business may be retired, but content marketing is still alive, which makes it a vital part of your business.

Inbound Marketing Breakdown

Though it accomplishes many of the same goals, inbound marketing is a bit different. Consider this: if content marketing is a branch, inbound marketing is the tree. Creating and distributing content is a crucial component of inbound marketing, but it stretches further than that. Inbound concerns itself with a multitude of additional parts, like website maintenance and SEO-based copy. Businesses and marketing managers use inbound strategies to attract customers before they’re ready to buy.

The aspects that make up inbound marketing spread into a wide variety of areas, including:

  • a well-run website
  • SEO-driven website copy
  • seminar attendance
  • webinars
  • podcasts
  • email marketing

Inbound marketing also tries to find alternative ways to entice specific buyers without interrupting them. In other words, these tactics don’t try to intrigue people before they’ve heard of you (such as through advertisements). The goal of inbound marketing is to think about the customer’s entire journey. Once you drive people to your site, you’ll make a good impression with your site and content. Then when customers are ready to buy, they’ll know you’re trustworthy. 

HubSpot breaks down everything further with their infographics and in-depth article. You can learn more about which tools help you in each stage and how you can best implement these strategies.

How They’re Different

The main difference between inbound and content marketing is that inbound deals with much more than the mere creation and distribution of content. Though inbound marketing strategies can include similar practices, it deals with more than just content.

Inbound marketing also focuses on specific buyer personas, whereas content targets a broader audience. Rather than outwardly promoting content, inbound marketing uses tools and processes to drive potential customers to your site before they’re in the buyer stage.

How They’re the Same

Something to always keep in mind is that both inbound and content marketing are pieces of the same puzzle. While they’re not technically the same, they work in conjunction and work towards similar goals. Together they bring in leads from a target audience, convert website visitors, and help spread the word about your brand.

Many of the same strategies are also used interchangeably. For instance, both contain things like blog posts, infographics, and SEO-driven content.


Get “inbound marketing vs content marketing” out of your mind. Instead, start thinking about how the two work together and how they both help your efforts to boost content. There’s no longer a reason to pit these two practices against one another. Both belong to the same puzzle and they’re equally important to the success of your business and marketing system

The ultimate goal of content marketing is offering your target audience information and materials that will engage them and motivate them to choose your business. 

Seems easy, right? 

Often, companies will simply share general content to please everyone. But let’s be honest: you can’t win them all. And that’s okay! 

Rather than throwing a line and hoping the fish will bite, create Thought Leadership content strategically catered to your target market. Consider the people who would genuinely need or care about what your business offers, rather than wasting time, effort, and resources on creating general, unfocused content. Successful content marketing involves promoting your products and services to the people interested in the subject matter, who will read the content, click on your company website, and take action. 

As an executive of an organization, you are a valuable piece of the brand. Consumers want to know about the human presence leading companies, in order to understand more about the company’s values and goals. 

Take advantage of your position as an industry expert and share extra content to attract more attention to yourself as an industry leader and your company. Your quality content will build your reputation as a reliable voice to earn your consumer’s trust. However, if it’s not focused on your target audience, you won’t earn many conversions from your content. 

Consider these techniques to guide your Thought Leadership content so it can expand and strengthen your loyal consumer following:

  • Identify your target audience by reviewing your current consumer data and identifying who is investing in your business or reacting to your thought leadership materials so far. Look for trends to find why these people are interested and if others like them haven’t been reached yet. 
  • Conduct customer research to learn how they will respond to your thought leadership content. Request participation in surveys, polls, social media comments, and more to learn about your existing impression on your audience and how you can improve your platform. 
  • Create target audience character profiles. Identify their interests, demographics, pain points, needs, and desires, and write to them.
  • Find where your current and potential audience is active online.  Catch their attention by being active and sharing your content marketing materials on these platforms.
  • Pull inspiration from other Thought Leader examples. Research other executives within your field who implement successful content marketing through their personal platforms. Learn what qualities make their content attractive and why readers respond to it positively. These examples can offer a base for you to visualize what you want to achieve. 
  • Recognize your strengths as a Thought Leader. Often, leaders aren’t necessarily aware of the unique talents that give them an advantage in their industry until asked. Reflect on what topics you know best and how to input your insights to humanize your materials, make them original and more engaging for your audience. 


Case Study: How Strategic Content Marketing Can Broaden Your Audience

In our client strategy calls, our team will interview our expert clients to learn about their industry expertise and find out what’s meaningful to them, their business, and then identify who we believe to be their target audience. We use these insights to inspire our content subject matter and tone to create impactful content for their current and potential consumers.

Dr. Desai’s COVID PreCheck App Content Marketing

For example, our client, Dr. Nitin Desai, approached our strategy team to create content to promote his COVID Pre-Check app. His innovative software is intended to help employers ensure their employees who enter the office are COVID-free, providing a safe environment by eliminating the chance of spread. 

Our team of strategists recognized that with Dr. Desai’s thorough professional knowledge around the COVID-19 virus, he had the potential to become a reliable voice in a culture of people seeking answers. We created content for Dr. Desai that focused on sharing COVID-related insights to reach a wider audience, which has been a successful mission. Our thoroughly planned content reflected his industry expertise, which brought him attention from various media outlets and publications, including Forbes

By reaching out to our professional content marketing team, Dr. Desai achieved his goal of promoting his groundbreaking app, while also positioning himself as an authoritative voice in his field. Our team learned about his voice, discovered what was meaningful to him and his target audience, and optimized this to create focused, engaging content that broadened his consumer scope. 

Ready to Invest In Your Article-Writing.co Thought Leadership Package? 

At Article-Writing.co, we understand that you have a lot on your plate. Let us share your voice on your behalf, so you don’t need to add more time to your busy schedule to write your own content marketing. Our strategists and creators will develop a plan to create engaging materials to represent your Thought Leader brand through your own specialized Thought Leadership Package

Let us help you strengthen and broaden your consumer base for continued professional success. Book a call today.