Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing are being touted as the ‘biggest’ revolution to hit the shores of Digital Marketing in our present day and age. Annoying pop-ups and persistent ad spots that spoil a user’s web experience have taken the back seat largely, and have now given way to a much more innovative way of developing interest in one’s product.
The chief principle underlying the two terminologies is that both rely on non-commercial content/methods as a pull-factor to drive customers towards one’s business. Depending on whether you are a marketer or strategist, or a journalist or a content writer, this method of marketing enjoys a range of names. This strategy is variously called, ‘Inbound Marketing’, ‘Content Marketing’, and ‘Content Strategy’. But do all these terms mean different things?
Considerable debate has already occurred on the exact contours of these two terms. Some argue that Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing are one and the same. Some argue that Inbound Marketing is a sub-set of Content Marketing, while some argue that it is the vice-versa. A blog by Hubpost has tried to show that most people favor the idea that Inbound Marketing may be a sub-set of Content Marketing. In another survey it got the opposite result. So, there is a lack of clarity on this front. However, we shall now try and resolve the same
So how do we understand the two as a process of marketing and customer conversion? For this we will have to examine the terms, ‘Inbound’ and ‘Content’. Inbound implies any strategy that convinces a customer to visit your product location or website and check your offerings. An Inbound Marketing strategy includes not just content that is designed to introduce the product informatively, but also other tools such as Freemium trials and interactive tools. Hence an Inbound Marketing strategy may include content as part of its marketing efforts, but it also includes other ways of pulling the audience towards one’s products. In that way Inbound Marketing is different from Content Marketing because content is just one of the many tools available in an Inbound Marketing strategy.
So with that logic extended, does that imply Content Marketing is a sub-set of Inbound Marketing? Again, that answer cannot be replied in the affirmative as well. Even though there may be an apprehension that Content Marketing is not more than just one type of the many Inbound marketing options available to a marketer, it is still not very appropriate to say that Inbound Marketing subsumes Content Marketing. This is because Content Marketing may involve content that may not be intended to pull customers.
At times, the content produced may merely be informative to the customers who are looking for something in the product category in which the content marketer has business interests in. For e.g., a real estate agency may not write content as an advertisement in order to pull customers. It may merely produce information relevant to the customer who is seeking the information relating to real estate. This information satisfaction for the customer may not at all times induce him to convert his search into a sale. Thus the impact area for a Content Marketing strategy is much wider. Even though it has been designed for a specific target audience, it can be used, accessed and referenced by a non-target audience member as well.
So in the final analysis, we do not see any significant or sharp difference between the two terms, yet, it has become clear to us that both are neither same as well as both have a different impact area of influence. In that context, one way of looking at the two terms would be too imagine them as two circles with a slight overlap. Something along the lines of the following.
The content which overlaps with Inbound Marketing is content that is specifically designed with a ‘pull intention’ and invites customer to further try out the marketer’s offerings. Whereas, the content that does not overlap with Inbound Marketing is general content intended to serve informative purposes of a larger target base that may or may not immediately convert themselves into customers of a company.
Needless to say, a company is not expected to choose between Inbound Marketing or Content Marketing but has to go for Inbound Marketing AND Content Marketing to have a successful digital marketing presence.