When marketing professionals talk about the difference between inbound marketing and content marketing, it can sometimes sound like the age-old question of what came first, the chicken or the egg? But it really isn't that confusing and no matter what you decide about these two important components of a marketing campaign, you're going to need to do both really well in order to maximize your marketing resources.
In general, inbound marketing is a strategy that is rooted in the idea of attracting and drawing in those people who are actively looking for information pertaining to your industry or solutions for their problems, instead of the traditional outbound marketing philosophy of pushing your message out to the masses. With inbound, your marketing message is weaved into content or information that is already being sought out by someone, whereas with outbound, your marketing message sometimes interrupts an audience, as in the case of a radio or TV commercial. And irrespective of what marketing software you run, most marketers will agree that there is no inbound marketing without content.
So let's talk a bit about content. Content marketing is the part of your marketing strategy that deals with creating relevant, compelling, and timely content and distributing it in a consistent manner to your buyers personas. This content can take many forms: blogging, e-books, webinars, guest blogging, lead nurturing, downloads, newsletters, landing pages, and more. Great content marketing campaigns don't just focus on attracting new customers, as is usually the focus with inbound, but it focuses on all stages of the buying process, from initial brand awareness through to brand evangelism.
Now that you know the difference, it's best for marketers to think in terms of "and", definitely not "or", when it comes to inbound and content marketing. Your marketing success relies on both and a well-structured campaign will have each component complementing the other. Take time to align your marketing philosophy, strategy, and campaign tactics so that your inbound and content marketing efforts run seamlessly. For example, if your content writers are drafting great blog posts with pertinent information and data for your buyer personas, but there's no inbound strategy to help the information get discovered, then you're wasting dollars and time. Use valuable inbound tactics like SEO, premium trials, or interactive tools to help the content get found by the right audience.
Similarly, if you have an effective inbound campaign, but then have no content to nurture these leads along once they're in your pipeline, then you've spent a ton of resources building a contact management system that you're not maximizing. Make sure you have a content marketing campaign in place to track the efforts of your inbound campaign, highlight metrics for multiple stages of the buying cycle, and alert you when it's time for an upsell with a current customer.
So the moral of the story is that you've got to do both, and do them well! If the two aren't working together, you're limiting your effectiveness as a marketing leader.