Why Content Marketing is Just One Small Part of Inbound Marketing


As HubSpot hosts its INBOUND conference this week, inbound marketing is taking center stage. Though as big and as popular as this conference -- and its focus, inbound marketing -- has become, there still seems to be a debate over whether or not the term inbound marketing is the same as another term used to describe a similar process, content marketing.

Writing on the Covario blog, Russ Mann argues content marketing is the more encompassing term of the two. He suggests inbound marketing is limited to earned (we would argue owned) media strategies that are designed to drive traffic and conversions to a marketer's website whereas content marketing places its emphasis on content creation, spreading that content far and wide without necessarily focusing on traffic and leads.

While there are certainly similarities between content marketing and inbound marketing, it would appear -- even as Mann's description eludes -- that content marketing is part of the greater practice of inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing, just like content marketing, starts with content creation. But inbound marketing is a term that describes an entire process that begins with content creation, integrates call-to-action offers that coincide with that content, lead generation from those call-to-action offers, nurturing which segments leads and delivers targeted content (which include additional targeted call-to-action offers), social media efforts that are directly tied to captured lead data and post-sale marketing efforts.

Even that rather lengthy description does not do justice to the complete process of inbound marketing. Content marketing is great and integral to a complete inbound marketing program but in my view it's just one small part of the larger process.

So while Mann argues content marketing "has both more deliberate and broader connotations," I'd argue that definition is short-sighted, antithetical and actually something closer to a description of inbound marketing.

And while I firmly believe inbound marketing is the proper term that should be used to describe a process which uses content to educate, create brand awareness and generate leads, it's no secret that the term content marketing is more widely adopted. Which, in a sense, is sad.

This industry is full of buzzword bingo and more often than not that buzzword bingo is the cause of great misunderstanding and misuse of terminology.

Mann argues the term inbound marketing is primarily used by HubSpot and SEOMoz. That may be true. But it's also a term that encompasses entire subsets of marketing practices from content creation to email marketing to landing page creation to SEO to social media to lead generation to lead nurturing to marketing automation to traffic and lead source analytics to complete integration with sales processes.

While HubSpot and other companies offer most, if not all, of the above, that doesn't mean the term inbound marketing has to be limited to their offerings. After all, any marketer could cobble together their own inbound marketing solution using the tools of their choice. So it's not about the tools. It's about the process. A process that involves many steps, all of which are designed to generate leads and sales. And a process whose every step can be tracked, adjusted and improved on the fly.

Conceivably, one could argue inbound marketing is a vendor-created buzzword and the term content marketing simply arose from within the industry. While that may be true, I think you can see that inbound marketing encompasses a far broader collection of marketing processes than does content marketing. So feel free to do all the content marketing you want but if that's all you're doing, you are not completing a process that results in something every marketer wants: actual sales that benefit the bottom line.

by Steve Hall    Aug-21-13   Click to Comment   
Topic: Opinion, Social