What is the Difference Between Content Marketing and Inbound?

By Patrice Meadows — Thursday, September 14th, 2017 at 10:50am

Using media to attract, educate, and entertain prospects is nothing new. In fact, it’s pretty much the crux of the marketing discipline. Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing, however, take this foundation and make it new by focusing on its ability to reach and convert customers in nonlinear purchasing cycles.

Since the mid-2000s, Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing have dominated digital marketing as the Internet has exploded in popularity. So much so that the two widely-used practices are often confused for one another. It’s easy to see why.

What makes them similar?


  1. Focus on content as the central means to attract potential customers—lead gen as some say
  2. Embrace how consumers make purchase decisions, instead of ignoring it
  3. Leverage marketing automation and other marketing technologies to help audiences discover content they’re interested in

Despite their similarities, there are a couple of key differences between Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing that can make or break the success of either. Before we explore how the two work together, let’s define both.

Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach that uses valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain audiences.

Inbound Marketing combines content, email, event, and social media marketing to create brand preference ahead of purchase. This strategy helps ensure that when consumers are ready to buy, they’re more likely to purchase from brands that practice Inbound.

What makes them different?

Inbound Marketing involves Content Marketing. Content Marketing, on the other hand, can exist alone but is usually paired with other tactics to turn prospects into customers.

Why is it important to know the difference?

Understanding the potential and potential limitations of any tactic is critical, especially when determining how to measure success. Expecting Content Marketing to do what Inbound Marketing does is unrealistic. Likewise, thinking Inbound Marketing is just about content prevents your organization from achieving a lot.

How does your company use content? Share your stories of #ContentMarketing and #Inbound wins below or tweet us @hannon_hill.

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