Why you should not confuse content and inbound marketing

Stefano Viani


22 Sep 2017 Digital Marketing Content marketing

The Internet offers people new approaches in their search for solutions and content: Without being able to narrow down their question or specifically name their desire, they come into contact with content. This is where content marketing comes in: The desired target group is addressed with the help of user-relevant content and thus convinced of a product, a company or a service. Inbound marketing has a similar approach, using various tools and optimizing strategies to accompany visitors along their customer journey. In recent years, both approaches have become effective alternatives to traditional advertising - but how does content marketing differ from inbound marketing?

Content-Marketing vs. Inbound-Marketing

The differences between content and inbound marketing

High-quality content is the common denominator of content marketing and inbound marketing: after all, the goal of content is not to annoy, but to convince through high-quality information. The Internet made content marketing strategies particularly interesting for small and medium-sized companies, which can use them to quickly gain reach and readership, often due to industry-specific niche topics. Because high-quality online content has a longer impact period and potentially greater reach than traditional print ads, for example, content marketing is more sustainable because a single good blog post can reach thousands of people without having to pay for it every time. If the content is helpful, it builds trust and loyalty with the author. If the searcher decides to use a product or service after some time, they are more likely to buy from the person who is most helpful in helping them find their individual solution. Content marketing, then, uses appropriate content to convince the desired target audience of products, services, or brands.

Inbound marketing produces useful content such as blog posts, videos or e-books and combines them with other measures to attract visitors and convince them to make purchases. They include search engine optimization, targeted distribution through various digital channels, and improving conversion rates. Landing pages and forms encourage the user to sign up as a lead to receive a content offer on a relevant topic. The lead is then accompanied through a customer journey with e-mail marketing. In addition to other interesting content, they are offered suitable products or services as a solution to their problem. From the very first contact, the focus is on the user and the user experience. With the help of lead nurturing, automation and A/B testing, this is continuously improved for the greatest possible ROI.

By this definition, content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing: both approaches require thoughtful strategies, sufficient preparation, a willingness to invest, and above all, good content. But it's worth it, because in the long run, content builds a better relationship with the customer that would never come about through pure advertising.

How SMEs use inbound marketing to retain customers

Often, motivated businesses wait weeks after their blog goes live for someone to stray onto your website, because establishing a brand through content marketing alone is long and takes effort to optimize. But good content doesn't work without an audience! To quickly gain measurable reach and produce user-focused content, inbound marketing goes a step further and creates content based on targeted analysis - while content marketing merely generalizes and speculates.

Did you know that many SMBs are already doing an analog type of inbound marketing? Most SMBs are regionally networked, do good work, offer comprehensive advice, solve problems, and hope to gain exposure through word-of-mouth. The bottom line is that this works no differently online: providing information that solves searchers' problems attracts the attention of potential customers. To do this, this content must be scattered in a targeted manner. Beyond the classic content measures such as blogs, newsletters, e-books, social media measures, search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine advertising (SEA) are therefore indispensable. For successful inbound campaigns, companies must not only know their target group - they must analyze and evaluate the behavior and needs of their customers: Who are their ideal customers? What challenges do potential customers face? How do they reach desired personas? Which formats are predestined for this?

Inbound marketing is particularly suitable for SMEs because they can measure the effects of their inbound campaigns more easily and see results more quickly than with traditional content marketing - especially when combined with paid advertising and social media marketing. When solutions to problems of a target group are offered and companies thus position themselves as customer-oriented industry experts, potential customers can be picked up on their website and then passed on to sales. Due to different complex subject areas such as SEO, SEA, analysis as well as conversion optimization, a high degree of specialization of the employees is required. For the implementation of the first inbound campaign, it is therefore worthwhile to seek the support of an inbound marketing agency -because the marketing concept must be seen as a large whole in order to effectively link the individual measures. In addition, the resulting data volumes must be analyzed and interpreted.

SMEs should definitely keep this in mind when implementing an inbound marketing strategy:

  • In order for the content to be found by potential customers on Google, a search engine optimized website is mandatory.

  • A willingness to invest is necessary! In order to actively and continuously practice inbound marketing, a long-term change in thinking must be stimulated and corresponding restructuring measures must be implemented in the company.

  • In order to produce successful content and optimize the website, employees must be trained and sensitized accordingly.

  • Due to limited resources, the focus should be on the essentials: good content.

With high-quality, relevant content, smart SEO and an authentic social media presence, potential customers will (almost) find their way to the company website on their own - to stay there voluntarily! Inbound marketing is a measure that is particularly suitable for SMEs, because compelling content combined with optimization strategies ensure qualified leads who are ready to buy.

About the Author

As Executive Director of Blackbit digital Commerce GmbH, Stefano Viani manages all areas of the agency in the offices in Göttingen, Hamburg, Berlin and Kiev. His passion is the development of marketing strategies and their implementation in concrete measures.

In his free time, Stefano is passionate about riding his motorbike or working out in the gym.