Content Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 26, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Marketers use a range of tactics, strategies, and techniques when connecting with their target demographic. Two common and intrinsically related marketing styles are content and inbound marketing, which are similar, but have essentially different definitions. Understanding the difference between content marketing and inbound marketing is essential for marketers to employ the best strategies to resonate with their most lucrative consumers. In this article, we explore content marketing vs. inbound marketing, compare inbound and outbound marketing, and define inbound and content marketing.

Content marketing vs. inbound marketing

When comparing content marketing vs. inbound marketing, it's essential to understand how each concept relates to the other. Content marketing is a type of inbound marketing strategy, which businesses use to generate and reinforce leads passively. In inbound marketing, organizations create materials which add value to the consumer and directs them to their brand. One way to do this is by creating engaging and value-adding content through content marketing practices.

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How does inbound marketing differ from outbound marketing?

Before fully defining the difference between content marketing and outbound marketing, it's key to understand how inbound marketing differs from its counterpart, outbound marketing. Outbound marketing is the active practice of brands attempting to reach new and existing consumers to generate and motivate new commercial opportunities. Inbound marketing differs in that it relates to a passive process of attracting new consumers and developing relationships with existing ones by creating content, systems, and materials which support the brand's products or services. Here are some examples of outbound and inbound marketing to help you understand these different approaches:

  • Outbound marketing: A grocery brand creates targeted advertisements to appear on consumers' social media feeds and promotes their new range of products.

  • Inbound marketing: A grocery brand publishes recipe articles online which include their products and links to their online shopping portal.

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a passive approach to marketing, which achieves both reach and resonance. Reach is the aspect of marketing materials which allows them to connect with as many new consumers as possible. Resonance is the ability of a brand to create impactful and memorable relationships with consumers. Inbound marketing attempts not to seek out a brand's consumers, but to publish marketing materials which lead the consumer to the brand by offering additional value to them. Inbound marketing uses a four-part process of moving customers through the buyer's journey. This process is as follows:

  • Attract: The first stage of inbound marketing is attracting the attention of viable consumers. In the attraction stage, a brand connects with consumers and directs them to the brand's site, products, or services.

  • Convert: The next stage is to convert visitors into potential consumers. Brands do this by getting them to subscribe to mailing lists, follow their social media pages, or keep track of their content.

  • Close: Closing is the next stage, in which the brands turn potential consumers into paying customers. This is the critical moment when the consumer decides to make a purchase.

  • Delight: This final stage is the continuing engagement with the consumer, which creates a repeat customer. This can be additional instruction, entertainment, education, knowledge, opportunities, or information.

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Types of inbound marketing

There are many types of inbound marketing, which marketers can use through a range of mediums. Some of these are passive, while others are recognizable to consumers as advertising strategies. Here are some common types of inbound marketing:

  • E-mail marketing: This is the practice of sending e-mails to existing consumers with supplementary information. For example, a wool brand may send instructional knitting articles to customers on their mailing list.

  • Search engine optimization, or SEO: This is the process of optimizing web content for the web searches which consumers perform. By optimizing their content for web searches, a brand may help their content reach consumers who have questions or need help with a related product or service.

  • Pay-per-click advertising: This advertising practice is the online process of creating ads for which the brand only pays for the clicks the ad gets. These can target visitors of other related sites, but not individual consumers.

  • Video or image content: Companies often create branded video or image content to inform, instruct, or educate consumers in such a way that leads them to the brand. For example, a BMX company may post trick advice videos which serve to introduce the brand to BMX-interested consumers.

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Benefits of inbound marketing

Using inbound marketing strategies offers many benefits to marketers. These benefits often relate to a brand's ability to create and maintain meaningful relationships with their most lucrative consumers. Here are the key benefits of inbound marketing:

  • Optimizing the brand's website: You can increase the rank of the brand's website on search engines with impactful inbound marketing materials. With a more visible website, you're more likely to attract a higher number of consumers to convert.

  • Opening marketing channels: Through mechanisms like mailing lists, you can gain permission from consumers to send them marketing and advertising materials which support the brand through inbound marketing. This is useful for keeping consumers engaged in the brand long-term.

  • Create cost-effective marketing strategies: Many inbound marketing practices make spreading brand awareness affordable through non-targeted content and material creation. It also makes identifying and targeting promising consumer groups more cost effective by using pre-identified consumers.

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What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a type of inbound marketing which focuses on the creation and distribution of content for reaching and resonating with a brand's target audience. This content can serve a variety of functions, but its purpose is usually to attract a consumer's attention before redirecting it to the brand. Most commonly, this is in the form of an answer to a question that a consumer seeks. By identifying consumers with questions, needs, or desires, a brand can offer preemptive value to that consumer, which leads them to connect with the brand's products or services.

As a subcategory of inbound marketing, they share many considerations, tactics and strategies. For example, content marketing aims not to advertise directly to consumers, but to engage with them using their content before offering the brand as a solution to the consumer's needs. This also helps to endear the company to the customer and build trust in the brand. For example, a grammar-checking program may publish reputable articles about correct use of punctuation. While this initially allows the consumer to correct their errors themselves, it creates a relationship which may eventually lead to a purchase of their service.

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Types of content marketing

Although content marketing is only one type of inbound marketing, there are many forms. Content marketing can be useful across a broad range of platforms and mediums, and the main differentiating factor between each type is the purpose of the content. Here are some types of content marketing:

  • Informative: This type of content aims to offer supplementary information which allows consumers to get more from their products or services. For example, a spreadsheet software brand publishes a list of special features you can use in their program.

  • Instructional: This type of content offers instructions or directions for using a product, even if it's not that of the brand's. For example, a sewing machine manufacturer may publish instructional videos for how to sew specific types of seams.

  • Educational: These may aim to educate consumers on a topic in a way that's not instructional, but leads them to additional brand resources. For example, a subscription-based dictionary website publishes a free word-of-the-day to teach people a new word.

  • Entertaining: Companies sometimes offer the value of entertainment to consumers to lead them to their brand. For example, an energy drink brand may produce engaging and entertaining non-advertisement videos for social media, which leads consumers to the brand.

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Benefits of content marketing

Because of its relationship with inbound marketing, many of the benefits of this strategy are the same. There are some different benefits relating to the content-based nature of this marketing strategy. Here are some of content marketing's key benefits:

  • Shareability: Many forms of content marketing, such as e-mails, social media posts, blog posts, or articles, are highly shareable. This means that the consumers themselves can help to distribute this marketing material.

  • Trust and loyalty building: By providing extra value to consumers, brands can gain trust and loyalty from their customers. They do this by proving their expertise, quality, and value to their consumers through their content.

  • Improving customer experience: Genuinely helpful or entertaining content can improve the consumer's experience of the brand's product or service. This is both a benefit to the company's sales and the consumer.

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