Differences and similarities between content marketing and inbound marketing

Both content marketing and inbound marketing make extensive use of content, and it can be difficult to separate these two concepts for this reason. In this blog post, we will try to clarify the similarities and differences between them. In order to do so, we will first need to clarify what the two concepts actually stand for. Finally, we will put these two ways of marketing next to each other and see how much they differ.

content marketing

Joakim Arhammar and Pontus Staunstrup use the following explanation in their book Content Marketing for Everyone.

"Content marketing is an approach to changing audience behaviour by providing access to value-added content on your own platforms. The content is primarily distributed through own channels, but can also be promoted through purchased media. The content needs to be relevant and valuable from the perspective of the target audience, and not focused on selling or just describing products. Content marketing needs to be a continuous process over a long period of time, based on predefined objectives and also monitored regularly."

Content marketing involves a long-term effort to influence the behaviour of the target group with clearly defined objectives, using content that is primarily distributed in and on your own platforms.

The content needs to be:

  • Relevant
  • Valuable

The content should preferably not be:

  • Selling
  • Description of products and services

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Inbound marketing

According to Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, the founders of HubSpot, who are also considered by many to be the founders of the concept of Inbound marketing, Inbound marketing can be described as follows:

"We started describing the way companies were traditionally marketing themselves as "Outbound marketing" and the way Dharmesh marketed OnStartups.com as "Inbound marketing". Our conclusion then was that interruption-based, Outbound marketing techniques were fundamentally broken and in order to successfully break through the noice from other channels and really connect to people, companies needed to rethink the way they did their marketing from the bottom-up. In other words, they had to ensure that their customers could find them by using Inbound marketing."

Inbound marketing - 5 themes according to HubSpot

They have divided Inbound marketing into five different themes that describe what is needed to work with Inbound marketing in the best way. 

  1. The content needs to answer your prospects' and customers' questions
  2. The content needs to be adapted to the visitor's wishes and needs
  3. Tools are used to create and publish content and then to finally analyse the results of what you have done.
  4. The seller approaches the buyer in the channels where they exist and where the buyer is
  5. Use methods that turn unknown visitors into customers and ultimately ambassadors for your products and services.

When we talk about inbound marketing, we like to talk about a prospect's journey to becoming a customer and then an ambassador. The journey can be described as going through a funnel


Here you can use a blog to convert unknown visitors to your website into prospects, interested in your products and services, and ultimately into customers. In the first step, you work on search engine optimization (SEO) and spread the content on social media to attract the right kind of people.


The next step is to use specially adapted landing pages with forms that invite people to give their contact details so that they become a "contact" instead of just an unknown visitor.


You use marketing automation to track what your contacts do on your website. With the information you get from your contact's behaviour on your website, you can then tailor your communications to get him or her to ultimately become your customer.SatisfyThe laststep is about getting the customer to like you even more than they do right now. For example, you can collect information from the visitor through surveys to further customize your offer.


Comparison between content marketing and inbound marketing

Here we look at whether content marketing meets the four principles of inbound marketing

  • Content marketing and inbound marketing create content that is valuable to a specific audience
  • Content marketing uses your own media such as website, SoMe etc and should be integrated and aligned with your other communications. If you work with Inbound marketing, content is published on your own website (an owned medium) and then you spread the same message on social media.
  • Both elements should be seen as a long-term effort (not a campaign) that will have the best effect after several months of work.
  • Content marketing aims to reinforce or change the behaviour of your target audience in order to attract and retain them. Inbound marketing primarily aims to convert unknown visitors into known visitors and then visitors into contacts, contacts into customers and finally customers into ambassadors for your products and services.


Inbound marketing is Content marketing

Inbound marketing can be described as a form of content marketing where content is published on a website to attract visitors and then convert them into contacts. Marketing automation is then used to convert contacts into customers with customised content. 

Is content marketing the same as inbound marketing?

The simple answer is no. Content marketing is not the same as inbound marketing. For example, a customer magazine can be counted as content marketing but not as inbound marketing because it is not marketing via a website.

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