Skip to content


Content marketing and inbound marketing are modern approaches to marketing that are often confused, even by experienced marketers.

It’s easy to see why confusion might arise between the two. Both content marketing and inbound marketing are both:

  • Strategic approaches to marketing
  • Targeted to a specifically defined audience
  • Executed according to a content marketing strategy
  • Designed to provide helpful, unique and relevant content to the user

Despite the similarities, there are important distinctions as well. Understanding the differences between content marketing and inbound marketing is important when making decisions about what is best for your brand.

What Is Content Marketing? 

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a defined audience. Ultimately, the goal is to drive profitable customer action. Content marketing involves creating content the target audience will find useful, helpful and relevant. Even if the content doesn’t include a strong call-to-action, lead nurturing campaign or other opportunity for conversion, it may still build affinity for the brand that authored it.

A typical content marketing program may include long-form content, like ebooks and whitepapers, as well as short-form content, like blog posts.

Content marketing is a standalone approach that doesn’t include website design, email marketing, lead nurturing, event marketing, or other types of marketing, including inbound marketing.

 What Is Inbound Marketing? 

Inbound marketing is an end-to-end methodology that empowers companies to adjust their marketing to better meet the way today’s buyers are shopping for products and services.

Inbound marketing includes a diverse set of tactics, including content marketing, created as part of a systematic, often automated strategy, and automated with the goal of turning anonymous website visitors into leads at all stages of the funnel and to nurture those leads until they are ready to buy. It is a more holistic approach to lead and revenue generation that utilizes a variety of tactics and tools, including content marketing.

What’s The Difference?

Most marketers agree that content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing. Inbound can’t exist without content marketing, but inbound includes a wider set of tactics than content marketing.

As a standalone tool, content marketing generally isn’t enough for brands to get the results they are looking for. There is a massive amount of branded content available today, and simply producing content is not enough to cut through the noise in the marketplace and truly connect with your target audience.

Inbound marketing, by contract, works well as a standalone approach to lead generation and customer acquisition, and it works well in conjunction with other approaches, such as event marketing, PR, web design and development, digital advertising, social media marketing and more.

Ultimately, how you categorize your approach to generating marketing results is far less important than the actual results you generate.

Want to learn more about how to develop an inbound marketing strategy for your business? Download The Inbound Marketing Strategy Checklist to get a simple, step-by-step guide to building a successful inbound lead generation strategy.

The Inbound Marketing Strategy Checklist: Your Simple Guide To Building A Successful Lead Gen Program. Download Now.