Well from where I’m sitting there is a great deal of overlap between these two disciplines and the difference is quite subtle.
Let’s start with a couple of definitions from two of the main proponents:
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” – The Content Marketing Institute
“Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.” Hubspot
Clearly the intersection area on the Venn diagram is going to be quite substantive - there’s quite a lot of overlap between these two ideas.
In fact Hubspot have done a number of surveys that show that most (digital marketing) people think that content marketing is a subset of inbound. These surveys are described here in The Difference Between Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing (and Why It Matters)
The main difference, as far as I can see, being that inbound takes a more active stance on qualifying sales leads and passing them over to sales teams to close and recognizing the role of the sales funnel in the business generation process.
Both disciplines recognize that the interruption model of marketing has some significant challenges and hence the power and potential of great content that potential customers will seek out. So they both require original, engaging and helpful content as their lifeblood and the discipline that goes with creating great content over time.
The important point is not to get too caught up in worrying about the difference and don’t let it get in the way of the quest for great content!
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