I always thought the terms “content marketing” and “inbound marketing” were interchangeable. Sure, they each have their own champion: “Inbound marketing” is more closely associated with HubSpot, while “content marketing” is more closely related with the Content Marketing Institute. But at the same time, they can definitely sub in for each other: I took HubSpot’s Inbound Certification, but my job title was “Content Marketing Manager” and I attended Content Marketing World. Based on these experiences, I came to the conclusion that both of these organizations are essentially promoting the same practices: using high-quality content to attract and inform prospective customers while building trust and authority over time.
However, a client recently shared “Content Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing” with me. This article from Impulse Creative draws a (somewhat) clear distinction between the two practices: Content marketers are the writers and editors who are creating the majority of the content while inbound marketers are taking a more analytical approach, taking keywords, campaigns, and overall marketing strategy into account as they plan out which content to create. Here are a few of the distinctions outlined in the Impulse Creative post:
- Inbound marketers plan out campaigns and provide creative briefs to content marketers
- Content marketers research, outline, write, edit, and advise/project manage
- Inbound marketers research SEO and write compelling CTAs to improve conversion
- For inbound marketers, writing is not necessarily their focus and doesn’t have to be their specialty
I’ve never worked in an organization that made this distinction—in my roles I’ve always had to do a little of both. But I do find something appealing about separating these roles. Personally, I’ve tended to be a little resistant to the more analytical, number- and data-oriented aspects of my role. I think of myself primarily as a creative, word-focused person rather than an analytical, numbers-focused one and wondered why I couldn’t just focus on my area of strength vs. forcing myself to do something I wasn’t naturally inclined toward or confident in my abilities of. But I’ve also felt that it’s good to push myself a little—understanding analytics and data can be helpful in becoming a more effective writer.
This hints at a bigger question for employers and employees: Do you allow people to focus on their strengths or push them into areas where they feel weaker? Can you get more by allowing people to focus on their “area of genius” or by challenging them to move into a space where they feel a little shaky?
In our personal and professional lives, we often find that those times when we challenge ourselves and go out of our comfort zones are the times of greatest growth. But these times can also be frustrating, distracting, and disheartening.
I think it’s interesting to see that some companies allow people to focus on what I love—the writing and editing side. I’m curious to hear other people’s experiences. Have you heard of this inbound/content marketing separation? Does it make sense to you, or do you think people with both titles should be able to do a little bit of everything?