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Inbound Marketing vs Marketing Automation: What's The Difference?

Written by Jim Perren
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Everybody loves buzzwords. We’ve had a few bouncing around our offices recently, Marketing Automation and Inbound Marketing. I have heard some people use these terms as though they were interchangeable. So, I thought it was worth putting together a quick blog post to explain the difference.

The neatest way to clear this up is to say that Marketing Automation should be a part of an Inbound Marketing Strategy. But let’s dig a little deeper.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing is a term coined by Brian Halligan CEO of HubSpot. Inbound Marketing is a strategy for attracting customers to your products and services through a combination of these three things:

  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Search engine optimisation

It differs from the more traditional outbound approach to marketing. Outbound Marketing is annoying – it tries to interrupt you whilst you are doing something else with adverts. It cold-calls you whilst you are trying to write an important plan. Outbound marketing is just rude.

Inbound Marketing turns that on its head. It does everything that it can to be helpful. Inbound marketing says “What are you searching for? I have something that might help. Still trying to understand what this stuff means? Let me explain”. And it does it in a non-salesy way.

An Example Would Help Here

True. It might not surprise you to learn that this blog is part of an Inbound Marketing strategy. Here is the thinking behind it:

Intergage knows who makes and influences the decisions about marketing spend at B2B companies that we would like to work with, because we have worked on our personas. So, we have profiled what we think Marketing Directors and Managers challenges are, what frustrations and joys they have in their working lives. We research what we think they would be interested in reading about.

We investigate what keyword searches are done, and make sure that we produce content (blog posts like this and standard website pages) that are optimised for the keywords that we find. Then, when our target audience makes searches using those keywords, we can be found.

Then we delight our readers as much as we can by providing helpful and useful content.  I don’t want to get too ‘gushy’ here, but we love marketing people.

We genuinely want them to have a pleasing experience with any contact that they have with us as a company. Whether that’s just reading this blog, or coming to a seminar or workshop to learn more about Inbound Marketing or Marketing Automation.

The idea is that you have a positive emotional response to our brand – to us, as trusted, helpful people to deal with.

So, that’s the Inbound bit (wipes away a tear) so where does Marketing Automation fit in?

Marketing Automation – Part of Inbound Marketing You Say?

The job of Marketing Automation is really to handle the leads that you have generated through your Inbound Marketing efforts.

Marketing Automation should score any incoming leads based on demographics and behavioural information. Then it should automate the escalation of leads to the appropriate sales people.  

Any lead that is not ready to be contacted can be automatically assigned to a workflow where their interest in our services can be nurtured. That is normally achieved through a series of emails with appropriate content like links to case studies or other useful or relevant blogs.

So Inbound Marketing is aimed at the top of the ‘sales funnel’ attracting customers through useful and relevant content that helps them to understand the issues that they are facing and points towards solutions.

Marketing Automation comes into its own further down the funnel when we are uncovering leads by scoring our contacts behaviour on our website and blog. It helps not just in scoring leads but in nurturing them with automated responses which continue to help our prospects engage with us over time.

I hope that clears it up.

If you want to find out more about either Marketing Automation or Inbound Marketing, download our free e-book. 

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Orginally published on Thursday 9 February, 2017 | Last updated Saturday 24 August, 2019

Tags: For Marketeers, Marketing Automation, Inbound Marketing