Inbound and digital marketing are both very commonly used terms in the global marketing world today. Though both may sound similar, they are a little different from each other. Before we dive into the differences, let’s first understand the meaning of each of these terms.
Creating compelling content to attract prospects and customers to your digital properties across different stages of a buyer’s journey such as attract, interest, desire, and action is termed Inbound Marketing.
Inbound marketing, over the last few years, became synonymous with HubSpot, as they leveraged it well by creating a whole educational ecosystem around certifications for inbound marketing.
Examples of Inbound Marketing
• Creating blogs
• Writing whitepapers, use cases, or case studies
• Creating infographics or eBooks
• Conducting webinars or podcasts
• SEO for any of the asset types mentioned above
• Affiliate marketing
A traditional approach wherein businesses reach out to customers to sell a product or service is called outbound marketing.
Cold calling, for instance, is outbound marketing.
Every marketing tactic that is online or over the internet can safely be called digital marketing. Using online channels, such as website, search, social media, or marketing automation, to reach your customers are integral components of digital marketing.
Examples of Digital Marketing
• Running a paid social media campaign on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram
• Paid search or Google Ads campaign to drive leads
• Paid search campaign to drive webinar registrations
• SEO for any of the asset types mentioned above
Ten Differences Between Inbound and Digital Marketing
Difference 1: Broader vs. Methodology
Digital marketing is broader, as it encompasses everything in the digital marketing world. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is focused on the methodology used to create compelling content across different stages of your buyer’s journey (attract, convince, convert, and delight, for example).
Difference 2: Short vs. Long-term
Digital marketing is helpful in addressing short-term goals, such as immediate leads this quarter using paid search; inbound marketing on the other hand, is more strategic and requires more time and effort, including connecting the dots between different stages of your buyers’ journey.
Difference 3: Push vs. Pull Marketing
Inbound marketing is attention-focused and is a pull form of marketing, while digital marketing can be anything between push and pull.
For example, writing a blog is meant to attract customers to your website – it is pull marketing or inbound marketing in this case. However, when you start advertising the same blog through Google Ads to reach your potential customers, it then becomes a push form of marketing (or a digital marketing tactic as a whole).
Difference 4: Objective Difference
Digital marketing is all about reaching your customers and prospects through digital media, such as website, search, social media, emails, or publisher networks, while inbound marketing is all about attracting your customers and then converting, retaining and engaging them thereafter.
Difference 5: Consumer Behavior
Inbound marketing is intent-driven and based upon the customer’s need at any given point in time. Digital marketing may or may not be intent based; for example, a paid search campaign on Google may try to push a product or services related to the keyword being searched and not necessarily the exact product being searched. Inbound, on the other hand, will show the most relevant web page for those very keywords through organic search results.
Difference 6: GDPR Friendliness
On a lighter note, anything intent-based or user-consent based is safer than push information in this era of privacy-sensitive regulations across the globe. Inbound marketing is more GDPR-friendly than digital marketing.
Learn More: GDPR implications for Digital Marketing
Difference 7: Advertising vs. No Advertising
Digital advertising is part and parcel of digital marketing. Inbound marketing has nothing to do with digital advertising.
A Google ad is digital marketing and not inbound marketing, for instance.
Difference 8: Tools and Technology
Since digital marketing is much wider in scope, the set of tools including marketing technology is vast and numerous. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, will have a limited set of tools. For example, SEMrush and Convertkit are search and email marketing tools, respectively.
Difference 9: Career Prospects
If you are an inbound marketing professional, you will see lesser money expenditures and may focus more on SEO, blog, email marketing, and so on. You won’t get sacked because you didn’t rank on one day (rare thing to happen, at least for a web page in promotion).
Due to the larger piece of advertising money, a digital marketer will see more budget and money expenditures in his or her lifetime. You are responsible for the money you advertise with. You can get sacked if you burn up the money without results!
Difference 10: Term Awareness Among Hiring Community and HR Managers
As of today, on LinkedIn—subject to the way LinkedIn algorithms work—when you search the keyword “Inbound Marketing,” there are a total of 11,339 job results (worldwide), whereas when you do the same with the keyword “digital marketing,” you notice a whopping 133,518 job listings.
We can safely assume that the hiring community at least likes “digital marketing” more than the term “inbound marketing.”
It is also true that when you dive deep into each job description, an SEO job without any money involvement may be listed under “Digital Marketing,” for instance.
Results for “Inbound Marketing” Job Search on LinkedIn
Results for “Digital Marketing” Job Search on LinkedIn
Whilst there are a few notable differences as discussed above, both inbound and digital marketing are important for businesses, and they do complement each other. It is more about the term being used and the context in which it is being used. For example, a user finding your video on YouTube (by typing keywords) is inbound marketing, but when you are asking them to subscribe to your channel for subsequent videos, it is digital marketing. The whole process from creation of video content to asking them to subscribe and then pushing more videos to their inbox is inbound first and then digital marketing.
Having done both forms of marketing and personal inclination towards paid advertising, I feel paid advertising is much more challenging, as every second counts when you deal with your competition in digital marketing. A paid search campaign on Google requires real-time changes or bids, for instance. Otherwise, I never get the same adrenaline rush while doing SEO to attract inbound traffic, which I feel, is more strategic though!
Which one do you like the most?
Can you think of any more differences between inbound and digital marketing? Let me know in the comments section below.