Inbound Marketing vs Digital Marketing - Isn’t it the same thing?

Evelyn Wolf by Evelyn Wolf   26 Apr



We are drowning in acronyms and more buzz words than we can shake a stick at. Do we really need “inbound marketing” as a term? Is it not just digital marketing?

When you look at the playbook for inbound you see SEO, blogging, email marketing, social media, website management...all the elements that are already included in digital. Let’s figure out the difference.

The tools are the same

Digital marketing includes a number of tools like blogs, website management, social media, SEO, call-to-action buttons, online forms, email marketing and personalisation tools through a CRM. These tools are no different to what we use in inbound marketing. In fact, inbound wouldn’t work without these.

Digital marketing may also look at PPC while inbound purists may not consider this as an inbound tool. I would personally advocate for integration. If highly targeted, then PPC can add to an inbound marketing strategy. But, that’s a topic for another day!

Back to our topic: If the tools are the same, then isn’t it the same thing?

The methodology is not

BB Inbound funnelI know plenty of marketers who would say they are digital marketers and work with the inbound methodology because it seems logical. Many, however, use individual digital tools and then wonder: “Why is my chosen tool not working?” It’s because it’s being used in isolation. This is what makes inbound marketing different from digital marketing.

Inbound looks at each tool and decides how it will assist in attracting the right audience, converting them to leads, closing them to customers and finally delighting them to become repeat customers and promoters of your brand. Instead of using tools in isolation, you a considering a clear end goal and utilise the entire box of tools to achieve that goal.

Have a look at the graph: Each digital tool is associated with a stage in the sales funnel and clearly outlines how it will affect strangers, visitors to your website, leads, customers and promoters.

In contrast, digital marketing doesn’t follow a clear methodology. It doesn’t tie in with the buyer journey and its tools are mostly used in isolation.

Why Inbound Marketing works

Inbound marketing puts a structure around digital tools and encourages marketers to follow a clear path. It sets expectations and responsibilities for each tool that you can measure. You should also then measure how each stage of your marketing funnel performs (attract, convert, close and delight) as well as your ROI goals. 

The ultimate goal for inbound marketing is the sum of your digital efforts: delighted customers.

And that’s the difference. A methodology-led approach that always has the ultimate goal in mind vs using tools in isolation.

Topics: Inbound Marketing

Evelyn Wolf

Written by Evelyn Wolf

Inbound strategy specialist and content creator. She will turn your web presence into a magnet and always has wind in her sails.