That is a good question. We find that many people use the terms inbound marketing and marketing automation interchangeably when in fact they have very different meanings. The term marketing automation has been around since the 1990s while the term inbound marketing is relatively newer and was coined by HubSpot co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan in 2005.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is a digital methodology that helps companies generate leads. According to Hubspot, inbound marketing is a holistic data-driven approach that attracts individuals to your brand and converts them into lasting customers. It helps brands attract, convert, close, and delight customers using content to educate prospects through the entire buying process. The methodology help companies deliver the right content at the right place at the right time. Your marketing becomes relevant and helpful, not interruptive.
Hubspot’s methodology includes the use of a sales-optimized website, landing pages, call-to-actions, blogging, SEO, social media, email and marketing automation. All of these tools are used to digitally deliver various content assets such as white papers, case, studies, brochures, videos, infographics, and eBooks that are used to educate prospects on your brand offerings.
The premise of inbound marketing is that prospects will be attracted to your content and come to you rather than having marketers competing for their attention. Inbound marketing can save companies money because they depend less on interruptive outbound marketing techniques such as cold-calling, cold-emailing, direct mail, or TV and radio advertisements to acquire leads.
With inbound marketing contact names are “earned” meaning prospects have come to you because they are interested in what you have to say.
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation refers to a technology that enables marketing and sales to create, deploy, and automate online campaigns and repetitive marketing tasks across multiple channels to increase revenue and maximize efficiency. It is primarily used to automate the lead qualification process using email marketing so that the sales team receives more qualified leads.
Marketing automation is considered a subset of inbound marketing as well as a subset of CRM.
What is the difference between inbound marketing and marketing automation?
There are several differences between inbound marketing and marketing automation.
- Inbound is all about attracting visitors to you and converting them into leads. Marketing automation is more about how you segment your customers and communication with leads once you have them.
- Inbound marketing includes marketing automation.
- With inbound marketing contact names are “earned” meaning prospects have come to you because they are interested in what you have to say. Marketing automation can help nurture and qualify any lead whether it came in; organically, from inbound marketing, from an event, or if you purchased list.
- Inbound marketing addresses top, middle and bottom of funnel marketing activities whereas marketing automation tends to be used at middle and bottom of funnel activities.
- Inbound strictly addresses digital marketing whereas marketing automation is used to nurture leads from both digital campaigns as well as traditional marketing.
Most companies should consider both inbound marketing and marketing automation. However in some cases, some firms may need to focus on only one or another. For example, organizations that have a very fast sales cycle, marketing automation may not be needed. For organization such as channel partners, that receive a steady stream of leads from corporate or referrals, inbound may take a back seat.
But for most companies, they need both inbound and marketing automation.