What’s Good About the Content vs. Inbound Marketing Debate?
Last week, HubSpot posted a blog article titled “Confessions of a Content Marketer” that’s caused a bit of a stir within the online marketing community.
First, the bad
The post paints what many consider to be a false and somewhat unfair picture of content marketing and the people who align themselves with it. It basically presents a premise where those who do content marketing only care about content creation … and nothing else.
Do they care about SEO and keyword optimization to boost their search ranks? Nope.
Are they at all interested in promoting content through email marketing or social media? Hardly.
Do they have the slightest idea of the conversion rates and new leads the content is generating? Apparently not.
Are content marketers “missing the big picture”? YES.
Of course, none if this is the slightest bit true. It’s just the premise that the author created to emphasize the importance of inbound marketing (which, as you may have noticed, is the primary strategy that HubSpot is built on). For whatever reason, the author felt that in order to promote what HubSpot does, it was necessary to belittle the content marketing community as simpletons who don’t care about getting more customers, and depict what they do as inferior to a more complete and strategic inbound marketing strategy.
Naturally, several thought leaders in the content marketing space took issue, since the author basically invented her own negative definition of content marketing for the sake of the post being written. Fortunately, this point actually leads us to…
While the post itself was undeniably misguided in its execution, it did start a great discussion. Many folks I know and respect weighed in. CMI’s Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose were compelled to write a post clarifying the business goals of content marketing that’s absolutely excellent, and Marcus “The Sales Lion” Sheridan wrote his own post today questioning whether there was any point in starting a debate like this in the first place (it’s excellent as well, check it out).
But if you ask me, the real good stuff came from the comments sections of all these posts. While the original HubSpot article received its fair share of venom, there were also a handful of comments from people who totally agreed with its depiction of content marketing.
Comments on the CMI post were predictably more “pro-content”, but there were also tons of great insights from folks on how inbound and content marketing strategies work best together. I even learned quite a bit just from reading through them.
At the end of the day, inbound marketing, content marketing, online marketing, social media marketing – they’re all just words. And as Marcus astutely points out in his post, no matter who came up with them originally, nobody owns them.
What’s clear from the comments on these posts is that with all these different “marketings” out there right now, there’s a lot of confusion over what it all means. Seriously – EVERYONE seems to have their own definition. And let’s be honest, a lot of these strategies are so new for most companies that successfully executing on ONE definition is confusing enough. Businesses don’t care what any of this stuff is called – they just want to figure out the best way to use it to help their companies. The funny thing is that if marketers still can’t agree on what it all means, what hope do those companies have?
As Joe and Rob state in their post, you could argue that content marketing is “the practice of creating relevant and compelling content in a consistent fashion to a targeted buyer, focusing on all stages of the buying process, from brand awareness through to brand evangelism.”
As HubSpot’s Kipp Bodnar replied in the comments of the original article, you can argue that inbound marketing includes “lead nurturing, customer retention, [up-sell], customer service as well as marketing analytics and sales and marketing alignment that is often forgotten in content marketing.“
But in the end, these are really all just labels; it’s the strategies they entail that are of real value to a business. Define it however you want, but for a successful marketing strategy, you’ll likely need pieces of all these concepts to experience true success. It’s not one or the other.
I’m a big fan of HubSpot and have a ton of respect for the people there and the work they do. This is just one unfortunate post amidst an ocean of excellent ones they’ve put out over the years. But as Ann Handley pointed out in the comments here, its posts like these that also push the conversation forward. And from there, hopefully more clarity will be reached.
Or maybe it won’t, who knows?
The end result doesn’t really matter; all this stuff overlaps and probably always will. But you sure can learn a lot from the discussion.
You can find more information on content marketing and editorial practices at the OpenView Labs website. You can also follow Brendan on Twitter @BrenCournoyer and find more from the OpenView team @OpenViewVenture.