Digital Marketing vs. Inbound: The Crucial Distinction for Your Business

Written by Jon Saxton

Digital Marketing vs Inbound Marketing: What’s the difference, and which is better for you?s

What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is a combination of several marketing tactics. It leverages digital platforms, delivers messages to consumers and provides a list of deliverables, each of which can be used to accomplish a specific goal.

For most people, the term “digital marketing” suffices to describe any and all of these terms. In fact, if someone asks me what my job is and I don’t have time to dive into detail, I’ll just tell them I’m a digital marketer. Generally, that’s followed up with the half-joking response, “Oh, so you make the pop-ups and all that spam email I get!”

Truthfully, they’re not entirely wrong. Emailing and online ads are certainly a part of some businesses’ marketing mix. In reality, though, there are three (unofficial) categories of digital marketing: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good Digital Marketing

The good stuff delivers the right content to the right people at the right time. Take search engine optimization, for example. Ranking your website on the first page of a Google result satisfies your customer’s goal of finding information. A well-designed website is easy and enjoyable for a customer to use. Social media delights customers with great, engaging content.

The Bad Digital Marketing

No one likes those YouTube ads that you’re forced to watch before the video or that flashing banner telling you that you’re the millionth visitor to that website. These are tactics that the customer didn’t ask for, they’re not relevant to them in that moment, or they’re just plain annoying.

The Ugly Digital Marketing

These are the borderline-unethical tactics. Paying somebody who’s never interacted with your business to boost your reviews is just misleading.

Email, on the other hand, is one of those tricky ones that could fit in any of these categories, depending on how it’s used.

  • A customer subscribing to a newsletter and then getting valuable monthly updates is awesome.
  • A user subscribing to a newsletter and then getting crappy emails several times a day is annoying.
  • A user subscribing to a newsletter, who then sells their email to a third party who starts tossing spam at their inbox every day sucks.

So the answer seems simple, right? Just stick to the good stuff! And plenty of companies do. We’ve worked with small companies who just need a killer website and to make them look good on social media, and we love those companies (in fact, we don’t work with anyone we don’t already love.)

But what if you need more? What if you need a reliable, sustainable flow of qualified leads, that integrates with your existing marketing strategy and sales team, and makes you look good in the process?

What is Inbound Marketing?

HubSpot, the marketing software company who coined the term, writes this about inbound:

Inbound marketing is about using marketing to bring potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention. Sharing is caring and inbound marketing is about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.

That’s the philosophy and the methodology. When compared to digital marketing, inbound marketing can be described as a strategic methodology and execution of value-based digital marketing tactics.

It rolls up the good tactics, aligns them with a customer relationship-based strategy, and executes them as one complete online solution.

That’s what we mean when we say we are an inbound marketing agency. It’s the main service we provide to our clients. We made a choice- rather than be satisfied to offer just web design services, or just SEO services, or just social media services, we provide full inbound marketing.

So is Inbound Marketing better than digital marketing?

That depends entirely on your goals. If you’re looking for branding and to put in a minimum investment to get some value out of digital, then one or several digital marketing tactics may be all you need for now.

If you’re looking to grow your business with improved lead generation, better conversion practices, and you aren’t afraid of a long-term strategy, then inbound marketing is for you.

Either way, make sure you’re instituting the right practices by not being misleading or annoying to your client base. Activities that fit in those categories generally push away potential customers. Keep your site informative with content through various media (including ads and email) that maintain audience engagement and activity, and you’ll be on the right track.

Jon Saxton

Jon recognizes passion and works to convey that in powerful ways. With an eye toward what could be and an understanding of how, he brings energy and ideas to everything he works with.