The Difference Between Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation

Andrea Miller

Written by Andrea Miller on Fri, Nov 06, 2015

Inbound Marketing and Automation

Marketers can seem infatuated with the words "inbound marketing" and "marketing automation." But what do these terms actually mean? Are they the same thing? Or do you need both for your business?

The term “marketing automation” has been around since the 1990s. “Inbound marketing” is a newer term that was coined by HubSpot’s co-founder Brian Halligan in 2005. Let's take a look at these terms separately before diving in how they work together.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a methodology that uses content to attract people to your company's website and convert those visitors into leads and eventually, into sales. Think of inbound marketing as a process where you create helpful and relevant content, such as blogs and social media posts, that attracts the right prospects to your website. You then convert those visitors into leads by naturally guiding them through the sales funnel and gathering their contact information to gain access to more in-depth content such as an ebook or tip sheet. Closing those leads into customers involves a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to nurture and provide information about how your company's products and services can solve a problem. The final stage is delighting and engaging with your customers so that they eventually become evangelists of your business.

Inbound Marketing Methodology

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation refers to software that helps you prioritize or execute your marketing tasks in a more streamlined and efficient way. Some marketers worry that utilizing marketing automation software will make them obsolete. On the contrary, it will help you become more effective in your job! Marketing automation software enables  you to nurture relastionships with people and help prospects while you're doing other things (or even taking the day off!). Let's look at one way marketers would use marketing automation:

Email Marketing Strategy

Rather than sending out blast email after blast email out to an entire list of prospects and customers, hoping the message resonates with some of them and gets them to purchase, marketing automation allows you to target specific people with personalized messages that actually relate to them. Here's an example of a typical workflow:

  1. You send an email invitation to download your latest ebook to a targeted list of contacts.
  2. You send a thank you note to the people that downloaded the offer with some additional resources that they may find helpful.
  3. A few days later, you send a follow up email to the list of people who downloaded the ebook, offering them a case study relating to that topic.
  4. Finally, when someone downloads that case study, a salesperson is notified so that they can follow up with the lead directly.
Marketing automation is about providing marketers the ability to target the right people and send them content that is based on behavior. By giving them information they need when they want it, you are helping them choose your business as a solution. That will result in increased conversion rates and revenue.

To sum it up, inbound marketing is about attracting people and filling the top of your marketing funnel with leads while marketing automation is about nuturing those people, moving them efficiently through the funnel and converting them to sales. It's ying and yang.

Working Together

The best strategy is to utilize both inbound marketing and marketing automation together. As a HubSpot Partner Gold Level Agency, we prefer HubSpot for our marketing automation needs because it works for ourselves and our clients, but there are other options such as Marketo, Act-On, or Salesforce/Pardot (SiriusDecisions provides insight into the top current marketing automation platforms). All of these tools come with a cost, which is why some marketers try to cobble together a marketing system using a bunch of different free or low-cost tools such as Wordpress, Google Analytics, MailChimp and HootSuite. While it is possible to make all of these work for you, an all-in-one system obviously will make your job much easier.

A recent study by OverGo Studio examined seven of their clients who use HubSpot and seven who do not. The results were in clear favor of HubSpot. Here are just a few of the compelling stats from their study:

  • Companies not using HubSpot saw an average increase of 170% in organic traffic after one year, whereas those using HubSpot saw an average organic traffic increase of 590%.
  • B2B clients not using HubSpot saw an average of 8 leads per month, whereas those using HubSpot averaged 18 leads per month.
  • B2B clients using HubSpot had an average conversion rate that was 43% higher than those not using HubSpot.

Conversion RatesAre You Ready to Invest in Marketing Automation?

A marketer's goal is to generate quality leads for the sales team to turn into customers. By using a marketing automation platform like HubSpot, you can streamline your process and get insights into what your visitors and leads are doing. You'll know what content is being downloaded, who's opening your emails and what pages of your website are most engaging. Having access to detailed analytics like that allows you to be able to measure your marketing efforts and adjust for even better results.

But you can't just invest in HubSpot and expect it to do all of the work for you. To learn how to maximize your investment, download our free ebook: How to Get the Most from Your HubSpot Investment.


Make the HubSpot Tool Work for You  


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