What's the Difference Between Digital Marketing and Inbound Marketing?

Listen here:
0:00 / 0:00

Digital marketing and inbound marketing are frequently mentioned online - but what do they actually mean? And what's the difference between the two?


What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is a broad term for any marketing done online. This includes search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, pay-per-click advertising (PPC), social media marketing and email marketing


What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is customer-oriented and customer-driven. Simply put, inbound marketing starts with valuable content that your target audience wants, instead of just advertising your services. In a traditional marketing model, you would simply “spread the word” about your business through print or online ads. With inbound marketing, you instead focus on providing valuable information or items your customers can use. For example, you might start with an ebook, a quiz, a checklist or a blog that your ideal customer might find useful. You dangle that content offer to get nibbles in exchange for a form fill or phone call, and then follow-up with more direct advertising. 


What's the Difference Between Digital Marketing and Inbound Marketing?

Digital marketing is the broad term used to describe digital content pieces used to connect with an audience. Inbound marketing is a specific, tactical marketing strategy. The key difference between digital marketing and inbound marketing is that the term digital marketing doesn't imply any strategy. Digital marketing is the how of delivering a message, not the what and why. Inbound marketing is the actual message being delivered and the purpose behind it.


How Do I Get Started with Digital Marketing?

If you haven't tapped into digital marketing, or if you've only tested the waters, there are a few key ways to get started:

  1. Set SMART goals – Define what “success” is to you in order to create a strategy and metrics to measure.
  2. Set a blogging schedule - Blogs are the easiest ways to generate new content for your website and boost your organic SEO. Aim for between 1-4 blogs per month for a good starting foundation.
  3. Brand social media channels and create a schedule - You want to make sure your social channels are consistent with your brand by using icons and banners that match. You'll also want to set a schedule for posting to social media to ensure you have regular content being published. 1-7 posts per week is a great place to start - and remember, you can post the same content across all your social profiles.
  4. Decide on an email strategy - A monthly newsletter is a great way to stay connected with your customers and prospects. It's also a way to share your blog posts with your entire audience. 

How Do I Get Started with Inbound Marketing?

You can start your inbound marketing journey at any time. We have an entire guide on how to do inbound marketing you can follow, but at a glance here are the key steps:

  1. Set SMART goals – Define what “success” is to you in order to guide your strategy.
  2. Define your ideal customer – Create buyer personas to determine who exactly you want to reach in the attract stage.
  3. Research – Once you know your customer, figure out what language they use to search online and what behaviors they take.
  4. Create assets – Create the specific content offers and follow-ups your ideal customer would want to download.
  5. Set it live – Turn on your advertising, set up automation and plan and schedule content pieces.
  6. Analyze – Make sure to consistently monitor your performance and adapt your strategy as needed. 

→Read Now: What Are Inbound Marketing Tactics?


Both digital marketing and inbound marketing are ways of promoting your brand online. Digital marketing is better for brand awareness while inbound marketing is better for qualified leads. It's important to remember that inbound marketing is an arm of digital marketing and that you need to have a solid digital strategy before building an inbound marketing strategy. In an ideal world, your online marketing will consist of both digital marketing and inbound marketing efforts, often in conjunction with each other. 

* * *


Free Download: The Beginner's Guide to Digital Marketing

If you want to grow in 2021, now's the time to iron out your marketing plan. To be prepared for budgeting this season, there should really be a digital strategy in place to aid your company in reaching their goals. In this guide, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to create a solid marketing plan.

In this download you'll learn how to:

  • Set achievable goals 
  • Find your ideal customer and create buyer personas
  • Align your branding and marketing
  • Analyze your competitors online
  • Measure digital marketing success
  • Execute effective digital marketing tactics

Get Your Copy of the Guide

BizzyWeb is a Minneapolis-based digital marketing and web design agency that helps companies get the high-quality leads they need to grow and thrive. Our tactics include inbound marketing, SEO, advertising, web design, content creation and sales automation. We are an accredited HubSpot Platinum Partner and we offer full-service HubSpot onboarding, enablement and strategy for new and current users.

Dave Meyer
Author: Dave Meyer
Dave Meyer is President of BizzyWeb. Dave has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and communications and has presented digital marketing topics to thousands of people across the US and Canada.