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Marketing Automation or Inbound Marketing: Which is right for you?

When searching online for information about inbound marketing and marketing automation, you’ll often find blog posts and articles pitting the two against each other, as if they’re competing or mutually exclusive. However, this is not a good way to view the two. In fact, when teamed up together, these two concepts can become a single high-powered marketing machine!

On the other hand, when standing alone, both inbound marketing and marketing automation have their own strengths and may be better suited for a particular business, depending on that business’s individual needs. In some instances, the best marketing strategy may be to choose one over the other, and combining them may be unnecessary.

So, what exactly is inbound marketing? What is marketing automation? How are they similar, and what makes them different? How do you know which is best for your company? Here are simple explanations of each concept along with a short list of strengths:

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is the process of utilizing digital marketing tools such as social media, blogging, and creating offers in order to attract prospects to your website, turn them into leads, and guide them down the sales funnel to ultimately become customers and promoters of your brand. The inbound marketing methodology is a long-term strategy that works in four phases: 

  1. Attract strangers to your website
  2. Convert website visitors into leads
  3. Close those leads into customers
  4. Delight your customers to become promoters of your brand

In order to follow this methodology, inbound marketing strongly emphasizes the use of content through social media, blogging, and downloadable content offers (such as eBooks, white papers, and case studies) to help speak to prospects in different stages of the buyer’s journey.


  • Inbound marketing is a non-invasive way to reach consumers today, who no longer respond to cold calling and advertising.
  • Inbound marketing often produces great ROI with its comprehensive approach of linking content to forms for gaining lead information.
  • Inbound marketing provides helpful, relevant content to address the needs and wants of people searching online for solutions.
  • Inbound marketing focuses heavily on producing quality content, which improves SEO and keyword rankings by expanding the amount of relevant information on the website.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is the technology or software used to attract leads, nurture contacts, and delver ROI through tools like email marketing, landing page forms, automated workflows, and contact lists.

Marketing automation is not a complete philosophy like inbound, but it is a way to streamline online marketing efforts in order to see ROI on specific campaigns. Marketing automation focuses heavily on drip email campaigns or email marketing in general to nurture leads to become customers.


  • Most marketing automation systems offer lead scoring, which is a numerical score given to leads based on how many times your company has connected with them, whether by email, via forms on your website, or even by phone.
  • Marketing automation provides specific analytics for your campaigns, illustrating what’s working and what’s not, to allow you to change and perfect your system.
  • Marketing automation is highly targeted and personalized, allowing you to talk to the right people at the right time to nurture them into leads and then customers.

Since both inbound marketing and marketing automation have individual, distinct strengths, it’s easy to see how some people would perceive the two as rivals. When standing alone, marketing automation is truly, by nature, an outbound marketing strategy, very different from inbound, whose main focus is attracting strangers to your website and engaging them with quality content. But when paired with inbound marketing, marketing automation tools can support the inbound philosophy by nurturing leads and creating and measuring campaign ROI.

So, which should YOU use?

Here are two examples of when it would be appropriate to use only marketing automation:

  1. A very referral-based business that organically grows its list of emails, like a hair stylist or a restaurant, would be wise to utilize a marketing automation dashboard on its own to collect data and information from its weekly or monthly newsletter system.
  2. Very short-term sales processes would benefit from strictly using a marketing automation system because if your product is an impulse buy, it may not need much research in order to complete the buyer’s journey.

Now, here are a few instances where it would be smart to utilize both strategies together:

  1. A long-term sales process, such as custom homebuilding or realty, would benefit from adopting an inbound methodology and marketing automation combo to ensure that leads are being well-educated and nurtured into the decision to use the business’s service.
  2. Businesses looking to increase their SEO in order to be found organically by more potential buyers would benefit from the content-heavy focus of inbound marketing along with marketing automation to nurture leads with the right online marketing tools.
  3. A business looking to combine multiple online marketing efforts, such as social media, email marketing, SEO, and blogging into a cohesive strategy that continually generates website traffic and leads over time should use an inbound marketing strategy along with marketing automation.


Blue Frog can help your business achieve its online marketing goals through inbound marketing, marketing automation, or both! We highly recommend HubSpot for it’s impressive marketing automation software, which works seamlessly with its inbound methodology. We also offer the SharpSpring marketing automation platform for several business needs as well.

If you’re interested in learning more about HubSpot, SharpSpring, and inbound marketing vs. marketing automation, register for our free webinar on August 27th at 11:00am CDT by clicking on the button below! 

 Register for our Marketing Automation  Webinar!

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