Inbound Marketing vs Digital Marketing - Which Is better For You?

Posted by David Terry on December 29, 2014



As a marketer, business owner or CEO, you're probably contacted by digital marketing agencies on a frequent basis.  Everyone seems to be in the game, Yellow Pages will make you a web page, cable companies want to get you SEO and ranked, graphic designers want to redesign your website, all these businesses promote themselves as digital marketers - but where does digital marketing fit in to your business and what about Inbound Marketing?

Firstly, be aware that many digital marketing offerings may only be one service. For example, social media, SEO and search engine PPC marketing agencies, call themselves digital marketers, but they only specialize in one tactic. That's one part of a very large marketing field, and therefore you will not get the full suite of digital marketing services you may need.

Obviously, and it goes without saying, you should avoid the overtures from overseas digital marketing agencies and any agency that promises you a #1 position in a search engine - because it can never be gauranteed.


What Is Digital Marketing?

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, Digital Marketing is the use of various digital channels (including the Internet, web, TV, Mobile, Apps, Radio, SMS) to promote or market products and services to consumers and businesses.

The rapid evolution of digital media has created many new opportunities and avenues for digital marketing fuelled by the proliferation of mobile devices to access digital media, which has led to the exponential growth of digital marketing.

As a part-time professor at Laurentian University, I teach a Bachelor of Business Administration course called Marketing on the Internet, and in our first class I make sure all my students know the subtle differences between Internet marketing, digital marketing, web marketing, online marketing and Inbound marketing. All confusingly similar disciplines, but each with a subtle difference that every Internet marketing student should know about.

Digital marketing typically describes a type of tactic. For example: banner advertising, email marketing, SEO, social media, PPC, digital brochures and even websites may be considered types of digital marketing.

Digital marketing is much more of a descriptor for specific deliverables within an overall marketing strategy.


The Inbound Marketing Difference

Inbound marketing on the other hand, is a holistic and strategic approach to marketing with a well thought out methoology, that includes the creation of a more personalized and educational experiences for your prospects.

Inbound marketing is about generating leads and getting business results, using the full suite of digital marketing services.

Inbound marketing therefore is a practice that focuses on nurturing leads all the way through the buying cycle, and delivering content in context to a prospect's own decision-making process.

Effective Inbound marketing requires the careful integration of the many digital marketing tools, tactics, and channels that will shore-up and support one another.

For example, just creating content for a blog alone won’t get you very far down the road. The content also needs to be optimized with SEO, and have a CTA (Call-To-Action) campaign offer added, then the blog will get shared across social media in order to attract those that will read and value your insights and advice ... and then when the prospect arrives at your website, they will need to be converted into a sale using marketing automation and a CRM?

So if you're a marketer, business owner, or a CEO - how do you choose between a digital marketing agency vs an Inbound marketing agency?

I recommend you just ask yourself these 2 simple questions:


Are you only looking for the execution of some digital marketing tactics, or are you looking for a strategic integrated program?

If you're looking for a marketing agency to execute a single PPC campaign, or a social media campaign, then a digital marketing agency is a good choice for your needs.

But if you're looking for a long-term, and strategic, integrated marketing program that helps your business get found, get leads and drive sales—then an Inbound marketing agency is going to be a better fit.


Do you want to look good or get results?

If you are interested in improving the way your company looks online, if you are looking for a logo upgrade, or an improvement in the visual identity of your company, hiring a digital agency that specializes in building good looking websites might make better sense for you.  But don't forget ... you might need other lead generation services.

Inbound marketing is designed to generate results ... leads for your business, so if you're looking to create a systematic way to drive leads for your sales team and if you have aggressive sales growth goals then Inbound marketing is probably a good fit for your business.

Therefore when you're looking for the right kind of marketing agency to represent your company, the most important thing to understand is what you want them to do, and your business expectations as a result of that engagement.  Agency service levels and reporting are important, but setting goals and getting results is what it's all about.

There are a lot of great digital marketing agencies out there, and only a handful of great Inbound marketing agencies. I recommend you choose wisely.


Download The eBook Inbound Marketing: Essential Step-By-Step Guide


About Terry Marketing

Terry Marketing ( is an Inbound Marketing Agency providing Inbound Marketing Services to small and medium sized businesses. We're focused on generating traffic, leads and sales and we're experts in the Inbound Marketing, lead generation process and how to increase website traffic, leads and website conversion rates. Terry Marketing is a Hubspot Partner, a certified HootSuite Ambassador agency, and is a certified Google Partner.

IMG_0287-1David Terry is CEO of Terry Marketing and Professor of Internet Marketing at Laurentian University. He has a deep knowledge in all aspects of Inbound Marketing, the Internet and Web technologies - as well as an understanding of the importance of how branding, marketing strategy and creative execution can impact business results. You can reach him by phone at 416.204.0255 or email at: or visit

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Marketing Automation, Lead Generation, Goal Setting, Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, SEO & Keywords