Marketing Automation vs. Inbound Marketing: Demystifying Two Marketing Buzzwords for Associations

[fa icon="calendar"] Nov 10, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Buzzwords are a dime a dozen when it comes to digital marketing these days. Influencers, Social Media Listening, KPIs, SEO, Contextual Marketing, Content Marketing...who can see through the jargon and understand what we are actually talking about! Have no fear though, today we will attempt to demystify two of these buzzwords, Marketing Automation and Inbound Marketing.

So first things first, some definitions:

Marketing Automation: How an organization profiles and communicates with existing leads, prospects and customers. The focus is on moving people who are already in the funnel, through the funnel. This could be inactive members, active members, defunct members, etc. “Marketing automation” has been around since the 1990s and the advent of email marketing.

Inbound marketing: How an organization attracts visitors to their website and then converts those visitors into new leads. The focus is feeding the top of the funnel by producing a lot of attractive content via blogs, social media, video, podcasts, etc. Inbound marketing was coined in 2005 by HubSpot’s Brian Halligan.

So now we know what the terms are, how do we know what an organization needs help with most? Well, there’s no simple answer here. The bottom line is--to have lasting effect on the member life cycle and optimize the revenue potential for each member--you have to employ both inbound marketing and marketing automation.

Inbound marketing is the method that will help you attract new attendees to your conference, new subscribers to your blog, new consumers of your education courses, and ultimately new members. You communication with your members before they are actually members will set the tone for their experience with you throughout their member journey. In fact, your potential members as they interact with your organization through the inbound process may be higher-revenue generators than members. Think about it this way: Prospect Polly is perusing the internet to find resources for continued education. She comes across your blog post citing the best continued education courses in her field...next thing you know she’s signing up for a seminar. That seminar was so helpful, she signs up for a few more and tells her friends. Now she’s planning on attending your conference, and what do you know, she’s become a member of your organization for the savings perks. This is the power of inbound marketing.


        To see inbound marketing in action for the

        Electronic Retailers Associations, view this webinar by Dave Martin


But you can’t leave Polly to visit your website and interact with your association when she has the time - she’s way too busy to keep up with all of the benefits you offer. That’s where marketing automation comes in. Taking all of your learnings about Prospect Polly from your inbound efforts - what her specific education interests are, what types of content she’s interested in, how she’s interacted with you in the past - and developing content to send to her via email that you already know she would actually be interested in. You know not to promote a criminal law seminar to her - after all she’s a real estate attorney! Instead of blasting your entire member-base with the same news and updates, when you acquire them through inbound, you also acquire an entire knowledge-set to be leveraged through your marketing automation efforts.

So let’s be honest, this example is a  little simplified, but theories are sound. When it comes to Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation, the two strategies aren’t mutually exclusive, and when applied together provide more return than any one method alone.

If you are wondering how Inbound Marketing can be implemented to great success within an association, take a look at this webinar by Dave Martin, Inbound Marketing and Why it Matters for your Association.

Inbound Marketing Webinar

Topics: marketing automation, inbound

Stephanie McGehee

Written by Stephanie McGehee