What’s the value of content marketing? Why shouldn’t I double down on search, or Facebook Ads? Fundamentally, this SMB debate is really about demand generation vs. demand fulfillment. Content marketing is demand generation. Search advertising and other types of advertising is (or is often used) for demand fulfillment.
Content marketing won’t necessarily drive business results for you today. Direct response channels often do. How do we approach conversations about the value of content strategy and content marketing with our prospects and customers? I start by using paid search as the benchmark of comparison. Most marketers and execs understand the fundamentals of the channel – pay-per-click, simple(r) attribution, quantitative focus, and clearly demarcated areas of influence.
How Search Advertising Value Works
Paid search ads can be quickly optimized, and results can scale. If paid search campaigns are significantly “limited by budget” – then raising your budget should help you increase your volume at roughly the same rate. If you find success advertising on Google AdWords, you should have a similar expectation for performance on Bing Ads. Of course, the more you ramp up your spend and budgets, the more dependent you become on performance to drive your business forward.
Unlike with demand generation, when you stop the paid search cycle, your results stop comng. You may experience some residual effect on sales, particularly if you have a long sales cycle, but ultimately when you stop renting traffic, the impact ends.
How Content Marketing Value Works
Content marketing is as valuable to a business as the relevance of the content to an audience and the successful distribution of it. Simple as that. Content marketing can affect each area of the funnel as well as customer’s perception of your brand. Good content marketing generates measurable traffic, engagement, and MQLs. Tying brand perception and market share back to content marketing is simply very difficult to do. Because of these blurred lines of impact and difficult in measurability, the value of impactful content marketing cannot be overstated. Hopefully the graphic below helps.
The graphic above shows how once a business develops a process for consistent content creation and promotion, the cost stays roughly the same over time. As the impact of the content snowballs, content starts to outperform paid search on a number of metrics (I’ll save the measurement discussion for a future post). Content helps users, gets indexed by search engines, builds brand recognition, domain authority, and so much more.
Further, the lifespan of “evergreen” content marketing is greater than that of traditional media and digital advertising. The snowball effect of great content marketing is greater than that of traditional media and digital advertising. Great content marketing outperforms TV, radio, print, AdWords, email, and retargeting over the long term. By now, most marketers believe that.
Content Marketing Is The Message
Five years ago we often viewed content marketing as a distinct channel from display, paid search, etc. it has become increasingly apparent that content (vs. “ad copy”) is the message used within most channels. Instead of serving up millions of banner ads asking “cold audiences” to buy our crap, we’re increasingly asking audiences to learn/read/inquire. Viewed another way, channel marketing is now the most powerful distribution mechanism for content marketing.
If you want to generate demand, you’ll use content, one way or another, to do so. When you want to expand your reach, you’ll use content to do so. Content marketing is inescapable.
Get your business away from a focus on channels and tactics for a moment and think about your broader business goals. No great strategy was formed by the C-level’s Facebook-envy or an over-reliance reliance on the comfortable familiarity of press releases. What are your goals for this year? What are your goals for this quarter? If your goals are short-sighted, your best answer is quick-hitting paid advertising. If your goals are long-term, you’d be best served by strategies that earn you traffic, followers and community – demand generation.
No one has built a brand through paid search. Content marketing offers SMBs the opportunity to generate demand while building a brand. Brands survive. Ad platform economics don’t.