Content Marketing Vs. Digital Ads – Where Should You Put Your Money?
Updated: Jul 27, 2019
"America runs on Bulova time."
That was the whole script of the first ever television commercial, aired in 1941, just before a baseball game.
At this point, newspaper ads had been around for 235 years or so, and radio ads for about two decades.
So when it came to marketing, even with TV in the mix, your choices were still pretty limited.
But how the times have a-changed!
Marketing strategies today are 25-tabbed Excel monstrosities or 90-slide presentations that need a team marketing retreat to process and lockdown.
While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, there is an undeniable commonality between all of these presentations: 20 out of those 25 Excel tabs, and 80 out of those 90-slides are… you guessed it…
Digital Marketing. The behemoth that keeps corporate marketing directors up at night, just as much as it perplexes startup owners.
What we're going to clear the clouds around in this article is just two of digital marketing's many facets: Content marketing and digital advertising.
Before we go on, though, let's get something straight: Content marketing and digital advertising are subsets of digital marketing.
There are TONNES of articles online that are mediating the battle between CONTENT MARKETING and DIGITAL MARKETING. That's like comparing rose apples to apples. Or Graham crackers to crackers.
What we're getting into here is content marketing and digital advertising, and the products, pros, and cons of each one.
By the end of this piece, our goal is to help you have a good enough idea to decide which one you want to shake your precious marketing money pot over.
CONTENT MARKETING – PRODUCTS, PROS, AND CONS
Content marketing is the practice of creating content that your various buyer personas would like to or need to consume. It requires dedicated, on-going commitment to creating content that either entertains or informs your audience on matters relevant to your business, its products and services.
The 'products' of content marketing, or what you would produce as part of a content marketing strategy include, but are not limited to:
Blogs and articles
Social media posts (this is also social media marketing – treated as a discipline in itself)
Slide Decks and presentations
Newsletters and emails
The core purpose behind content marketing is to create materials that add value to the lives of your existing and potential customers – anything that makes life or work better, and puts them in a better position to further develop their relationship with your business.
The pros of having a solid arsenal of valuable online content in different formats across different channels?
Well, that's a no-brainer.
So what we're sharing with you instead is the benefit of choosing to dedicate your marketing time, money, and effort to content marketing.
Content is forever
You're putting resources into long-term marketing assets. Your videos and blog articles can get viewed and used years after you publish them. And you can always give them a quick repolish if they get outdated, and they're shiny, relevant and attention-grabbing again.
All you need is you
You can create your own content marketing platform (like a blog on your website) or build your social media pages and start publishing content, without really putting down any money initially. With the right strategy, quality, and a consistent effort, you will eventually build a following.
Communities and increased lifetime value
Your content, after you hit the tipping point, starts to spread exponentially. You'll start dialogues, build communities around the content, and end up with customers who are invested in you long-term. That means they'll buy again, or refer you, even if you are a transactional business.
Having an industry-leading content resource gives you a digital edge that will leave your competitors green with envy. Further, if your content answers questions for your industry, on the whole, guess who potential customers stumble upon when they're looking for answers?
If you don't think content is for every industry, take a look at this video of how a pool company flipped its dying sales charts around with a customer-focused blog.
Good content costs time and money
If you really want to produce something noteworthy – something that gets heard and seen, it's going to cost you time, money or both. Hands down.
Content marketing is a marathon
Only harsher, because even marathons have a finish line in sight. Content is a long, long, long-term game. And for the first few miles (a year, maybe more) it doesn't seem like you're going anywhere.
So if you're not patient, and if you don't feel ready for the commitment, then don't waste your resources on content yet.
It's not a deal-closer
Content is not that salesperson that has your customer pulling their wallet out. Not in most cases anyway.
Good content encourages buy-in, builds trust and rapport. Consistent content builds a relationship that will lead to a sale. It lays a solid foundation for a sale, and perhaps nudges people along their buyer journey, but it seldom closes deals.
DIGITAL ADVERTISING – PRODUCTS, PROS, AND CONS
Digital advertising, a.k.a. Internet advertising is delivering promotional messages to your audiences online, to encourage them to take some form of action – purchase, sign-up, or follow.
It's a direct form of marketing that communicates clear calls to action, and every campaign or ad has hard numeric goals attached to it – 2x sales, 3x site visits, hit 5000 newsletter sign-ups and such.
The 'products' of digital advertising include, but are not limited to:
In-app ads that pop-up on your non-premium mobile applications
Website banner ads and side-panel ads
Google ads that put you right on top of relevant search results
Video commercials such as the pre-roll ads that play before your YouTube videos (some skippable, others annoying not so)
Social media ads and promoted posts
These tools are all handy as marketing 'sprints', like when you want to push sales after a new book launch.
Or when you want to sell concert or event tickets, and time is of the essence.
Or when a Kardashian releases a new make-up line that's going to be oh-so-passé in 48 hours that everything must fly off the shelves in that little window! 50% OFF! COME, BUY, NOW!
Like traditional advertising on TV or in print, digital advertising is geared towards helping you raise awareness, create brand recall and ultimately, sell.
Do it right, and you will sell
A well-created, well-targeted ad almost guarantees sales. If you're looking for eyeballs on your products, services or business, then digital advertising might be worth a shot.
Almost every digital ad, on virtually every platform, will give you clear metrics on how your ad performed. How many people viewed the ad? How many clicked through? How many purchased after clicking through?
It's all there for you to look at.
Most platforms allow you to pay per click, per view, per action and based on other measurable aspects.
With social media ads, you can even set maximum per-day budgets for your ads, so you don't get a rude shock at the end of a 7-day campaign.
But one question that tends to nag at us a little is: What if you pay for 1000 views, but nobody clicks through? What if you pay for 1000 click-throughs, but nobody hits 'Buy Now' after they get to your website?
While it will help you identify the roadblock in your marketing chain, flexible pricing is a tricky lane.
Relationship Scope: Little to None
Unless your ad is geared towards community-building, even a customer who clicks through and purchases your product is not necessarily going to engage with your brand again. It's like a date with a hottie but no calls back.
That might work for some, but is it the best long term strategy? We think not.
Cutting through the noise
People are so used to being bombarded with marketing messages from the second they open their eyes until they go back to bed, that it's going to take some serious targeting and luck to get noticed by a potential customer today.
Especially online, when you're not just competing with competitors and their posts, but also with the bestie's Instagram story, and the Google Calendar notifications and the Whatsapp pings from mum.
It's short lived
A great digital campaign might give you a boost in sales for a while, but then what? Then you need to think of the next campaign before your competitor wiggles their way in.
It's a bit like a fad diet versus a lifestyle change. You could slide back to square one pretty quickly.
Every choice you make makes you, they say. That's a little over-dramatic in this context, but every choice you make definitely does make your marketing budget a little smaller.
When you're working with precious little as a small or medium business, and really want to get the most bang for your buck, weighing your options matters. A lot.
The best way to decide on the right marketing tools for you is to understand your marketing objectives – both long-term and short-term - closely.
Here are a few questions for you and your marketing team to address when piecing together your marketing strategy:
How are we currently reaching our customers, what's working and what isn't?
How vital are long-term client relationships for us?
What kind of sales results are we looking for?
How much marketing money do we have and what do we need it to do for us?
What are our core values as a business?
What are our internal strengths as a team? Do we have writers, photographs, videographers, or poets amongst us?
How much time can we commit to marketing?
Helpful? We hope so! We're committed to creating helpful, useful content to make your life easier if you're building yourself or your business a brand. Here, do yourself a solid and Get in the Flow! so you don't miss out.