What Is Content Marketing and How Is It Used?

Content Marketing vs Traditional Marketing

It’s true that ALL marketing shares the goal of generating leads and sales. And that this is done by sharing a message to potential clients. So what’s the distinction between content marketing and traditional marketing? And why does it matter to you anyway?

What matters for ALL businesses, and especially for businesses with smaller budgets, is HOW you use your marketing resources (time and money) to get a return on your investment (ROI). Content marketing is not only the most effective way to ATTRACT customers, it’s the MOST AFFORDABLE.

Interrupting vs Asking Permission

Traditional marketing (think TV ads) interrupts you by putting an advertisement in front of you like a commercial during your favorite show. Traditional marketing broadcasts a message to sell a service or a product like a Toyota SUV that you can drive into a remote mountain getaway. This type of marketing is expensive and is aimed at an incredibly broad audience.

It works best for really big businesses with really big budgets. They are the ones who can afford marketing that isn’t narrowly targeted. That said, these same big companies NOW use a lot of content marketing, too. They know it’s more effective over the long term and realize that people in this digital age are mostly burnt out on in-your-face marketing. (And let’s face it, the only time the commercials are a fun interruption is perhaps during that really big football game (read why I can’t call it by its name) that happens once a year … and that is for budgets well outside what any small or mid-sized business can afford.)

Content marketing is the opposite of in-your-face. It’s more subtle. It’s not solely focused on an immediate sale so it takes time. Content marketing aims to create relationships by providing value and information while building trust and subtly guiding customers and leads to products and services. This approach takes longer, but it also lasts longer.

Let’s take a look at common types of traditional and content marketing.

Traditional marketing:

  • TV, radio, and print ads
  • Direct mail
  • Cold calls
  • Banners
  • Brochures
  • Billboards

Content marketing:

  • Websites
  • Blogs posts
  • Social media
  • Videos
  • Online articles
  • Infographics

Benefits of Content Marketing

(Why it’s worth the extra time.)

  • Provides value and solutions to problems
  • Develops trust over time
  • Encourages relationships and promotes peer-to-peer marketing (forwarding/sharing)
  • Drives traffic to website 
  • Offers an affordable, long-term marketing approach

Content Marketing Develops Relationships

Most of us have had a family member, friend, or colleague forward/share a link on something useful to us, whether it’s a new and easy recipe, a way to prevent garden pests, DIY home improvement projects, you name it. You have a problem and someone sends you information with a solution.

Since we’re heading into Spring, let’s use a garden example! That article on cucumber beetles your sister shared with you took you to a website that was really helpful. Not only did you learn the solution to your beetle problem, you also learned how to prep your soil to prevent other problems. The website has a lot of valuable gardening content. You like the information and the vibe of the gardener, so you sign up to receive a free monthly e-newsletter. You then take advantage of the site’s offer for a discount on a gardening book and get a copy for yourself and your mother-in-law.

And this is how content marketing works over time —  providing value, solving problems, developing relationships, and subtly directing you to purchasing products and services. 

Content Marketing Grows Your Audience

Once you start developing relationships with clients and leads, your audience start to really grow. In this digital age, it is so easy to share content through email, social media posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, or blogs.

People are more likely to trust something that comes to them from people they trust. This method is far more effective than mailing out a brochure to a random audience or placing an ad in a regional newspaper. You risk the right people not seeing it and having it end up in the recycle bin. 

Content Marketing Increases Website Traffic

The best benefit of content marketing is that it drives traffic to your website over and over again. Getting traffic to your site is the goal of all of your marketing, because then you can get visitors to take the action you want. Your email newsletters, webinars, infographics, social media posts, and blogs should all lead visitors back to your website. 

Traditional marketing, like a radio ad, will typically share a web address early on and at the end of a commercial spot. This means you have to stop what you are doing (interruption) and visit the site or remember the address for later. With content marketing, you can read through an e-newsletter or social media post and then click on a website link or call to action (CTA) button when you’re ready.

Effective content marketing guides visitors to your CTAs  — which should be strategically crafted and placed —  so they can easily contact you, access the info they need, and purchase your products/services.

When and What Content to Outsource

A 2020 report found that 84% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers are outsourcing their content creation. For business-to-consumer (B2C) business owners, 55% claim to outsource content marketing activities. ~Forbes  

Many businesses choose to outsource their content marketing because they know they’ll get a return on their investment. Sure you can save money by doing it yourself, but if your content isn’t converting leads into customers, are you really saving money? And what about all the time you spent? 

To determine when and what to outsource, take a close look at your marketing efforts/data to evaluate performance. (Hopefully you did this at the end of last year, but late is better than never. Get tips from this previous post.)

What does your data reveal? Is your social media bringing visitors to your website, but your website isn’t converting? In this scenario, when you look to outsource, you don’t need someone skilled in social media, but instead someone (or an agency) that is skilled in website content.

Outsourcing your content marketing not only saves time and money, you also get a different point of view (POV) than your insider perspective, getting you closer to a view that will resonate with your target audience.

Be Picky and Prepared When You Outsource

The more prepared you are on your content marketing needs, the better you can choose who to hire. No matter what your budget is, you want to use it wisely. To do so, determine your biggest content needs along with your budget for them. 

Next, do some research …

Peruse Portfolios

Portfolios are an easy and helpful way to see if content marketers are a good match for your business. 

  • Do you immediately like the vibe of their work? (People judge websites in mere seconds so you’ll want a good first impression with at least parts of a portfolio. You don’t have to like all of their work, for instance a color scheme, as that may be directed by the client.)
  • Is the brand messaging consistent and carried through all of the marketing, written and visual? Lack of clear and consistent brand messaging through all marketing materials should be a red flag. If content marketing doesn’t reflect the brand, it’s not doing its job.
  • Does the tone, style, and formatting match what you’d like to see in your marketing? Today’s content marketing is conversational, talking TO clients, rather than talking AT them in the traditional style, so be sure that the portfolios reflect this casual tone. 
  • What testimonials and reviews are shared on the content writer’s site, LinkedIn, or Google My Business? This info lends credibility as people won’t share a testimonial or positive review if they’re not happy with the work.

And reach out to potential content marketers and …

Ask about Their Process

  • If you need website work, will they take the time to dive deep and find out the WHY behind you and your business and help you develop better messaging and content?
  • When appropriate for longer projects, can they work with your editorial calendar and project management program? If you don’t have them, can they help you easily communicate? (A gazillion back-and-forth emails with multiple revisions is not an effective system!)
  • What’s a realistic timeline for both of you?
  • What are the likely contract terms? 

Marketing strategies and content creation can be overwhelming. Finding the right outsourced resource can also seem like a colossal task … but it’s really worth it if you can find the right one to help you! Many clients come to me more than a little unsure about handing over their content marketing needs after they’ve been doing it themselves for so long.

Even though they know they’re not effectively reaching their audience, there’s a wariness around letting go. But once we start working together, and they realize that my team and I are focused on learning their WHY and translating this into messaging and content that resonates with their ideal customers, then they wonder why they waited so long to outsource!

Are You Ready to Outsource?

If you would like to explore outsourcing some (or all) of your content marketing needs, let’s talk! I know my team and I can help make it all so much easier for you, while also helping you meet your goals.


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