The marketing landscape is changing more rapidly than ever. In order to stay ahead , businesses need to constantly evaluate their marketing strategy and introduce new tactics to improve their Return on Investment (ROI). Content Marketing is definitely one of the most hyped up marketing crazes of the past decade and brands are devoting tons of time and energy to it in order to win more customers. Content Marketing is defined by CMI as: "A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
But while many companies are making this the core of their lead generation efforts, paid online advertising is still a big focus of many marketing strategies – and the sometimes hefty price tags (the average cost of an ad on Google AdWords is $2.32!) don't look like they will be scaring many companies off anytime soon. But, if you're executing these strategies efficiently, does one tend to offer a better ROI than the other? The answer might not be that simple. Let's take a closer look.
The Value of Content
Let's say that we're going to assume that Content Marketing has the greatest value to customers and will therefore deliver the greatest ROI. After all, 70 percent of people would prefer to learn about products through content they enjoy. And 68 percent of consumers spend time reading blogs and other content from brands they like. A great content marketing strategy means creating high-quality content that you give away in order to connect with your audience, nurture them and gain their loyalty and trust – which, over time, turns into a sale.
In this sense, content marketing definitely has a huge ROI – it's just that it can be super difficult to measure it. Marketing campaigns that feature your awesome content can run for months and it's hard to measure who is exposed to it and which customers were led to you or compelled to purchase by a certain piece of content. This can make it hard to justify a big spend on one or a handful of pieces of content. You might dish out a handsome chunk of change for a great article only to see it get 35 views on Facebook. That hardly seems worth the effort.
That's the issue with content marketing – your brand needs to have amazing content to entice customers, but it also needs to make sure that content gets seen. That's, arguably, the hard part. Neil Patel recommends the following tactics for spreading the word about your content:
Spending two hours a day, seven days a week distributing content on social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. And another two hours pitching bloggers to do guest posts on your site.
• Keeping your blog updated with fresh content
• Making use of your email marketing list
• Commenting on industry blogs
• Community participation via discussion boards, social media connections, Facebook and LinkedIn groups and other forums
Devoting in-house time to these efforts can pay off in a big way. For instance, HubSpot found that blogging regularly can lead to 88 percent more leads for B2B companies than those who don't blog. Sounds like content marketing is the way to go, right?
Well, hang on a second.
Many people have the mistaken assumption that paid advertising costs money and content marketing doesn't. This is absolutely not true. According to CMI, 22 percent of B2B companies plan to spend between 1 and 9 percent of their total marketing budget on content and 19 percent plan to spend between 10 and 24 percent. If you're really going hard on your content marketing strategy, consider the amount of time you and your team have to devote to not only creating that content, but making sure it is getting exposure. 14 hours per week is a considerable amount of time! Not to mention that great content actually involves a considerable investment in research, data, tests, graphics and writing, etc.
That's the reason why businesses turn to paid advertising – not to replace content marketing, but to complement it.
Paid Advertising is an investment that marketing teams can benefit from significantly in terms of ROI. Moz found that $1 per day in Facebook ads can grow your audience by 4,000 people or more. Paid ads are served while people are online and the exposure helps give your brand that extra element of trust and familiarity. Content marketing is delivering value, and paid advertising is a smart distribution strategy.
One of the best aspects of paid advertising is that it delivers tangible results. You can measure each piece of content, each campaign, each platform and each audience to see which ones are leading to sales. This helps you expose weak points in your content marketing strategy and discover new opportunities to make it stronger. Check out some of the most effective paid advertising methods:
• Facebook Ads: When done right, Facebook ads can drive a lot of people to a landing page. And you can target your ads to very specific audiences based on location, age, gender, income, interests, etc.
• Promoted Tweets: Twitter has such a high volume of noise that unless you have a huge following already, it can be hard to get your message heard. Promoted tweets drive a 22-percent average increase in engagement. And, if you craft a funny or relevant tweet, your audience will keep promoting it for you.
• Individual websites: If your audience is drawn to certain websites, you can use a service like Google Display Network to place a display ad and pay for the slot. This can be very effective on sites that your customers visit frequently.
There is no definitive answer or percentage value for the ROI that content marketing or paid advertising will offer your company – that depends on too many factors. But, the basic recipe for improved ROI is to consistently develop high-quality content that engages your audience and invest in a distribution method that ensures it is getting seen.