Traditional Marketing and Content Marketing: How They Differ and Why It Matters

Last week I happened to be in several very enjoyable conversations that at some point turned to content marketing. This is a favorite topic of mine. The aggregate of the conversations made me realize two things.

The first is that clear and complete working definitions of content marketing are hard to come by. (Here’s a great exception!) The second is that there is a general lack of understanding about what results content marketing can deliver.

I’m going to try to kill two birds with one stone. My theory is that an understanding of what content marketing is, and how it differs from traditional marketing, clears the path to being able to see what results it can realistically deliver.

Let’s start by comparing and contrasting, at a high level, traditional marketing and content marketing. They share the goal of creating positive brand awareness and driving revenue generation.

They are different in two key respects. There is no right or wrong between traditional marketing and content marketing but one is losing ground. I’ll let you guess which one. The two respects in which they differ are direction and relationship.

Direction   Traditional marketing is aggressive in that it pushes information out to grab the attention of potential buyers. Content marketing is passive, seeking to draw the target audience in and influence using education and information.

The direction of traditional marketing is out and the direction of content marketing is in.

Relationship   Traditional marketing builds a one-way relationship to tell the ideal customers what to buy by promising them the features and benefits of the product. It interrupts with the intention of making an immediate sale.

Content marketing builds a two-way relationship by engaging a specific target market, identified by their behaviors, and enabling buyers to easily interact at their own pace. The communication along the buying journey builds trust, which creates revenue opportunities and subsequently leads to sales.

The traditional marketing relationship is constructed around profiles and the product. The content marketing relationship is constructed around nurturing relevant conversations with buyers.

Photo courtesy of Will Lion (CC)

Photo courtesy of Will Lion (CC)

So why does it matter? It matters because content marketing provides the opportunity and venue to have conversations with your buyers. Once engaged in meaningful conversations, buyers are most likely to purchase from the business that has informed, educated and built a relationship with them.

Businesses are engaged in content marketing because it is directly related to revenue generation. That’s why it matters and ultimately what you should care about.

It matters because of the impact content marketing is having in influencing buying decisions. It has gained enormous traction because we all prefer to be informed rather than told. It is coming of age because we’d rather participate in a conversation than be held hostage by a monologue.

It matters because buyers are typically doing more than half their research online (more for B2B) before narrowing down their options. That means that if your content is not readily available when the buyer is researching, they’ve moved on.

It matters because if you provide irrelevant or, even worse, self-serving content you’ll get deleted. If you don’t give buyers a really good reason and plenty of easy opportunities to connect with your business, you’ll be ignored and skipped over.

Qualitatively, content marketing provides value when put in the right hands and delivers education throughout the buyer’s journey. This improves brand loyalty and is a vehicle for regular communication with your target market.

Quantitatively, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads for each dollar spent. That’s pretty compelling! Spend less and generate more revenue.

Giving your buyers what they want, not what you think they should want, helps your business deliver more sales-ready leads. Allowing buyers to determine the place, timing and topic of the conversation reinforces brand loyalty.

Additionally, 80% of people like to learn about a business by reading their custom content and 60% seek out more product information after reading related content. It makes sense! For more great insights like these, check out this infographic.

Marketing has changed and will continue to evolve. Harnessing your content marketing objectives to specific business goals such as customer acquisition, retention and revenue growth enables your business to deliver loyal customers and sales. That’s why it matters!

Do you have a definition of content marketing that works well for you? Please share in the comments!

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