Content Marketing vs. Advertising

Jenna Nelson's picture
Written By
Jenna Nelson
April 18, 2016

By now, you have most likely heard the words “content marketing” circulating throughout the marketing world. It's also likely that you have been employing some sort of strategy to market your business. I would venture to guess that many, if not all of you, have relied on traditional advertising at some point or another in your business plan. Many of you are still utilizing advertising as your main method or channel to market your business.

Because you are consumed with running your business and managing day-to-day operations, it can appear too labor intensive to take a step back and reassess your marketing strategy. And while traditional advertising is still worthy of a place in your strategy, it's no longer feasible to rely on one channel alone. And that is where content marketing steps in. For those of you who are unfamiliar with content marketing, it is an approach to marketing that focuses on the creation and distribution of authentic and relevant content to attract a particular audience. In other words, it's about creating content that you know your audience will be interested in. Once you gain your audience's interest and trust, they begin to interact with your brand. They later come to recognize your brand as a useful business and one that they are likely to want to do business with.

That seems like quite a bit of work, doesn't it? It is. But your audience is changing and they expect more than an advertisement. An advertisement catches their attention and introduces them to your brand, but it doesn't allow them to get to know you. Which is exactly why both traditional advertising and content marketing need to work together, rather than replacing one with the other. It's a little like online dating, actually. Your profile is what catches a person in and peaks their interest enough to find out more—leading to an in-person date. The in-person date is when a person decides if you are someone they want to get to know more. Your profile is advertising. The in-person date is content marketing. And they both need each other to develop a relationship.

Ryan Johnson with ImagineNation sums up the difference between advertising and content marketing in his article “The Difference Between Content Marketing and Advertising.” He summarizes it as “saying versus showing.” Saying is advertising. Showing is content marketing. “Advertising is all about making claims. Advertising is all about talking the talk. Content marketing is about walking the walk,” says Johnson. He goes on to explain that content marketing is more about helping than selling. The content is meant to demonstrate a company's expertise, establish them as a thought leader in their industry and to build a relationship with the customer.

“While an ad can help inspire a purchase, content can keep the customer in touch with the brand before, during and after the purchase,” explains Johnson. This is how you earn repeat business or customers. Many of you may be thinking that it's unlikely to have a repeat customer when your customer is a bride, but think of it more in terms of referrals. Content marketing is a way to engage with customers long after you have done business with them.

So what is content? I know you're thinking, “Do I have to write lengthy, well-researched articles for my audience?” Not necessarily. Content can be photos, your photography blog, a video, an article, a social media post, etc. It will require effort on your part to be thoughtful in determining what your audience is looking for and how your business can meet them where they are. But the longterm pay-off and results are worth it.

And don't write off traditional advertising. It's still a necessary component for launching new products, services, announcing promotions and driving general awareness. As I said, it's an introduction to your brand. But like Johnson points out, “Content marketing allows brands to become a useful part of their lives at every stage. It's more than marketing, it's building relationships. It requires a bit of restraint and patience, but the rewards can be much greater in the end.”


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