Content marketing isn't a substitute for advertising

Content Marketing Institute's Joe Pulizzi says content marketing isn't a silver bullet strategy; and that marketers need to take an integrated approach to customer interaction

Content marketing shouldn’t be considered a substitute for paid-for advertising, according to the founder and chief executive of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

In an interview with CMO in the lead-up to this year’s Content Marketing World event in Sydney, CMI’s Joe Pulizzi said marketers who look to simply swap out advertising and put in content marketing are making a mistake.

“I’ve been asked before whether all budgets should be moved to content marketing and it’s the silliest thing I’ve heard,” he said. “It’s not a silver bullet strategy; it’s always been about having an integrated marketing program.

“Content and advertising usually have very different goals. However, a lot of people say content is about brand awareness, because a lot of advertising campaigns are led by brand awareness goals. If I’m a CMO and going to put budget into this, and you say to me the goal is brand awareness, I’m likely to laugh you out of my office.”

Instead, Pulizzi said marketers should look at metrics that take into account things like impact on direct sales, sales quality, lead quantity and subscriber growth.

“I don’t see a lot of Australian companies looking at subscriber growth as a key metric, yet I see it as one of the most important ones to watch,” he said. “If marketers are looking at subscriber metrics, you’d be able to tell things like what they do differently to non-subscribers – do they buy more? Talk more about us? Stay longer as customers? That can all be shown because we can link up subscriber information with our CRM data. If there is a holy grail to this whole thing, it’s that.”

Another key difference between content marketing and other traditional advertising campaigns is the time it takes to obtain a return on investment. Pulizzi said one of the current issues with content marketing strategies is that they’re not consistent enough, or based on longer-term objectives.

“If you want to look at a content marketing program that’s working, you’ve got to look past six months or more,” he said. “If the timelines is less, you should probably just invest in advertising.”

Where content marketing really comes into its own is around lead nurturing as well as customer retention, Pulizzi added.

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In the CMI and ADMA’s recent research into content marketing take-up and trends in Australia, the two associations found 93 per cent of local marketers are investing in content marketing today, and 69 per cent will be spending more on this area in 2014.

According to Pulizzi, the reason the industry is seeing such a shift of budget into owned channels is because most organisations have been “overweight” in terms of paid media. Historically, marketers have spent the majority of their budgets on paid media or publication relationships trying to get earned media, and have not put enough emphasis on investing in owned media channels.

“What we’re seeing now is a diversification away from paid into owned and a balance between the two that should have always been there,” Pulizzi claimed.

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