Generally speaking, digital marketers are pretty skilled ball-jugglers. We constantly balance competing deadlines, extract value out of less-than-ideal budgets, and generate instant search engine visibility under pressure.
AdWords has been at the top of its game for the past 15 years for good reason – it offers a chance to be on Page 1 of Google in 15 minutes or less, and you only pay for actual eyeballs. Great deal, right?
In fact, using display ads, paid search or paid social as a way to generate instant results for brands or organizations is increasingly popular.
Don’t believe me? Wrap your head around these figures:
- In its Q4 2016 fiscal year results, Google’s parent company Alphabet reported a whopping 17% increase in advertising revenue compared with the same period the year before.
- When Facebook published its fourth quarter and end of year results, it also reported an increase in revenue from advertising, up 12% year on year.
- Statista estimates we’ll all be spending more this year – with paid advertising expenditure soaring to $92.4 billion worldwide in 2017.
- Marketers are now branching out to new ad formats, with the IAB calculating that mobile advertising grew massively in the first six months of 2016, with a total spend increase of 89% or $15.5 billion.
Big numbers, for sure, but are we missing a trick here?
While there may be plenty of plus points to paid advertising and paid social – and it most definitely plays a role in a well-executed marketing strategy – it might be time to take back ownership of your marketing.
I think so, anyway. In this blog, I’ll explain why you should own your marketing instead of renting it.
Ad space is rented, but content is owned
Getting the balance right between paid, earned and owned media is tricky, but in the long run, content is the clear winner.
That’s because whatever type of advertising you invest in – whether it’s sponsored posts on Facebook, Instagram adverts or a paid search campaign with Google – the space your advertising occupies is only rented.
This means that when your budget runs out, your advertising disappears.
Can you afford to have that happen?
Paid advertising is undeniably great for short-term visibility or when you need a last-minute fix to support other marketing efforts, but it creates the risk of leaving no digital footprint at all.
Investing your money in content, on the other hand, means that you’ll always have marketing assets that belong purely to you.
Sure, you may have to pay a copywriter or freelance blogger to draft up the relevant copy, but it will always be yours.
In other words, there’s no prospect of the gas meter running out or the lights suddenly switching off. This advantage is known as compound returns: it’s permanent rather than temporary.
Content can deliver better returns
According to Entrepreneur, content marketing has a better rate of return than many other forms of marketing. This makes sense when you consider the fact that once you have that piece of content in hand, there are no limits to how often you can re-use it, how widely you can share it, or how much you can repurpose it.
If you were to write an ebook for example, it’s easy to magnify that initial investment in content ownership to create multiple other assets. Off the top of my head, that might be:
- A blog post
- A podcast
- A slideshare
- A series of social media posts
- An infographic
- A landing page
- A lead generator
- A YouTube video
That’s eight different ways that owning your marketing can mean getting more from it. In contrast, if you put budget towards a paid ad campaign, the only way you can extend its reach and see your ad on other sites or in other formats is to spend more. It’s never really your own, whereas that ebook (and its eight possible uses) are.
You control your own spend
Paid advertising is just like property rental in that you have to pay the market rate. Whether that’s the cost per click in AdWords or the fixed fee to have your display ads run on a site of your choice, you are told how much you need to spend. There is no guarantee that your return will outstrip your spend, but you’re powerless to determine the going rate.
When you opt to own your marketing with content, you’re in the driver’s seat. You get to determine exactly how much time and how much money you spend. This gives you more flexibility and means your marketing can work for you, rather than placing a strain on your budget.
Custom content is useful
The CRM system Salesforce – which as you might expect knows a thing or two about making sales – reckons that 90% of consumers find custom content useful. How often can you say that about an ad space you’ve rented?
The perceived usefulness of custom content opens up lots of business opportunities: benefits that you can only unlock if you’ve poured your resources into creating content assets rather than temporarily occupying an ad space.
We’re talking about creating meaningful relationships with clients, understanding their needs better, seeing more shares and likes, and having greater control of the sales funnel plus the chance to increase order values through personalization.
Content dominates the online experience
There are lots of pretty compelling statistics which show that consumers spend most of their time online looking at content. Think about it – how long have you spent immersed in a blog post? Now think about how long you’ve spent looking at a PPC ad or sponsored post. If the answer is more than 10 seconds, I’ll be surprised.
These figures are from the Content Marketing Institute.
- 64% of people say the customer experience is more important than price in their choice of a brand. (Gartner, 2014)
- That customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020. (Gartner, 2014)
- 70% of consumers say content marketing makes them feel ‘closer’ to the sponsoring company. (Roper Public Affairs, 2012)
As Airbnb found, content is also essential for building trust, which itself is the lifeblood of any successful business. Whether it’s a city guide, review or photograph, your written and visual content can tell the story of your brand in a way that ads simply can’t. Done consistently, it can provide customers with reasons to believe in you, to turn to you and to communicate with you.
So while there’s nothing wrong with paying for that temporary hit of visibility with ads, you should consider owning your marketing assets instead of renting them, to generate much greater opportunities in the longer term.
Guest Author: Sian Lenegan is a marketer and the managing director of Sixth Story, a branding and digital agency. Her focus is on helping businesses ignite growth through the power of branding.