Content marketing has risen to prominence amongst both B2C and B2B marketers, driven by the significant influence of search engines on today's shoppers and buyers and the diminishing power of conventional advertising.
The main reason for this is that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing programs and generates approximately three times the volume of leads.
And the power of content to generate engagement is not diminishing, quite the opposite; 67% of people said they are relying even more on content to research and inform purchase decisions in 2021 than they did last year. (Demand Gen Report 2021 Content Preferences Survey Report)
Countless companies have embraced it and placed it at the core of their marketing strategies, but what is the case for it? Is it a no-brainer, or are there downsides too?
To help you consider it, plan for it, argue for it, or even help you review your ongoing strategy, here are ten pros and cons of Content Marketing.
Let's start with the cons:
It can seem daunting and complicated with a high learning curve
If you are new to content marketing, it can seem daunting; I mean, what do you do? Where do you start? Content marketing is such a blanket term, and it covers a vast field. And like any specialism, there is a fair amount of jargon associated with content marketing and several new techniques to learn and master.
Managing the process can be challenging, too – you are, in effect, setting up and running an in-house publishing department. There are lots of elements to get to grips with and processes that may be new to you. It's possible to outsource some of the work, but this brings its own set of management issues and challenges.
Creating the kind of good quality content that's essential to attract engagement will take time. And that task will be ongoing.
To ensure that your content is genuinely helpful and attracts potential customers, you need to understand them, the problems they face, what they are looking for, and their questions.
- It would be best if you tried to understand every aspect of the situation they currently find themselves in.
- You may well have to spend time researching – collecting data and analysing it, then presenting it as easy-to-digest content.
- Managing the process also takes time; progress will need measuring and reviewing to ensure maximum ROI and hitting targets.
Content marketing is hard work and not for everyone
Given that it is time-consuming, you can probably guess that it can also be hard work. There are even a few businesses for which it is not a good fit.
For example: if you are selling a basic product or providing a simple service that is quick, well understood and with an almost instant sales lead time, then content marketing will not be that helpful.
It's also a different way of marketing, and it may not come naturally to you. If your head is in the sales game, you may be reluctant to give up all those hard-sell techniques you've grown up with; you may feel it's a bit soft and won't result in orders. (You'd be wrong, but it's an understandable point of view from someone who's been making deals and closing sales by cold calling and applying 'gentle' pressure).
It requires a drastic change of mindset and the willingness to reject old-style interruption marketing where you shout at people with adverts, direct mail and the like, interrupting what they are doing, often annoying them, occasionally making a possibly reluctant sale.
There should be a subtle sales message as part of your content strategy, and there should be a Call To Action (CTA) in every piece of content, but don't overdo it – 38% of B2B buyers reported that B2B vendors could improve their content by curbing sales messages. (Demand Gen Report 2021 Content Preferences Survey Report)
It would help if you had a lot of creativity and diverse skills
Developing engaging content by its very nature is creative. It requires specific skills and inspiration. Not only must you be an expert marketer, but you will also need to possess some expertise in areas such as design, website development, social media, content writing, and strategic analysis.
It's difficult to do if you have a small team and expensive if you outsource
You can see that the wide range of skills required by content marketing means that they are unlikely to reside in one person or even in a small team. Inevitably you may look to outsource some or many of the tasks involved to outside experts – which could prove expensive and requires management.
It can be hard to attribute results
Without a proper measurement and management system, it can be hard to attribute results to your content marketing – especially if you are simultaneously engaged in several marketing channels.
However, this would be an issue for any marketing activity you undertake if you do not have proper metrics, key performance indicators, traceable leads, and a dependable attribution system in place.
It can be challenging to manage
Managing creative people is quite different from managing other types of personnel – you need to keep them motivated all the time, or they won't produce creative work. They will need to feel valued and that their work is worthwhile.
Managing content scheduling, promoting content, and measuring the results also have their particular challenges and can prove difficult.
It takes time – not a short-term gain – and more like an investment
Another significant aspect of content marketing is the length of time it takes to get results. It can take months to see results – and those results may not be impressive at first. It is not going to produce a short-term gain. It has to be considered as an investment in the future.
It can be expensive – especially for video and podcasting content
Without in-house skills and capabilities, producing video and audio content with external agencies can be costly. You may need to buy equipment and software and invest in training or hiring personnel to use them, even in-house.
It still needs promoting and may need paid advertising in a highly competitive world
Build the content, and they will come? Well, they might, but it's going to be more reliable and effective to promote your content using social media and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. This is essential if you are selling in a highly competitive market. You may also need to budget for an influencer programme, seminars, conferences, and other live events to help raise the profile of your content and get the word out.
So that was the ten cons – it's quite a list, but even added together, they are not a good reason to not use content publishing as part of your marketing strategy.
All those cons can be mitigated by the suitable personnel, controls, systems, procedures, research and advice and are more than outweighed by the benefits.
When you consider content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising (Content Marketing Institute) and only 18% of marketers say outbound practices provide the highest quality leads for sales, then you can see why content marketing is so popular – particularly amongst B2B companies. 75% of companies that practice content marketing say that their marketing strategy is effective.
So let's move on to the reasons you should consider content marketing – the ten pros:
It is actually quite simple
The basic principles of content marketing are simple – understand your audience and publish useful, relevant and timely content that addresses that audience's issues or needs.
This content will attract the right prospects to you, bringing in quality leads. You can then nurture those leads, and when they are ready to buy, close a sale and convert them to new customers.
Afterwards, you use content marketing to support these customers, generating additional revenue through repeat sales or their positive recommendations to peers.
Using a content management system such as HubSpot, you can be guided through this process, with help at every stage, including creating automated workflows delivering targeted content, actionable insights and progress reports.
Not only does content marketing result in sales, but it also boosts your authority and standing within an industry. The right posts can establish you as a market leader, an expert and a helpful company. In this way, you increase brand awareness and promote positive sentiment about your company and its products or services.
This leads to building trust – prospective customers will value the content you provide and come to trust your authority and your business. Trust is a highly valued commodity – challenging to gain and easy to destroy. No business transaction can take place without mutual trust.
Although there is an extensive and possibly costly investment in time, content marketing is still more cost-effective than other forms of marketing. As mentioned in the introduction, content marketing costs 62% less and generates approximately three times the volume of leads.
Other channels such as press or media advertising can prove very costly and may not be nearly as effective for your business.
Possible to get a big picture
With the right content management system, you can map the entire customer journey across time and marketing channels.
The majority of content marketing can take place on channels that you control and measure with the right tools. Look for a system that manages contact relationships, marketing, sales and service.
This level of data and intelligence means you can see what works and what doesn't, you can generate useful reports for the board, and you can gain valuable insights into your customers and your business.
It has a compound effect
In the cons section, we mentioned that it is an investment and takes time. But the decisive aspect of content marketing is its compound effect – the more content you publish, the more potent that content becomes.
It creates assets that last
Whilst you could spend a sum of money on pay per click and get instant leads – those leads will probably only come from prospects who are ready to buy now. And you will need to spend that same sum of money every month.
On the other hand, if you take that same sum of money and create great, SEO-friendly content, it will sit on your site, drawing in prospects, month after month, for no extra cost.
Once you've published good quality content, it goes on working for you without you having to do anything. However, you will want to refresh the content from time to time to keep it up to date, but that work can be pretty minimal.
Updating existing content is often more valuable than publishing new content, as existing content will already have traffic led to it. Again, this is a compound effect – because of the nature of search engines, the more traffic a piece of content receives, the more likely it is to generate even more traffic in the future.
You can involve clients and employees
To help ease creating ever more content, you can involve your employees and clients in content creation. This is a good thing for several reasons:
- Using employee experts to create content means it is likely to be more helpful and relevant.
- Using clients to create content gives a different, valid point of view, which will be relevant to prospective clients.
- Content such as case studies involving clients is one of the most effective ways to engage your target audience and convert them to customers.
On top of these benefits, involving your employee experts in content creation keeps them motivated and up to date – an inevitable by-product of their researching and writing content.
Involving your clients flatters them and draws them closer to you. It helps establish a strong relationship that can turn them into advocates for your business.
Supports other marketing and customer service
Not only does content marketing result in customer acquisition it also has a significant part to play in both customer retention and customer service.
Publishing helpful content doesn't have to be aimed just at prospects; make sure you post relevant content to existing customers.
Content can help with education, onboarding, training, and support, saving time and money by answering customers' questions without using up customer service resources.
Similarly, it can help provide answers to common sales questions - freeing up salespersons' time too. We know that 47% of buyers view three to five pieces of content before contacting a salesperson. (Demand Gen Report 2021 Content Preferences Survey Report)
Content is also a vital part of your social media presence. Social media is all about sharing content – you have to have valuable content to share. Sharing the right content will gain you followers, increase engagement and boost the effectiveness of your social presence.
Lastly, content helps to develop and propagate your brand image. Every piece of content you produce will say something about you as a business.
Your prospects and customers can learn about who you are, what you stand for, how you do business and your brand values.
Reaches the right audience – even those who reject advertising
Because a fundamental principle of content marketing is spending time defining buyer personas – understanding your target market and their issues; you will be creating content that will target and engage them more successfully than other types of marketing.
One of the ways to measure your marketing is the quality of leads that it generates – 74% of companies find that lead quality and quantity went up when they introduced a content marketing strategy.
B2B buyers are notoriously difficult to reach with conventional marketing. The click-through rate on a banner ad is now 0.06%, according to Google. 60% of those clicks are accidental, according to Media Week. And with the use of ad blockers rising (36% in the UK in 2020), it is not hard to see why you need a better way to reach those who have no interest in advertising.
Achieves better results and is cost-efficient
The bottom line is that well-implemented content marketing consistently achieves better results than traditional marketing. It is more suited to the modern age, which is customer and search engine driven. It is more cost-effective than other measuring methods, and reporting is more reliable, and its ROI improves over time. It can even shorten the sales cycle.
If that's not enough, inbound leads (i.e. leads from online marketing) have a 14.6% conversion rate, while outbound leads (cold calling, direct mail, etc.) only have a 1.7% close rate.
If today, you don't have a content marketing strategy, then you are either a B2C FMCG business, or you are in one of those rare B2B companies that sell simple stuff with an instant sales cycle, or you have your head in the sand. The pros outweigh the cons, and the benefits are numerous – if you are considering content marketing, then I'd recommend starting yesterday.
As with most things - change is the only constant, and it would not be right to try and position content marketing like a silver bullet. There are changes afoot in Search and Social that make it harder for your content to get found, and increasingly you need to pay-to-play if you want to use these channels to extend your reach.
You should use the content you create to populate the land you own on the web (your website, blog and email, for example) as no one can take that away from you or bury its value. But you might also think about creating content for the third-party platforms that matter to you and use native advertising (paid for) to draw interest back to your owned properties.