Content marketing has risen to prominence amongst both B2C and B2B marketers, driven in part by the significant influence of search engines on today’s shoppers and buyers and the diminishing power of conventional advertising.
Compared to traditional marketing programs, content marketing costs 62% less and generates approximately three times the volume of leads.
Countless numbers of 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 their downsides too?
To help you consider it, plan for it or even review your ongoing strategy, here are ten pros and cons of Content Marketing.
Let’s start with the cons:
1. It can seem daunting and complicated with a high learning curve
If you are new to content marketing it can seem daunting, what do you do? Where do you start? There is some jargon associated with content marketing and a number of new techniques.
Managing the process can be challenging – it is akin to creating an in-house publishing department. There are lots of elements to get to grips with and processes that may be new to you.
2. It is time-consuming
Creating the kind of good quality content you need takes time. And it’s on-going.
To be really useful and attract customers to you, you need to spend time understanding them and their problems, their needs and questions, you need to understand their situation.
You may well have to do research – collecting data and analysing it, then presenting as easy-to-digest content.
Managing the process also takes time, progress will need measuring and reviewing to ensure you are getting maximum ROI and hitting targets.
3. Content marketing is hard work and not for everyone
Given that it is time-consuming, you can see that it can be hard work. There are even a few businesses for which it is not a good fit.
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 is not going to be the answer.
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 wussy 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.
4. You need a lot of creativity and have diverse skills
Creating content by its very nature is creative. It requires certain skills and inspiration. Not only must you be an expert marketer, but you will also need expertise in areas such as design, website development, social media, content writing, and strategic analysis.
5. 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 need to outsource some or many of the tasks involved to outside experts – which could prove expensive.
6. Hard to attribute results
Without a proper measurement and management system in place, it can be difficult to attribute results to your content marketing – especially if you are engaged in a number of other marketing channels.
7. Difficult 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 just won’t produce good work. Managing the scheduling of content, the promoting of content and the measuring of the results, also have their particular challenges and so can prove difficult.
8. Takes time – not a short-term gain – has to be looked at as an investment
Another major aspect of content marketing is the length of time it takes to get results. It is definitely not going to produce a short-term gain. It can take months to see results – and those results may not be impressive at first. It has to be considered an investment in the future.
9. Can be expensive – especially for video and podcasting content
Without the in-house skills and capabilities, then producing video and audio content with external agencies can be expensive. (The good news here is that you don’t need to spend a ton of money on expensive productions anymore and you can get very good results on the latest, considerably cheaper equipment.)
10. Still needs promoting and may need paid advertising in a highly competitive world
Build the content and they will come. Well, it’s possible they might, but it’s more reliable 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 events to help raise the profile of your content and get the word out.
So that was the ten cons – but the good news is that none of those is a good enough reason not to use content publishing as part of your marketing strategy. Almost all those cons can be mitigated by the right personnel, controls, systems, procedures, research and advice.
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 you can see why content marketing is so popular – particularly amongst B2B companies. In fact, 75% of those companies that practice inbound say that their marketing strategy is effective.
So here are the reasons you should consider content marketing – the ten cons:
1. It is actually quite simple
The basic principles of content marketing are quite simple – understand your audience, publish useful and relevant content that addresses that audience’s issues or needs this will then attract them to you, you can then convert them to a lead, nurture that lead, and when appropriate close the sale. Afterward, you use content marketing to support your customers which will generate further revenue through repeat sales or their influence on peers.
If you use a content management system such as HubSpot, you can be guided through the process, with help at every stage.
2. Builds authority
Not only does content marketing lead to sales, but it also boosts your authority and standing within an industry. The right posts can establish you as a market leader, a knowledgeable expert and a helpful company. In this way, you increase brand awareness and promote positive sentiment about your company and its products or services.
3. Relatively cheap
Although there is an extensive and possibly costly investment in time, it 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.
4. Possible to get a big picture
With the right content management system, you can actually map the entire customer journey across time and across marketing channels. The majority of content marketing can take place on channels you control and can measure with the right tools. Look for a system that manages contact relationships, marketing, sales and service.
5. It has a compound effect
In the cons section, we mentioned that it is an investment and takes time. But the powerful aspect of content marketing is its compound effect – the more content you publish, the more powerful that content becomes.
6. Creates assets that last
Once you’ve published good quality content, it goes on working for you without you having to do anything. Okay so you may want to refresh the content from time to time to keep it up to date, but that work can be minimal.
7. You can involve clients and employees
To help ease the task of creating ever more content, you can involve your employees and clients in content creation. This is a good thing for a number of 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
Content such as case studies involving clients are incredibly effective
On top of these benefits, involving your employee experts in content creation keeps them motivated and up-to-date – just by researching and writing content. Involving clients flatters their egos and ties them closer to you. It helps establish a relationship with clients that turn them into advocates for your business.
8. Supports other marketing and customer service
Not only does content marketing result in customer acquisition it also has a major part to play in customer retention and customer service. Publishing, useful, helpful content doesn’t have to be aimed just at prospects, make sure you publish content that is relevant to existing customers too. Content can help with education, on-boarding, training and support.
9. Reaches the right audience – even those who reject advertising
Because a fundamental principle of content marketing is that you spend time defining buyer personas – understanding your target market and their issues, you can create content that will target them more successfully than other types of marketing. One of the ways to measure your marketing is the quality of leads you generate – 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, and when you consider that according to Google the click-through rate on a banner ad is now 0.06% (with 60% of those clicks being accidental according to Media Week) and the use of ad blockers rising (22% in the UK), it is not hard to see that you need a better way to reach those who have no interest in advertising.
10. 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 methods and measuring and reporting is more reliable and it’s ROI actually improves over time. It can even shorten the sales cycle.
In 2019 if 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.