“Content marketing is a waste of time”

“Social Media is a waste of money”

“I didn’t get any ROI from that online stuff”

I am disappointed when I hear small business owners say these things because really, it just means they don’t understand the difference between content marketing and advertising.

Content Marketing

Content Marketing is a system or process where content is created in the form of:


Website Copy

Landing Pages



Social Media Posts

And really anything else that may come along or is out there that is designed to offer value to an information hungry potential client, aka, a lead.

For some reason, small business owners, and even their marketing reps and salespeople sometimes forget what a lead is. A lead can be:

  •         Cold, as in a name on a telemarketer’s list
  •         Warm, as in an unknown or known person who gave you some identifying information
  •         Hot, as in they have their money in their hand ready to buy

Even within a warm market, there can be a scale, but for the sake of this conversation, a warm lead is someone who has purposefully given you some way to be contacted by you as a person or company. This could be a business card at a networking event or a comment on your blog or even a share on social media.

The Content

The content that is being created serves a few different purposes, but at the end of the day, they are all designed to attract and/or nurture a lead.


These build keywords on your website. If at all possible, they should be housed on your website that relates to the blog content. It is ok if some blogs talk about something other than your main topic, as long as they have some sort of tie in. For example, if you have found the most common trait among your ideal clients is that they are football fans and you sell sport equipment, a personal blog you write about the “Deflate Gate 2015”, may be ok. The point however is to have words in the blog that help search engines discover and verify that your website is about a specific topic.

Writing a blog alone doesn’t do anything. It must be found. There is a system for a blog to be found, and that system is part of a content marketing strategy. If a search engine can’t find your blog, then they can’t direct a lead to it and it is of no use.

Website Copy & Landing Pages

Like blogs, these can build keywords on your website in order to help search engines direct relevant visitors. Both should speak to the lead in a way that entices them to DO something- whether that is download a product, buy an item, join or newsletter or more. Landing pages are specific sales pieces geared toward one specific ask. They should be written in language that guides the reader to become a hot lead. The important part here is in the follow up, which ideally is managed in your content marketing strategy. If you capture their info, are you doing anything with it?

Whitepapers & E-books

On your website, regardless of how the lead got there, they should be prompted to take an action. One way to do this is by giving them something of value for free, in exchange for their contact info. This takes them from being a cold lead to a warm one. The creation, distribution and even follow up of these is what content marketing is about. Do you have something to entice a lead?

Social Media Posts

When you have good content, it is valuable to reuse it to create value in your social media posts. Ask questions, build suspense, make them laugh, all for the purpose of getting leads to be attracted to the action you want them to take. But please, don’t forget:

“You can’t get ROI if you don’t treat their actions as leads.”


Advertising, similar but different, is designed to attract and close a lead.

Advertising says, “This is the great thing about this and you need to buy it now.” Advertising works fast, in most cases. For example, I see a commercial for a pizza, it looks good, I call and order a pizza. Sometimes, I’m not in the mood for a pizza (yes, although rarely, it does happen), and the ad goes away and I don’t think about pizza again until another ad comes on.

However, when I place an order for a pizza, they take my information. And if they are smart, they put me in a lead nurture campaign. If they have my email address, they send me a coupon. If they have my home address, they send me direct mail piece.

Content Marketing and social media says, “Here is some helpful information. Talk to me more, share it with people and remember me when you are ready to buy.” It is a slow and steady methodology, which is why the two together are brilliant. And, why after time, advertising could end and content marketing can continue to generate business (this is what ‘becoming viral’ means).

  •         Content marketing is marketing and branding, which lead to sales.
  •         Advertising is lead generation that leads to sales.
  •         Content marketing intends to add value to leads and build the “know, like and trust factor”, which leads to increased sales.
  •         Advertising creates hot leads ready to buy.
  •         Content marketing catches cold, warm and hot leads that somehow went cold and nurtures them to increase sales.

Both can work fast to create sales and both can work slow to create sales. It comes down to how many people see it, how many of those people are your target market and how you handle follow up.