Content marketing: Some call it a “revolution, ” an antidote to pushy, pricey, traditional advertising. A cheaper, easier and more humanistic way to promote your business and build sales.
Others see content marketing as a twist on tried-and-true promotional methods, as old as the marketplace itself.
No matter what your opinion on its origins, one point about content marketing is inarguable: To make it work, you need a lot of content. And not just generic copy. You need quality, customer-relevant blog posts, articles, white papers, tips sheets and other content marketing tools. And you must produce it regularly and frequently.
Where will you get all that terrific, targeted content? Can you create it yourself? Hand off writing to staff? Or will you need a professional copywriter?
As a copywriter, I admit I’m prejudiced. So you would expect me to say, run—don’t walk—to the nearest expert, reliable copywriter.
But I’m not going to. Because I don’t believe pro copywriting is always necessary for content marketing success. To my
shock surprise, I’ve seen a number of entrepreneurs market effectively with their own content while competently running their businesses.
Are you one of these one-man shows? Let’s find out.
The good news: No more budget-busting media buys
Back in the day, effective marketing meant pushing out messaging to reach as many people as possible. You paid dearly for a 30-second spot or page in The New York Times—and not just for the channel. A chunk of your fee went to the team that pulled it all together: the media buyers, account managers, creative directors, designers and advertising copywriters.
Today marketers increasingly use pull, rather than push marketing. Instead of reaching massive numbers of people, they’re keen on reaching the right people. And their channels—blogging, article publishing, social media—don’t require a huge advertising team and bloated budget.
Pull marketing proponents tell us that content marketing is not only cheaper, it’s better. Great content lets you and your customers meet, embrace and “build relationship” in what promises to be mutual, multimedia-fueled bliss.
But a cloud hovers over the marketing love-in. Because quality content doesn’t spontaneously generate.
The bad news: You have to get into the publishing business.
Digital marketing requires a shift in thinking and strategy. Content marketing pundits put it bluntly: today business owners have to be publishers.
So, let’s say you’re a restaurant owner. You’ll want to publish posts on locally sourced food. Lists of 10 Best Wine and Food Pairings. Video tours of your eatery’s kitchen. Your chef’s favorite recipe.
You’ll whip up this quality content in between cajoling vendors, training wait staff, managing payroll, overseeing site renovations and clearing tables when the busboy calls in sick.
Not a problem, right?
Blogging is easy, isn’t it?
Digital info product marketers are quick to tell you content marketing is easy. Slap up a blog—it’s cheap!—and start publishing. You don’t need Mad Man copywriting talent: Blog posts don’t demand the same skill as television commercials, print ads, direct mail or collateral.
While grossly misleading, there’s a kernel of truth in this logic.
The blogosphere’s dirty little secret: Content standards are low.
Most bloggers don’t have the same meticulous standards as professional journalists and advertising teams. Click over to your favorite digital marketing blog and very likely you’ll find:
- Rambling, tangential posts
- Opinion, hearsay and unsourced content
- Grammar gaffes and typos
- Awkward and incorrect usage
But let’s say, you’re willing to settle for inconsistent usage and a few typos. Can you handle your businesses’ content creation—and forget about a professional copywriter?
When to skip hiring a pro copywriter
Before you leap into content creation, take a long, hard look at the skills and time you bring to content marketing. Ask yourself if you can…
- Commit to a regular publishing schedule. Will you be able to produce fresh, valuable content at least once a week?
- Get inside your customer’s head and heart. How well do you know your customers, clients and prospects? What can you say about their goals, dreams, yearnings, pain points and challenges? Can you write chatty conversational copy that talks like they talk?
- Discover how your customers find you. Is it through search? Through Twitter, Facebook, Quora or other social communities? Or do customers want to find you on a static website? Or—be honest—are they digital skeptics? Do they prefer to meet you at conferences, networking events, through direct mail or even traditional advertising?
- Create strong content in a variety of media. Do you know the difference between copy for a blog post and content for an eBook? How to write both a white paper and a status update? Have you figured out how to target your messages? Have you thought through ways to integrate media?
- Partner with key marketing professionals: graphic designers, website developers, coders, printers, SEO strategists, videographers and other pros you need to help you publish quality, shareable content. Even if you’re a whiz content creator, you still need help publishing and sharing your message.
- Feel at home in social communities that enable you to leverage and make the most of your content.
- Make time for content creation, strategic planning, coming up to speed in all copy formats, finding good, reliable partners and creating community in social networks while running your business.
One last thing: You still need traditional media.
I admit I’m a content marketing True Believer. I’ve seen it work—for me and for others. But I’m not so arrogant as to proclaim that traditional marketing is dead. It just ain’t.
Radio didn’t wack word-of-mouth. Television didn’t replace radio. And blogging and content marketing aren’t hammering a stake in the heart of 30-second spots and print marketing.
The truth? You need to pick and choose the media mix that’s right for your product, customers and budget.
Traditional media requires professional copywriting.
And while you may be able to wing-it with blog posts and tweets, a traditional marketing tool is another animal. You want and need a pro who understands persuasion architecture in general and various traditional copy formats in particular.
Pro copywriting: It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
For business owners, there’s never been a better time to work with a professional copywriter. The advertising and journalism industries continue to implode, flooding the market with an incredible pool of talented writers willing to work for reasonable, living-wage prices.
No, a seasoned copywriter won’t write for content mill, slave wages. But most copywriting pros are glad to work within your budget by:
Prioritizing content needs. An experienced copywriter can help you decide on the most crucial copy needed now—and plan for additional content as your budget allows.
Editing existing content. Give a pro copywriter your first draft and let her tighten and target copy, rewrite heads and revise content for easier scanning, skimming and conversion. At a fraction of from-scratch copy creation.
Copywriting training. If you or your staff have writing talent and time, you may be able to manage your content needs with good copywriting training and mentorship.
Can I get a witness? Copywriting colleagues, please weigh in.
No one is better qualified to sound off on copywriting than professional copywriters. What do my fellow copywriters have to say? Do businesses and bootstrappers always need a professional copywriter? What are some options for small businesses with tight budgets? Please share your expertise.
Think your business could benefit from having 100% of your attention? Like to look into professional copywriting, editing or content marketing training? Contact me.