When we think about marketing, we think about the act of promoting/selling a company’s products and/or services through research, advertisements, sale pitches, and more. But when we talk about content marketing, we’re talking about a unique portion of a marketing department: The one that doesn’t aim to sell. And if it attempts to sell, it is not truly content marketing.
So what is the difference between content marketing and a regular sales piece? Why do they need to be kept separate? And, the curious will ask, is there ever a time when the two can be combined?
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is content (i.e. material) that is created with the sole purpose of providing information. It does not seek to influence the reader into making a purchase. Instead, it seeks to attract an audience and garner their interest in your company. It can also convert them into paying customers—but again, that’s not the main goal of content marketing.
Types of content marketing include:
These are different from what you will create for sales content.
What is Sales Content?
Sales content is meant to convince your audience to purchase something from you. It employs copywriting, which is writing that is meant to sell (think words on advertisements). While it does inform, the information will be “reasons to believe,” or why this product or service is better than its competitors. The ultimate goal is for customers to place an order.
Types of sales content includes:
Though content types overlap (for example, you can use videos as part of your content marketing strategy or sales strategy), these two should be kept separate.
Why Separate the Two?
Both have separate end goals, meaning they don’t mesh well together. You either need to create content for the sake of providing free information or create content with the intent to sell. Keeping them separate is important for the following reasons:
Don’t Weaken Their Effect
Combining your content marketing and sales content won’t make either stronger; it just dilutes their overall influence. On the one hand, you want to provide your audience with useful information. On the other, you want them to purchase from you. But you can’t do both in one piece of content. More than likely, the content will be more sales-lead (assuming the “pitch” or call to action comes toward the end). Additionally, it can isolate your customers (more on this in a bit) because it’s not what they were expecting.
Leading Your Customer on a Journey
Content marketing is the map that guides your audience to the treasure (your service or product). Your sales content is the key that unlocks the treasure chest.
Few people outright buy something without any prior research or knowledge. Content marketing is what gives them this knowledge. By providing free, helpful information, they come to see your company as a source they can trust. But it also helps lead them through the marketing funnel. Content marketing generates leads through awareness and also create some interest.
As they continue to read your content, they start to consider you more when they have a need to fulfill. Content marketing does a lot of the heavy lifting so that when the customer is finally ready, they are more inclined to purchase from you. At the bottom of the funnel is sales; all you need is an advertisement or short video to influence purchase intent and convert them to a paying customer.
Avoid Alienating Your Audience
Imagine you were going to read an article that says “How to Declutter Your Home”. You assume that it’s going to give you steps and maybe an action plan for organization. Instead, all that is presented is the company’s services and what they can do for you—cleaning and organizing closets, basements, garages, and more. There are no tips or information on how to do it yourself—and you feel a bit cheated.
You don’t want to alienate your customer by seemingly promising one thing but giving them another. Don’t try and lure them in with what appears to be helpful information only to turn around and try to sell your product or service to them.
But that’s not to say that you can’t take inspiration from one to help you create the other.
Should the Two Ever Be Combined?
While the two should not be combined, you can take some inspiration from sales content and use the art of copywriting to make your content marketing more engaging. That’s because while content marketing isn’t intended to sell, it can end up selling in the long run: Customers will come to trust you and rely on you for accurate information. Then, when they need a product or service like yours, they will refer back to your company.
Here are some sales copywriting takeaways that you can use in your content marketing:
Give it personality: Few people care to read dull, dry, or boring material. Your content should be everything but. You want to excite your audience while educating them, so be sure to use your brand’s voice to elevate your content. Add in humor where appropriate, use lively metaphors, and tell relevant stories that help the audience better connect to the content.
Make it visually appealing: Advertisements are meant to capture our eye and convince us to make a purchase based on visual appeal alone. You want your content to do the same. It should make your audience stop in their tracks and be interested in digesting the content. This visual appeal also extends to how the content is laid out. You should use short paragraphs, bullet lists, block quotes, and headings and subheadings.
Keep it simple: You don’t need to make your writing convoluted with jargon. Basically, just keep your writing clear and concise. You want the reader to be able to understand the message right away, not try to figure it out as if it were some puzzle.
Write to the audience: You can write all the content you want, but is anyone going to read it? Write about topics that they are interested in or in areas in which they need help. Your content should satisfy whatever needs they have.
Use sources: When you’re trying to sell something, you need to provide your customers with proven reasons to believe in what you are saying. The same applies to content marketing. Whatever you’re saying needs to be factual and verified with sources.
You can also take some inspiration from content marketing and use it as part of your sales content:
Address a need: You create content around certain topics because you know that it addresses a need of theirs. Your sales pitch should also prove that can address your customers’ need.
Offer assistance: If you want to sell your content, offer some assistance. Highlight your product’s functionality by providing your customers with tips and tricks to get the most out of the products you sell.
Think outside the box: Sometimes you can sell your products while having fun. The popular YouTube series Will It Blend? from Blendtec is a fun way for Blendtec to show off its product without explicitly selling the product.
Get interactive: Interactive content marketing can be fun and exciting—so why not try it with your sales content? Think about how you can make your pitch interactive. You can educate your audience while entertaining them.
Whether you’re writing content marketing or sales content, keep the end goals in mind. What can you to do be more successful?
Work on Your Strategies
By developing content that your audience can use, they will start to turn to you whenever they need information. You want to use your content marketing strategy to build this trust with your audience. It will start the process of leading them through the marketing funnel by generating awareness and interest in your company. Once this interest is built, you will have an easier time of selling to your audience.
The Clever Content Club
Subscribe to our Clever Content Club for the latest in Content Marketing and Artificial Intelligence.