Content Marketing Is the Butter, Not the Bread

November 10, 2011

Content Marketing Is the Butter, Not the Bread

This is a guest post by Robert Rose, Strategist in Residence, Content Marketing Institute

In tropical West Africa, there is shrub that grows up to 20 feet in height – which sounds like a “tree” to me, but what do I know.   Anyway, that notwithstanding, this “shrub” features a small cranberry colored fruit about the size of a large almond.   It’s a rather flavorless fruit in and of itself – but has the most remarkable effect on your taste buds. It’s called the “miracle fruit”.

The miracle fruit gets its name because when you eat it, everything you taste for a short time afterward has a distinctly sweet taste.  Lemons taste like amazing candy.   Salsa tastes like honey.   Goat cheese tastes like cheesecake.   Since its discovery in the 18th century, it’s been used for all kinds of purposes – most recently in a food additive called miraculin that acts as a sugar substitute.

In short, the miracle fruit itself isn’t fulfilling.  Rather, it creates the opportunity for other things that you might eat to have a different kind of fulfillment.

Content marketing isn’t a TACTIC

In Managing Content Marketing – the book I wrote with Joe Pulizzi – we discuss how to build a successful content marketing process in your organization.  As part of that process – building the initial business case for content marketing is a big step.  And, as you might expect, at conferences and workshops Joe and I are frequently asked how media budgets should be divided to add this new “thing” called content marketing.  This is a mistake.  Content marketing is NOT a tactic.

If you start out your business case by thinking that content marketing is going to compete with your PPC, events or other tactical spend, then you’ll work yourself into a corner from which it’s hard to develop measurable results.  Rather, it’s much better to start out by thinking how content marketing can add to the effectiveness of your already successful (or not) existing tactics.

Now, certainly content marketing initiatives can be (and are often) completely separate from your traditional marketing. But if you’re trying to build a case for content marketing in your organization, maybe the best place to start is using content marketing as butter on your already-baked bread.

Your traditional marketing is fully baked

Maybe we all just need to take a collective breath here and say it out loud: traditional marketing still works. It just does. Online advertising still works and so does email marketing, direct marketing, PPC search marketing, SEO, event marketing, and even print and TV.

More on adding content to your marketing mix:

And chances are if you’re even somewhat successful, you’ve got a pretty good mix of those tactics working.   But let’s be honest, you’ve probably got things that are working well along with things that maybe aren’t working so well.   So instead of looking at content marketing as something that has to compete with these other tactics, let’s instead look at how a content marketing initiative can be layered in to enhance your most poorly performing tactic, or even revolutionize and exponentially increase one of your better performing tactics.

Content marketing can be like butter – making things taste better

Let’s use an example of PPC (Pay-Per-Click search marketing).  You may be purchasing keywords that drive users to a landing page to “call a sales person” or “download a free trial”.   And that campaign may be working quite well for you. Or maybe it’s not working quite as well as you think it should.

But what if instead, we add a new version of our search ad to those keywords with a call to action to “download this field guide” and we direct these users to download a free “how-to” best practices guide for our type of solution.   In that field guide we provide great, compelling content – and within it we direct people to go to a landing page (separate from our other landing page) to view a webinar or talk live with a “solutions consultant” or now “download a free trial”.

Your mileage will certainly vary, but if you’re like at least two companies I’ve personally worked with, you may notice that your CTR (click-through rate) rate goes down (meaning PPC costs go down).  And you may also notice that the quality of those leads goes way up, they convert more (meaning cost-per-acquisition – or CPA – goes WAY down) and the value of that PPC tactic now increases substantially.  That’s where content marketing can be the butter on your bread – or your miracle fruit.

The key is that you align both the costs and the benefits.  If you budget the cost to create that field guide to a “content marketing” expense and give the effectiveness benefit to PPC, then you’re just working yourself into an ROI corner.

And of course that field guide can be used in other ways as well.  It might be the fodder for a great blog post – the target for social media – and a sales tool for the salespeople to send to warm prospects that they’ve cold called.

Now, how we structure that content marketing process into our traditional marketing efforts is another challenge altogether.  Doing it well provides us the ability to measure its effectiveness in concert with our other efforts. As Joe and I discuss in the book (see what I did there) while the practice of content marketing is certainly not new, making it a formal, budgeted process in your organization is.

It has the potential to be an innovative new piece to your marketing mix – not as yet another tactic, but rather as the butter to your traditional marketing bread.

Robert Rose is the Founder and Chief Troublemaker at Big Blue Moose, where he helps marketers become better storytellers. He is the co-author of Managing Content Marketing, and a recognized expert in content marketing strategy, digital media and the social Web. Robert is also the Strategist in Residence and Brand Advisor for the Content Marketing Institute, a featured writer and guest blogger for online magazines iMedia Connection, Fierce Content Management and CMSWire.


<strong>Robert Rose</strong> is the Founder and Chief Troublemaker at <a href="">Big Blue Moose</a>, where he helps marketers become better storytellers. He is the co-author of <em><a href="">Managing Content Marketing</a></em>, and a recognized expert in content marketing strategy, digital media, and the social Web. Robert is also the Chief Strategist of the <a href="">Content Marketing Institute</a> and a featured writer and guest blogger for several online magazines.