Content marketing is creating free, valuable pieces of content that attract, delight, and engage your ideal audience and potential customers.
Copywriting is the practice of writing text that prompts a desired action. Sometimes, that writing uses persuasive techniques and sales psychology, but it doesn’t have to.
Typically, content that falls under content marketing is longer, denser, and more informative than copy. Copy that falls under copywriting is attention-grabbing, to the point, and usually much shorter than content.
Don’t worry, it’s easy to get mixed up. And it doesn’t help that they both start with the letter ‘c’.
Short answer: no. Long answer: no, copy is sales-focused text that’s intended to guide the reader toward an action (like signing up to your email newsletter or buying your higher end offer), whereas content marketing is geared toward inviting the reader into your ecosystem, offering tons of free help, and keeping the relationship strong until they’re ready to make a purchasing decision.
Copy is generally the writing you see in ads, sales emails, and sales-focused Instagram captions, as well as on sales pages, websites, and flyers.
Take this Apple™ ad for example. It’s extremely short, to the point, and gets its message across so clearly that it was mind-blowing at the time.
Content specifically within content marketing is non-salesy, informative articles, blog posts, Instagram posts, email newsletters, YouTube videos, podcast episodes, TikTok videos, LinkedIn posts, etc.
However, according to some definitions, content as a huge umbrella can contain all pieces of content, including ads.
If your business posts any kind of informative, educational, or entertaining content on any kind of platform or medium, then you’re using content marketing. For my business, I mainly use content marketing on Instagram™ and my blog to get my business out there and help my ideal community members along their journeys the best I can.
Content marketing without a bit of copywriting is like giving a captivating TED talk to a lot of people and then just ending your talk with a ‘bye, have a nice day’.
On the other hand, copywriting without content marketing is like yelling ‘buy my stuff, buy my stuff’ into a crowd of strangers.
No one wants to be coldly sold to, but you’re also barely going to sell anything if you don’t ask for the sale. Without a delicate balance, one can overpower the other and you end up not reaching your business goals *sad face*.
The key is to step into your ideal client or customer’s shoes. Kind of cliché, but trust me, it makes a world of difference.
Here’s a great example from Flodesk, an email marketing service that grew to $5M in annual revenue in less than a year.
One of their blog posts Email Marketing for Coaches | 10 Strategies for Success (written October 15th, 2021), does an A+ job of combining content marketing with copywriting.
Feel free to read the post yourself but if you don’t have the time, here’s a quick summary.
To get straight to the point, it kicks off with why email marketing is so important for coaches and their businesses. Then it explains each of the 10 strategies and cleverly leads into how to get started with email marketing specifically for coaches. It’s only at this point that they start mentioning Flodesk and how great it is for a coach’s email marketing needs. There’s simplicity, imagery, and eventually a call-to-action to try Flodesk’s 30-day free trial.
The bulk of this blog post can be safely classified as content marketing. When they start bringing in Flodesk and saying how great it is, then do you see some copywriting where they’re nudging you to sign up to the free trial. They led with all of the education, built up a rapport, and then positioned their offer as the solution. Pretty smart, right?
Now, you don’t have to add copywriting into all of your content marketing. In fact, I don’t recommend that because it gets repetitive, boring, and (sorry to say) even annoying for your readers. Bring it in strategically.
You may have heard this before, but people buy from people. When a brand sounds robotic or so far removed from reality that nothing is relatable or authentic, people can see right through that.
The best examples are those by super successful companies. Check out how brands you admire write their ads and non-salesy pieces of content. What about them stands out and keeps you intrigued? Is it the tone of voice they use, the imagery, or something totally different?
Ever read an ad and then were surprised when you realized it was an ad? Some ads are so good that they don’t even sound like they’re trying to sell you anything. With Americans now seeing at least 5,000 ads every single day (a 900% increase since the 1970s), most of us have developed a ‘screening’ ability to ignore most of those ads. So to actually intrigue people enough to read your sales-focused copy, don’t yell ‘buy my stuff’ right out of the gate.
The truth of it is you need both to run a successful online business. You definitely can’t ignore one or the other. Sometimes, they work independently when you have your standard ads and when you have your purely educational or entertaining pieces of content (like TikTok videos, YouTube videos, or Instagram posts). And sometimes they work together to first reach the people who need your help and then guide those people toward making the right buying decision for themselves.
We all (99% of us) hate feeling shamed or put down, right? But it’s more common than not for sales pages to dig their claws into our problems, challenges, or whatever’s just not going right for us.
One of the most popular copywriting frameworks is actually called PAS – Problem, Agitate, Solve. Its goal is to rub so much salt in your wounds that you’re more likely to want a solution right then and there.
The problem happens when copywriters take PAS too far and really just make the reader feel absolutely horrible – harming them rather than helping them.
That’s probably why ethical copywriting is becoming so popular and people are speaking up about it. It’s about time selling and buying wasn’t such a negative experience.
If ethical copywriting is something you’re interested in exploring, here are some resources for you! Just to be clear, I don’t get any kind of financial benefit by recommending these people and resources.
Nudging vs Covert Persuasion: Are Your Marketing Tactics Ethical? [Blog Post]
Don’t Buy Now! [Downloadable PDF]
The 5 Essential Tenets of Ethical Copywriting [Blog Post]
Jan 4, 2022
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