The difference between direct response marketing and content marketing

Steve TraskBy Steve Trask in Content Marketing

When you are advertising it is important understand what type of advertising is best suited to achieving your goals. In this article will we be going over the differences of direct marketing and content marketing and the benefits and limitations of each.

Using direct response does what it says on the tin

Direct response advertising does exactly that, it should give you a direct response from a select target market. It comes in many forms but some channels include:

These channels are not exclusive to direct response but all suit the messaging for a direct response advert. If you consider the following messages:

‘Limited stock left, our sale ends as soon as the last [product] has gone! Call 01234 567 890 to book now’

Comparing it with

‘We stock the finest quality [product] with a vast range available, call 01234 567 890 to find out more information’

You can clearly see the difference, one is demanding an immediate action and the other is making you aware of key information about their brand/offering.

Direct response is all about the ROI

Direct response advertising is mainly measured on ROI (return on investment) so you would be aiming for a net positive effect on the income of the business directly off the back of the investment in the advertising. You are not helping your brand or positioning your company values, you are merely saying – we offer this, come and get this! You can test a variety of adverts, messages, offers and channels to see which gets the best metrics to refine your direct response tactics.

Where does content marketing fit into all of this?

We have covered what content marketing is previously but in essence content marketing is a different tactic altogether. Lets add to the previous example message:

‘Take a look at our in depth review of [product] and use cases where you will save time using it, contact us for our detailed comparison report on [product] and [competitor product] 01234 567 890’

This takes on a totally different approach, it does not expect someone to call them and want to buy straight away. It uses interesting content to engage the consumer and helps position the brand as well to start a dialog. This normally gains more attraction but the buying cycle is longer.

Which is better?

Have a think about which adverts you see and see which tactics they are using for example:

You start seeing a general trend which is smaller purchases have a more direct approach but larger purchases lean on awareness, at least to begin. The reason for this is that people take a longer time to purchase big items or services. This is totally natural as people have to go through many stages for a purchase – inspiration, research, decision, purchase and post purchase.

The other issue is that big purchases and decisions take so long to make there is not enough people at the purchase phase to require a direct response advert. There are times when this changes for example when new car registrations come out car adverts turn more to a direct response message rather than the awareness content focus.

How does this affect estate agents?

Most agents are doing basic awareness adverts in their news paper listings but these can be improved to position themselves better. A lot of agents think that sending an email or direct mail piece will get X number of instructions but it really depends on the message you are sending. There are a small group of homeowners that are ready to use, or switch to your services but the majority of people won’t be at this point. Choosing the right form of advertising at the right time isn’t always easy, it’s often helpful to put yourself in the shoes of your target customer and think about what’s going to be most effective. It will be different for different customers but on the whole if you’re trying to sell your service as a trusted expert it may be the more sophisticated awareness campaign is more appropriate than the transactional direct marketing approach.

All advertising should be extensively tested and measured and tweaked and so on with different messages and channels. In content marketing there is a more holistic element which can be difficult to measure, namely the value you’re adding to your brand, the effect of which may be felt months or even years after the campaign has finished.

If you decide to experiment with content marketing, devise a plan and stick to it for really no less than 6 months before drawing any conclusions as to it’s efficacy. Most importantly make your content interesting and applicable to your target market, the perfect subject for agents is talking about the local property market and keeping them informed of changes as this is intrinsically of interest to local people and it also underpins your own credibility as the local experts. You can also try a more lifestyle orientated approach, i.e The top 10 kitchens you’ve sold in the past year.

Take your time and reap the long term benefits

Content marketing takes time, to start seeing the holistic benefits you need to work at it for 6-9 months and the further you work on it after the bigger the effect will be later on. You want customers for life, you want to be the only agency they call when they want to discuss putting their property on the market. You want to be the agency their children grow up to call to discuss buying a property, they have your office number in their mobile phone and they know your email. Position yourself like a solicitor where services run across generations and customers are loyal, this will grow your business in the long term.

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