Content is the Most Trusted Form of Advertising

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zipWith the precipitous fall of advertising in the mainstream media some are starting to wonder publicly if advertising has once and for all run its course as an effective marketing vehicle. To this I say horsehockey. Advertising still works, always has and always will, what’s changed, however is that now good advertising works much better than bad advertising. I know that may sound silly, but back in the day, when you had one paper and three broadcast TV stations, bad advertising still worked pretty well and that’s what got the mainstream media and some advertisers in trouble today.

Now that consumers have unlimited ways to consume content and be entertained, they have an equal number of ways to tune out ads that do nothing more than interrupt them from going where they are headed. That, and the fact that online advertising, an industry that didn’t exist 10 years ago, is now a $25B business, is why mainstream advertising vehicles are shuffling. So, advertising still works very well, it just works in different ways – adapt, innovate and integrate and advertising can still be a killer component in your lead generation plans.

Today’s smart advertiser understands that advertising is less effective at creating sales, but very effective at creating awareness – awareness of what – awareness of education based, trust building content. Your advertising’s call to action should be one of permission, permission to teach. Even online ads, once a novelty, are starting to blend into the digital landscape when old fashion spinning monkeys are utilized. The most effective online ads are those that engage a viewer in an offer of valuable content from a trusted resource. Sending a prospect to get content that addresses a specific problem or want is the most logical way to allow them to sell themselves on your eventual solution, but it’s not a drive by, it’s a waltz.

Without advertising, without the effective use of advertising, to light the way to useful content, a great deal of it would never be created or found – that’s advertising’s true value. Where a sales pitch might not be trusted, an education based content campaign may be. I think that’s why the recent flap over sponsored content is garnering so much emotion. People tend to put higher trust in content that is seen as editorial – this power can either be harnessed or abused. Content producers must tread lightly, respect their readers, offer full disclosure and work their butts off to create content that gets read, spidered and talked about. Do that and the side effect will be organic search results, another highly trusted, free, but earned form of advertising in today’s marketing mix. (Google wouldn’t call that advertising, but I think you can make the case.)

Another form of content advertising (I’m expanding the classic term, but I personally think it applies) is growing daily on sites such as twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Through careful participation, marketers are growing networks, creating awareness and eventually driving traffic to their content and profit making initiatives. When Brian Clark @copyblogger (great blog, I recommend it all day) tweets this – “Check out today’s Landing Page Makeover Clinic at Copyblogger –” is this not an ad? Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfect, it’s brilliant, he’s earned the right with his followers and the public to draw people to his content. That’s why it works, advertising pure and simple, only the mechanism and implementation has changed.

Use your advertising to start conversations, create content that builds trust and community and you’ll harness the ever effective power of advertising for generating leads and sales, you know, until the next new thing comes along.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Advertising.

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