The answer to the question ‘are copywriting and content marketing the same thing?’ is the same as the answer to lots of the most pertinent questions: Yes, and No.
Let’s explain that a bit more, shall we?
What is Copywriting?
Traditionally copywriting has served a very specific purpose, to engage a prospect and prompt them to take a specific action. That action may be to subscribe to your company’s email list, sign up for a webinar, or buy your product right then and there.
You can find examples of copywriting everywhere, a few examples that you have almost certainly encountered at some point are;
- Online adverts that use enticing headlines to snag your interest in a particular product
- Email funnels encouraging you to click through to landing pages and buy various products
- Good old fashioned direct mail campaigns
All of these things have been carefully crafted to draw your interest, and create excitement about something that the company behind the copy hopes you will buy.
In the simplest, ‘copywriting for dummies’ terms though, the purpose of good copy is ultimately to provoke an action - that could be a purchase, an email signup, a download...anything that makes sense to your business.
At least, this was the case up until quite recently.
What we’ve described above though is now more often referred to as “Direct-Response Copywriting”, a specificity that is reflective of that fact that ‘copywriting’ is becoming a more general term for ‘sales writing’.
We’ll come back to this, but for now let’s have a look at content marketing next to these examples of ‘direct-response’ copywriting
What is Content Marketing?
Rather than try to elicit an action, content marketing instead aims to create engagement between a brand and both their existing and potential customers.
Examples of content marketing that you may be familiar with include;
- Blog posts on company websites that offer advice or information, rarely pushing a specific product, though sometimes they will end by mentioning one or linking to their products page
- Podcasts that give away a great deal of value for no cost, but that help to build awareness and trust in a company that ultimately hopes to convert listeners to paying customers
- Corporate social media accounts that attempt to humanise companies and allow for direct interaction between them and their customer base. If done well, content marketing on social media can be an extremely effective way of generating new customers
Content marketing is part of the ‘inbound’ movement - a school of marketing that focuses on putting out high quality content across different channels that weaves together to create a strong brand image to pull in customers.
You can think of this as the Field of Dreams approach to generating customers - if you build it, they will come.
Content marketing is not just about making people trust you and want to buy from you, though.
Good content marketing can dramatically increase your ranking for organic search results and make your company more visible to people who are not already engaging with your content.
The key difference between content marketing and traditional copywriting lies in the type of response the content is trying to provoke. The purpose of traditional or ‘direct-response’ copywriting is to push a prospect towards making a purchase. The purpose of content marketing is to build your brand, to be seen as a leader in your market and ultimately attract customers in a way that feels organic to them.
So copywriting and content marketing are not the same thing?
Ah, now remember when we said the answer to that question was “Yes, and No”? Well we’ve covered the ‘No’ part, now let’s look at when the answer is ‘Yes’.
It’s a fact of life that no one really likes being sold to. Apart from salespeople, and they only like it because they enjoy picking holes in someone else’s pitching technique.
The majority of people, though, don’t want to be ‘sold’ on something, they want to feel like they have made an informed and rational buying decision.
One of the ways that companies try and make this happen on their terms is by adhering to some of the principles of content marketing, like aiming to provide value whilst engaging and entertaining their audience, and adding a healthy dose of copywriting in order to more efficiently direct the audience in to the top of their sales funnel.
The best content marketing is based on strong copywriting.
Copywriting, in this sense, has moved away from the traditional long-form sales letter and towards being one of the most effective elements of great content marketing. The message is still the same, but it is delivered in a way that communicates both the benefits of the product or service and the relationship that the consumer has with the brand.
This doesn’t mean that traditional copywriting is dead though, far from it.
While content marketing can pull in potential customers, copywriting is the thing that will convert these customers to repeat customers and, ultimately, advocates of a company.
Or to put it another way, copywriting powers content marketing.
So it’s not Content Marketing VS Copywriting, it’s Content Marketing AND Copywriting?
Exactly. While strictly speaking they are not the same thing, good content marketing is built on good copywriting. The two can and do exist separately, but great companies do both, do them well, and sometimes do them at the exact same time.