If you’re trying to increase leads for your business, you probably know you’ll need to produce more online content to drive potential customers to your website. We live in a digital world – especially lately with COVID-19 restrictions – and most business owners are aware they need to step up their online game to stay competitive.
But what’s the best way to attract leads online? Search engines provide organic (non-sponsored) results and sponsored (paid) results based on a web searcher’s query. So should your company invest in blogs, social media, and other types of organic content, or should you focus your digital marketing budget on Google and Facebook ads?
Both of these lead generation methods – organic marketing and paid advertising – are designed to attract potential customers, but they work in different ways. Let’s dig in and discuss which digital marketing strategy makes the most sense for your business.
What's The Difference Between Organic Marketing and Paid Advertising?
First, it’s important to understand how these two digital marketing strategies contrast. It comes down to a difference in how you attract leads.
With organic marketing, you publish content that’s meant to draw in customers naturally. With paid advertising, you spend money to get your content seen.
What is Organic Marketing?
When something happens organically in life, it means it’s not forced. In digital marketing, it means there’s no money involved. Organic content isn’t “forced” on customers by popping up on websites they visit or in their Facebook Newsfeeds – they must find it while searching.
Your business can generate leads organically by producing content that’s attractive to your ideal target audience. Whether you choose to invest in marketing emails, social media posts, and/or SEO-optimized blogs, focus on providing helpful, informative content that meets potential customers’ needs at each stage of their journey – because not everyone is ready to buy.
That’s organic marketing in a nutshell! Rather than tracking down leads, organic marketing works by capturing potential customers’ attention and guiding them toward a purchase decision. Speaking authentically and directly with the audience that matters most to your company through organic marketing is a great way to build relationships with customers, increase brand awareness, and of course, drive those precious leads. And customers like it because it’s more “pull,” less “push” than other types of advertising.
Pro: Organic marketing is typically more cost-effective than paid ads.
HubSpot estimates that organic marketing costs 61% less per lead, and if you’re a business owner who produces some of their own blogs or social posts, that’s free! Even if you are paying an agency to create organic content for your business, a single successful blog post can pay for itself in leads and traffic over and over again.
Tip: Evergreen content – content that will be valuable and relevant for a long time, such as a blog called “How to Build a Fence” – can offer a fantastic return on investment.
Con: It’s the long game.
Creating content that people actually want to read, watch, and engage with takes time, creativity, and more than ever, strategy. From developing target audiences and buyer personas to brainstorming and creating content that’s shareable, a lot of work goes into a successful organic marketing campaign.
Pro: Organic marketing feels less pushy.
Because it focuses more on demonstrating value than outright selling, organic marketing helps build trust among individuals with a high level of purchase intent and turns more of them into loyal customers.
In some ways, being less salesy works out better for business owners too. Because while it’s great when someone sees your ad, clicks, and becomes a customer right away, some would say it’s even better to have returning customers who like your social posts, share your website, and write positive online reviews. They are free advertising!
Con: It won’t work if you don’t know your audience.
Your organic marketing efforts won’t be effective unless you know how to speak the customer’s language – we’re talking your specific customer. You must have a clear grasp on who they are, as well as a thorough understanding of the customer journey with your company. If not, you could spend a lot of time creating content that doesn’t interest them at all!
What Is Paid Advertising?
Paid online advertising is exactly what it sounds like. The term covers pretty much any online content you’re spending money on to promote.
There are many different types of paid advertising, including search ads, display ads, and social media ads, to name a few.
Pro: Paid advertising works faster
Generating leads organically is a long-term approach, but paid advertising can often produce results much quicker.
For example, with a big enough budget and the right strategy, it’s possible for a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to put your company on the first page of Google for a search term in just one day – highly unlikely for a blog or social post.
Con: It’s typically more expensive.
You can write a blog or social media post for free, but you can’t publish an online ad for free, and some industries are more competitive than others when it comes to how much you have to spend per lead.
And while it’s possible to get results from even a small PPC budget, you have to know what you’re doing. A lot of small business owners blow their funds when they try to do PPC themselves, because they don’t fully understand the workings of Google Ads or Facebook ads.
Pro: You have more control over who sees your content.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of paid advertising is how much you can really hone in on your target audience. With organic content, you rely on your knowledge of your audience to produce content you know they’re searching for, but you can’t control who ends up on your blog post or social feed.
If you write something useful, plenty of people may come for the information you’ve provided with no intention of purchasing anything from your company, and there’s nothing you can do about that – other than continue to get to know your audience and try to adjust your content accordingly with strong calls to action.
With paid advertising, you still need that same level of audience knowledge, but it can go farther because online ads offer various targeting options that make it easier to get your content seen by the right people.
For example, with Google Ads, you can identify keywords and terms that people use to search for products or services like yours, and use them to put your company in front of the right people at the right time – when they’re searching. You can even target those prospects further by their gender, location, interests, and other demographics. And the moment you realize which ads are working (or not working), it’s easy to adjust and optimize your campaigns. Unlike the slow growth of organic marketing, paid advertising allows you to respond in real-time to the market.
Con: It won’t work if you don’t know your audience.
Sound familiar? Yeah, knowing your audience is really important for both organic and paid lead generation. Paying for your content to be seen but targeting the wrong demographics can be like throwing money out the window.
For example, if you’re trying to sell dog leashes online and you’re targeting people who don’t have dogs – or worse, people who don’t even like dogs – well that’s not going to help you bring in many leads.
Combining Organic & Paid Marketing On A Budget
If you haven’t figured it out already, the real question isn’t organic leads vs paid leads, but rather how you can combine the two for the biggest impact – even if you’re on a budget.
One great option for the money-conscious business owner is to produce your own organic content – write your own blogs, keep your social media pages active, etc. – while paying an agency to handle your paid advertising. Or maybe you’re a Google Ads wizard and you can take care of that while paying someone to write your organic content. Maybe you have room in the budget to invest in both.
Whatever you decide, you’ll need to consistently share relevant, high-quality content to bring in more leads. Let us know if you want some help!