Direct Response Marketing vs. Content Marketing: Can they coexist together in your marketing strategy?

Chad Lio      Monday, February 13, 2017

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Marketing is a very broad term. 

At one point in time Marketing characterized everything that a brand did to increase business. Whether it was passing out fliers, point pricing, distribution, or media production, it was all contained under the silo of marketing.

As time, technology, and creativity progressed, marketing evolved to create subsets, in where a certain individual could completely isolate themselves in one facet of marketing, thus making them the go-to resource for that part of the marketing department. 

Presently, there are at least 5 forms of marketing that seem to make the greatest impact on a business and where most marketers focus the majority of their time on Branding, Direct Response Marketing, Content Marketing, Traditional (TV, Radio, Print), and digital marketing.
Most recently, the two main forms of marketing that are most talked about are Direct Response Marketing (DRM) and Content Marketing. While they share the same goal of customer acquisition, the strategy behind that acquisition varies quite a bit. 

Both DRM and Content Marketing are fascinating and robust in nature, but can they both coexist as a marketing strategy for a business?

First, let’s breakdown each both verticals to define the differences between the two:


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Direct Response Marketing

Definition per Techopedia: Direct response marketing is a type of marketing that elicits a specific, measured response resulting from a consumer's direct response to a marketer. Direct response marketing facilitates the delivery of a call to action and outcome via director online interaction for immediate feedback and response. 

While this definition is accurate for present times, DRM has been present far before the age of the Internet and online marketing. 

Made famous by Lester Wunderman, David Ogilvy, and Claude Hopkins, DRM consisted of a combination of traditional marketing, direct mail, and precise copywriting to create an offer so enticing, only a lunatic would pass it up. As the internet came along, direct response marketing took a back seat to the many new verticals that appealed to online marketing, such as display advertising, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing.

While many believed the direct response marketing was dead, individuals such as Dan Kennedy and now Russel Brunson have breathed life back into the marketing vertical, citing that form of marketing was never dead, it just commands a different environment today (the Internet).

“The difference in direct marketing today vs 20 years ago is attention span. Almost 20 years ago, the average attention span of a consumer was upwards of 20 seconds, and nowadays, it’s less than 6.” -Russel Brunson

Ultimately, direct response marketing is one of the purest forms of revenue when it comes to marketing, and can have a dramatic shift on how you execute the strategy.



Content Marketing

Definition per Content Marketing Institute: Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. 

Content marketing is nothing new but has exploded over the last 4 years thanks to Joe “The Godfather of Content Marketing” Pulizzi. With the definition of content marketing citing that it’s a strategic approach to creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content, you can see why it’s so appealing to online marketing channels. 

Many business owners are still operating under the “field of dreams” scenario; “If you build it, they will come.” This is simply not the case in today’s age. With more content being created than ever, the surplus vs. the demand is far exceeding. Channels like email marketing, search engines, and social media are perfect outlets to disperse curated and custom content to help pull in potential customers or to continue to retain customers. 

Content marketing is a long-term strategy. The overall idea to reach out to potential customers with valuable and/or entertaining content takes patience, organization, and a well-defined analytics approach to contributing to the bottom line. 

As mentioned earlier, a consumer’s attention span is no more than 6 seconds online. While the “perfect scenario” for a content marketing strategy would be something like:

A user Google’s a specific question is lead to an informative piece of content created by a company that supplies them with their answer, the user then realizes the company also sells the product related to the question, the consumer then purchases from that company is unrealistic.
 More than not, a consumer will encounter this scenario, but then return to do more research from other sources, and may return later from another online channel.

“A good content marketer can empathize with their audience and can, therefore, understand what topics they should create content on, what tone of voice to use, and what channels to promote the content in.”

-Rand Fishkin, Moz



So how does DRM and Content Marketing Differ?

All in all, the biggest difference in DRM vs Content Marketing is time and initiative. With a DRM approach, you’re investing in customer research, copywriting, advertising, and product to get an immediate response (in this case lead or sale). You must invest heavily in analytics to analyze what type of ad or offer is performing better and continuously test to drive the best cost per lead or cost per acquisition to maximize profits.

With a content marketing approach, you’re investing heavily in customer research, content creation, and content distribution, and analytics to eventually convert a prospect into a paying customer, through multiple efforts of providing valuable content that nurtures the prospect through the sales funnel.

DRM consists of getting a potential customer to purchase right then and there based on the value of the offer, whereas content marketing is a long-term strategy to provide meaningful content in various channels to turn a fan into a customer.

Can DRM and Content Marketing Coexist For Your Business 

Depending on a number of resources, budget, and buy-in from business leaders, a typical marketing strategy would either encompass one or the other, but not both.



Does this mean they cannot work together? Absolutely Not.

There are numerous variables to determine whether DRM or Content Marketing is right for your business, and in all transparency, you’re going to need both. If you have a product or solution that costs a significant amount of money, or it caters more to a business than a consumer, you’re going to need a long-term strategy that invests in educating the client on why it helps their business.

Once you’ve properly proven value through your content marketing funnel, you can then utilize DRM for the actual sales segment of your funnel. If your product is directed relevant to consumers and it’s a high-priced item, you would start with DRM for a smaller sized purchase. In the words of Dan Kennedy, “A buyer is a buyer is a buyer”.

Once the customer has made a purchase, they are much more inclined to purchase from you again, ergo you’ll need a content marketing strategy to consistently keep your brand or business top of mind to purchase again.

Whether it’s a first time purchase, an upsell, or retaining a customer for life, direct response marketing, and content marketing can work symbiotically to turn a prospect into a customer and maximize profits for your business.

For additional clairification on the differences of Direct Response Marketing and Content Marketing go to: