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Copywriting Services or Content Marketing?
Lucas HamonSep 21, 2015 6:30:00 AM7 min read

Copywriting Services or Content Marketing?

With Copywriting Services & Content marketing It's the Sum of the Whole that really Matters

I got into an interesting debate on Twitter recently (HERE & HERE) about the division between copywriting services and content marketing based on a blog article that was shared by @DakotaROCKS & MJasonHouck. The conversation was about dividing the definitions of the two, something that had strangley never really occurred to me in the past.

Because, after all, what is content marketing without copywriting and vice verse? Can one exist without the other, and where and WHY do we draw the line? More importantly, how important is it to clarify this definition? Does or should a business owner actually care about these things? To answer these questions and more, let's dig.

This is what I love about social media, by the way...

Just as a little side-note, this twitter convo came at the heels of an interesting dialogue I had with one of my associates about using the terminology and jargon of our customers, NOT what necessarily comes naturally in our own industries, whether as marketers, SaaS, staffing, accounting, education, art galleries, or otherwise.

It's one of the reasons why I like to debate this topic, because the real underlying issue to me is that as a marketer, my job is to speak in terms my prospects understand.

1. Clarity in definition IS important

... but not for the more common reasons why people debate this topic. Let's start by jumping into some of the more commonly accepted and promoted definitions of the terms. DISCLAIMER - this is wildly confusing, so don't stress if it makes little to no sense at first.

How content marketing is described in the article (which can be found HERE):

"The basic idea behind content marketing is that valuable content is posted with the intention of attracting customers. This type of marketing concentrates on giving possible customers new information that they can use in their life. Hence, it teaches them something, and the most important part is that it is free."

Their definition of copywriting:

"The purpose of copywriting is to get the customer to do something. More often than not, copywriting tries to convince a potential customer to purchase a product. On the other hand, content marketing’s aim is to give information that is valuable, but create that information in a manner in which it serves a marketing purpose."

Now, I don't necessarily disagree with the semantics behind these statements, because I don't think they are necessarily incorrect, but I do want to point out that even by these definitions, content marketing DOES, in fact, solicit action to be taken by the visitors, which begs to ask the question of why we're focusing on creating division between the two. The mere act of visitation itself is a form of action, which is prompted by a successful search query results population, and a solid title and meta-description.

One might argue here that the meta-descriptions and titles are copywriting, as are the one-liners attached to the CTAs that are embedded somewhere in the blog post. My question is then, do the titles and meta-descriptions come from a copywriter, while the body of the blog itself comes from a content marketer?

Or am now nitpicking too much?

I imagine by these defintions that a content marketer would be responsible for developing downloads, and the copyrwiter would then be responsible for prompting action for downloading said pieces through maybe emailing, social media distribution, etc. (then again, is a social media marketer also considered to be a copywriter? - ugh...). 

Let's think about that though... one of the things that will prompt you to download the ebook is what's written on the landing page, which is likely pulled from the contents of the download itself. And what about the title of the ebook? Is it not part of the content creation process?

2. Common goals

One thing we all agreed on was that the common goals among the two are to generate interest in the product or services, and entice purchase. Sales and marketing are two more examples of business components that share those goals, and they can be as different as night and day (although, one might argue that with the inbound marketing methodology, the lines between the two begin to blur - just sayin').

But how different are the objectives of copywriting and content marketing really? And how different are the methods of delivery? Both involve writing, and both exist to educate and motivate prospective customers... According to their definitions, one serves to motivate purchase while the other motivates education. But to be clear, they both, even in their own words, were motivated to take action of some kind through the same tools.

And aren't they both handled by the same individual/team?

What's troubling to me are that the definitions of content marketing that remove copywriting tend to also remove results that can actually be validated and more importantly, translated into dollars and cents. How do we quantify the value of "branding" or "brand awareness" without proof, like lead conversions, which, I guess would be the results of copywriting? I hear a lot of people say that content marketing (sans copywriting) is a way to build trust and thought leadership, but what does that mean to YOU as a business owner looking for SALES?

Is it fair to ask you to take a leap of faith in the value of "branding" without actual revenue goals to back it up? personally don't think so.

Isn't the whole point of educating consumers to transform them into better and more engaged prospects, so we can then, in turn, close more customers? Why blog as a business for any other reason than to generate more and better deals and engage current customers for greater retention and referral possibilities?

How do we promote the idea of investing in content marketing if we cannot draw a line between reaching sales objectives and the marketing activities?

3. The lines of division: Inbound VS Outbound

Although I think much of the argument is opinion-based, I do have a problem with this statement: "More often than not, copywriting tries to convince a potential customer to purchase a product."

Does that mean all of the copy written for landing pages designed to prompt action, such as downloading ebooks, or in email subject headers to prompt opening and clicking, that all of THOSE are considered content marketing instead of copywriting? This particular example seems to straddle the two... because they are still geared toward education, but at the same time trying to prompt action... but at the same time again - focusing that education on topics that drive customers through buyer's journey, and not directly aimed at customer conversions.

Is your head spinning yet? 

Isn't one of the first and most important parts of the sales process to educate our potential buyers? I've been in commoditized and conceptual sales, and BOTH required finding ways to do this... Once we were successful in that manner, closing the deal became almost inevitable. So, even that content being written that comes to you for "free" has an ulterior purpose, doesn't it?

I certainly hope so, because again, how does one justify spending cold hard cash on content without the goal of driving revenue?

MAYBE this is an argument between inbound vs outbound marketing, not so much as the semantics we keep getting lost in. "Copywriting" has been around a long time, and originated with advertorial behaviors, long before "content marketing" was a thing, but because I run an inbound marketing agency, I don't see how we separate them TODAY, because actual "advertising" in the traditional sense is such a minimal part of what we do, yet we write TONS of copy.

Like, RIDICULOUS amounts of copy...

You say "tomato;" I say "to-mah-to..."

Personally, I believe the lines between copywriting and content are so blurred, that it's actually demeaning to one to discount the other. And I still don't see why there is so much emphasis in segregating them, because we have so much to gain by intertwining them. I think it's like saying we're not people... we're a collection of molecules, atoms, and genetic coding... or - "star stuff."

While I understand the desire to educate our prospective customers on the painful detail of the jargon we know and use every day when marketing, it doesn't change what really matters. You as a business owner cannot possibly be that much better off understanding the nuanced terminology of your vendors, but it's wildly meaningful for you to understand the terms used by your customers, wouldn't you say?

Interested in learning more about the convergence of marketing tactics for your business? Check out our inbound marketing services:


Lucas Hamon

Over 10 years of B2B sales experience in staffing, software, consulting, & tax advisory. Today, as CEO, Lucas obsesses over inbound, helping businesses grow! Husband. Father. Beachgoer. Wearer of plunging v-necks.