As a business owner who was typically on the buying end of advertising and marketing, but now on the selling end, it is pretty fascinating to watch what is occurring in Social Media Land. A couple of encounters this week that continue to resonate that the winds of Advertising and Marketing continue to change.

The Winds Have Shifted

It sure seems like the average small ad agency guys are scrambling. This post isn’t about agency bashing, although I am not much of a fan, nor is it about traditional marketing and advertising going away, because it isn’t. This post is about numbers.

I stopped in this week to see a couple of agency friends. They resemble scarecrows. They see the traditional end of their business declining as more and more of their clients scale back traditional marketing. The oddity though is that they act as if it is coming back, and it is about the economy. Some of it may be as such, however that fact of  the matter is that the Directinal Flow of Marketing has Changed.

Increase Your Web Site Traffic = Increased Sales
Advertising Metrics

So our approach in our own little Marketing and PR Shop is pretty straight forward, We will grow your web site traffic by X Percentage. Pretty simple to measure success or failure. We achieve this by providing consistent, relevant and entertaining content via online magazines with links back to the businesses web site. We employ professional writers with journalism degrees, and who love to write. Not your average marketing shop. Is it the entertainment business, is it a marketing studio or is it a publishing studio, not sure what business we are really in.

It is essentially what we did to market our apartment rental business, Urbane Apartments. People read The Urbane Life because it is fun, hyper local and it helps them become familiar with the local area. It is nothing about our apartments. We discovered that if we needed to rent more apartments, we simply created more content or articles, and our web traffic would rise accordingly. We have since launched like campaigns for other apartment operators across the country with like results.

A Hundred Year Old Furniture Store and Big Numbers

We have taken on a new project in the Urbane Lab and are currently experimenting with this same concept with a localized furniture chain, and have launched an online magazine for them, If This Couch Could Talk. The results so far are impressive, and are starting to move the google needle for them. The challenge is that furniture folks, as with many retailers have a hard time understanding that the word “Sale” doesn’t need to be in everything you do. They only use push advertising, and are typically looking for immediate results, like the Monday after the “sale flyers.”

We are also working with them to increase their Facebook  fan base, and have set a lofty target of 25,000 fans. We are experimenting with some internal advertising on the blog site, and are starting to create some traffic back to their web site from those.

My hypothesis is that consistent content is the advertising model of the future. Again, I don’t offer that traditional advertising is dead, but as my own business has been able to show, and as we are beginning to show with another small to medium sized business, content is advertising. With a solid content marketing approach, you drive website traffic. If you drive website traffic, you drive business.

And even in businesses that are not about online products. I rent apartments. My furniture store client sells couches (among other things). This isn’t about Internet business. It’s about conducting business via the Internet.

Is content marketing and web traffic where advertising is going? Why or why not?

Does the small business vs. large business angle change the outcomes? As more and more companies battle for search engine results will content marketing become more challenging?

The comments are yours!

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About Eric Brown

Eric Brown

Eric Brown's background is rooted in the rental and real estate industries. He founded metro Detroit’s Urbane Apartments in 2003, after serving as senior vice president for a major Midwest apartment developer. He established a proven track record of effectively repositioning existing rental properties in a way that added value for investors while enhancing the resident experience. He also established The Urbane Way, a social media marketing and PR laboratory, where innovative marketing ideas are tested.

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

    “With a solid content marketing approach, you can drive web site traffic.” Ironic that part of the focus of your post addresses content, Eric. A post I have coming out later this week here on SME covers article marketing, a tactic which I've seen boost traffic to eCommerce sites because readers found value (education, entertainment, instruction) in articles written by myself and subcontractors. Going a step further, analytics has shown me that site visitors, on average, spend a longer time on site and view more pages than visitors entering the site through SERP results for product pages. With click rates from around 11-14%, I'd agree that well-conceived and written content is indeed a powerful magnet. I think the issue of trust comes into play here – often, if a consumer isn't already bent toward a specific brand when they encounter a traditional print ad (for example), some of the potential appeal may be lost due to lack of relevance (in their head, they're already committed elsewhere). But if a consumer is actively searching, they're head's in the “find out” mode and your content has an opportunity to resonate.

    • UrbaneWay

      Content is the new advertising,
      Hi Heather,
      I think the most interesting thing we are seeing, and learning as we go is that the content in these On Line Magazines is not about the core business. None of our posts at The Urbane Life are about our apartments, but are about urban living. In the case of Gardner White, the furniture store most of the posts are not even about furniture, and more about peoples lives, yet these are pushing traffic to the parent web site.

      So is advertising of the future wrapped differently,

      • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

        I'm with you, although looking back I didn't touch on it. What I think you're describing is a more customer-centric approach than in years past. It used to be that brands would tell audiences what they wanted them to think or to know about the products. By applying a more customer-centric method, brands can now reach and motivate wary prospects/customers by serving up content that matters to them and allows for the ideal stages of the buying cycle, and also in forms that allow a 3-way dialogue.

      • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

        This is a foreign concept and a tough sell to many brands, but I think it's a great approach.

        Consumers know you have a product to sell. They'll research your products, compare prices, read reviews — they're smart, and more than that, they're spending their dollars with care.

        Get in their face about your company or your product and you'll just piss them off. Give them something of value — advice, entertainment, an escape from their daily hum-drum — and you'll earn a spot in their hearts. And THAT'S where the sale is made.

  • http://www.whitevector.com Mikko Rummukainen

    Thanks for the post, Eric!

    This was an exceptionally strong point: “This isn’t about Internet business. It’s about conducting business via the Internet.”

    I wish there was a bit more of this philosophy going around, since it seems that some consumer brands (that are not traditionally 'online') have a hard time understanding that they do not have to turn into an IT-company in order to successfully manage their online presence. After all, having this presence and knowing how to gain it as well as deal with it, is just one way of getting closer to your vision statement.

    • UrbaneWay

      Is Advertising Changing?
      Mikko, Thanks for stopping by, The strong point you point out was some of Jason's strong and accurate editing, so I can't take credit for that. (Thank you Jason, well done).

      We talk about our experience only to start to move from “theory and opinion” to what is actually working, and it seems like if you create content that folks will read, it starts to create enough “Google Juice” ( an overused phrase) but it really does start to drive web traffic.

  • http://twitter.com/rotologo Derek Oscarson

    I've been coming around to this conclusion for a while now. Quite happy not to be in the ad game anymore! Thanks…

  • http://twitter.com/Corpblogwriter Erika

    Love reading read case studies & real numbers. Great post. Heather: looking forward to reading yours as well. It's really helpful to have statistics to back up what you think works intuitively: that links on sites people like generate higher click-through rates than searches. Agree that it's trust. I worked in PR for a long time — it's that “third-party endorsement” factor. An article written by a respected journalist is always more effective than an ad, but harder to get.

    • UrbaneWay

      The Advertising Winds are Changing
      Hi Erica, Search also increases and is enhanced with increased content. Plus, similar to Word of Mouth, folks start talking about a brand, that was once kind of boring and middle of the road. Give customers something Remarkable to talk about, and they will.

  • http://socialmediatraininginc.com linkedwithryan

    Great info, and I concur! Content marketing is the way of the future.

  • http://www.brainwads.net/drewhawkins Drew Hawkins

    I think you make a great point here Eric. What stood out to me the most in your own content creation efforts were that you didn't talk about YOUR apartments in that content. With the particular industry that I work in, people view blogs as just another medium to make a sales pitch. Personally this aggravates me. Giving people a reason to come back to your site and even refer their friends to your site for reasons outside of a “selling” experience will reap positive dividends in the long term. It's just a hard concept for some to wrap their head around.

  • http://twitter.com/GarrettIra Garrett Ira

    It's hard to say that content marketing is “the” future of advertising, but there's no denying it's power. When I started consulting for companies and told my wife what I was doing (lots of interviews, writing, and videos), she said “Aren't you supposed to be helping them with marketing?”

    Web traffic matters, and you won't get web traffic (at least not relevant web traffic) to your website without great content.

    Thanks for the post.

  • http://www.TuscanyVillages.com Susan Heslington

    I totally agree! Ive always thought this. I'm starting my new biz with content marketing and have lotsa lotsa ideas in this area and one can get rather creative with it too! Love it!

  • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

    This is a well-written post, but there are a few things here that I respectfully take issue with. Full disclosure – I'm an agency woman at a small agency specializing in B2B media buying, PR, Social Media, website design, etc. etc.

    First, I really do not understand why people say things like, “I don't like agencies.” In this world, that is painting with an even broader brush than it would have been five years ago. There are PR agencies, advertising agencies, Social Media agencies – but even if you are just talking about one of those niches, how can you say you don't like every company within a specific category? It doesn't make sense to me.

    Second, and far less personal, is your equation: An increase in website traffic does *not* guarantee increased sales. This is a significant misunderstanding that is haunting many a company these days. There needs to be a conversion plan. There needs to be a way to get all of those people visiting your site to actually buy something. How do you get the people who are enjoying your content to then pull out their pocket books? You don't do that when you're reading a library book, right? You read the book, enjoy it, then do something else. there has to be a process there for encouraging those people to turn their enjoyment into a sale.

    Finally, I'd like to point out to the folks here that your examples are all consumer-oriented. In the B2B world, ideas like yours would be very difficult to execute successfully. People in our world aren't all that interested in “fun” or “cute.” They need to present what they are doing to a huge network of people, and time is of the essence.

    I guess this would be my 4 cents :)

    • UrbaneWay

      Advertising Wrapped Differently,
      Marjorie, Good Evening, Thank you for the thoughtful comment.
      My reason for generalizing with agencies is based on my experiences, and what I have paid in fees to agencies for lackluster results and that are afraid to commit to a result. I have been fired as a client more than once for asking “to many questions”

      I agree with you that it is a very generalized statement, however, How many agencies will promise that they will increase your (you fill in the blank) Your Facebook fans by X, Your Blog Traffic by X or your Web Site Traffic by X. They just don't because they have a lot of excuses as to why they can't, some, relative to control, which may have some validity, but most don't. Promise a result and suddenly the world looks different.

      Your comment about web traffic conversion is also on point, however in our own businesses, we didn't produce web traffic in Kanas City for apartments in Detroit. That simply has no value. We produced relevant web traffic that converted to rentals in our geographical area.

      As to you last comment that B2B is tougher that B2C because of the fun or cute factor may or may not be accurate. I have limited experience or data with B2B, however, I firmly believe that folks, irrespective of the marketing venue long to be entertained way before they are sold.

      • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

        Well, of course I am sorry to hear that your responses have been so poor. I am not really sure why an agency would fire you for “asking too many questions.” Still, I would try to avoid generalizing. Not all agencies are that way, even if your experiences have shared that commonality.

        As far as agencies making promises, we often do not have access to the information needed to convert a lead into sales. We often say that we can invite people to the table but we can't make them eat. A fully integrated company would be able to have the sales team work with the agency to create a cohesive, integrated campaign, but that is difficult to execute. An agency literally may not be allowed to control the sales facet. That plays a big role in what we can or can't promise.

        I'm not saying that the traffic you're driving is irrelevant. I'm just saying it's difficult to gauge at what cycle customers are in when they reach the site. Are they learning about you? Are they comparison shopping? A sale is not guaranteed just because you get traffic, unless it's the most qualifying lead gen program ever.

        As for the last point, entertainment has to be very very relevant in the B2B world. A company who comes across as too goofy may seem too goofy to trust.

      • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

        Eric

        I think you have generalized agencies based upon a few bad experiences that that is unfortunate for you and also the industry as a whole. A *good* agency will set out goals and if they include X fans, X blog traffic, etc then that is what they are to deliver. If that is not a part of the goals which is a part of the overall strategy then why would it be mentioned? Was that conveyed as a part of the expectations? A really good agency sits down and assesses what the client is seeking and evaluates that to see if they feel that is a part of the overall marketing plan. Margie does have a very valid point as traffic does not always equate to sales. As an agency I can say that we can get you X fans but what if those fans are not targeted and ultimately never are your buyers? Numbers there look pretty but never amount to anything more than that.

        If someone had a bad experience with an apartment or a few apartments they would say to never rent an apartment again. That is ridiculous as there are other variables associated that play a role.

        A really good agency understand their client's wants and needs, understands the target market and how to create goals, strategies, tactics and a marketing plan that is not only understood by the client but also is signed off by the client so that there is no uncertainties or problems.

        Content is not new to advertising. Lifestyle campaigns (as you speak of above) have long proven to be successful in traditional advertising. They now are playing a role in online advertising but that is an evolution of where we are now with technology and the digital age. Trad adv has never left so saying that they are acting as if it is coming back seems a bit misguided. People still watch tv whether that be online or on the traditional television. Commercials are what bring us television shows that people watch. Yes, have many companies scaled back, sure but they also scaled back on radio when the television was invented. Radio advertising seems to still be around.

        Trad adv will still be here and will become more interactive and will not die. Consumers are spending more time online than they did years ago but that is because there is more to do online. The number of people watching tv is still high. Content is what gets people to pay attention to an ad, online or print, tv, radio, etc. A website, blog, FB, etc keep them there longer as an ad in trad adv is shorter and it goes away. Online the person decides how long they stay and that is based upon the content. No denying that. The content, creativity and talking to the people who you want to listen and take action is what makes a brand successful regardless if it is online or off.

        @SuzanneVara

  • http://mbrewergroup.com mbrewer

    I think content marketing has been around as long as the concept of marketing itself – the only thing different is that we (marketers) finally have some language and context with which to frame a conversation. That is not to miss the point that the tools for delivery have allowed for the masses to join in the fun of creation, distribution and interaction. But, content as a new form of advertising – not so much…

  • http://twitter.com/garious1 Garious

    I think many online businesses fail simply because they put too much 'marketing' in their content and a lot of those keyword stuff you can even bake a pie out of it. I think readers deserve some respect these days and if you got a wonderful product to start with, the marketing will flow like a river to the sea. In other words, give value to your audience first to deserve their respect.

  • http://nothingbutsocnet.blogspot.com/ Zena Weist

    Show your expertise through content, share your expertise through content, get Google juice love through content. Yep, I agree with ya!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    “We produced relevant traffic that converted to rentals in our geographical area.”

    This is a significant point. If you have those actual sales results, it could have been mentioned in the main article. I'm interested to know how you are making this correlation conclusively?

    In theory, I can understand the idea of content marketing but would like to see actual case studies that tie to financial measures that would convince me to dedicate resources to this instead of traditional SEO.

    Thanks for the post, Eric.

    • UrbaneWay

      Advertising is Now Wrapped Differently
      Mark, Hi
      Something to think about is that for many apartment operators, even larger ones, SEO is non existent, so this IS their SEO. Most have not updated a web site in years.

      Regarding your actual sales results question, I would be glad to provide numbers, but I am not sure what you are looking for,

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  • http://twitter.com/Captico Captico

    In general I enjoyed reading this article and agree that content can be a great marketing tool – using a blog for example to drive traffic…
    But I think a comment should be added to your statement:
    “Increase Your Web Site Traffic = Increased Sales”
    Simply increasing traffic does not necessarily mean an increase in sales at all. You need to figure out how to drive the right traffic, not just the mass population, to your site and get them to convert. Your example with Urbane shows that driving hyper-local apt dwellers to an apt renting site increased sales – thats an example of creating audience specific content and driving the right people to your site. Too many people buy into the the “just get more traffic” belief which results in content spam on blogs, linkbait, and many other shady practices by “marketing agencies” taking quick and dirty shortcuts to boost traffic.

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  • http://affwatch.com George – AffWatch

    I agree Eric…

    Valuable content is the future. This is “online marketing” – not “offline hard selling.” People demand valuable content on the “Information Superhighway.”

  • http://www.360creativeinc.com/ Advertising Agency

    Surly there is no future for duplicate or copy contents as search engine has harden there rules for contents. Similarly search engine Google is giving less importance to article so now the website own contents and own blog contents becomes the king…..

  • http://360creativeinc.com/c/services/consultancy/brand-architecture Brand Development

    Sorry I want to post a comment but some problem occur that why i am replying in this 

    After Google panda update search engine optimization world has change alot. It is impossible to get ranked against duplicate and low quality contents. If search engine find out about any low quality contents then surly that website will be banned…