It’s not really a fair question. They ultimately work towards the same objectives, but they operate with very different economics.
If you need sales right away, you’d better advertise. It’s the fastest way to get your message and offer in front of the right people right away.
The downside? It’s expensive, it’s merely renting attention from the prospects you care about, and as soon as you stop paying – the leads and sales quickly dry up. Sure, there’s a residual effect of good advertising (on brand awareness and sales). But in today’s crowded media environment, out of sight quickly becomes out of mind and out of checkbook.
With a strong content strategy, you move from renting attention to owning attention. It takes time to build momentum and traffic, but that traffic becomes an annuity. It’s earned attention, which typically is stickier and drives more authentic and frequent word-of-mouth.
Increasingly, your educated buyers can tell the difference. They know when you’ve bought space vs when you’ve earned it.
They know when you’re buying their attention vs winning it.
If you need sales immediately, advertise. But if you want to build a sustainable brand, build a renewable source of new business, invest in parallel in a content strategy that will grow, convert and over time subsidize the amount of paid attention-renting you need to hit your number.