Spend Time On Stories, Not Money On Digital Ads

A few years ago Proctor & Gamble cut their advertising, and their sales actually went up. People hate being advertised to and in some cases actually avoid the companies that irritate them with ads, explained Michael Brenner, author of Mean People Suck and a like-minded content guy. He and I agree: stop wasting all your money on digital ads. Focus on great stories.

Are You Wasting Money On Digital Ads?

The state of digital ads is incredibly terrible. Back in 1994, the click-through rate of the first online ad from AT&T was 48%. That means half the people who saw the ad, clicked it! Today, the average rate is less than 0.5% and still going down. Yet, marketers still flush money down the ad toilet.

Brenner explains there is an 11-15% increase in advertising each year, despite it’s continued decline effectiveness. It’s because most companies are focusing on “we’re really great” and not “how can I help you.” Brenner explains. Also, I’d add, agencies make money on advertising. They can’t make money on you if you develop a great sustainable internal content strategy.


Michael Brenner Interview Starts at 11:15

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Great Stories Engage Prospects

Telling stories and generating engaging content is a far better strategy, but most founders, CEOs and CMOs, become overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. It’s actually quite simple. Find out what your prospect is thinking about, and give them what they want.

man looking at laptop with coffee. type says "stop wasting money on digital ads (make content instead)"
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Brenner explained he coached one of his radiology clients on a simple strategy to answer the questions their prospects were asking. Go to Google and type “Radiology…” and see what Google auto suggests. It turned up Radiology salary, so they wrote an article about what radiologists should be paid in various regions. Confused, his client asked why they weren’t talking about radiology machines, and why they were writing on article on salary. “Because this is what your audience cares about” Brenner explained.

This is their highest visited website and they already want to do more content of this nature. But how do you get your folks on board?

How To Get Employees Involved In Content Strategy

It’s a situation I’ve experienced. How do we get employees involved in content strategy? With the first sign of resistance, many stop and turn right back to wasting money on digital ads. It’s not that hard though.

Firstly, leadership must be supportive of your content strategy. In my own personal experience, if leadership doesn’t internally support your efforts, there is zero hope. Once you have support though, it still requires a delicate approach.

Brenner explained the story of a guy named Jason at LinkedIn. He began writing once weekly for the blog, on the stories of connection on LinkedIn and also published a book of his rock concert photography, tying into LinkedIn audience. The company supported his efforts, and the leads started to pile up.

Follow Me!

Two additional friends at LinkedIn Shawn Callahan and Alex Rynne joined in voluntarily sharing stories of their own. One idea was a simple piece on 20 Ridiculously Relatable GIFS for Marketers. That GIF article alone resulted in hundreds of thousands of leads to the tune of millions in pipeline value. It started with one person leading by example, and two others believing in the vision and jumping in.

These results on Facebook, would have costed tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. But here’s the other little fact that should matter. Ads work once. Great stories work in perpetuity.

Stories Engaged Forever. Ads Rarely Engage At All

Not only do ads reach only 0.5% of likely customers, but they work one time and one time only. And for those wasting money on digital ads, when someone does click to your site—they don’t build a relationship. They don’t connect. They aren’t meaningful. They don’t position you as an authority. And here’s the most important thing, they don’t keep bringing in traffic on their own. Great stories do.

While I agree there are a few scenarios where ads can be helpful, using them must be highly strategic, and they should point to highly relevant content and great stories anyway.

Great stories written on the topics your prospects care about are truly gifts that keep on giving. People clicking, reading, and sharing them is only the beginning. If you write a great search engine optimized piece around a question your audience cares about, it’s likely to rank on the first page of Google. And when that happens it’s like opening up a visitor spigot you didn’t know you had. For free.

Do I put my money into digital ads, Instagram and Facebook or do I put my money into enabling my crew to make better original content? Michael Brenner says the answer is obvious. “Obviously, I believe in the stories.”

Hi, I’m Justin. I’m a writer, podcaster and entrepreneur. I cultivate & amplify emerging tech companies’ stories, reaching millions of people.

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