For an entrepreneur or small business getting started with a website and marketing materials, the world of content and copy can be confusing. You know you need words on the page and that those words need to be informative and need to sell, but who do you hire to get the job done? Do you need a content marketer, a content writer or a copywriter? And what’s the difference? Here’s a quick and dirty guide to what you need and when.

What’s Content? What’s Copy?

First, it helps to understand the terms and to know that while ultimately you will need both content and copy, each serves a unique purpose:

  • Content is writing that educates an audience. It attracts customers by informing them and by building a trusting relationship with them. Content may take the form of an article or a blog. Sales and conversions are not the immediate goals of content writing, but content can and should be part of an overall marketing plan.
  • Copy is highly targeted writing. It is written to make people take a certain, specific action. Copy should make someone click on a link, open an email, visit a website or make a purchase. The best copy makes an emotional connection to persuade readers to take that action.

Another way to distinguish between the two types of writing you need for your business is to say that copywriting drives sales directly, while content helps to build lasting relationships with lifelong customers.

You Might Need a Copywriter If…

By now it should be clear that you need both a copywriter and a content writer, or a super-talented writer who can do both. But how do you know which jobs are copywriting tasks and which are not? Here are some examples of jobs to assign to your copywriter:

  • Subject lines that will make the people on your email list desperate to open your emails and find out what’s inside.
  • Email content that will drive those same readers to click on a link.
  • The headline and subsequent copy on your landing page that will entice readers to want to know more and to buy your product or service.
  • That long-form sales page that will drive actual sales.
  • The Google ads that will drive visitors to your landing page.
  • Banner ads and traditional ads, like direct mail.

You Might Need a Content Writer If…

Content writing is a different animal from copywriting. Sure, ultimately you want it to sell, and content should never be used without marketing in mind, but it shouldn’t be as sales-y or as specific and driven as copywriting. Here are the projects you want a content writer to do:

  • Blog posts and articles that are informative and interesting and that engage your audience and keep them coming back to your site to read more.
  • White papers for your more technical writing needs.
  • The storyline or script for a video that you want to go viral.
  • An eBook that will establish your business as an expert in your field.

What About Content Marketing?

“Are content writing and content marketing the same thing?” is what you might be asking right about now. The answer is not exactly. You can have content writing without content marketing, but on its own it’s not very useful. You should use content for more than just filling up space. It should be part of an overall marketing plan that builds a strong customer base. Content marketing is the creation of content that achieves this goal. Content without marketing is just a bunch of wasted words, no matter how interesting they may be.

The moral of the story is that any smart business owner employs both copywriters and content writers. Knowing which you need for which project is important, though. You won’t get the best out of your marketing if you have copywriters writing content or content writers creating copy. Know who gets which project, and you will end up with copy and content that both do the job of selling.

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