There’s a definite difference between content marketing writing and copywriting, although it may not seem evident at first. Both are written with the end goal of selling something in mind. Both content marketing writing and copywriting can be short-form copy or long-form copy. But that’s where the similarities end and the differences begin to emerge.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is all about creating valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and eventually turn the audience into customers. That sounds kind of similar to the American Writers & Artists Inc.’s definition of writing advertising promotional materials for brochures, billboards, websites, emails, advertisements, and catalogs, right?

Content Marketing vs. Copywriting: What's the Difference?

Content Marketing Isn’t Really Copywriting

Not really. In its truest sense, copywriting is about selling with every piece of content. The reader is supposed to act immediately (preferably buying something, but in some cases, signing up for a newsletter or contacting a company). Copywriting is bold and direct. Content marketing is copywriting’s quieter, more studious sibling.

Content marketing takes a big-picture of view of what it will take to convert a member of a target audience to a customer. A content marketing writer may write copy that converts, but she also writes educational content for a company’s audience. That can include case studies that detail how a customer overcame a common industry problem or a white paper that educates readers on current market trends.

Content marketing writing also includes blog posts, which can take a long-form approach (1,000 or more words, which Google seems to like quite a bit lately) or shorter (500-800 words or so) to convey a point with brevity.

What these content marketing pieces have in common is that, while they may have calls to action at the end, they don’t extol the virtues of the company or product writing them. For example, the white paper I wrote for Mimecast, “How the Cloud Has Changed Email Archiving Forever,” doesn’t even mention Mimecast until the last page. Instead, the reader is learning all about how archiving email with a cloud-based service can benefit them.

In another example, like a case study, the company’s products and features are mentioned. But the customer is the story’s hero, not the company providing the solution. The case study I wrote for Nuance OmniPage (now a part of Kofax) discusses the solution early in the story. However, the solution isn’t the most important part of the case study; the customer’s success with the product is.

That’s not to say content marketing is better or worse than copywriting. It’s just different. Copywriting is great when you’re trying to get someone to take action. It’s your landing page, your email blast, your witty advertisement.

But saying that a content marketing writer is the same as a copywriter is a stretch. It’s a different skill set that leans more toward journalism and less toward sales. To use a metaphor sprinkled all over my site, copywriting is a 5K race, but content marketing is a marathon as you work toward converting prospects into customers.