Owning vs. Renting Your Content Marketing

Highlights from a Hubspot Masterclass with David Meerman Scott

There is an ongoing debate among marketers in just about every market sector out there: What should the balance be between paid advertising and organic, inbound unpaid methods? There is no right answer, but there are different approaches that are worth learning about to inform your own marketing efforts.

As background, Hubspot is a popular marketing automation platform and runs Hubspot Academy, which offers education on the practice of “inbound marketing.” Anyone can practice inbound marketing methods, which aims to draw targets into your sphere of influence through creating informative, original content. Bluehouse Group is not a Hubspot partner agency, though we practice content marketing techniques. You can create infographics, podcasts, white papers, blog posts, or video tutorials. Content comes in all shapes and sizes, and as long as it’s informative, it can have a place in the content arsenal.

This week, I joined a Hubspot Masterclass on the topic of owned vs. rented marketing tactics with David Meerman Scott, a marketing strategist and best-selling author. Several years ago I read his eye-opening book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, and so I thought it would be worth an hour of time to join this session – and it was. Here are some highlights as well as a link to the full video session.

The BIG Idea: Content is an Asset, Not an Expense

For me, the biggest idea that emerged from Scott is that content should be treated like a patent or a trademark is treated on the accounting books – as an asset, not an expense. His reasoning was that once a piece of content is created, it continues to work for you and your business well into the future, so long as it’s well optimized and adds value for the audience. He cited how blog posts that he wrote years ago continue to drive new traffic to his site; that’s an asset. He acknowledges that he didn’t know how the accounting would work exactly, but he wants to ignite a shift in mindset around content development. That’s what effective thought leaders do – they create new ways of framing old stuff.

What’s the Right Balance between Paid and Unpaid?

It will be different for every business, depending on where they are in their lifecycle as a business, what industry they are in and the competitive forces at play. However, as a general rule and guiding philosophy, Scott suggests using paid advertising very sparingly and strategically and here’s why. It’s like an addiction that never ends. Marketers need to produce leads for their sales departments, and paid advertising delivers a fairly immediate fix. However, many marketers report that they have to spend more and more on advertising to reach the same results they did just a year or two ago. As a result, they need to ramp up the advertising budget continually to deliver the results that the sales team is expecting. And it’s a never-ending cycle.

Compare that to a content marketing approach – which admittedly is not an immediate fix. Developing content takes time and resources, and then takes more time to get traction in search engine results and on the target channels where your audiences live. But once you’ve reached a critical content mass and you continue to nurture your content development portfolio, it will work for you til the cows come home. Some content may have a short shelf-life, such as the ‘news-jacking’ examples that Scott shares, i.e. drafting off of what’s hot in the news. But much of a content portfolio should be evergreen with a long shelf-life – that’s why it’s an asset, not an expense. It should keep attracting new eyeballs and producing leads well into the future. Scott suggests aiming for allocating 90% of your budget to inbound marketing techniques, and to use paid advertising sparingly and strategically.

Using Paid Advertising Opportunistically: Amplify What’s Working

When asked for some examples of when Scott recommends using paid advertising, he suggests using it to “amplify what you’re already doing with your content creation.” Let’s say you post a blog about a topic and it takes off, clearly outperforming other content you’ve created. Boost it with paid. That’s where practicing what he calls “Real-Time Marketing” pays off. If you can be nimble with your marketing budget and tactics, you can leverage a post’s popularity by boosting it with some paid juice behind it. Smart, right? He’s uses that approach with great success. But it only works if you have a content marketing engine already humming. If you’re new to the content marketing approach, then you may be spending a lot in paid advertising while you ramp up your content engine.

Scott referenced another example where paid may make sense: startups with an immature web presence. Here’s a graph we created that illustrates this concept: early stage companies may benefit from paid advertising early in their lifecycle and convert to a content marketing model over time as the business grows and matures.


Graph: Paid Advertising and Content Marketing Relative to Company Phase


The Venture Capital Approach to Content Development

Scott describes his approach to content development as similar to a venture capitalist: invest in a lot of different ideas. No doubt, you’ll get some duds. Hopefully 5-10% of them will be a hit, and maybe you’ll get one big star out of a hundred. His other tip is to develop different types of content in the same way a VC would invest in different sectors – to hedge your bets a little. What that means for content is that you create some slideshares, a few videos, lots of social posts, blog posts, infographics, and if it’s in your wheelhouse, a podcast. Don’t get hung up on the medium too much, what’s important is that you try a few different things and see what works.

Bottom Line: Experiment. Measure. Repeat.

A recurring theme I hear from all legendary marketers – whether in the Hubspot sphere or elsewhere – is to experiment. Do what works for your business, but also do some other things just for fun. Measure the results, so you know if it worked, and be open to experimenting. Whether it’s boosting a popular blog post with some paid juice behind it or trying a Facebook live broadcast to give a product demo, just try it. Go out and create some content to fill up that asset column.


Here’s a link to the full recorded Hubspot Masterclass with David Meerman Scott.

Hubspot Masterclass with David Meerman Scott on Paid vs Rented Content3