When it comes to getting the best bang for your buck marketing-wise, you may have trouble deciding where to put your marketing budget. On one side, content marketing can establish your expertise in your field, as well as provide useful content to people who you can then convince to buy from you.

On the other side, paid marketing, such as Google AdWords can be faster and more efficient at helping you connect with potential customers. With plenty of reasons to use each, which is the better investment for your business?

Content Marketing: Become an Industry Rock Star

If you use content marketing to reach your audience, you have the potential to generate 97% more leads than your competitors who don’t have a blog or content-rich website. Continually creating useful and well-written content — be it on your blog, via a whitepaper or eBook, or in your marketing emails — shows that you’re an industry thought leader, and potential customers will gravitate toward you as a result. And the more places your content can be found online, the better the brand visibility you’ll get.

The more evergreen content you create — that is, content that will always be relevant, and isn’t a flash in the pan — the more value you can eke out of your content marketing over time.

With so many content marketing strategies out there, you can constantly attract new leads. Guest blogging, that is, creating content for other blogs that target your audience, can help you reach leads who otherwise wouldn’t know about your brand.

Who It’s Ideal For: If your budget is small, content marketing can be a great way to get attention without breaking the bank. If you or someone on your team is a skilled writer, you don’t have to spend anything more than time to create your content.

The Drawback: If you’re looking for overnight results, content marketing isn’t for you. Because it takes a while to build up positive results, you may not have the patience to wait for the snowball effect to kick in. And because it can be frustrating in the early days of creating content to have a small or nonexistent audience, you might give up and decide it’s not working (it will; just give it time and put in the hard work).

Paid Marketing: Fast Results in a Cutthroat Environment

If patience isn’t your virtue, you might want to consider the other side of this marketing coin: paid marketing and advertising. There are more paid marketing options today than ever before, and they have even better efficacy than in the past.

Because you can easily measure advertising results to see how many clicks and sales, you can easily determine whether you’re getting the ROI you want, and make adjustments if you are not seeing great results.

Google AdWords is by far the best-known paid marketing tool. You select keywords that your audience is searching for, then set how much you are willing to pay to appear in top paid results for those keywords. Keep in mind, some keywords have fierce competition, and you’ll pay more to get exposure on them. Try to zero in on niche words with less competition.

Paid social advertising is a recent addition to the paid marketing mix. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites let you target exactly who you want to reach with your ads, and they provide excellent analytics to show you results.

And then there’s retargeting: if you’ve ever visited an ecommerce website and then seen ads of the product you looked at on other sites, you have seen retargeting firsthand. By continually reminding people of the products they were interested in, you have a better chance of getting them to buy. Consider this statistic: with display ads like AdWords, the average click through rate is .07%. With retargeted ads, that number jumps up to .7%, which proves that retargeting really works.

Who It’s Ideal For: If you have a budget for paid marketing and don’t want to wait around for your content marketing strategy to kick in, give it a shot.

The Drawback: While online advertising can be affordable, you can also spend a lot to keep up with the competition. Be firm with your budget, and know how much you can afford to spend to get a new lead, otherwise you’ll be upside down on your ROI.

Why Choose One or the Other?

Just like any marketing, you’re likely going to see the best results if you use a mix of these two strategies. You can determine what balance of content marketing versus paid marketing nets you the best results, and you can always change that balance. Because you can easily measure results through clicks, conversions, and shares, you can get real-time results that tell you how effective a given marketing campaign is at converting your audience to customers.