The digital world is at a crossroads.

When it comes to spreading your brand like wildfire, nobody can quite agree on the best way forward. Some maintain that the best way to attract customers over time is through organic marketing. Others insist that the real results come when you make an investment, such as in paid marketing.

According to leading statistics from Search Engine Land, 75{3c6be4297db6c6dead22aac82e61edad92a520b73a55778b8446ff6b78406501} of people say that paid search ads make it easier to find the information that they’re looking for. One-third of respondents say that they click on a paid search ad because it directly answers the question they were searching about. On the other hand, 70{3c6be4297db6c6dead22aac82e61edad92a520b73a55778b8446ff6b78406501} of clicks go to organic Google search results. That’s an undeniable victory for organic marketing – customers aren’t always inclined to click on a listing if it looks like they’re being sold to. There are convincing arguments for each of them, and it’s by no means clear cut. But what if there was a third option?

Enter Frank Kern. Kern is a highly sought after direct response internet marketing consultant and copywriter, and his main focus is helping people turn advertising into profit. While many deliberate over whether to use organic or paid marketing, Kern uses a new, innovative approach: automation. He’s the creator of the Behavioral Dynamic Response, which is an automated marketing method that “speeds up your sales cycle by customizing your marketing messages based on your prospect’s behavior.” Kern calls this the “Holy Grail of marketing.”

Before Kern built a world-renowned career in marketing, he made his start in 1999, going door to door selling credit card machines online. But eventually, he came to an important conclusion that shaped the course of his business: traveling to sell is laborious, time-consuming work. In search of a smarter solution, he conducted an internet search for “how to sell credit card machines online” and came across an ad for an internet marketing course. 

Looking back, Kern says, “The course was $275. I must have read the sales letter for it 100 times before I bought it. It was a good course, and by sheer luck, I discovered old seminar recordings about how to sell with direct mail. After six years of trial and error, I finally started to achieve real success online. I was placing ads online to sell pet training manuals to dog owners and parrot owners. When my business did $100,000 in a single month, I decided to teach people how I was doing it.” Today, Kern has customers and clients in almost every country on Earth. With over 100,000 small businesses and counting, he’s the go-to marketing expert for celebrities like Tony Robbins.

Kern’s success is an inspiration to us all and raises an important question for business owners, digital nomads, and freedom seekers everywhere: In such tumultuous times, what’s the best way to generate a return on investment today? 

After speaking with three entrepreneurs breaking ground in the digital space, we might just have an answer. Read on, and learn from their specialist insights and advice.

Build professional relationships.

Daniel Mac Sweeney and Alexander James Jansen are the joint CEOs of MonsterKong Marketing and maintain that organic marketing generates the best long-term results.

“Being Master Brand Builders at MonsterKong Marketing, our experience has shown us that organic relationships with clients and customers outweigh paid traffic and produce a higher ROI. The reason for this is that when you build strong relationships, it can better connect you to their network. You can leverage their business associates and followers, which in turn can make you more sales.” 

The tried and tested networking method is a great way to create authentic business relationships. In place of paying for exposure upfront, Sweeney and Jansen believe that customers and clients need to build interest in your value proposition before parting with their hard-earned money. Over the years, MonsterKong Marketing has perfected this practice. 

“Working closely with our clients, we connect businesses and entrepreneurs with their audience on all platforms, focusing on growth and sales to structure a winning sales campaign from start to finish. Organic marketing is the best way to establish your business online and convert potential customers into buyers.”

Succeed without upfront costs.

Junior Anthony, CEO and founder of LiveSotori, heavily relied on paid traffic while building his empire. But if he had to do it all again, he would take a different approach. “Paid traffic is amazing. It’s almost like a plug-in-and-play instant lead generator, and I love it. However, I must say that if I had to rebuild my empire from scratch, I would start with organic. It’s the best way to start generating revenue without huge upfront costs. 

Doing the organic approach might seem scary, but let’s be honest: humans are still social creatures. Word of mouth is powerful, and it carries. Conversions are also normally higher than that of ads, so if you start with $0 and make a single conversion, you already have a positive ROI. Comparatively, if you use ads, you have to spend first and receive later. The organic method is the only way to guarantee an ROI.” 

Anthony uses his past experience to help guide his students by teaching them skills that create value in today’s economy. He re-built his empire from nothing to half a million dollars in just four months without spending a penny on ads.

Strike a balance, and reinvest profits.

John Lee, co-founder of Membby and Wealth Dragons Group PLC, makes a strong case for paid marketing. Lee has amassed over five million followers on social media and now coaches celebrities, CEOs, and professional athletes on optimized social media and branding strategies. However, he believes in striking a balance for the best results. 

“There’s always two types of marketing: free marketing and paid marketing. The problem with free marketing is that it requires a lot of time. The great news, however, is that it’s free. The problem with paid marketing is that you’ve got to put money in. But if you know how to convert your leads, then your marketing basically becomes free. That’s why I think that paid marketing is a much better strategy. For one, you get instant results. I can spend 10 or 20 thousand dollars on a test campaign and instantly see the results coming back. The key to paid marketing as a better strategy is only relevant if you know how to convert. This is what we call direct response marketing: we spend money on marketing, and when we spend that money, we see what ROI we get back.

Let’s take my real estate company as an example. I used to buy property by first investing in Google or YouTube ads and then seeing how many leads would come in from that. My cost would vary anywhere between £15 and £30 per lead. You may think that’s expensive, and you’d be right. If you’re generating a thousand leads, you’d be spending £30,000. But if you can buy back five or six houses from that like I did, and every house you buy is at a discount, then you’d make £50,000 every time you buy. This was a way for me to find properties below the market value. Because when you buy property below the market value, you make money when you buy, not when you sell. 

The other alternative, which is what I did before in terms of free organic marketing, is to post videos on YouTube. Did that bring in business? Yes, but it was very slow. I had to wait for videos to get traction and  for people to watch the videos. 

In a way, that’s the benefit of organic marketing. It stays there forever, and it doesn’t cost you anything. But if this is your strategy, you need to understand how to optimize each video. For example, you need to understand how algorithms work. On YouTube, you need to make sure you’re optimizing for keywords. You can use a tool called Keywords Everywhere, which is a browser extension that tells you how much search volume there is for a specific topic query when conducting a Google search. So, if ‘lose weight’ has a million searches and ‘how to lose weight’ only has two searches, you know what to call your video and what to say in your video. Free organic marketing – using referrals, viral content, content marketing – is a good strategy.

If you ask me which one produces the fastest results, it’s paid ads. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the other. In fact, you should actually do both in tandem. Content marketing will create a better brand, and paid marketing will accelerate the process. Spend money on marketing, and have that marketing produce profit for you. Then, re-invest some of that profit into organic marketing, branding, and PR, which is really important to build your brand.

I always say that whenever you use paid or organic strategies, you need to categorize your approach into one of three things: Marketing to position yourself, brand yourself, or build viralocity. 

For example, one of my videos reached ten million people and got over 65,000 likes. It had around 5000 comments and got shared over 44,000 times. That’s what we would call a video with viralocity, meaning that I designed it in such a way that it would go viral. It’s not an instant lead generator; it just gives you more exposure. The key to all of this, whether paid or organic, is to first put your marketing out there. When the leads come in, make sure that you can convert them into sales. Then, you’ll be able to reinvest profit back into your business, grow, and scale.”

Closing Thoughts

Both paid and organic marketing have their place in the lifecycle of business. Selecting your own strategy, however, depends on several crucial factors: not only pertaining to your marketing and advertising budget, but also your market share, customer matrix, and position within the industry. For those struggling to maintain regular clientele, organic marketing is a clear winner. As experts explain, prospects need to build that interest in your product or service before converting into buyers. Organic interest built from consistency in content marketing is a surefire way to achieve this.

For those simply seeking to produce results fast, paid marketing is the more convenient option. To accelerate your reach and build exposures in front of a much larger audience, make the investment. In doing so, you’re afforded the luxury of time: time to spend on other facets of your business operations while your paid marketing creates new leads and drives traffic to your business. As our panel of experts explains, both strategies have clear advantages and should be used in tandem. Organic content marketing will proliferate your brand through a noisy digital space, and paid marketing will accelerate the process in achieving success.