If you spend your hard-earned marketing $ on paid clicks, make sure to drive these three outcomes:
A conversion - Obvious. Make sure the click comes from the right persona and converts in the next stages of your funnel.
An insight - Every Display or Text Ad, on Google, FB, LinkedIn or Twitter, should always be run in a "multi-variant" test. Learn something.
Amplify content - Attract attention to some great content that has the potential to go rank organically. Don't just use vanilla landing pages. Use the click you paid for to lead your audience to great, valuable content that they will share and come back for.
This is how you should put your paid search dollars to work. If you do all these three, then Paid to spend is suddenly less "wasteful" vs. driving content marketing and great product positioning (which still should come first...).
While striking a great balance and driving most of your demand generation from organic search and earned referrals, you will probably end up doing some paid search as well. If not Google Adwords, you might experiment with Linked in or Facebook Social Advertising.
As I discuss in more detail in my blog about striking the right balance between short and long term marketing channels, I don't believe "pay-to-play" demand generation is bad, as long as you strike the right balance with sustainable, relevant, content marketing.
The below picture is an overview of all the areas where striking the right balance is about doing what's on the left as you need to, while also doing what's on the right in parallel. In the above example, we use short term PPC clicks, to make sure we fuel long term, sustainable growth by using the clicks to do A/B testing and amplification of content that can go rank organically over time.
Striking the right balance between short term, pay-to-play, and long term sustainable marketing.