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When Your Content Marketing Becomes Noise. And What To Do About It.
Posted on November 5th 2012
According to B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America released last week by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 64 percent of B2B content marketers say they are challenged with producing enough content. This is the biggest challenge, above producing the kind of content that engages (52 percent), producing a variety of content (45 percent) and a lack of budget (39 percent).
To put these new findings in perspective, last year, creating engaging content was the top challenge. But this year creating engaging content dropped as the most difficult challenge by more than 20 points. It appears marketers have gained confidence in their content skills – or have just found the concept of engagement too difficult to measure… I’ll share my thoughts on that in another blog. So for the moment it appears that quantity, not quality is the big issue. Content, there just isn’t enough of it... or is there?
How Much Is Enough Content?
When you read blogs from “experts” who write things like you must have enough engaging original content, how much is “enough”? A blog a week? Twice a week? Once a day (seems to work for vitamins)? And why stop at blogs? How about premium content. What about success stories, ebooks, webinars, videos etc.? How much is "enough"?
Did 50+ % of respondents who checked creating enough content as a big challenge have a goal in mind or were they just having writer’s block the day the survey was taken?
Forbes contributor Patrick Spenner takes a stab at the question of how much content is enough for large business content creators. Here are the stats he cites:
- You need 4 personas—these are your target audiences.
- You also must identify their needs. Maybe their top 3 needs, let’s say.
- Then, you’ve got to have content for all the channels that matter. Wherever the customer, you need to be there. Let’s say, conservatively, that’s 5 channels.
- Then, you have to be out there with fresh content. Let’s say at least monthly. That’s 12 times a year. Again, conservative.
That’s 4 x 3 x 5 x 12 = 720 pieces of original or versioned content.
I’d actually argue that this figure is low by 300 to 600% if quantity is really your objective. The real number is more like 2000 – 4500 over the course of a year (Spenner’s numbers are really just looking at the top of the funnel) if you're going for the carpet bombing, spray and pray approach. If you’re only producing original content once a month for your personas in each channel, well, you know you’re not engaged with your prospects. In any case, it’s a lot of content. And while a smaller company that doesn't sell to four or more different personas can dial the numbers back proportionally, it’s still a lot of content.
It’s easy to see why looking at numbers like this would cause someone to check the box for content quantity as the number one problem. But I’ll also suggest that if quantity is your focus you’re going to end up, as Spenner writes, with content that has become part of the noise for your customers.
When my employees come to me with this kind of problem, the good ones ask for advice on focus. They assume that the right answer can't be to create more content than any reasonable prospect could consume. The others simply ask for more budget to hire more writers. If you’ve asked for more budget lately, you know where that’s going to get you. Here’s how I’d respond to the good ones with regard to focus for content creation that achieves results.
Focus On What Matters. Not Content Volume.
Easy to say, but how do you know what matters? Here’s some data to help answer that question, again courtesy of research by Spenner et al. The idea, as content marketers, is that we’re looking for content that influences an outcome… for most of us that’s a buying decision, a choice to attend a particular school, donate to a cause etc.
In this analysis the light blue bars are factors that we typically associate with writing “good” content, especially if we’re focused on the quantity of content we need to create. Factors like SEO to make content easy to find, writing to be easy to understand, even representing an ‘expert’ perspective.
What the research tells us is that these factors are not the factors that make our content valuable in terms of our objective – content that converts. The dark blue bars represent qualities of our content that do influence a reader to change their way of thinking. These two qualities can be summarized as: teach and motivate.
All this isn’t to say that you can create one piece of amazing content that teaches your prospect something new about their business and expect a line of credit-card-swiping customers at your door. What this analysis does show is that if you consistently produce content that teaches and motivates on issues that are relevant to your prospect personas, you can spend less time concerned about producing 700 or 2000 or 4000 pieces of original, quality content over the coming year.
Start by producing one piece of content that teaches or motivates each week. Start small with a blog post. Work up to a webinar or ebook. It won’t change your business in the first week but keep doing it and you’ll be amazed at what happens.
Teach and Motivate
If you really want to create content that isn’t just noise and increases engagement that results to sales, enrollments and donations, focus on content that uses your expertise to teach a prospect something new about their business challenge; an insight, observation or tip. Follow that up with content that underscores, in a non-salesy way, the reasons that taking action on a particular issue is in the prospect’s best interest. Content that speaks to these two topics aligns your organization with your prospect’s strongest self-interests and as a result is more likely to help your organization achieve its goal – more engaged, qualified leads.