By Michael Grover
In Part 1 last week, we looked at all of the data points that indicate companies are full-steam-ahead with content marketing. The pipeline has proven that it can support a lot of content. However, markets–especially B2B markets—are finite and populated by busy people who have only 24 hours in a day. So, what does all that mean to modern marketers?
Content marketers rally behind the banner of producing ever more excellent content marketing. Without a doubt, excellence has rightly become the baseline. But excellence, in and of itself, doesn’t guarantee a first-page ranking in Google. Nor a viral share in social media.
Besides, who’s to say what’s best, anyway? Well, for everyone from the hardliners who hawk search engine pixie dust to the mid-level marketing managers who need a number to put in their spreadsheet, the answer is that Google gets to decide. There’s plenty of excellent content being written by expert-level creators that is not making the cut on Google.
The solution for how to use all this excellent content is to go outbound.
Stephanie Stahl, General Manager for the Content Marketing Institute, says that one of the goals of content marketing must be building an “owned” audience. That is, people who have given you permission to engage with them through a property you own.
This is smart advice for content marketers who develop campaign-specific pieces. If content is excellent, your web site needs to feature some sort of library that houses it. People who consume your content need to be urged to sign up for a mailing list.
This blurs the boundary between inbound and outbound marketing. But, if it gets the content in the right people’s hands, that’s a good thing, right?
The Rising Costs of Content Marketing.
Marketing influencer Mark Schaefer wrote an infamous blog post back in 2014, with a follow-up in 2019, about a looming content marketing crisis he called “Content Shock.”
The way his theory goes is: While more and more companies get on board with the content marketing program, the supply of content marketing quickly dwarfs the demand for it. Meanwhile, there is a finite and static number of people in a target market—especially in a tight niche—and they have a finite and static amount of time to consume content.
It’s an economic argument that points to the evolution all markets must face as they mature. The three television networks that dominated early TV survived the arrival of hundreds of cable channels by changing their expectations. Where once upon a time a television show could be counted on to reach a 30 percent share, in 2021 the networks had to be satisfied with a top-rated show doing a 1.4 percent share.
Content marketing is not going away, but the stakes will get higher and lower response will be the order of the day. Producing “good” content will not be good enough anymore. Content must be of another order of magnitude in usefulness.
What happens when there is more content marketing than there are hours in a day? (Source: https://businessesgrow.com/2014/01/06/content-shock/)
Can Content Be the Product?
Ask anyone whose been producing content for some time and they’ll agree that it has become harder and harder to get that content in the right people’s hands.
Whether you think Content Shock is hyperbole or a looming threat, it’s impossible to deny that a glut of content to a finite number of distribution points is going to change the equation.
Content Marketing is going to have to become a product in and of itself. A written piece will need to merit the outbound investment that inbound tried to repeal. Inbound was very successful and remains a solid strategy. But the very forces that made it work—the big, fat pipe, easy publishing tools, and super-sophisticated web search functions—are now colluding to make anything but the very best content rise to the top organically. Readers are always interested in great content. . . it’s just getting harder to you to find them or for them to find you.
Michael Grover is a marketing and product consultant in Los Angeles, focused primarily on digital content products. He has served in marketing and product roles at Oracle, United Business Media, SilverPlatter Information, and several other companies.