Content Marketing Karma – Give and Ye Shall Receive

Posted on November 11, 2015 by Toby Brown

US marketing pioneer John Wanamaker said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”

While advertising has made some progress in addressing this, my worry is that the world of content marketing is today beset by a similar challenge, particularly in tech.

There is a truckload of content being produced today, but how much of it is proving truly effective for technology brands?

While it’s hard to quantify content production in volume terms, the Content Marketing Association found in 2013 that 20p in every pound is being spent on content marketing.

Their recent data finds content spend now (2015) represents 26% on average of marketing budgets, 78% say this is higher than a year ago and nearly two thirds (64%) plan to increase activity further next year.

Tellingly though, marketers’ biggest challenge  (see slide 24) is producing engaging content, this comes just ahead of ‘Producing content consistently’.

Our own Follow the Leader research into ideas and content production, found that almost three quarters (72%) of CMOs are also under pressure to produce high volumes of content and four in ten (39%) say that their firm actually prioritises quantity over quality.

If you’re asking yourself why marketers are planning to produce more content when they’re already struggling to produce high quality regular outputs, then you’re asking the right question.

My belief is that content marketing is a victim of its own success. Impressed by early investments, marketers have decided to plough ever greater budgets to grow return. Create more content and you’ll get more results right? Well yes, and no.

The truth is that that nasty law of diminishing returns also applies to content. It applies not only in an audience’s ability to consume content, but more importantly, to an organisation’s ability to produce it.

As an aside, if you want some guidance on how to produce truly great content ideas, take a look at our new ebook: No Idea: The Marketer’s Guide to Generating Ideas that Sell.

For me there is a happy balance in any organisation that dictates how much high-quality thinking one can actually turn out. It hinges not just on having time to write/present/record things, but also on the brainpower available to put towards producing valuable ideas.

When this balance is breached, content quality can take a nosedive (see highly rigorous diagram). And you can see these quality issues regularly when you look across some of the content being produced by B2B tech firms. This is not necessarily about the quality of copy, design or editing, but in the value of the ideas and depth of thinking being offered.

Content marketing karma Toby Brown Man Bites Dog

Too much content today is actually thinly-veiled marketing material or rehashed ideas with little depth or value. This negates the original vision of content marketing and why it actually works when done well.

The key here is generosity – if you aren’t generous with truly valuable ideas, or can’t be because you are set up to prioritise volume over quality, then you won’t be rewarded with people’s interest and certainly not their custom.

So take this as an intervention. This is your opportunity to step back and reassess what you are doing. If you’ll forgive my paraphrased, religion-mixing headline – give more and you’ll get more back. I’m sure that’s what St Luke was getting at.

So be generous with your thinking, let your ideas free and build up your content Karma. Rest assured your efforts will be repaid in full.


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