Most companies realize that their best opportunity for growth is to commit to content marketing. But how much content do we actually need to generate the results we want?
If you’re starting from ground zero, start with this simple calculation:
Take the number of buyer personas you’ve identified as targets, multiply them by the number of buying stages you’ve identified, and multiply that by each unique issue or question to be addressed.
For example, if you market to three distinct buyer personas, and you have identified three buying stages, and you can identify five unique questions those buyers would likely ask or be searching for in each of those stages, you would conclude that you need to develop 45 total marketing assets.
But wait—there’s an inherent problem in the question itself.
Although this is a great place to start if you’re just getting your feet wet with content marketing, looking at how much content you need to produce is putting the focus in the wrong place.
Do you see it? The focus needs to be on the buyer and not YOU.
In the B2B space, the number-one goal of most content marketers is to generate leads for their sales team. But, if you examine your total universe of prospects, what percentage are actively searching for a solution in the next three months?
To clarify, let’s assume that buyers in your industry replace their current vendor every five years. That means 20% of all of your prospects will evaluate solutions like yours in any given year.
If you break that down into a three-month window, that’s 5% of your prospect universe.
As a content marketer, your job is not only to find and convert buyers that are currently shopping, but also to engage with and nurture those prospects who are NOT YET shopping, and may not even know that they will be shopping in the future.
What would a publisher do?
This simple shift in mindset is really profound because it’s going to make you think like a publisher, where you build an engaged audience that keeps coming back to you for more because you’re providing tremendous value, keeping it interesting, entertaining them through storytelling, and providing them with an experience they won’t forget.
Can you see how the question of “how much content you need to produce” is now irrelevant?
The right questions to ask are “What frequency can we realistically deliver?” and “What media are best to deliver our content so that we build subscribers, followers, prospects, and keep them coming back for more (or at least not unsubscribing to our emails)?”
I’ll take a smaller, engaged audience of my prospects over a larger uninterested audience that gets annoyed when I send them something any day.
Even though you’re not starting a news channel or a daily paper, the message is the same: focus on developing an audience and give them the type of content they want, at the frequency they want, on the platform or channel they want, and THEN you can monetize that audience.
Pay Attention to the Innovators
The company many of the innovative content marketers are watching is Redbull, and before you say, “Yes, but they’re a B2C company with a huge budget,” consider what they can teach all of us.
If you go to the Redbull homepage, note that you don’t see a product shot anywhere. In fact, browse through their site and comment to me about how long it takes you to find cans of Redbull.
Redbull actually thinks of itself as a media company, not a products company, and when you take a look at all the types and volume of content they produce to build and engage its audience, it’s pretty remarkable.
The message we should take away from Redbull is that, even when it comes to B2B lead generation, content marketing is not an event or a campaign. It’s a continuous process of finding, engaging, and building an audience that you can then monetize with calls to action that convert that audience into leads for your sales team.
So How Much Does All This Cost?
There is a really good reason why very few companies (not even big ones) assemble a fully staffed content development team. It is really, really expensive.
The roles needed to fully staff a media company can be extensive: a strategist, copywriters, managing editors, proofers, video producers, etc.—all playing discrete functions in the process.
Because it’s not realistic for most companies to assemble a team with such specialist skills, organizations need to get creative and outsource where necessary.
Start with a content strategist.
You need a person who owns the strategy and oversight for your program. The mistake most companies make is putting all of this responsibility onto their existing marketing leader and expecting he or she can manage all of this new incremental work while still running the annual customer event, product marketing, a few key tradeshows, and whatever else made up their day job before entering this new world.
It’s no wonder small and mid-market companies burn through marketing leaders like never before.
I don’t say this to scare any of you, but rather to get us grounded in reality, because even though this new approach requires a significant investment, the payback is huge.
Content marketing isn’t an incremental thing that can be added to the old ways of marketing. It is in fact the new way to market. That means rethinking the ways you allocate and spend money—and then engaging your audience in this new way of communicating. And this requires content. Lots of it.
What Can Be Outsourced?
The reality is, nearly all of it. There are content marketing agencies that bring best practices and market-proven strategies, with all of the fractured resources in place, and well-defined, efficient processes. An expert agency can do a lot of the work we’ve been talking about at a fraction of the cost that companies would need to spend in-house.
It’s time to flip the question of how much content you need to produce.
Start with a strategy and define your audience to determine how much content they need. See yourself (or your marketing department, or the content arm of your marketing department) as a media company that will publish content to help your audience find you and stay engaged with you until they are ready to talk to sales.
As for the costs, be sure you’re looking at the entire picture. Don’t just think about the cost to produce assets; there’s also the cost of being a content owner—one that will ultimately determine the strategy, the topics, the vendors, and weave it together in a consistent narrative.
Only then can you assemble a fractional team to develop the assets your chosen strategy demands.