Achieving Scale in Content Marketing

This article was originally published in iMedia Connection.

For many digital marketers, driving high performing programs to scale is an important goal, whether growing asset creation, audience reach, or business impact. But sometimes achieving scale is confused with taking a brute force approach. Increase the quantity, and given the law of averages, engagement and results are sure to grow proportionately. Right? Wrong.

What I’m getting at here is that there’s a seismic difference between scale and tonnage. What’s the difference? Tonnage is mostly concerned with quantity, and quality is not a priority. Scale is all about being achieving something that’s extremely effective and of superior quality; it is very hard to accomplish. Even more difficult is then defying expectations and the laws of physics to make that great thing highly repeatable, economically efficient, and pervasive.

Let’s talk examples though. In marketing, the poster child for tonnage would be the prototypical banner ad campaign. It’s not very hard to produce some ad creative and, in an instant, buy millions of impressions for it. It’s super repeatable and can be implemented globally in no time. But is that really scale? I’d argue it’s just advertising by the ton.

Contrast that example with something a little more sophisticated. Create beautiful, well researched campaign creative and deliver it in a highly targeted, interactive, multi-channel way with optimal timing and context that is responsive to past user behavior. This example I would argue is something to be pursued at scale.

Content marketing in focus

In no other corner of the digital marketing world is the difference between scale and tonnage more pronounced than with content marketing. In content marketing we’re trying to achieve that most noble of marketing goals: brand storytelling. But storytelling is an art form. It’s very hard to do well and it’s even harder to automate.

In the quest to achieve scale in content marketing, there’s been an unfortunate propensity to head down the path of tonnage. In content marketing, tonnage manifests in these two ways:

Brand “churnalism”
This is all about maximizing content creation. It means cranking out an endless stream of branded content according to one or more predefined templates. And it sometimes means satisfying the minimum level of creative quality while maximizing for output volume. Think of this as content farming for brands.

One-click wonders
This symptom of a tonnage mindset is all about getting cheap, anonymous clicks. More clicks on content equals success. But if someone clicks on your blog post, finds it irrelevant, and never returns, would most reasonable marketers really judge it to be successful?

Achieving scale in content marketing

To take a truly scalable approach to execute an effective content marketing strategy, rather than use automation platforms to “spray and pray,” marketers should use technology to better understand and give people what they’re interested in. In this way, you’re making more personal connections, using content to address millions of segments of one. That highly personalized experience done in a repeatable way is true scale.

Achieving true scale is also about ensuring content experiences work across channels. By leveraging data and insights, marketers can deliver the most relevant content possible, tailored for individuals based on their unique preferences. As brands themselves become more prolific content publishers, they increasingly face a “needle in the haystack” problem. Because consumers won’t spend time or attention with content that’s not valuable or interesting to them, marketers must have razor-sharp precision to ensure branded content is personally relevant every step of the way.

In addition, establishing a complete understanding of the formats and topics that are performing well and then building on those insights to fine tune content development going forward is a critical path for scaling the best content — that which resonates.

What’s at stake, you might ask? According to 2013 report from Harris Interactive and Janrain, 74 percent of consumers feel frustrated when content isn’t relevant to their interests. Consumers are in command. When it comes to how they spend their digital time and attention, they have virtually infinite choice and complete control. That means that personalizing content marketing isn’t just a dreamy, ideal end state for marketers to pursue; it’s a prerequisite building block for fully activating content marketing.


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