Way back in 2011, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, posed the question, “Is content an asset or an expense?”. Most B2B marketers know content is the fuel for their lead generation and nurture. However, it seems many have forgotten or failed to answer Joe’s important question. So let’s revisit this topic now.
“Why now?”, you ask. You’ve likely set your budget for 2019. But ask yourself how hard it was to get the budget for your content development including writing, design, and management. If you had trouble justifying the budget or didn’t get the budget you needed, then read on.
The budget challenge for B2B content marketing
Getting budget dollars for your content marketing is often a struggle. This is primarily because B2B marketing leaders can’t convince the CFO and other C-level leaders that money spent on content development is an investment. It’s not simply another marketing expense line item. Content, like the fuel you put in your car, propels your marketing forward. However, unlike the fuel in your car, it doesn’t disappear leaving you standing there refilling an empty tank. No, content is more analogous to an investment asset that increases in value and pays dividends into the future.
Let’s discuss 3 reasons why spending money on B2B content marketing is an investment, not an expense.
1. Live long and prosper – What does this Vulcan greeting from Star Trek have to do with content? Invest in long-lived educational and informative content such as articles, white papers, and Ebooks, and you’ll prosper.
The initial investment you make in a piece of content should deliver future dividends. You can use content that educates and informs well beyond the initial campaign. For example, you can run new campaigns to different segments and in different channels. In addition, since much of your content lives online on your blog, company website, and social media channels, your prospects will continue to find that content. This is especially so if it’s written and posted with SEO in mind. A digital or print ad only works for as long as you keep paying for placement. A content asset you own and have control of continues to drive awareness and sales leads long into the future.
HubSpot, provider of a marketing automation and sales platform, spoke directly to this point in a blog post noting,
“By creating ownable assets to generate awareness, traffic, and thought leadership, you benefit from the content you’ve created and promoted even when you’re not in the midst of a significant campaign or push. In fact, roughly 70% of the leads generated by the HubSpot blog are from old blog entries: Try doing THAT with paid advertising, and you’ll be sorely disappointed.”
2. Shapeshift your content – Oops, there’s another Star Trek reference! The shapeshifter Odo from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine TV show could morph into different shapes changing his appearance as needed. Similarly, you can “shapeshift” your content by combining, extracting, and reformatting it into new content pieces. See, even more dividends from your initial content investment. For example, you might combine smaller content pieces into one larger piece, say a Guide or Ebook. Or you could extract a section of a white paper to create several blog posts. Finally, depending on the channel where you want to distribute content, or the specific offer, you can change the format to fit. For example, I’ve taken webinar content and reformatted it into an Ebook. Similarly, I’ve created white papers from slide presentations and webinars. Creating these “new” content pieces via “shapeshifting” dramatically grows your content library without adding significant cost.
3. Update and refresh – Maybe you’re thinking, “Everything changes so fast there’s no way a piece of content will be useful for very long.” However, keep in mind that most of your content is based not on current events and news, but on addressing common pain points of your B2B customers and prospects, answering prospects’ questions about solving their problems, and helping them understand and evaluate solutions. Therefore, most of your content will be timeless in the sense that it provides new information of interest to those new to your industry or new in their role. There will always be “newbies” who are researching and learning. What feels like old information to you, especially as a marketer who’s been publishing and promoting your content, will be new information to your prospects. Yes, over time some things do change, but simple updates to incorporate a product change, a data reference, or customer example are quick and inexpensive compared to new content development.
- TIP: When developing a piece of “timeless” content, refrain from relating it to a specific event or topic that may appear quickly dated. Instead, use an image or the copy in your email and social posts to make it feel topical and current when you publish it. That way, when you want to use the content later you won’t have to spend time making changes to it. For example, maybe you want to create a How-To Guide with plans to tie its publication with back-to-school in September. Put the back-to-school tie-in in the copy of the email you send out, not in the introduction of the Guide itself. That way you can send another email in January to those who didn’t respond the first time. However, using a tie-in to learning for a new year will be easy because you won’t have to update the Guide, only the email.
Even major updates are quicker and easier than starting with nothing. Due to a company merger and the rebranding that followed, I once had to update a slew of case studies in a short time frame. Updating the case studies with the new logo, colors, brand voice and messaging was considerably less effort than starting from scratch.
Learn what marketing content drives ROI
The biggest payoff from investing in content is that you’ll learn what works. Once you’ve published content and used it in email campaigns you’ll be able to track which content is most effective. For instance, you can determine which content drives awareness and leads, and eventually sales. Based on this you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. This continuous improvement enables better results and lowers costs for needless and misdirected content development. As a result it drives return on investment (ROI) you can show to justify your content budget.
Isn’t it time to boldly go where no marketer in your company has gone before?! (If you’re not a Star Trek fan, my apologies.) Treat your B2B marketing content as a valuable asset and gather the data. This will help company executives understand the ROI you can deliver with content marketing.