In case you missed it due to Mars-based travel plans, Mark Schaeffer dropped a bomb on the content marketing world a few days ago with his post Content Shock: Why Content Marketing Is Not A Sustainable Strategy.
I wouldn’t have thought it was still a contentious argument: as we approach content saturation, content marketing will get harder and harder until, for many, it stops working. It’s the argument we make in our Crap slideshare and elsewhere.
But I was wrong.
The post unleashed all the hounds of content marketing and created a deafening din of more-or-less-screechy feedback that’s still rocking the collective CM echo chamber.
Maybe it’s the provocative headline or the reference to economics and the cool chart. But this one hit a nerve.
Why is the Content Shock concept so scary?
Because millions of marketers are stampeding towards the best party marketing has seen since the internet — only to find some guy saying ‘The party’s over’.
The party isn’t over. (And I don’t think Mark is actually saying that).
It’s just that now there are two big bouncers at the door (One has a tattoo that says Google. So does the other one.) And the room is over-crowded. And the music is not only too loud, it’s coming from 94 different bands.
We’ve been saying this for a while:
When content marketing goes mainstream, it stops conferring advantage.
It confers benefits, but – when every competitor is doing it too – it only generates advantage if you’re way, way better at it (which is our advice, by the way).
Today, content marketing is becoming the price of entry into a market. Like having a website. It doesn’t win the race but it gets you to the starting line.
That doesn’t mean we can stop. In fact, we have to get better and better at it.
But it does mean we need to start thinking about the next source of advantage.
For most B2B marketers, we’re not at Mark’s dreaded saturation point yet. In fact, I don’t think we’re even close. Because content isn’t one big ocean, it’s a million little puddles & pools, each addressing a specific issue for a specific audience.
It’s like a fractal: the closer you look, the more detail is there.
Content is getting more and more granular and granularity creates relevance. This trend will continue as we learn to segment our world better, personalise our content and make it context-sensitive. [See this post on content granularity for a bit more on this.]
Just as TV naturally evolved towards narrowcasting, content will get more and more targeted.
One day, every one of your competitors may be producing a firehose of fresh, fantastic, super-targeted content mapped to a tight funnel and managed by smart lead nurturing robots. But that day is years away.
The bad news: Mark is right: The Saturation is coming.
The good news: Most marketers will still suck at this for many years.
Being good at it is still a really, really good strategy.