We seem to be reaching the saturation point for posts about how content marketing is reaching the saturation point.
The after-shocks caused by posts like Mark Schaeffer’s Content Shock (over 600 comments and counting) and our own perplexingly runaway Crap slideshare, indicate that marketers are terrified by the idea that content marketing is reaching its End Days.
I don’t want to be the guy who said the high-risk mortgage market (and the Taj Mahal of shitty securities built on top of it) couldn’t possibly collapse. But if content marketing does lose its mojo, it won’t be because people ran out of bandwidth and our attention-pipes got clogged with content.
If our capacity to consume content was really the critical constraint here, we would have hit Schaeffer’s content shock when the world’s published books exceeded any individual’s capacity to read. That happened sometime in the 1500s.
I’m sure there were people back then who ran down the mean medieval streets shouting, “We’ve reached knowledge saturation!”. But they were as wrong as all the nut-cases throughout history who called the specific date of the apocalypse (there’s an amazingly long list of them here).
There are two big reasons that general content saturation should be way down on our worry list (somewhere between being hit by lightning and being hit by Groundskeeper Willie):
1) The world is always changing
Content interprets the world for an audience. And the world – and everything on it – never stands still. Even if you’re in a business as dodderingly mature as lift trucks, the market you’re producing content for today is dramatically different from the market you swam in two years ago.
Change creates content vacuums and it’s our job as marketers to fill them.
2) Content will inevitably become increasingly granular.
One of the things the Internet is airbag-deployingly great at is identifying and serving niche interests. Not just niches like ‘banjo players’ but nano-niches like ‘clawhammer banjo players who like Irish fiddle music and Jimi Hendrix’ (a nano-niche of which I am a proud member). (I should probably go back and change ‘proud member’ but I won’t: feel free to giggle).
So, after 355 words and one junior-high-level double entendre, I finally come to the point of this rambling post:
Hey content marketers: it’s narrowcast time.
If yesterday, you wrote whitepapers with titles like, “Computers in The Public Sector”…
Today, you’re cranking out eBooks with titles like, “Hadoop vs SQL for Local Government Big Data Processing Initiatives”…
And tomorrow, you’ll be producing interactive scrolling sites with titles like, “The CFO’s Guide to Hadoop MapReduce Tactics for Compliant Citizen Tagging, Tracking and Deleting.”
(I sincerely hope your own life is at least marginally more glamorous than this, but mine ain’t far off).
It’s like those über-groovy fractals that reveal more and more detail the closer you zoom in. The key idea is pretty simple:
The granularity of our interests is nearly infinite.
And if you add the dimension of time and the inevitability of change, it is infinite.
In content marketing, relevance is a function of specificity. (Go on, tweet that sucker. I’ll wait.)
Your mission, should you choose to accept it* is to zoom in.
In fact, it’s kind of unavoidable.
As B2B content marketers, we deal in issues.
And, if we’re really authorities on our subjects, every issue opens up into more granular issues with specific spins targeted to increasingly tight audiences.
Your content marketing programs will probably start with some big-picture, top-of-the-funnel pieces. But if you’re doing your job right, it will quickly become more and more targeted.
In our work for the world’s most amazing and surprisingly nice tech companies, we see it happen over and over again. We start with big content pillars that establish the world view of our client. We then snap off hot issues that the target audience is obsessing about right now. Then we start spinning these stories to different vertical markets, company sizes, job titles and (our favourite) psychographics.
As the content gets more granular, the numbers go down. Fewer people read them.
But the value of each reader is dramatically higher than the more general content used to fill the top of the hopper.
Let’s face it, when someone downloads “The CFO’s Guide to Hadoop MapReduce Tactics for Compliant Citizen Tagging, Tracking and Deleting”, it behooves all good salespeople on the Public Sector/CFO/Hadoop beat to pick up the bloody phone.
Granularity boosts relevance.
Relevance boosts engagement.
Engagement boosts conversion.
Conversion boosts your ability to trade in your battered porkpie hat for that Philip Treacy you’ve had your eye on.
No content shock in that.
The not-so-great news: granular content is harder to produce than general content.
You have to know your stuff.
You have to be inside your market every day.
You have to have an almost pathological addiction to learning new things.
The good news: granular content is harder to produce than general content.
So lazy marketers will shy away.
And your overpaid competitors will lean back just as you’re leaning in.
Bottom line: The Singularity is so over. Here comes The Granularity.
Five, no six, tips for going granular
Six for the price of five:
Get writers up to speed and keep them on board.
You can’t switch to new writers every time you do a piece. Invest in making your writers subject experts.
Develop a methodology for hoovering up expertise from others.
Do not leave this to chance. Other people are critical to granular content. Build a repeatable method for sucking out their brains and pumping the greyish liquid into content.
Put the experts in the spotlight.
Your best customers, partners and in-house gurus aren’t just sources, they’re stars. Feature them. Interview them. Make them famous.
Take your mother-ship content and give it granular, highly targeted spins. For different verticals, disciplines, regions and psychologies. We talk this a lot in The B2B Content Marketing Strategy Checklist. You might like it.
Granular content does not have to be a 40-page eBook. It can be the content marketing equivalent of a haiku.
Each piece of granular content should promote the other pieces – and the mother-ship. That means going back and revising old pieces so they promote later ones. (a pain in the arse but SO worth it).
I’m afraid there really isn’t a silver bullet here. Just, as Ben Horowitz likes to say, lead ones.
But lots and lots of lead bullets can take down an awful lot of prospect gazelles.
[Note to self and everyone eavesdropping on conversation with self: replace bullet metaphor with something less macho and NRA-friendly].
Got any experience with or thoughts about narrowcasting?
The comment zone below awaits.
* Did the Mission Impossible guys ever say, ‘Nah.” to that?
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