By Bob Leonard published July 22, 2011

Crossing the Content Chasm

There’s a new buzz phrase that’s gaining popularity as content marketing is embraced by both marketers and consumers: the “Content Chasm.”  In fact, Mac McIntosh recently wrote about the Content Chasm as it relates to B2B marketing automation and lead generation.  The term refers to the gap between where most marketers are with their inventory of content and where they need to be.

The Content Chasm is actually comprised of several types of gaps, each needing specific strategies and actions for resolution.

The capacity chasm

At its most basic, there is a lack of enough fresh, quality content. In order to generate leads and nurture them properly, new (or repurposed or curated) content must be continuously developed to attract and retain prospects’ attention.

The customization chasm

What’s useful and relevant (and, therefore, likely to be consumed) by one person, may be irrelevant and useless to another. So content must be customized to the target consumer group (or persona).
In B2B, this means that different versions of content must be developed for consumers who have different business roles and titles. For example, a CFO and a VP of Sales each have different questions that need to be answered and objections that need to be overcome, so the content you deliver should speak to them individually.

Also, someone making or influencing a buying decision for a complex, high-ticket B2B product or service will need different information throughout the different phases of the buying cycle. At the beginning of the cycle, they may be interested in company reputation and basic product functionality. As they get ready to make their buying decision, they might be more interested in integration issues and contract terms.

It’s helpful to develop a message map to identify what information each persona needs based on what  stage of the buying cycle they’re in. This post from Barbra Gago will give you step-by-step templates to map your B2B content.

The consumption chasm

As your prospects’ content habits evolve, you need to keep pace with how they want to consume your content. It’s typically the case that as new media formats become commonplace, traditional media and formats remain. Even as we add new media such as video podcasts and high-tech devices such as tablets, people still read books and listen to the radio. New media doesn’t replace old media – it extends the available options.

So what’s a marketer to do? Obviously you can’t and shouldn’t reformat every piece of content to fit every type of media and device, but you can make informed choices by studying your message maps and considering which formats best fit a specific piece of content. For example, video works well for telling success stories, while technical specs aimed at engineers may work best via text-based media.

The major trend, however, for content delivery is toward multimedia. Fat fiber optic pipes capable of transporting torrents of digitized audio, images, video, etc., are becoming the norm. And our devices are becoming more proficient at processing and displaying sights and sounds. Delivery concerns that once surrounded multimedia are fading away.

At the same time, busy executives (personas who most likely have the authority to make a buy decision) expect to be educated about complex products and services online. They no longer have the time or patience to read a 12-page white paper, so choosing to deliver multimedia experiences can help you package your information and marketing messages for quick, convenient consumption.

I think we’re going to be hearing much more about the Content Chasm over the next several months. Meanwhile, review your marketing content development and delivery processes by answering the following questions:

  • Do you have resources in place to develop a steady stream of fresh, relevant and useful content?
  • Are you creating, repurposing and curating content customized for the different personas who influence your buy decision and for the different stages of your buy cycle?
  • Are you researching, testing and developing multimedia capabilities so that you can deliver persuasive content in a format that your prospects prefer?

How about you? What kind of Content Chasms are you experiencing? And how are you meeting the challenges?

Author: Bob Leonard

Bob Leonard is the Managing Consultant at acSellerant. Over a 20 year period, prior to launching acSellerant, Bob held individual contributor and management positions in Corporate Marketing, Field Marketing, Sales and Sales Support at EMC, GTE, Interleaf (document management), and Digital Equipment Corp. acSellerant is a content and social media marketing agency focused on the B2B market place. Follow me on Twitter @acSellerant.

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  • Anonymous

    Hi Bob,
    Thanks for a great article! I like your ideas about finding and filling content chasms. However I’m not clear what you’re suggesting here:

    “At the same time, busy executives (personas who most likely have the
    authority to make a buy decision) expect to be educated about complex
    products and services online. They no longer have the time or patience
    to read a 12-page white paper…”

    It seems to me that it’s precisely the C-level executives and decision makers who need to read a white paper the most. When it comes to product education and influencing decision-making, white papers are the most effective instrument.

    As content creators, our challenge then is to create the kind of white paper that would appeal to the busy executive while delivering on its purpose. I suggest that this kind of white paper would be shorter (6 pages), visually appealing, and easily skimmable (bullet points, graphics & images, call outs, and lots of white space) yet still packed with compelling information. Given that kind of valuable content, I think the busy executive would make the time to read it!

    • Bob Leonard

      Patricia – we are in violent agreement. My point is that busy executives won’t read a text heavy 12 page white paper, especially online where most of their research is done. 

      We need to augment our tightly written copy with infographics, charts, bulleted lists, pull quotes, Johnson boxes, frequent subheads, etc. to communicate our messages, including value propositions and product benefits, succinctly. Make it fun for that busy executive to consume your content, and you’re well on your way to a sale.

      Thanks for your comment,

      Bob

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  • http://industrialmarketingtoday.com Achinta Mitra

    Bob,

     

    Excellent article and a good overview of Content Chasm!

     

    I agree with the statement, “…while technical specs aimed at
    engineers may work best via text-based media.”

     

    What I am seeing with this technical and industrial audience
    is a need for repurposing some of that content into videos that they can view
    on their mobile devices. They want quick and specific “how-to” steps that they
    can review while on the plant or shop floor.

     

    A real-time online design tool is another popular content application
    for this audience. Engineers want to plug in different design parameters and
    match them with a supplier’s products and parts.

     

    Thanks for sharing your insights and providing links to
    valuable resources.

     

    Best regards,

    Achinta

    • http://twitter.com/acSellerant Bob Leonard

      Achintra – Thanks for sharing your valuable insights into the industrial market space!

  • Scott Frangos

    Hi Bob & Colleagues –

    Excellent article and discussion…

    You wrote, “So what’s a marketer to do? Obviously you can’t and shouldn’t reformat
    every piece of content to fit every type of media and device…”

    True.  I think this is where the “Content Management” automation realm can help.  For example, I develop for WordPress exclusively, and there are a number of plugins that will make your site ready for mobile, etc.  I think we are hunting for efficiencies in integration too… especially with the birth of Google+, now up to 20 million users (I have some thoughts here:  http://www.webfadds.com/2011/07/google-plus-strategies-tactics/).

    But in the end, it all boils down to great writing.  Not sure if all the visitors here know it, but CMI has an excellent team of Editors who make articles engaging, and sharp.  This bodes well for the future of out of work journalists, and copy editors.

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