By Carlton Hoyt published June 2, 2015

Stop Thinking Content, Start Thinking Resources

content-resources-cover

It’s time for us to develop content from a resource marketing paradigm. Providing something useful, as the dictionary defines resource, is core to fulfilling content marketing objectives. We need to stop thinking about creating more stuff and start thinking about how to build things of utility that meaningfully help solve our audiences’ problems.

Content vs. resource

Content can be a resource and a resource can be content, so it’s important to distinguish how we can differentiate the two. In brief:

  • Content generally provides information. Resources provide solutions to problems.
  • Content can address any question or topic. Resources specifically address the needs of the target audience.
  • Content may be superficial. Resources, by virtue of their need to solve problems, must be reasonably comprehensive.
  • Content may be organized haphazardly. Resources need a sufficiently coherent organization to effectively solve the audience’s problems.
  • Content tells an audience: “I have these things to say, come listen to me.” Resources appeal to the audience: “We understand you have these problems or needs, let us help you solve them.”

Still not clear? Let me show you some examples.

The Home Depot vs. Lowe’s

One of the simplest ways to build a resource is to take content and organize it into discrete and comprehensive problem-solving units that effectively address higher-order needs. That’s what The Home Depot did with its DIY Projects and Ideas site.

home depot-image 1

Content is organized into categories, then divided into individual projects. All content for a project is accessible via a single page and sufficient to take it from start to finish. The organization is rational and the navigation is user-friendly, so finding what you’re looking for is easy and straightforward.

It would have been far easier for The Home Depot to create a bunch of small blog posts with generic click-bait titles such as WARNING: 5 Things You Don’t Want to Forget When Installing a Ceiling Fan! It certainly would have provided more fodder for its Facebook page. Instead, The Home Depot decided that if you want to install a ceiling fan, you should be able to go to one place and get all the information you need – step-by-step instructions, checklists, and videos. The value of this resource for the audience is massive.

In contrast, here is content that I wouldn’t qualify as a resource: Lowe’s How-To and Buying Guide Library. Lowe’s offers categories, but does not organize the content to truly allow me to readily find what I need. How-to content is buried between buying guides of questionable value that are thinly veiled excuses to link to its store.

lowes-how to-example-image 2

Many areas in the library suffer from content overload – a direct result of the never-ending create-publish-share cycle that makes it impossible to let the best content shine. (Over 1,000 articles on gardens? How on earth is anyone supposed to find a gem in all of that?) Many articles are just a wall of text, with no descriptive images or videos. Sure, each piece of content has some value, but there’s nothing that pulls it all together in a way that makes it a cohesive, problem-solving resource.

The Home Depot intentionally limited the amount of content to ensure that it is findable, easy to navigate, and of a higher quality. Lowe’s did not. That is why The Home Depot offers a resource, while Lowe’s just has content.

Nike+

Nike+ is a fantastic example of resources because the personal fitness training site manifests itself in so many ways. It is an app. It is a community. It is a delivery vehicle for high-value content. It is a social platform. With all of its many forms, Nike+ is focused on a clear, consistent, defined goal: “Track your progress, stay motivated, and train better.” Nike looked to solve a problem, and Nike+ is the resource solution.

nike+-image 3

If Nike had looked at fitness training as a series of questions instead of a singular problem to solve, it would not have provided anywhere near the same amount of value for its audience. It could have created and published the same content as individual pieces, but it would have failed to solve the higher-order problem. It would have been stuck in the content paradigm of create-publish-share-repeat. The audience would have had to go through the effort on its own to piece together the content.

Being comprehensive is not enough. A resource needs to be sufficiently organized to be a coherent solution.

Nike+ is also a great example of how resources can help smooth the transition from engagement to purchase. People who derive value from Nike+ without purchasing any NikeFuel products always have the potential of upgrading their training experience and the value derived from Nike+ with a NikeFuel purchase.

Nike is so wildly successful with this resource that not only did Nike+ become a near-instant household name among fitness enthusiasts, but Nike’s competitors have developed a host of similar solutions, such as Adidas miCoach, hoping to keep from falling further behind.

Boosts from resource development

If you look at almost any content marketing goal, resources will achieve that goal better than simple content.

  • Branding: Much content marketing is undertaken to solidify a position within the minds of the target audience. The more relevant value you deliver to your audiences with respect to your desired brand position, the more solid that position will be in their minds.
  • Social and SEO: By having more value and being more useful, resources naturally encourage more organic sharing. That generates more backlinks. A good resource is more likely to go viral, though it may progress slowly and not look like the boom-or-bust viral campaigns to which we’ve become accustomed.
  • Lead generation: Generating leads requires holding audience members’ attention long enough for them to convert. Resources hold the user’s attention longer, and research has shown that solving a problem is the most likely business-to-customer event to trigger positive emotions.
  • Customer loyalty and retention: Content is often transient. It is shared, consumed, and then buried in an ever-increasing pile of more and more content. Resources provide lasting value, causing the audience to return to them to derive additional value.

In adopting a resource paradigm, we’re essentially trading many little things – all the stuff that’s begging for our audiences’ attention and contributing to the noise – for fewer things that are bigger and more valuable. Once they are created, those bigger, more valuable resources create long-term value for your brand.

It used to be a big thing to talk about engagement. How much of my audience is viewing or interacting with any given piece of content? Resources go beyond that thinking. Resources can become repeated sources of value in people’s lives. It’s what we’ve always dreamed of for our content, and we can achieve it – we just need to shift our thinking.

Solve problems

There are as many ways to create resources as there are problems that your audiences are facing. When people ask me about what a resource might look like, I’m hesitant to give examples because I don’t want to constrain people’s creativity when it comes to developing resources. The Home Depot and Nike each had its own way, but don’t limit yourself to what others are doing.

The key thing to remember is to focus on solving problems. When you change your paradigm from saying things to solving problems, you’ll be evolving as a content marketer and taking the value you create for your audience and for your brand to the next level.

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Cover image by Viktor Hanacek, picjumbo, via pixabay.com

Author: Carlton Hoyt

Carlton Hoyt is Co-Founder and Principal Consultant of BioBM Consulting, a life science marketing agency, where he helps highly innovative scientific companies be just as innovative with their marketing. You can find more of his thinking (with a B2B and life science slant) on BioBM’s blog, by following BioBM on Twitter at @BioBM, or by following Carlton on LinkedIn. Fun fact: Once upon a time Carlton was a neuroscientist. He knows a lot about retinas.

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  • http://www.writingonthevine.com/ Diana Combs

    I liked this article, thanks. I shared it with content writers on Linked In. As always, anything that makes content more valuable than just another top 10 list, or just another blog, rises to the top. We all aspire to that!

    • http://biobm.com/ Carlton Hoyt

      Thanks, Diana! I can’t agree more! As more and more people and brands churn out content, it takes more to differentiate oneself above the noise. Furthermore, as the demand for a limited resource (our audiences’ attention) increases, we can easily predict the outcome – the price goes up! What is the price we need to pay? Higher-value content, which we can’t achieve unless we have a new perspective on value creation for our audiences.

  • Ashley Witt

    Great article. How do you think this can be applied to a credit union who’s Marketing resources are low? I would be curious to get your feedback. Thanks so much!

    • http://biobm.com/ Carlton Hoyt

      I know almost nothing about credit unions, but I think the key is the same for many companies: Start with assessing the higher-order needs of the customers, then see how you can leverage content and other resources to solve them. Think big-picture and genuine solutions, and stay away from merely being somewhat helpful. There’s a lot of tips and advice out there, but those rarely solve problems on a meaningful scale.

      Resources do take more to develop than simple content, and it’s possible that your organization doesn’t yet have the marketing resources to undertake such an endeavor – yet – but that’s okay. If you slowly but surely amass a lot of meaningful, high-value content around a particular focus, you can later redesign the customer experience surrounding that content to behave like a genuine resource.

      Take the home depot example – a mom-and-pop hardware store couldn’t have built that DIY site quickly or easily, but if they worked away at it, slowly and intentionally adding high-value content with the long-term goal of a DIY resource in mind, they could have done it bit by bit. Just know your end game, and chip away at it.

      • Ashley Witt

        Thank you so much for your reply! To be honest, we definitely don’t have the marketing resources at the moment but we just hired a brand new Manager so I hope that he can help turn that all around in due time.

  • Don Rutledge Day

    After looking at both the Lowes and Home Depot examples, I didn’t think they were all that different. Home Depot may have had a more concise navigator based specifically on How-To topic types, but that did not mean that the equivalent information is not also available by search at Lowes (indeed, “How to install a ceiling fan” comes right up with what is arguably intended to be an equivalent resource).

    Whether an item is a resource depends, I think, on the usefulness of the item itself rather than how you arrived at it. While organized navigation is nice to have, the ceiling fan article on each site would have been equally accessible by search or by someone’s curated link on Facebook or Twitter or blog.

    Interestingly, if I bother to bookmark that page into a particular folder hierarchy in my bookmark file, then I have effectively created my own navigator for it–one that in all likelihood is nothing like what a well-meaning content marketer at either Lowes or Home Depot might ever think to construct for a finder guide.

    So I had a couple of other takeaways on this article (which I admit really did make me work hard to try to see if I agreed with it!):1) Readers may arrive at content by search and by reference as well as by finders, therefore I need to make my good content easy to find and easy to be shared. 2) Since resource-worthiness is in the eye of the seeker who either stays or moves on in their search, I need to make my good content as sufficient and stay-worthy as possible. 3) Resources consist not only of how-to material but also of references (glossaries and specifications, for example), of background or instructional information, of case studies that I might want to cite, and basically of any information type that a I as a reader might bookmark because it has value to me. A resource has a clear role and value.

    • http://biobm.com/ Carlton Hoyt

      Hi Don,

      While I [obviously] don’t agree that the Home Depot and Lowe’s sites are that similar, I think you’re getting some of the key points. There are a couple areas of disagreement that I think are worth noting, however.

      Being “stay-worthy” requires organization. You have to remember that your audience’s attention is a very limited asset and you can’t make them dig. That Home Depot DIY site has such concise, clear navigation and also doesn’t try to drown you in content respects that fact. The Lowe’s How-To site does not, and therefore less stay-worthy. The moment someone gets frustrated that they can’t find what they need, they’re gone. You’ve just lost them. Are there ways to quickly find any given thing on the Lowe’s site? Sure. But in general, are things as easy to find on the Lowe’s How-To site as Home Depot’s DIY site? Not a chance, and that makes the Lowe’s site behave much less like a resource.

      Resources definitely do not need to contain references / glossaries, but that’s something that can be determined on a case-by-case basis. It depends on the nature of the topic and the role that the resource intends to play in solving that problem.

      In fact, suggesting that all resources should be referenced and referring to those that utilize resources as “readers” puts us in danger of returning to a more traditional content paradigm, where things are dominated by a more definition of media. One of the great parts about a resource is that it doesn’t have to be a piece of written material, or a video, or anything of that nature. With a resource, the problem that you’re solving is far more important than the form of what you’re designing, and sometimes resources that take on a more non-traditional form can be the most impactful.

      For instance, if someone was to start by thinking: “I’m going to write a bunch of white papers about topic X and compile them into a resource” they would undeniably be approaching it incorrectly. The problem has to define the solution. The more assumptions or bounds you explicitly or implicitly place on the resource, the less likely it is to actually be a solution and deliver meaningful value.

      Hope that helps clarify things!

      • Don Rutledge Day

        More clear, thanks. My phrasing of “resources consist of” probably did sound like a recipe for a mess. My intent was “besides how-tos, you may also consider these other types of content to be resources in their own right” (and I appreciate your reminder to include other media that qualifies as providing value).

        • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

          I echo this appreciation you express, Don. I especially like this line near the end of the article: “change your paradigm from saying things to solving problems.” Yes, saying things can solve problems—but only if the person saying those things has the audience’s problems in mind from the start. Excellent article. Thanks, Carlton.

          • http://biobm.com/ Carlton Hoyt

            My pleasure! Glad you got something from it!

  • Chris Hooker

    An insightful post and you have definitely set the many small cogs a-whirring. I suspect that all of my efforts to date have been, while not totally wasted, at least ineffective.
    I think I shall have to re-vamp my approach! Many thanks (not!).

    • http://biobm.com/ Carlton Hoyt

      Don’t despair! There’s plenty of ways to rework content into resources, or at least organize content into something that behaves more like a resource.

  • http://www.ffmandh.com/ Sherrill Layton

    @Chris: Ha, no kidding.
    I’m new at making these sorts of mistakes, so it’s great to come across sound advice right out of the chute, many thanks.

  • Tania Adams

    Thanks for writing this article. I have had a growing awareness of the content overload issue and this article has highlighted the precise issue and provided a solution.

  • https://twitter.com/nigel_dean Nigel Dean

    Great post Carlton. I think it comes down to knowing your company, your brand and who you actually want to talk to. In your examples; Lowe’s are trying to be all things to all men with 1000’s of articles, whereas Home Depot focus on their specific customer needs where they can have the biggest impact. Don’t talk generally to the world, know what you want to say and speak clearly to individuals who need your solutions.

    • http://biobm.com/ Carlton Hoyt

      Couldn’t agree more. You can’t set out to solve everyone’s problems. That just won’t work, because the audience that is “everyone” is too diverse and have too many problems. If you try to solve them all, you’ll end up with an incoherent mess. Just like you need to define a target customer for products / services, you need to define a target audience (and target problems) for your resources!

  • http://inspirationfeed.com Igor Ovsyannykov

    Well sad Carlton. I learned this the hard way, but now I believe I’m on the right path. People mostly use google when they have a problem. They need a solution. You could be that person to present them the solution .

    • http://biobm.com/ Carlton Hoyt

      Thanks, Igor. A great resource isn’t just a solution to a one-off problem, but something that will continue to deliver value over time. If you structure a resource properly, you should be able to break users from the habit of going to Google (or otherwise starting a search from scratch) when looking for a solution to a relevant problem, and instead have them go straight to you. It’s a potentially massive driver of brand value and brand engagement.

  • http://linkd.in/1mq5215 Kylon Gustin

    This is great content that actually become a resource. This information solves a problem for many of us that want to get leads but are not willing to put the work into generating real value for our potential customers.

  • Juan

    Love that post! Very useful for convert clients on Content Marketing believers. Thanks from Spain!

  • http://www.sheersocial.com Alice Fuller

    What a fabulous post you’ve shared! I’ll definitely start looking at content differently now and how I create it.

  • poyaso

    I totally agree that. But where is the fact such a resource content is engaged with their audience ?