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.
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.
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+ 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.
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.
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