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Content Marketing Best Practices: Can “Less” Provide More Value?

more or less contentThere has been talk in our industry about the benefits of doing “less,” i.e., whether it is a good content marketing strategy to develop fewer content pieces overall, or to create content for fewer platforms, in order to conserve resources and place greater emphasis on each content effort you are producing. In terms of content marketing best practices, it’s a topic that has recently inspired some passionate debate among our contributors and readers (as well as from CMI’s own Joe Pulizzi).

We thought it would be helpful to add more voices to the conversation, so CMI asked some of this year’s Content Marketing World speakers to weigh in. In addition to sharing their perspectives on the issue, our experts also provided some recommendations to help content marketers keep up with the constant demand to produce “more, more, more.”

Scott Abel, the "content wrangler," CMI

Well, [it’s] partially true; but, I’d like to see some really meaningful cutting done in most of the organizations on this planet. For instance, cutting down the number of noise words and jargon helps improve readability and comprehension, especially among prospects accessing content on mobile devices. Using plain language (clear, concise, controlled terminology) helps non-native speakers of the languages you produce content in to be able to better understand it. Additionally, stripping out unneeded verbiage and focusing on clear communication (oftentimes leveraging principles of minimalism) saves untold millions in productivity. When you add translation to the mix, those savings can skyrocket.

The best way to produce more with less is to take a critical look at how you do things today. Seek the help of a process improvement specialist whose focus is optimizing the content production life cycle. These experts can help you adopt a unified content strategy designed to make you a lean, mean content machine. Scott Abel | @ScottAbel

Michael Brenner, best practicesI do not agree that we need to create less content overall. The shelf life of any one piece of content is getting shorter and shorter, not longer.

I believe we need to consistently create more — more valuable content with our customers’ information needs in mind. I know that marketing budgets are not growing very much, so we do need to stop creating the stuff that no one wants or reads or uses and create more content that our audience wants. Brands need to become an information source for their prospects, and that won’t come with less overall content.

So we need to consistently create more content, but it has to be aligned to customer needs, rigorously optimized, and paid for out of the budgets of those who were creating content no one wanted or used. Michael Brenner | @BrennerMichael

Heidi Cohen-best practicesThe question of whether to provide more or less content is irrelevant. As a marketer, you must offer the right kind of information; specifically, you must answer all of the questions your prospects and leads have. This applies to B2B, B2C, not-for-profit (NFP) and solopreneurs. Until you have done this, they’re not buying. Marcus Sheridan calls this the “secret sauce.” Prospects and leads seek product information, answers to their purchase-related questions, explanations that show them how to use your product, and ways to style product that you can provide, and other satisfied customers’ ratings and reviews. To ensure that you have sufficient content to meet your potential customers’ needs, supplement your content creation with content curation, and plan to repurpose your content (e.g., by following Todd Wheatland’s [strategy of creating] 20 pieces of content for every major content event. Heidi Cohen | @HeidiCohen

Will Davis-best practicesI am a firm believer in the notion of better content, not just more content. Each of our clients has a different marketing objective, a different product or service, and a slightly different target audience. Creating as much content as you possibly can, in every possible channel, is an absolutely impossible mission. Instead, focus on the areas that drive the most impact — for some clients that means backing off of some videos to do more webinars or an eBook; for others, it might be the exact opposite. There isn’t one definitive clear answer, but whatever you do it needs to be of the highest quality and it needs to stand out. How do you determine which things to do? Clearly define the desired outcomes and measure your content marketing efforts, and then drive forward creating remarkable content. Will Davis | @WillDavis

deana goldasich, best practicesFor our B2B clients, we’re finding that quality, “deep-dive” content produces far more leads than large quantities of surface-level content. To do it right, we’re now creating editorial plans that are deeper vs. busier. And, distribution is still often underestimated. If you’re not willing to spend as much effort distributing the content as you are in producing it, think twice about adding it to your schedule. Deana Goldasich | @goldasich

chris goward-best practicesAs content marketing evolves, marketers are realizing that quality truly does trump quantity. But quality content can still be leveraged across platforms. Most content sources can be converted with much lower effort than creating original content for each [effort]. For example, take your blog posts and convert them into SlideShare presentations, then present them in a short YouTube clip with links back to the full blog post, then add a few stats and turn it into an infographic. Chris Goward | @ChrisGoward

melissa harrison, content marketing best practicesIn some ways, I’ve always believed in the “less is more” theory; but in other ways, not so much. For example, I do agree that you should pick one or two channels to be really good at (it’s just like in business: Do you want to be mediocre at everything, or excellent at one or two niches?). Content is the same thing. However, I also believe your content should be continuously updated. I once read a blog post about how companies shouldn’t worry about updating their blog content as frequently — that it’s all about the quality of content, and even if you don’t switch it up, people will come. While quality is a must (I always agree with folks there), there is also something to be said about the speed in which we all gather, process, and look for information. So, while quality is key, constant change is also key in my book — as long as you’re focused in on a few channels, rather than the sum of them all. Melissa Harrison | @alleecreative

Carla Johnson-best practicesThe value of doing less is being overlooked and underrated. I see marketers having the same mentality about content marketing as traditional marketing — that more is better. If they can just get enough content into the marketplace, then customers and prospects can’t help but hear them. All that does is create more noise. It makes it easier for audiences to ignore them because, whatever they miss, there’s more where that came from.

It takes thoughtful content planning and a clear focus on your story — and the audience you want to tell it to — for content to cut through the clutter. By focusing on the main channels through which your audience wants to engage, you have more time to say something relevant and remarkable. That beats large volumes of content any day. Carla Johnson | @CarlaJohnson

aaron kahlow, content marketing best practicesThe “less is more” theory holds as the most fundamental truth in content marketing, especially when looked at through the digital and social media lens. Allow me to break it down for you from start to finish in five simple layers, building one upon the other:

1. The human truth: We get this intuitively; we just sometimes need a little reminder to prioritize it as important. When you say less — communicate less, do less, etc. — the actions you do take have much more meaning and impact. Take the classic example of being in a meeting: If you wait, write down your thoughts, cultivate them, and then only engage by raising your hand at one critical point (rather than engaging in the back and forth of opinions and banter), the impact of your one statement or idea will likely be exponentially greater. 

OK, now let’s build on that… 

2. The writing truth: Any writer,  journalist, or marketer knows this one by definition of the job: The hardest thing to do is make your value proposition, offer, and product description boil down to something simple and short. Anyone can write the long essay, but few can make it so simple and succinct that it has an amazing impact in seconds. Right? Less is more. 

3. The content marketing truth: Now this is where it gets interesting to all of us: If, we plan and target properly, we then will find ourselves producing more meaningful content, rather than lots of content. Translating directly from our human and writing truths, having a smaller but very impactful content marketing calendar of great stuff will give everyone engaging that greater brand affinity, less advertorial mind-block (aka blocking all your messages out because so many and so irrelevant or value-less) and a boat load more engagement. And for so many of us in the B2B world, it’s all about those few high quality engagement points for the right prospects that make the difference — not the quantity of page views, right? Right! Less is more. 

4. The “better social media and digital market” truth: Now take my favorite topic du jour — social media content and attribution — and apply that to, oh, let’s say Facebook. Post less, a lot less. A great rule of thumb would be if you are not willing to support and amplify your newsfeed/wall post with advertising, then it’s probably not worth posting. As [“Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s” Jeff] Spicoli might tell you, “Dude, you’re clogging my feed.” And you are… so make that post more impactful by doing it less often and making the copy itself super short. Less is more, right? 

5. The “smarter, better, more mature marketer” truth: This is where it all begins and ends — being smart. Being smart starts with learning. Commit to learning — learning how to think more strategically, how to plan more effectively, understand what is working, and know what the best in your field are already doing. This is the key. Don’t waste your time, your company’s budget, and your customers’ time learning on the job! Learn first, execute second, and then bring it all back and continually get better. I think only the shallow and inexperienced wouldn’t agree that “sharpening the saw” is more important and impactful than chopping away with that dull blade, making a mess and burning yourself out in the process.

So, let’s do less, make more of that which has impact, and commit to it. Another way to look at it is that by doing less, you can have more time for what’s really important (beyond marketing ROI), and that even means more time for vacations, family, or whatever your heart craves. Less is more, for every aspect of life, right? Aaron Kahlow | @AaronKahlow 

doug kessler, content marketing best practicesCrap at scale is still crap. I’m all for volume, but never at the expense of quality. As [my company] wrote in our recent SlideShare on [the subject of] “Crap,” building a great content brand is the number one goal — if you erode that in an effort to keep the firehose pumped, you’ll be training people to ignore you.

This applies to channels, as well as content. If you can’t do a channel justice, it might be better not to use it. If it’s an important channel for your prospects, fight for the resources. Doug Kessler | @DougKessler

arnie kuenn, best practicesAs a rule of thumb, I lean toward fewer, more substantial content pieces over a “more is more” approach. All things being equal, it is obviously beneficial to generate more content, but it’s important to recognize the potential for diminishing returns at increased volumes.

Focusing on content that is more extensive, heavily researched, or otherwise more in-depth may indeed mean fewer pieces produced. But given an increasingly noisy content landscape, the way to stand out from the white noise is with genuine quality content that can’t be churned out by the “more is more” crowd.

For audiences increasingly looking for relevant information and education, it’s better to be the best answer in one content piece than a mediocre answer in several. Arnie Kuenn | @ArnieK

jim kukral, best practicesObviously, focus always wins out. I think you can create lots of content and be successful, or create just a little bit, as well. It really comes down to how good, and how often, you can do it. Some teams can’t do “great” content all the time. That’s fine. Focus and produce what you can that’s going to work the best for you. Jim Kukral | @JimKukral

Don’t miss additional insights and information from our fabulous roster of speakers at Content Marketing World 2013. Register now with the code CMIBLOG for a $100 discount. 

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