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Planned Obsolescence: The Key to Content Marketing

Last September, MarketingProfs and Junta42 teamed up to produce a report on the state of content marketing. Their research concluded that marketers’ top three content-related challenges were:

  • Producing engaging content (36%)
  • Producing enough content (21%)
  • Having sufficient budget to create content (20%).

There is a simple way to address all three challenges at once: Planned obsolescence.

The concept of planned obsolescence – purposefully designing a product with end-of-life in mind – permeates product engineering across all sectors. Simply put, ensuring a product eventually fails or goes out of style is a sure-fire way to induce people to buy more products.

My question to marketers is this: Do you build obsolescence into your content? If not, you should. We did, and here’s how it worked.

Last June, Eloqua and JESS3 collaborated to produce the industry’s first content marketing infographic, called The Content Grid, which was billed as “a model for content marketing.”

We knew the graphic was interesting visually, and we also knew it could be used by marketers. But deep down we felt that something was “off,” but we couldn’t quite put our finger on what was wrong. We could have sat in the drawing room until it was “perfect” (translation: indefinitely), but we didn’t. Instead we published the content as-is and deliberately planned to revisit it one year later.

During that time, we solicited feedback (in blog comments, on Twitter, from colleagues, even from the audience at speaking engagements) and preserved all comments in a spreadsheet. By provoking widespread feedback (positive and negative), we were deliberately rendering obsolete the infographic we had worked so hard to develop.

As we prepared to design The Content Grid v2, we began by reviewing all of the feedback we received, paying particular attention to criticism. While most observers found the visual compelling and useful, some called it confusing and even “scary.” Others felt certain types of content were under-represented.  A couple of folks wanted metrics. One very sage observer asked why the buyer’s perspective missing. Bingo!

This input guided our vision for v2. The JESS3 strategists and I hammered out the vision and framework, and then their superstar designers executed it. (For more information on the making of the Content Grid v2, check out the Forbes blog post by JESS3 co-founder and CEO Jesse Thomas.)

As of this writing, the new infographic has been live for 24 hours. In that short time, dozens of bloggers have written about the new Grid; hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tweets have been posted; but most important of all, nearly all of the critics of the original version have applauded v2.

How did this technique help us overcome the top three challenges vexing content marketers?

  1. By planning obsolescence from the start, we were able to create much more engaging content for Eloqua. We were able to engage our audience when we published v1, and then re-engage them in a meaningful way when the follow-up hit the Web.
  2. We created more content by turning a single concept into two popular infographics.
  3. We reduced our budget because we didn’t have to invest as much time or resources in coming up with a new idea for an infographic. We simply reimagined the original. And, in many cases, the ability to derive maximum value from a single concept is what content marketing success ultimately comes down to.

Takeaway: Don’t wait to publish content until you think it’s perfect. Rather, put your best foot forward, solicit feedback and update your content based on what you have learned. By taking this approach, you’re engaging your audience, continually producing content and saving budget as you’re not doing everything from scratch.

Want to learn more about Eloqua’s content marketing strategy? You can read about how they created their killer content marketing program in only a few months with this detailed case study.