A Few Thoughts About the Coming Content Marketing Apocalypse

the_end_is_near_signThere’s been a lot of speculation lately that the End Is Near for content marketing as we know it. Call it what you want: a bubble, a backlash, a shock, or some term I can’t repeat here.

But apparently, if you’re relying on content marketing, it’s time to start hoarding canned goods and boarding up the windows.

I’ve come across at least two recent blog posts that illustrate the trend. They’re both worth reading, but here’s the gist of the problem as they see it. First, from Mark Schaefer’s post on Content Shock:

Like any good discussion on economics, this is rooted in the very simple concept of supply and demand. When supply exceeds demand, prices fall. But in the world of content marketing, the prices cannot fall because the “price” of the content is already zero — we give it away for free. So, to get people to consume our content, we actually have to pay them to do it, and as the supply of content explodes, we will have to pay our customers increasing amounts to the point where it is not feasible any more.

Rand Fishkin makes a similar point in his post about “content fatigue” (with a nod towards Schaefer’s post). He’s got a great graphic that sums up the problem nicely (click to enlarge the chart):

how-content-fatigue-happens

I agree with this position — at least to a point.

If you’re selling burritos or energy drinks (to use two examples Schaefer singles out), content shock is a plausible concept. There’s a tremendous amount of content in play in the consumer space, and most of it is of very low value. Consumer brands are going to have some long, hard conversations about the benefits they’re getting from content marketing. Not everyone will fail, and certainly not everyone will quit, but the challenges are apparent.

In the B2B market, however, it’s a very different story.

Your customers and prospects are tasked with solving business problems. Their jobs depend on their ability to solve these problems. If your B2B content marketing is targeting the right audience, and if your content is addressing the buyer’s needs, then your buyers will recognize and respond to the value of this content.

Today’s B2B buyers also conduct more extensive research — about their business problems, possible solutions, and vendor options — than ever before. We know these buyers wait longer before engaging with vendor sales reps. And we know exactly what they’re doing with that time: finding and evaluating the information they need to make buying decisions. The right content, at the right time, is inherently valuable to these buyers.

I’m not saying that the B2B market gets to play an automatic “get out of the apocalypse free” card here. In some ways, the stakes are higher: The state of the art for B2B content involves content that reflects a deep understanding of your buyers. You can’t afford not to engage your buyers with content, but you also can’t afford to use content marketing that’s sloppy, pushy, poorly timed and irrelevant.

Here’s a final thought: Best-in-class B2B marketers don’t have to guess at the value of their content. They track and measure that value through every step of the buyer’s journey. They have hard numbers to tell them what works and what doesn’t. If you want to create an apocalypse-proof content marketing strategy, that’s an important piece of the puzzle.