Sunday, August 18, 2013

Alice, the Red Queen, and Content Marketing

In Lewis Carroll's classic, Through the Looking Glass, the Red Queen takes Alice on a run in a forest. Alice and the Queen run very fast, but they never seem to leave the place where they started. When Alice wonders why, the Queen explains, "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."

I suspect that many marketers today feel like they're running alongside Alice and the Red Queen. The pace of change in marketing has accelerated dramatically over the past few years, and the watchword in marketing today is more - more tactics to use and master, more channels to incorporate in the marketing mix, more demanding prospects and customers, and more marketing content to create and distribute. So even if you're working as hard as possible, you can find yourself just barely keeping up with ever-increasing demands.

The "Red Queen effect" can be found in all aspects of marketing, but it's particularly potent in content marketing. Marketers are now tasked to create more marketing content than ever before, and it's not an easy job. In the B2B Content Marketing:  2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends - North America study by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, producing enough content surpassed producing engaging content as the greatest challenge facing B2B content marketers.

The volume of content that's required to fuel effective marketing programs is growing exponentially for several reasons.

An Increased Need for Relevance

To create engagement with today's potential buyers, marketing content must be relevant to the interests and concerns of individual buyers, and it must be aligned to where the buyer is in his or her decision-making process. In the B2B world, most significant purchases will involve several buyers, and it's often necessary to develop content for each type of buyer. The need to have content for multiple types of buyers for each stage of the buying process multiplies the number of content assets that marketers must create.

The Lifespan of Content is Getting Shorter

The half life of content, particularly social media content, is shorter than ever. For example, the effective lifespan of a tweet or a Facebook or LinkedIn update is measured in hours. This means that marketers must constantly be adding new content to replace what falls off the radar screen.

Frequency Still Matters

The third reason that the need for content is exploding is that frequency indisputably drives increased results. Seth Godin recently wrote a blog post titled The curse of frequency, and he stated the principle very clearly:  "If you promote something twice to one hundred people it will lead to more sales than it you promote it once to two hundred people."

Marketers have long understood the value of frequency for traditional advertising and marketing programs. It now appears that frequency also improves the results you get from "new" marketing channels such as blogs and social media. So, with more marketing channels than ever, you need more content than ever to achieve the desired level of frequency.

Dealing with the Red Queen Effect

So, what can marketers do to combat the Red Queen effect in content marketing? I'm planning to deal with this question in a future post, but here's a sneak preview.

Start by identifying the value propositions that are essential to your company's go-to-market strategy. If you work in a small or mid-size company, you should be able to identify four to eight core value propositions.

Then, develop one or two substantial content resources for each core value proposition. By substantial, I mean longer-form resources such as white papers or e-books.

Finally, use these "base" content resources as the "parents" of multiple other pieces of content. For example, with a little creativity, you should be able to use a white paper as the basis for:
  • A full-length webinar or 2 to 3 shorter webcasts
  • 2 to 3 articles for online or offline publications
  • 3 to 6 posts for your blog
  • A dozen or more social media updates (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)
This approach won't completely eliminate the Red Queen effect, but it will help make it manageable.

Image by:  Playing Futures:  Applied Nomadology (

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