Do you ever get the feeling that you’re so bombarded with content there can’t be room for any more out there?
The struggle is real. Everyone seems to have latched onto the whole content marketing idea as a way to drive traffic, develop authority, and showcase expertise. This means there is an absolute proliferation of content available, valuable or otherwise.
Just check out these stats from Little Jack Marketing:
For many people this is enough to make you question the effectiveness of creating yet more content to add to the noise. Have we reached saturation? Is it still worth creating more? If so, how will you stand out from the crowd?
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The Age Of Content Fatigue
Almost like the predictions of an imminent apocalypse, “content fatigue” has been forecast for a while. Rand Fishkin was talking about it two years ago, predicting that the volumes of content will lead to jaded, overwhelmed consumers and a more difficult task for marketers looking to stand out and build their own audience.
Mark Schaefer also came in early with his piece on “content shock.” Suddenly, every company is a “media” company, despite what their traditional product or service may be (think Coke, Red Bull, Chipotle…). So now we have content coming out of every sector and nowhere near enough capacity to consume it all.
Nielson data shows that the average U.S. consumer spends sixty hours each week consuming content across different devices. Compare that to a century ago when we spent perhaps an hour or two a day reading. Can we do much more? Probably not without turning into some version of the humans depicted in the Pixar cartoon Wall-E…
Is Content Marketing Still Worth It?
This all really leads to the question, is content marketing still worth it? Can it still deliver enough leads to your business and help you to build authority?
Let’s look at a few numbers:
- Overall, 40% of B2B small businesses who use content marketing rate their efforts to be effective. 40% were neutral as to their effectiveness, while 18% considered them to be ineffective.
- The average marketing budget for SMBs was 10.4% of revenue, of which the most effective content marketing budgets were allocated 42%. The dollar figure for that “most effective” budget range was $43,680 to $2,184,000 in the small business market.
- B2C content marketers are using 12 different tactics on average.
Of course, simply creating content is not going to be an effective strategy in itself; you also need to have good methods of distributing that content and reaching your intended audience. Content Marketing Institute found that on average, small businesses are using six different social media platforms, though LinkedIn comes out on top with 97% of businesses using it. 60% of those found that LinkedIn is an effective platform for distribution, a statistic that puts LinkedIn at the top overall for social media distribution.
The most effective content marketers in the study were likely to use each paid method of content distribution open to them too.
What’s The Answer?
The overall picture? The answer to “is content marketing still worth it” is a “yes, but” (and for some it will be a big but). Those who see the most impact from content marketing are putting significant time (and probably money) into it. Content Marketing Institute also found that 58% of the most effective B2C content marketers have a documented strategy which they follow, while the 39% of B2B small businesses who have a documented strategy are also the most effective in their content marketing efforts.
Jon Morrow had this to say in response to Rand Fishkin’s “content fatigue” article:
Mediocre, “content for content’s sake” won’t cut it. You need to have a plan, a very clear target audience, and execute well to produce high-quality content.
So, Does That Mean Bigger Companies Have The Advantage?
If the solution is “be the best”, “hire the best”, and to produce regular content distributed across multiple channels, does that mean the bigger players who have a correspondingly bigger budget have the advantage?
Well, it turns out that more money doesn’t necessarily equate to better results with content marketing. Content Marketing Institute found that only 28% of larger enterprises consider themselves to be effective content marketers, and they are in fact more challenged with nearly every aspect of content marketing than their small business counterparts.
Smaller businesses can have an advantage despite lower budgets because they can:
- Remain closer to their customers. This means you develop better relationships, understand them and their problems more closely and thus cultivate loyalty more easily.
- Respond more quickly. Larger businesses are often encumbered when it comes to moving.
- More easily inject personality into their brand. It’s easier for smaller teams to present a more cohesive brand persona.
Getting Your Content Noticed
There is no easy answer to getting your content noticed. Yes, you are competing on very crowded platforms, but getting found is still doable with some time and effort. In his editorial for the February edition of Chief Content Officer magazine, Joe Pulizzi writes about finding your “content tilt.”
“How do you ensure you stand out? How can you elevate your content such that it’s nearly impossible to mimic? I call it the content tilt. Your “tilt” is not simply the topic area you choose to influence, but your particular personality and point of view on that issue.”
Let’s look at some examples of small businesses who grew through content marketing:
Groove , the help desk SaaS, started out with only 1000 visitors per month to their website, a number which would have killed their business if it continued. They began a number of (as they admit) “unfocused” experimentation efforts to drive more traffic, including starting their “Journey to $100k” blog, where they were very transparent about sharing the challenges, successes, and failures of building their business.
Their blog was their biggest driver of traffic, but they do highlight that it took some hard work in the background to make it so, including identifying and reaching out to influencers to get their content shared.
They outlined the avenues they tried, comparing effort and reward in this chart:
You can see that a number of these options are content-related, and they have said that guest blogging was a big driver for them. When you’re starting at zero, it makes sense to be able to leverage the larger audiences of established sites to drive traffic back to yours.
The thing with those big traffic drivers like the blog and guest blogging is that they don’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money. Yes, they rate high to very high in terms of effort, but they could create this type of content themselves, or outsource it at a reasonable price.
Amplification efforts such as influencer outreach and getting into online communities are other efforts that can take time, but do not need to cost a lot. If you’ve got the goods there that people want to consume, you can get them back to your website as long as you’re targeting the right places.
The end result is that they are now receiving over 120,000 visitors per month and have grown their business beyond that initial $100k goal, so that the blog needed renaming: “Journey to $500k.”
There is really nothing more captivating in content than a good story, and this is what we find in the story of Design Pickle, as related by founder Russ Perry on WP Curve. Russ went from $0 to $6k in monthly recurring revenue within a week. Content played a big part in this, with Russ writing a number of blogs, guest posting, and emailing. His paid marketing spend was only $340.
Creating brand personality to give an emotional dimension was another part of Russ’ hustle; he created a unique “tilt” for his brand early on.
There are a number of takeaways from the Design Pickle story, but here are some important thoughts with regard to content marketing:
- They are competing against bigger, established platforms like 99Designs, yet have carved out their own unique value proposition and gained a large following.
- They didn’t spend a lot of money.
- This is recent (article from September 2015), so the content they put out was effective even in this time of content fatigue.
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While we are in an age of “content fatigue” where more content is being produced than can possibly be consumed, it doesn’t mean that smaller businesses can’t use it to effectively grow their business.
Research shows that the most successful content marketing efforts happen when there is a documented plan, when multiple channels are used and when there is a decent amount of marketing budget available for content.
This doesn’t mean that those on smaller budgets can’t succeed. In fact, we’ve seen examples that prove it’s possible to be small, yet mighty if you are prepared to put in the time to get your content out in front of as many targeted eyeballs as you can. The point is that you can’t just “publish and pray”, you need to be looking at various methods to amplify your content.
Content marketing remains a very valid way to grow your business, as long as you’re prepared to hustle to get noticed.