According to Wikipedia, a perpetual motion machine is a “machine that can do work indefinitely without an energy source.” This is impossible of course, such a machine cannot exist in reality. The very concept violates the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Nonetheless, this hasn’t dissuaded a millennia of would-be engineers from attempting to build one.
For many organizations, the promise of content marketing parallels that of perpetual motion. In this ideal world, one piece of content begets another, which begets another, generating a surfeit of blog posts, whitepapers, videos and ebooks. In the mind of many, the content marketing machine once put into motion is well-nigh unstoppable.
Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle
It’s not all fantasy. There’s a certain amount of truth to a content marketing machine in the same way as it is possible to build something that looks like a perpetual motion machine. Take this video:
Savvy marketers understand that a large piece of content, say a whitepaper or a webinar can spawn more “snackable” offspring with little effort. Blog posts, short videos, and infographics can easily fill a content library. A well-oiled content marketing machine running on this principle seems very much like a perpetual motion machine.
Nothing (not even Content Marketing) is Forever
Without fresh content, your content machine will wind down. What’s more, the wrong content may as well be a wrench in its gears. If the audience doesn’t find the stuff you’re making useful, you’re only sabotaging your own efforts.
A content marketing study conducted by marketing strategy platform Akoonu indicates that b2b buyers increasingly believe that a better understanding of their audience is crucial to creating engaging content. These marketers build buyer journey maps (48% of the marketers surveyed), interview their customers (47%), and construct buyer personas (42%) to inform their content creation efforts.
Amrita Thapar, content leader at business process management vendor Genpact, puts it succinctly: “we created buyer personas for CXOs. If a content idea doesn’t meet any of those audience criteria, then it gets thrown out. Nothing is created unless it is really relevant.”
No, your content marketing isn’t eternal, but by stoking your content marketing machine with the content that is right for your audience you can keep it going for as long as you need it to run. To do so you must actively strive to understand your audience and appropriately apply the data to both creating and distributing that content through the most relevant channels.
For thinly stretched marketing teams, technology partners can also provide data that can both inform your content creation and its delivery. Moreover, while you already understand the clients and prospects who are currently in your database, these partners can help you reach prospects you haven’t even met yet.
Right Message, Right Time
Timing is also essential for an efficient content machine. A Regalix study conducted in 2015 found that b2b marketers believe that different types of content are more effective depending on where a prospect is in the buyer’s journey. A whopping 83% of b2b marketers consider social media posts as effective during the “Awareness” stage, whereas only 23% consider social posts effective during the “Purchase” stage.
Indeed, what is most revealing about the Regalix study is that marketers put less faith in content marketing as prospects enter the “Purchase” stage. For example, the b2b marketers surveyed believe that infographics are 81% successful during the “Awareness” stage, 22% of them feel that infographics work for the “Consideration” stage, while a scant 6% see them as useful for the “Purchase stage.”
These are important numbers for content marketers. Backing this up, Lori Wizdo, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, confirms that “today’s buyer might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to a vendor.”
As such, it is absolutely essential that your products and services are in front of a potential customer as they are doing their research. Your content machine can be producing insightful whitepapers, cogent videos, and webinars that address a prospect’s every pain point. But if your prospects aren’t seeing all this content while they’re doing their research, you’ve missed your chance. That’s yet another wrench in the works.
Here’s another place where a good partner can come in handy. Account-based marketing vendors are a good place to start, especially those driven by superior data. Intent data for example, can identify and deliver your content to prospects while they’re in the research stage, effectively nurturing prospects while they’re in Regalix’s “Awareness” and “Consideration” stages.
The Content Marketing Machine
I’m sure there are mad inventors who have dismissed natural law that are still tinkering with “perpetual motion machines” in basement laboratories. There are probably still some equally mad marketers building content programs with just this set-it-and-forget-it philosophy.
But it’s the marketers who are willing to put in the work, to balance content creation, relevance and timing who will come the closest to building the impossible. There’s no such thing as magic, but with enough effort and a little help, your content marketing machine can still do wonders.