The Big Flaw with “Content Shock” and the Way We See Content Marketing

by Marcus Sheridan

Content_Marketing_Confusion

I’ve got a lot going on in my head this evening and have some trepidation that I’m not going to be able to distill my current thoughts here in a clear and understandable way.

But try I will, and I hope you’ll stay with me until the end, as this will likely be a long ride…

The “Content Shock” Conversation

Many of you have likely read the flurry of articles, comments, etc. about “content shock” over the past few weeks. It started with Mark Schaefer putting it out there on his tremendous blog, then carried over to CopyBlogger with another great piece from Sonia Simone, and has since bounced around many other content marketing corners of the internet.

It has been an interesting debate indeed. Well done Mark Schaefer.

Up until this point, I haven’t made any comments on any of these articles because the truth is, I didn’t want to jump the gun as we so often do and post/say/communicate something I’d just regret later. But with the passing of time, I’ve come to this conclusion:

My philosophical approach to what “content marketing” really is (the definition) is very, very different than a huge portion in this industry.

And because of this, I just don’t feel good about the “content shock” article and the trend I’m seeing of many who want to pile on and predict a bleak future for content marketing.

But before I say any more regarding this topic, let me state for the record that I LOVED Mark Schaefer’s article. In so many ways, it represents everything that is great about the digital age. It spawned incredible conversation and debate, and has forced many people to put their stake in the ground on a very intriguing subject.

I love that, and it’s something we don’t see enough of online.

The Tenets of Content Gloom and Doom

For those of you that have yet to read the original article, let me just repeat a couple of Schaefer’s points and then get to the meat of my thoughts here:

Content Shock: The emerging marketing epoch defined when exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.

(Which, in Schaefer’s words, will also lead to:)

  • The eventual winners of content marketing will have the deepest pockets.
  • The entry barriers will become too high for other businesses.
  • The economics created by Content Shock will eventually drive many content creators out of business.
  • The fact that it’s harder than ever to maintain an audience

Much more has been said on the subject thus far by Schaefer (I’ve read the post 3 times, and then listened to his podcast episode on the topic as well  just to ensure I understood his stance on things), but we’ll stick with these and a few other points in the article herein.

Rebuttals and Other Thoughts

Schaefer Point #1: “Content shock is…exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it…”

The core to Schaefer’s argument here comes down to his feelings on supply/demand economics. In short, this makes no sense to me, but then again, I’m by no means an economist. Heck, I’m just a recovering “Pool Guy.”

Personally, I look at it like this:

Let’s say, for the sake of conversation, you are like the rest of the world and are inundated in information. It’s coming at you from everywhere and your face is buried in your phone, or iPad, or laptop all the time. You’re also being hit with mountains of other media during every waking hour. (In other words, you’re alive and you’re a human being in 2014.)

All this being said, will this information overload prevent you from researching and making normal buying decisions?

  • If you decide you want to buy a swimming pool, will you find the time to research it?
  • If you decide you want to send your child to the best private school in your area, will you find the time to do the leg-work?
  • If you’re looking for a job in your career field, will you find the time to search for it?

The answers are the same for all of us:

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

So here is my first main point:

Consumers, from now until the end of the world, will find the time to research that which is important to them.

We will always find the time to research that which we most care about...

We will always find the time to research that which we most care about…

That’s just the facts, and all the dad-gum information overload in the world will not stop this reality.

Schaefer Point #2: The eventual winners of content marketing will have the deepest pockets.

This statement is absolutely true assuming all factors are equal when you compare organizations and their content marketing efforts across the board. It’s also a true statement for EVERY industry(beyond content marketing) in the entire world, from popsicle stick manufacturers to space-ship engineering companies—money *should* be a big advantage.

But you and I both know there is no such thing as equality in skills, people, etc.

In fact, there are a lot of rich, stupid companies out there.

This is also why I think the Digital David’s will continue to dominate the Goliaths of their industries for the foreseeable future.

Why?

Because they’ll always be more nimble, creative, and willing to think outside the box.

Yes,  money is a huge advantage and can make up for a lot of stupidity—but ultimately the Digital David’s still win because of their unique qualities—just as it has always occurred since the beginning of time.

Schaefer Point #3: The Barriers (to entry) will become too high

This statement is true and false at the same time.

Many of you know I have written about CSI (content saturation index) before, as well as the digital land rush—both of which are efforts we currently see from companies in every industry to capture the digital real-estate of their realm and dominate when it comes to SEO.

The fact is, those that get in early with SEO will have a huge advantage over those that come in years after the initial content grab, and this will be the case until Google and the other search engines completely redefine their algorithm and the search experience (which will clearly happen at some point in the next 10 years).

But SEO is NOT the same thing as content marketing.

Sure, SEO is a component of a sound content marketing strategy, but it doesn’t make the whole—not even close.

Furthermore, today there is almost ZERO “barrier to entry” when it comes to content marketing.

I can enter any industry I want, right this second, simply by writing a blog post about said industry.

In other words, entry has never been easier in the history of the world.

But yes, having your voice heard above the rest of the noise—now that can be difficult.

Schaefer Point #4: It will be harder to retain audiences

In his podcast, Schaefer uses an example (of Content Shock) when referring to a good friend and reader who had commented to Mark that he had stopped reading his blog not because of a lack of appreciation for Mark’s content, but rather because he was simply too distracted with all the other noise.

Hearing Mark’s concern when describing this situation made me raise an eyebrow, for 2 main reasons:

1. People’s habits change based on where they feel they are getting the most value for their time:

The frank reason Mark’s friend stopped reading his blog is because he valued the other things he was doing more than reading Mark’s content. This isn’t at all a knock on Mark, especially because he has developed what I feel is arguably the best community blog on the web for marketing folks.

Personally, I lose readers all the time. In fact, I’ve even written an article as to why you’re going to stop reading my blog one of these days.

People change. They evolve. They move on—just  as it occurs in other areas of our lives—TV shows we used to watch, places we used to visit, friends we used to hang out with, etc.

priorities_and_content

Would I like for every reader of The Sales Lion to stay? A part of me says yes, but another part of me says no—simply because what I really want is for readers to experience growth, prosperity, and peace in their life. And if this is accomplished by focusing on other things—my blog not included—then awesome.

2. Most businesses don’t care about audiences, they just want customers.

Yes, I really did just say that, but stay with me here for a second.

Let’s take my swimming pool company as an example.

Never once over the years have I ever thought, “I want to build my swimming pool audience.”

No, it doesn’t work like that for me. I don’t sweat subscribers. I don’t care about social media metrics. The only thing that matters is new leads and new customers.

And when I consider all my clients with The Sales Lion, many of which are in incredibly unique industries, none of them consider “audience” a Key Performance Indicator of their business, and instead bring everything back to leads and sales.

Remember, an “audience” is NOT the same thing as a potential customer or client—it’s anyone that can possibly hear/read/consume your stuff.

But audiences don’t pay bills. Customers and clients do.

Schaefer Point #5: The economics created by Content Shock will eventually drive many content creators out of business

Do you know what drives most businesses out of business?

They stink at running a business.

Yep, that’s it, and it’s certainly NOT anything to do with content.

As for content creators, those that truly understand *how* to do content marketing, as well as how to *use* content marketing will be incredibly successful—always.

Let me tell you something and please think hard about this for a second:

If I never got a single *new* visitor to my website again (because of content through SEO or Social) I’d still be producing content just as I do today.

The reason for this is 3-fold:

1. Assignment Selling: Some of you have heard me talk about Assignment Selling before—which is the process of using content in the sales process (once a lead is in the system) to better qualify said lead and ultimately push them further down (or out) of the sales funnel. (We either force them to love us or hate or through our content.)

Assignment selling is something almost all my clients use and frankly it revolutionizes businesses when implemented correctly.

And yet it has NOTHING to do with SEO, silly social media metrics, or anything else of the sort. Nor is it remotely affected by CSI, competition, number of blog subscribers, etc.

2. Content Marketing Tipping Points: This is another drum I’ve been beating but to explain it clearly, I’ll go back to the phrase that describes it best:

“If you hang around the barber shop long enough, you’re going to get your hair cut.”

Or, in this case, if a visitor hangs around your website long enough, eventually they’ll want to engage with you—and likely no one else.

Because Google has told us that 70% of the buying decision is made before the zero moment of truth(when the prospect calls/contacts you for the first time), all of us better do everything in our power to earn their business before that first contact—otherwise we’ll likely never get it.

Tell me, if companies stopped producing content today, just because their industry was too slammed with “other content,” how would that impact visitor time on their website? Pages viewed? Conversions?

The answer, as you well know, is that it would be a disaster.

3. The Gospel According to You: This one flies under the radar in every content marketing corner of the earth, but essentially it works like this:

Most companies lack a core philosophy and doctrine, mainly because they’ve never taken the time to write out said philosophy and doctrine.

Content marketing, when done right, can completely change this and act as a company’s “bible” of sorts—explaining the answers they have to almost all consumer/customer questions, problems, concerns, etc.

Don’t you think having a company doctrine is just a little important folks?

Yeah, me too, but few ever relate this to content marketing.

In other words, companies that understand the value of content  beyond the “find” phase, and use it for the selling, nurturing, and retention cycles of a customer—will ALWAYS see tremendous value in producing content. And those that don’t understand this value, will worry about their industry having “too much content.”

A Difference of Philosophies

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I think the problem with this big debate comes down to different philosophical approaches to what content marketing is.

content_marketing_definition

When I define “content marketing,” I do it in these simple terms:

A business’ ability to be the most helpful and effective teachers in the world at what they do.

I don’t think many people share my opinion on this, and that’s quite alright, but look at it this way:

If we were to strip all the fancy terms and phrases we use in this industry and had to explain what  we’re really trying to do with all this social, content, and inbound “stuff”—what would those words look like?

I submit they come down to 3 magically simple words:

  • Listening
  • Communicating
  • Teaching

To me, that’s all we’re striving to do here. And because these words are the core of content marketing, and because they’re also principle based, the value of this will never go away.

Listening will always be critical in business.

Effective communication will always dramatically impact consumers.

And powerful teaching will always be the key to generating consumer trust and action.

This is exactly why I submit we should get back to the basics and help individuals and businesses truly understand *what* content marketing is—what its principles are based in—and why these principles are eternal. In fact, I recently produced (with the design help of Barry Feldman) a powerful slideshare presentation on this very subject:

So is there a “content shock” occurring my friends? Personally, I’d just say it’s simply another phase in the “content evolution,” something that has been happening since the first images were scraped on walls of caves eons ago and something that will certainly outlast anyone reading this post.

Your Turn:

Yes, that was a little long-winded, I do agree, but now it’s your time. Agree or disagree, feel free to say what’s on your mind…

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