The right (and wrong) content marketing question
Ian Lurie Apr 27 2016
When people ask me about content marketing, they always start with one question: “How many pieces of content will I need to…” followed by their business goal.
2,778 should do it. Give or take 500.
I’m not being a smartass here (for once). I understand the question. Content creation feels expensive. It’s hard work. It’s a reasonable question. It’s also the wrong question. Content is a permanent asset, and you can never stop creating it.
I’ve got a pretty good case study: Us.
Portent’s content marketing story
Here’s our first piece of content marketing, from 1996. We explained how HTTP worked, what HTML was, and how to create tables. I’m pretty sure it included the blink tag. It got about 40,000 downloads:
Take a look at our content production pace since 2007. The raw numbers can seem daunting: 2,700 pieces of content?! If you’re not a marketing company, you’re probably thinking this is impossible. I disagree, but consistency is more important than quantity:
At least 2700 pieces in 9 years. “Content” includes videos, conference talks, blog posts, long form, one-word articles, e-books and guides. It’s generated all our site’s growth and a lot of our business growth.
This is unique visitors to www.portent.com since 2007. We’ve slowed our carpal-tunnel-inducing content pace since 2009. But we maintained a consistent pace, and that kept us growing:
See the plateaus and dips? I never said, “Well, screw this. Content isn’t working. Let’s stop.”
I might as well say, “Man, I’m out of breath. This whole respiration thing isn’t working for me. I think I’ll stop for a while.” If you want people to talk to you, you have to talk to them. Content is talking.
In content marketing, do what you can, but understand: You have to keep doing it.
Content is forever
The first payoff may show up in six months, or a year, or two years, or whatever. You may have one eye-popping success or lots of little wins. But it’s cumulative. Every piece of content you create is a place. Those places add up. And like any real estate, content is an asset you create for your company, not a cost center.. Treat it that way.
Stop asking “How much” or “How long.” The right question is, “How do I do this forever?”
If you want to learn more about content and content marketing, check out Joe Pulizzi’s book, Content Inc. I just re-read it for the fourth time. It’s a perfect walk thru of the process, even if you’re an expert.
CEO & Founder
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More