Content production: should you just give it away?


In the last decade, the digital story has moved from persuading enterprises that they even needed a website, to a place where “content marketing” and “storytelling” are now a serious part of corporate marketing communications tactics.

Either as a micro-enterprise or as a larger company, is it always an advantage to create and give away digital content?

To study the relative merits of content production and dissemination as part of a marketing communications approach, let’s explore six main scenarios in a content marketing continuum.

1. Modesty

The first scenario in sharing content is to not to share it at all: the enterprise does not focus on online thought leadership, concentrating efforts on other approaches. Many businesses don’t blog, create white papers, produce podcasts, or anything we would consider to be modern content marketing. Apple Inc doesn’t blog or release white papers but lets its products speak for themselves.

2. Playing away

The second scenario is creating thought leadership by participating in communities and content opportunities not under your control. Most consultant/speaker/authors in the social media space are prominent in social media. The exceptions spend considerable time on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Empire Avenue, building bridges and making contacts. They write guest blogs and reply to posts on other blogs. Their presence is their Gravatar and the digital footprint they leave on other sites.

3. Earning revenue

The third scenario is producing your own content, but doing so for a fee. Many online gurus offer a free email newsletter and a series of free tools to build a distribution list (for major online figures, subscribers often number well into six figures). He then offers paid products to that list, creating a passive income stream.

4. Garnering leads

The fourth scenario is a familiar one to many B2B marketers: producing content and making it contingent on capturing data. Clearly, this approach can generate a significant volume of inbound leads for the sales team. Content of value to business professionals will always succeed: the ‘price’ of parting with data and subscribing to a list is very minor compared to the knowledge imparted.

5. Teaser

The fifth scenario is when companies produce significant, freely-distributed content but do not reveal their core operational secrets. For instance, a firm of accountants could offer a plethora of tools to calculate tax, monitor cashflow and run basic book-keeping but not reveal their auditing and analytic processes that make the firm competitive.

6. The Full Monty

The final scenario is unrestricted content creation and delivery. For example, any company could adopt practices that give them a huge digital profile: they could spread their content as widely as possible on their own and other platforms. They could offer content freely and without any restriction, arguing that a data collection form is the enemy of a wide digital footprint. They could also create content for the majority of the market that doesn’t know who they are, instead of the minority that does. An enterprise can still use content production to maintain close relationships with current customers and prospects, giving them sneak previews of new content before it is made more generally available.

Which of these scenarios is ideal for your business? IThere is no right answer, just the answer that’s right in your circumstances.

The best way to identify it is to test. Set up a dashboard using the Four Types of Content Metrics to measure the effectiveness of your efforts and then create related pieces of content. For example, create two related white papers and give one away free and exchange the other for contact data.

There is a Content Marketing Testing Plan here that you can download free to help you with content production planning.

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