Marketing has been around for hundreds of years, and long before we tacked the word “digital” in front of it, some marketeer coined the phrase “feeding the beast” to describe marketing’s never-ending need for fresh content. Not surprisingly, the analogy is still apropos today, especially considering the resurgence in both the popularity and effectiveness of content marketing.
While it’s fun to imagine marketing as a mythical beast bent on devouring as much content as possible, having to constantly create its next meal can quickly become a daunting task for those who need to keep it fed.
For the moment, let’s imagine this isn’t just an analogy. Let’s envision marketing, or more specifically, digital marketing, as a huge beast named Maurice whose sole source of nourishment is fresh content. Unfortunately, Maurice is picky, so if you feed him the same thing every day, he’ll stop eating. And if he doesn’t eat, he becomes lethargic and eventually dwindles into nothingness.
To put this in marketing and advertising terms: Repeatedly using the same content leads to ever-decreasing campaign performance, a potential loss of market share, and an eventual decline in the perceived quality of your brand, product, or service.
Up until just recently, marketing professionals had the luxury of feeding Maurice a limited selection of content served in only a handful of ways (aka, traditional media). They also had some control over how content was meted out and could react to any changes in Maurice’s tastes or appetite.
This made it possible for Maurice’s marketers to feed him custom-made content on an as-needed basis. He ate it up, and marketers learned how to keep him happy and healthy. Feeding him was a lot of work and it wasn’t always fun, but it was part of their job. They created fresh content day after day, occasionally got burnt out, but overall they loved their job.
The Future of Content Marketing: Does the Marketing Beast Analogy Still Apply Today?
The problem with applying this analogy in the digital age is that marketing isn’t just one beast anymore. It’s a huge herd of Maurice’s descendants, each representing a unique audience, and it’s getting bigger every day. Unlike Maurice, these new beasts want an ever-changing variety of content, they consume it in an endless number of ways, and their tastes seem to change daily! To make matters worse, they’re gobbling up content faster than ever, and if they don’t like what’s being served, there’s always the competitor’s fresh content on the other side of the fence … and it’s only a few steps away.
Considering these changes, it’s obvious that using the time-tested approach of creating custom content on an as-needed basis just won’t work anymore, yet many marketing content creators continue to do it. Meanwhile, the herd of marketing beasts in the digital pasture is only getting larger and more demanding for unique, high-quality content, whenever and wherever they want it.
So how do we keep them fed?
Growing a Continuous Supply of Fresh, High-Quality Content
If we stretch our analogy a little further, we could say that fresh, high-quality content was “grown” in the past as a feed crop for Maurice. Past farming methods centered around planting only a few seeds and then nurturing each one until it grew into a healthy piece of content that he was sure to love. Then it was plucked from the ground, brought before him, and promptly consumed. When he wanted more, the content creators planted more seeds, tended more plants, and harvested more content.
That model worked well in the past because there were a lot of people feeding Maurice, an endless supply of seeds, and more time to cultivate the content. That’s just not feasible in the online world.
Does that mean you can’t grow fresh, high-quality content for your audience? Of course not! You just need to change what you grow and how you manage your harvest. Previous methods were akin to growing something like wheat or carrots i.e., incredibly time-consuming and labor intensive. Today’s approach is like planting an orchard of assorted content trees and harvesting the fruit as needed. It might take a little more up-front planning, but the end result yields considerably more content in a much wider variety.
Planning Your Content Marketing Strategy: Bringing the Beast Analogy Into the Real World
In the interest of total transparency, this approach isn’t new. Although the “feeding the beast” spin is new, and the fruit tree analogy is a stroke of genius, the idea of creating core pieces of content that yield numerous other pieces of content has been around for a while. It became especially popular when Gary Vaynerchuk popularized his concept of publishing a piece of “pillar content” and then breaking that up into smaller, bite-sized pieces. These pieces can then be used in a variety of ways for different marketing and advertising channels. This is also referred to as “repurposing content.”
The problem with the “pillar” analogy is that it implies that you build a pillar, consume it, and then build another. Unlike an orchard, it doesn’t represent the sustainability and vibrance of a properly grown marketing strategy. It doesn’t allow for growth, change, and adaptability along the way. And most of all, it doesn’t embody something that can endlessly feed a growing herd of content-hungry marketing beasts by simply tending your orchard.
To explain this concept further, imagine the orchard is your overall marketing strategy. That would make the core content trees:
- Blog posts
- Contributed articles
- Sales and marketing videos
- Live presentations
- Trade show booths
- Sell sheets and line cards
- Product brochures
- Annual reports
- Brand guidelines
These pieces of core content often take considerable time, effort, and resources to grow to fruition—just like nurturing a fruit tree to maturity. However, each one can bear an assortment of valuable fruits including:
- Graphic elements
- Charts and graphs
- Raw data
- Personal quotes
- Video and audio snippets
- Linked content
- And other assets!
Harvesting the Fruit of Your Content Trees (aka, How to Repurpose Content)
Once harvested, these can be sliced, diced, mashed up, and mixed in an endless variety of ways to satisfy even the most finicky marketing beasts. In other words, you can repurpose them. They become the raw ingredients for creating pieces like:
- Organic and paid social media content
- Email blasts
- Display ads
- Website content
- Product listings
- And much more!
By creating internal links and backlinks, content can be amplified and promoted further in social media posts and articles, or via email. These raw ingredients can even be added to traditional advertising recipes for radio, TV, print, and outdoor. Best of all, the seed from a single piece of content fruit can grow into a whole new tree bearing fresh, ripe fruit of its own.
Content marketing works, and it’s an important part of any digital marketing strategy. So how do you plan and create your marketing strategy orchard? That’s where we can help. By embracing the integrated marketing approach, Element can help you figure out which trees to plant, when and where to plant them, and how to nurture them properly. We understand which trees grow best and work well together. We know which ones bear fruit quickly and which ones take time, so you can harvest their fruit at the peak ripeness. We can even tell you which trees to avoid planting altogether.
Integrated marketing is important every step of the way because it helps you choose appropriate content and then amplifying it in the right channels at the right times. And every step of the way, we’ll be there to offer guidance and lend a hand, so your orchard grows strong, stays healthy, and keeps bearing fruit for years to come.
Ready to grow some trees? Or maybe need help saving a dying orchard? Let us know. We’ve got our gloves on, shovels in hand, and a bag full of seeds. Let’s get planting!