Why create costly new content when you don’t have to?

By Ed Breault

With more channels than ever before, to engage your audience it’s no surprise that businesses create an incredible amount of new content every year.

But content creation is expensive. According to the Content Marketing Institute, if you’re a consumer-oriented marketer, new content takes up about 40% of your budget. For business-to-business (B2B) marketers it is still a staggering 30% of your budgets! When you add in “soft costs” like all the time spent the real costs of content creation go through the roof!

These numbers seem unbelievable until you start doing the math and playing out a real scenario. Imagine you’re a sportswear company launching a new line of cleats. You’ll need to make different types of content for product images and videos, paid ads, the web site, social, signage for your store displays, retail and reseller marketing collateral…the list goes on.

And that’s just for one product launch for one brand in one geography. If you’re a multi-national, multi-brand company, the content you need skyrockets. Complicating matters further, most marketing content created today is single-use content, created by content creation experts e.g. your creative services team.

But is this the right approach? The oft-cited SiriusDecisions statistic of 65% of content is never used should serve as a warning to marketers of all kinds not to go too crazy in the new content creation game.

You can also see how a company might create a ton of content and not use it again. In fact, I know one retailer recently archived over 20 million other pieces of content they weren’t using!

Why the content creation madness?
What’s driving this crazy amount of content creation? The simple answer is personalization. The challenge though, and why we get into this crazy cycle of content creation, is that your customers are not comparing your content experience to your nearest direct rival. Instead they are comparing you against the best content experience they’ve ever had!

However, the real need of most consumers is not the slickest content. But rather the content that best helps them complete their buying jobs, which means personalized to them in the moment.

No one in your organization is better suited to create that personalized content than the individuals in your marketing department that are closest to the customer. But these people don’t always have advanced design skills.

A new strategy: experience building blocks
So, how do you balance the need to create engaging content that you can apply to your personalization efforts without wasting a lot of money or burying your organization under a pile of content?

The answer is by creating a content strategy centered on “experience building blocks”. One that allows you to “reimaginate” content, rather than having to always re-create it.

The concept behind it is relatively simple; in order to scale content production needs for personalization, marketing will need to break down content into reusable blocks to optimize budgets while delivering a consistent experience. The term “experience building blocks” helps to focus on what’s important to the business, namely creating the best possible customer experience across all channels and devices.

An obvious way to enact this strategy is to enable your workers that are closest to the customer with the necessary resources to create personalized content. This requires you to rethink your content, not as the result of a one-off request, but as being the result of a series of content building blocks.

Going back to our sportswear example, let’s pick out a couple examples of one-off content that you can actually build with “experience building blocks”.

Example 1: Digital ads
Most digital ads are comprised of items like a company logo, product text, a 3D image of an athletic shoe and a background image put together by a creator in such a way to help a customer accomplish their buying job. Furthermore, most of these digital ads are made in batches and then forgotten.

The key here is that once that digital ad, or whatever format the content takes is created, the finished product AND its smaller pieces are then made available to others to re-use from a centralized content repository, like a digital asset management (DAM) solution.

Now, a digital marketer can easily go into the DAM, find the building blocks that are best for their need right now and create another version of the ad simply by replacing the background with one that is audience specific. Or the text could be swapped out that appeals to a different persona.

Now you’re reusing about 80% of the content and reducing the time it takes to make the second ad and so on exponentially. If you track all the individual blocks, you get insights to see how often a text block or image is used to avoid repetition. This has other potential benefits, like being able to quickly swap out expired text, measure how consistent your message is in market or conduct accurate A/B testing.

Example 2: Video
Without a doubt, video is the fastest growing medium out there. A growing trend in marketing departments is either user-generated content or to get video footage off the latest smartphones, which is surprisingly good.

But when it comes to editing, most marketing departments still send smaller video projects to a team with advanced editing skills.

In an organization with an experience building blocks strategy, there is an established base video design. The video team has provided a pre-built project complete with an approved intro and outro, and easily editable text blocks and space for the average marketer to simply drop their video footage from their phone into the project. Now, you’ll see your video efforts grow with your ambition without sacrificing brand consistency, quality or burning out team members.

Over time your organization will build a repository of thousands of different blocks that can be used. New digital technology makes it easy to use artificial intelligence (AI) to label and organize these items so that whoever is searching for an experience block doesn’t even need to look: it’s just shown to them.

The overall benefits to your personalization efforts? You will see the cost of new content come down, your organization will be more agile in creating new content and your personalization strategy will finally do what you’ve wanted it to do all along: to provide the most helpful experience to the individual.

Ed Breault is chief marketing officer of Aprimo.

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