The Content Hub: the Strategy 60% of Top Content Brands are Using
You’ve all heard it by now: up to 65% of content goes to waste. But as marketers, sometimes it’s hard to turn the “wasteful content train” around.
This post discusses how best-in-class content marketers overcome the content waste problem, and proposes a simple strategy shift that curbs waste and increases efficiency.
A quick heads up: this post is a long one. But I hope 30 minutes of dedicated reading time in exchange for an entirely new content marketing strategy is a bargain some readers are willing to take.
Bear with me; I promise I’ll try not to bore you. But if you are in a hurry, here are the main sections so you can skip ahead:
1. The Problem: Why Content Gets Wasted
2. The Research: What the Top Content Brands Do
3. The Solution: Why “Content Hubs” Make Sense for 2016 and Beyond
1. The Problem: The Main Ways Content Gets Wasted
To begin, let’s explore the concept of “wasted content.”
Wasted content means that some amount of time, money, or effort went into the creation of a digital content asset, but it cannot provide value because the content never gets used, published, or distributed. There is no real return on this investment.
Here are a few of the main ways I see content go to waste:
- Content is made, used once, then never used again. This is perhaps the most widespread waste case. For example, your blog post goes up on a Monday, gets some social media support, and maybe a little paid media support through social or native advertisers like Taboola or Outbrain. However, quickly, your post is buried by a dozen other blogs and, eventually, lost. By the following Tuesday, your Monday blog post is a snowflake in a storm.
Here’s another way content gets wasted:
- The asset never gets published. Another major reason content wastes time and resources is because it never makes it off the printing press. Something halts the process, usually between production and distribution. Production halts might be caused by new business objectives, a shift in marketing automation strategy, or a product update. Distribution halts include changes in priority (“X” now needs to be published before “Y”), lack of visibility across siloed teams, or miscoordination of various assets across regional or international distribution channels.
- Content is published, but never found. Humans produce more than 5 exabytes of content every day. For some context, if you added up all the content produced since the birth of Earth and 2003, that would be roughly 5 exabytes. Now, it takes humans less than 24 hours to create that same amount. In this deluge, any single content piece stands at risk of getting lost in the chaos. And does. A significant amount of content goes the way of the trash heap simply because it never gets found. The extra sad part? We already know 65% of content is wasted, so really, singular content assets get lost in a whirlwind of other wasted, indiscernible digital stuff.
So yes, there’s an obvious content waste problem. There’s (1) too much content being produced, and (2) not enough organization, infrastructure, or management available to rein in the chaos.
2. The Research: What the Top Content Brands Do
The good news is, some brands really have a handle on content marketing and do it right. Kapost, a content management software solution, keeps an annual tab on brands “doing” content marketing well by publishing theKapost 50, celebrating 50 brands that stand out as content marketers. Full disclosure, my current employer, Microsoft Dynamics, was featured on the list, and I formerly worked at Kapost.
Every year, I look forward to the Kapost 50. But this year, I wanted to explore the tactics that made other top brands worthy of the crown. Specifically, I was curious to discover what (if any) strategies top content marketers leverage to solve the wasted content problem.
I assessed each of the 50 companies, classifying similarities and differences in a roughly-put-together spreadsheet. I used key parameters to narrow my curiosity:
- Does the company use a blog?
- To what extent are they publishing gated assets?
- Are they using marketing automation? Which platform?
- How are they organizing content?
Without access to internal analytics or backend systems, all my “research” was done from public grazing of sites, and classification of efforts I could plainly see.
The most noteworthy result?
Over 60% of the B2B brands in Kapost 50 leverage a “content hub” approach to publishing assets.
What’s a content hub? A content hub is term I’ve dubbed for an area on a website that contains multiple content assets (either gated or ungated, often both). It’s a digital space where brands can publically house assets of various types.
Not all hubs look alike. There are several executions of the concept. Of the Kapost 50 brands:
- Some call the hub “resources,” “knowledge center,” or “learning center”
- Some include subnavigations like “category,” “product,” or “geography.” These subnavs give users the ability to limit their searching to only the assets that matter, thereby improving relevance and findability of assets.
But regardless of execution style, the content hub concept is consistent among the top brands. Each content hub contains many content assets, much like a content library or resource library, where users self-select interest areas and engage with assets that provide value to them.
At a basic level, most content hubs look a lot like this:
3. The Solution: Why Content Hubs Make Sense for 2016 and Beyond
But why is it that top content marketing teams leverage hubs?
Well, when you break down the core needs of content marketing, it’s not hard to understand.
The content hub reduces content waste. Because content is findable, sortable, and relevant, the content hub strategy stands to increase volume and velocity of leads in a sales pipeline. It also makes sense from both a fiscal and an accessibility perspective.
Content Hubs and Lead Score
Modern marketing is all about driving leads, qualifying leads, lead score, and revenue.
Early on, content marketing helped marketers cast a wider net to capture new audiences and email addresses. With marketing automation and lead scoring, marketers turned their entire digital presence into a lead-scoring engine. The content hub is an extension of that philosophy.
In a lead scoring model, prospects gain or lose “points” as they engage in certain digital behavior. Usually, a higher score indicates a more “purchase-ready” buyer, and prospects are ushered into various funnel stages based on this score. Going from a lead, to an MQL or MAQL, for instance could be the difference of 25 points. Companies can choose the point values of certain digital behaviors. For example:
- Gated content — 20 points
- Attending a webinar — 40 points
- Watching a product demo — 75 points
And so on.
With a content hub, content marketers can engineer a variety of touch points in which various content assets, both gated and ungated, are served to users in an easy-to-find way, giving them ample opportunity to accrue a higher lead score. Simply displaying multiple assets to prospects turns your content efforts into a pinball machine of modern marketing, where users can rack up lead score points with multi-touch, high-value behavior, and get fast-tracked to sales.
When you apply lead scores to content within the content hub, it starts looking like this, where different clicks and actions are associated with predefined points:
Content Hubs and Paid Strategies
But the benefit of a content hub doesn’t stop at lead score. Taking a step back, the savvy marketer can see how a content hub quickly becomes an impactful destination for paid media or advertising efforts, too.
Let’s break this down.
In many marketing organizations, a certain amount of the paid media (read: ads) and paid social efforts (read: sponsored tweets) point to gated content assets that capture a user’s PII.
In the old world, marketers could put $5 behind a landing page with a certain gated content asset, but that $5 would only contribute to the success of that singular asset.
With the content hub, paid amplification efforts bolster the hub, and thereby anything contained within the hub. As long as your paid promotions introduce—and deliver on—the promise of good content, both rich banner ad rotation schedules and paid social rotation schedules become less complex when driving to a content hub. Any one ad boosts both (1) the performance of the singular gated content asset and (2) the performance of the entire ecosystem.
Each dollar, then, incrementally increases the visibility and findability of any singular asset and decreases the amount of lost content.
Content Hubs and Findability
Chances are, most prospects aren’t going to your brand’s website for answers to their most pressing questions—at least not yet.
But by providing a reliable and predictable space where your audience can access valuable information, you’re paving a pathway to purchase. People are creatures of habit. Whether in the real world or the digital one, familiarity is a comfortable to travel. People shop at the same grocery store, park in the same parking spots, and go to the same social feeds for news.
The content hub approach can increase repeat visitor rates—and that’s a good thing.
Wait, repeat visitors? That’s not a good thing! Isn’t the whole goal of marketing to find net new eyeballs? New audiences?
Yes and no. Before the days of lead scoring, marketers fixated on obtaining as big of an audience as possible (more leads!). But now, prospects must engage several times with a brand before they pass lead score thresholds and are deemed “ready” for sales.
For a marketer, a one-time web visitor is a job undone.
Not only that, but repeated site visits by a singular visitor increases the chances of social sharing of the site or asset.
And in the most ideal case, your brand develops enough good content, with consistency and reliability, that your user might even develop a habit of checking your brand’s sites for information on a specific topic. Hello, lead velocity bump.
Meanwhile old content can be cycled out of distribution and new inventory can be visibly featured.
The Big Conclusion
The point is simple: consider the content hub. If “the best content marketing brands do it” isn’t reason enough, there are clear business reasons, too. A content hub curbs content waste, increases lead velocity, simplifies paid media strategies, and encourages brand loyalty.
For more on this topic, register for our upcoming webinar and panel, The “Secret” Content Strategy of Top B2B Marketers, presented by Jean Spencer (Microsoft), Anne Murphy (Kapost), and Cameron Jahn (BrightTALK).
This is a guest post by Jean Spencer, Content Marketing Strategist, Cloud & Enterprise, Microsoft.