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Why Web Content Marketing Plans Need Stock and Flow

MLC’s research has established that one way B2B companies differentiate themselves in areas other than price is by insight marketing: creating content that conveys credible and provocative insight into the customers’ world, and demonstrates how the your unique differentiators ultimately solve a customer’s business objectives.

If content is king, how do you get your customers to stay tuned in? After all, this is an era of fragmented attention: we have thousands of media outlets and advertisers vying for our eyes, especially on the web. Every week, dozens of interesting business books are published, and for busy executives, to-read stacks get higher and higher. For years, content producers have been told to go with the flow: assume your audience’s attention span is close to zero, and make your content snappy enough to be read quickly.

But B2B content marketers have a problem: sometimes explaining your firm’s unique differentiators can require a little more than the 140 characters of a tweet, or the 2-3 paragraphs of a blog post. The good news is that there’s some evidence that long-form content can be viable and valuable on the web.

For example, online media outlets like Slate have found that long-form content performs better in several important metrics than less durable content. According to Slate’s editor David Plotz, long-form content is better at building the site’s brand, and while it may not attract as many eyeballs as more immediate content, it attracts the right eyeballs – in Slate’s case, the eyeballs that advertisers want.

One smart take on this comes from Rohit Bhargava, who thinks long-form content is best-positioned as a “time-bomb” – readers might not take in the whole thing the day it gets posted, but a combination of insight, targeting and some smart keyword use make it a frequent result in search queries. Here are Rohit’s key characteristics of content time-bombs (descriptions ours):

  1. They target a specific audience or need. Don’t try to be everything to everyone – write about a specific segment of people or challenge.
  2. They use keywords frequently. Write descriptive titles, including words people are likely to search for, and use those key words multiple times in the post.
  3. They can remain “dormant” until needed. Don’t be shocked if traffic to your time-bomb content isn’t high at first – these posts are meant to be found by searchers.
  4. They (can) engage a broader audience. If you want to use content to find new customers, there’s no better option than the time bomb – write a well-targeted post and watch the search traffic roll in.

As an aside, MLC has been implementing a similar strategy here at Wide Angle for a few months, and we’ve seen similar results – big increases in search traffic and new readers, as well as a longer tail for some of our more durable content.

Of course, you need immediate content to match the durable stuff. If Facebook releases a new update that will affect your customers, you should take to your blog and write about it – eyeballs will follow. But the best blogs have a good mix of stock and flow – and the stock will help you attract and retain the right eyeballs, too.

MLC members, for more on insight marketing, please read our 2010 study for B2B marketers, Insight Marketing: Shaping Customer Decision Criteria to Your Advantage.

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