The Future of Content Marketing

The month of January has been pretty hectic, which is always a great way to start off the New Year.  I haven’t been able to maintain the standard consumption pace of my favorite content sources. So, it was somewhat ironic when during the weekly strategy session we have for The Sales Lion, Marcus Sheridan asked me if I’d read Mark Schaefer’s blog post on Business Grow – Content Shock.  Business Woman Climbing a Pile of Files

Before we parted ways, I had the post up on my screen. The post’s premise was:

  • Content volume is exploding
  • Consumers of content are at, or close to, their consumption saturation point
  • Content marketing is becoming a difficult strategy to sustain
  • It may become economically out of reach for businesses late to the game

Whether you’re a jaded veteran from the marketing trenches or a business owner embracing content marketing for the first time, I highly suggest you at least skim through the material that this discourse about content has spawned. It’s not often you get to peel back the outer layers of an important topic and get an unvarnished look at what the industry players are thinking.

For many people, content is the primary energy source that powers the digital marketing infrastructure and any challenge to its sustainability is guaranteed to provoke a reaction. The proof is in the dialogue: just under 400 comments on Business Grow and around 600 comments in total – including the list of the other major sites weighing in on it (as of this writing).

At a minimum, read Mark’s original post (listed first below) and at least some of the comments. As you read, think about your current content production efforts and determine if there are insights here that can help you improve your approach to content marketing – and its performance for your business.

(Sidenote: Marcus Sheridan coined the term “Content Saturation Index or CSI” two years ago. The definition of CSI: The more content an industry/niche has written about it, the harder it is for a blog to make headway and find success in that field.

An industry such as marketing would have a really high CSI because of the volume of content about marketing. An industry such as residential pool installation would have a relatively low CSI because the levels of existing content are fairly low. Achieving content marketing results in high CSI industries would take more work than in low CSI industries.)

Six Arguments Against Content Shock – Business Grow – Mark Schaefer

My observations from this mountain of content about content:

  1. Content marketing is here to stay. It’s too important to ignore or refuse to engage in. Multiple benefits come from consistent content creation; benefits that extend beyond search results. Think from a consumer point of view: does a site with 10 pages of relevant content have the same credibility for you as a site with 100 pages of relevant content? From a business owner’s perspective: would your sales teams be able to sell more effectively with 30 different case studies than with 5?
  2. Early adopters do get an advantage. If the industry CSI is relatively low when you start consistently producing content, results tend to develop faster and you can take a more aggressive approach to the keyword phrases you target in the early stages of content production. Conversely, if the CSI is high, you will have to work more diligently and efficiently to produce results and it will take longer to achieve them. In either case, you have to measure performance and fine-tune your approach.
  3. Companies have to adapt to content change. As more companies enter into the content arena and new tools emerge (for both the production and consumption of content), businesses have to shift with the changes. As consumers, we filter with tools. As producers, we use tools to be more efficient with our content production.
  4. Companies that embrace content and nurture a culture of content creation perform the best.  Content creation is not a project; it’s a long-term strategic process. The better job businesses do to weave content creation into the daily fabric of business life, the better the support is from the internal subject matter experts across functional departments. This also helps in breaking down the natural silos that emerge as companies grow as good content requires a lot of collaboration.
  5. A good content creation process begins with empathetic listening. Companies attuned to customer needs and wants will always be ahead in the content production game.  This works in tandem with #4 – when the culture supports content creation, listening occurs holistically across the organization.
  6. Quality content is imperative. Quality, in this context, means directly addressing the problems and challenges prospects and customers face – written from their point of view.  Ensuring that you educate with your content is a critical component of its success.

Your Turn

Where are you in your content efforts? Are you finding that your content doesn’t move the needle like it used to? Are you one of the fortunate companies in a low CSI industry? Will this debate cause you to reexamine your content efforts?

Rich McElaney
Rich is an inbound marketing professional, content development craftsman and conductor of sales and marketing teams with over 25 years of new customer acquisition experience. He has founded and successfully grown three businesses, one of which was recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. Rich is a certified HubSpot partner, a partner in Inbound Trainer - a provider of video-based training for inbound marketers and the Chief Chaos Officer at The Sales Lion. Rich is happily married, has two sons and one English labrador. In non-marketing mode, Rich can often be found playing golf, skiing and snowboarding, riding motorcycles and working on his Italian vocabulary.
Rich McElaney


  1. says

    The concept of a CSI seems completely flawed to me. 'Content' is such a flexible, fluid concept that we'll never reach saturation point – out definition of content will change long before that happens.

    Prose is only one form of content – we already have video, photographic, infographic and statistical content, and the variety of content media will only increase as the industry grows.

    Even within traditional prose content we have a huge variety of subtypes – guides, commentary, whitepapers, ebooks, articles and blog posts – and even if a particularly niche industry becomes saturated with one type of content, it's still entirely possible to innovate and create new types of content to add value to a readership.

    Having said that, content shock does have a few valuable points, and your round-up is one of the best I've seen – I'll be reading some of your links later today!
    My recent post The Anatomy of a Perfect Landing Page

    • says

      I think the CSI has to be taken into a specific context – that is, some industries don't produce the volume that others do. The higher that content volume the bigger the challenge is in terms of gaining traction in the clutter.

      I think you nailed the essence of a great and sustainable content strategy – always be innovating and adding value.

      Thanks for adding value to this dialogue Ryan!

  2. says

    Rich Great Post,
    The Latest Trends in content marketing are simply indicating a shift from quantity to quality. Original content that produces a value, expanded content features (such as images, infographics, video, charts and other resources) are a must when you are creating your content. This implies more work, however is a great filter of spammy results around the Web. But we see this trend not only on Google but also other Networks such as Facebook which has also reduced the text on ad to 20% and twitter monitoring the number of tweets you make on day (are they natural? or machine driven?).
    With every challenge there is opportunity to be found, new ways to increase your chances, my bet for 2014 is co-operational networks based on real people; and Powerful aids to long content streams

  3. says

    Thanks for your comment Daniel. To your point, I think value will always be the key – and especially as new tools arrive in the market to help with filtering our content streams.

  4. carriebacz says

    I agree with Ryan Law that content is a flexible and fluid concept – and as such it would be difficult to ever declare it passe. I just wrote a blog post all about the declarations that the once white-hot SEO "is dead" – and I don't think it is, I think it's just morphing and merging with other disciplines like PR and content marketing. That doesn't make it dead. Content is the "it" word right now and I'm sure there will be cries of "content is dead!" in contrast to "content is king!" at some point, but as long as we persevere in making QUALITY content (as you note in your last bullet) a priority, I see it as a very sustainable strategy. When the right process is followed, it makes marketing so much better.
    My recent post “I said SEO was dead before it was cool.” – The Content Marketing Strategist

  5. says

    I don't believe in Content Shock. Content has been around for ages in the form of books and website articles, etc and also in great abundance. Abundance meaning that we will never be able to consume all of it.

    People will always have the desire to learn and will always be consuming content in one form or another. The winners will be those who deliver quality and excel at promotion, as it always has been.
    My recent post 60+ Keyword Research Tool Alternatives to Google Keyword Planner

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