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Cars Or Faster Horses?

Do you ever have one of those weeks where the same statistic is thrown in your face multiple times, and you can’t help but think, “There must be some message here for me”? This week, for me, it was this statistic:

70% of marketing content goes unused.

This is not a new statistic. In 2009, IDC said it was 40%. In 2013, Sirius Decisions claimed it was 70%. And, last year Docurated says it’s actually 90%.

Maybe we should just wait until next year, and we can quit altogether.

It’s easy to say (and it’s often true) that this is a result of sales not appreciating the valuable content that marketing creates. Or, it’s as easy to say that marketing doesn’t know how to create compelling content. Or, just as often, it doesn’t have anything to do with marketing. Technical docs get blamed.

I was talking with some folks at a large enterprise about their content strategy. The leader of that initiative relayed to me how they had spent weeks creating this innovative plan. They had a new strategic framework that aligned with their new brand plan. They would parcel out content to support five personas across each node of this framework. Each would build toward the ultimate launch of a content hub that would support the framework. It was differentiating, it was forward thinking, and it captured the essence of what the CEO had outlined as their go-to-market differentiator.

They presented the initiative to the VP of sales and the demand-generation team. It fell flat. “How does this help us close a deal?” someone said. “Can’t we just have a refresh of the collateral with this stuff in it?” said another. “This is neat, but we need better materials, not this soft stuff,” said the VP.

And that was it. The initiative died on the spot.

Here’s the thing. This doesn’t happen to just the marketing department. It happens across the enterprise with all the types of content we produce. Everyone is producing too much, across too many areas, with no overarching strategy, and little to no substance. It’s not that we don’t know how. It’s that we believe we have to keep doing the same old thing only more of it. Deliver a faster horse instead of a car. It seems safer. Safer to ask for, and safer to do.

So content practitioners dutifully deliver faster horses – more and more content – and guess what. That content doesn’t get used.

Somebody has to break the cycle. Somebody has to build a car.

Will it be you?

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