Content Waste – what it is, why it happens and how to prevent it


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Marcello Casal Jr./Agência Brasil. Licensed for reuse (Google).
Marcello Casal Jr./Agência Brasil. Licensed for reuse (Google).

As content marketers, often we are so focussed on improving engagement – and so excited by content that performs well – that we forget about the other content that never made it to the finish line. Other times, we have produced so much legacy content that we have no idea how much there is out there and what’s sitting neglected in internal content repositories.

Whichever scenario resonates with you, they all point to a phenomenon known as “content waste”. B2B research firm SiriusDecisions suggest that “60-70 percent of content produced by B2B companies goes unused”. Corporate Visions’ own research has gone further and suggested that it could be as high as 90%.

Unused content is not just an operational inefficiency – it is a costly one, too. Consider what the cost is of at least sixty percent of the budget allocated to your content marketing activities being wasted. Perhaps it’s not a pain that you’re feeling right now but good luck making the case for more budget and resources next time.

Some initial steps to solve this problem

As marketers, there are two important internal steps that should be taken to get to grips with wasted content:

Conduct a content audit: Invest the time to log all of the content that has currently been created in your organization in a central database or spreadsheet. This is a helpful start to understand what is being used and what has fallen by the wayside.

Review your content strategy: According to the same SiriusDecisions study cited earlier, the main reason that content goes unused is that content is being created without a clear strategy or purpose. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said their content process was still in “the Dark Ages.”

However, this isn’t a Marketing-only concern. Unused content often occurs because your salespeople are not using it. So what are some of the reasons for this?

When I spoke to Tim Riesterer of Corporate Visions, he outlined three reasons why your sales team is not using marketing content – and what to do about it:

Firstly, there’s too much content. Marketers have to make it simpler for salespeople to find and use the content. If necessary, streamline the amount of content available. They’ll use more of it if there’s less of it.

Secondly, the content doesn’t sound conversational. Content has to sound like the conversations salespeople actually have and less like a marketing promotion. It has to sound like something a salesperson would actually say.

Lastly, the content isn’t relevant to the task at hand. Salespeople have certain tasks that they perform everyday against each of their opportunities and they should be able to identify which content is most relevant for the job: in terms of amount, messaging and form factor.

Fight content waste with Content Intelligence

The above suggestions constitute some steps and considerations that you can action right now to make sure that your organization is making use of all of the content that Marketing is producing.

To make content ‘useful’, it has to be understood and served to those customers for whom it will be most relevant. This might work manually when you only have a few assets, but it doesn’t scale in any serious organization running simultaneous campaigns and marketing channels. At some point, it will become impractical for your marketing team to pore over every piece of content, log it, understand what topics it covers and then remember to serve it across the manifold buyer interactions you have across your various digital channels. Eventually, this job should be turned over to Content Intelligence technology.


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