Better Wrong Than Late? The Content Marketing Balancing Act

“Give them the third best to go on with; the second best comes too late, the best never comes,” said Robert Alexander Watson-Watt, radar technology inventor.

In our digital age of free-market, free-data instant gratification, is it right for content marketers to be wrong – so long as they are first?

“Customer expectations change very rapidly, [but] traditional marketing research seems too slow,” complained an attendee at a recent Massachusetts marketing conference.  “[How do we] hear the customer expectations and react to them accordingly?”

“The short answer is that marketers really need to do quality and speed!” said Rob Leavitt, SVP of the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), when queried on this conundrum in an interview this month.  “It’s hard to sacrifice either, given how competitive everything is and how little time or patience buyers have.”

Customers are beset by big data on all sides, and marketers are feeling the weight of demand for yet more data, more analysis, and more insights.  Consequently, both data accuracy and data completeness can be overrated, being but two of several important data metrics.  Hence, to be competitive in the digital world, being first can be more important than being right – because it’s easy to go back and make real-time edits as better information becomes available.

“It’s hard to be a perfectionist in this world,” reflected Saul Berman, Vice President and Global Chief Strategist for IBM Global Business Services, at ITSMA Marketing Vision 2016.  “When we do a consulting project now … we’re saying it takes three months; [our competitors] are saying it takes nine months.  Why?  Because they’re setting a different standard.  So we think we have to release some of the insights from our customer research more quickly, more individually, and perhaps less proven.”

Leavitt, however, whose work focuses on thought leadership and content marketing, doesn’t quite agree with this approach.

“As a marketer, you are absolutely competing for attention with a very broad, competitive set – and so yes, speed is very important.  You need to get to market quickly – but if your content is not on the mark, it’s going to be ignored,” said Leavitt.  “Of course you would rather beat your competitor to market.  But if you come out with a crappy report a week earlier, you’ll lose.”

Leavitt pointed to ITSMA’s 2016 “How Buyers Consume Information” study, which found that, among a respondent base of 402 senior-level buyers of high-tech solutions, the second-and third-most helpful characteristics of content-marketing collateral are (respectively) lack of bias, and informativeness—all characteristics inherently linked to accuracy.  Similarly, the fifth-most helpful item was support from primary research.

Berman, though, expressed a different estimation of audiences. “It may not be as fully complete or as accurate, but people don’t really expect that today,” related Berman, almost shruggingly.  “We believe we can come out with that research [right away], and we can keep updating that as we get more insights.”

Indeed, regular updating is widely recommended for content marketing anyway for such basic reasons as SEO purposes.  As technology and markets evolve, so too must preexisting marketing content.

Moreover, the ITSMA study to which Leavitt referred indicates that the factor enterprise technology buyers find most helpful in content-marketing materials is that of relevance – which, arguably, is related to timeliness.

Teaser content may hereby allow for some Solomonesque baby-splitting.  To wit, Leavitt urges that it is “absolutely” good to pre-announce a research study or marketing content and publish preliminary findings before the full release. He offered the caveat, however, that this compromise can only be properly supported by a consistent, well-managed publishing cycle.

“Good marketing organizations and good content marketing programs are always publishing,” noted Leavitt.  “It just becomes that much easier to publish fast when you’ve done that groundwork.”

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