Very few things are immune to the law of diminishing returns. Content marketing is certainly not one of them. As content marketing has surged in the life sciences over the past few years, we’ve seen a very predictable trend: it’s become less effective. Customers are swarmed with efforts to grab their attention with low-value, shallow content. Given their inherently limited time, they can only be the “customer” of so much content. As with anything, if you have increasing demands for a limited resource (in this case, the customers’ attention) the cost goes up.
That’s exactly what we see happening with content marketing. The cost of getting your target market’s attention is increasing. It requires richer, denser, higher-value content. As the cost of scientists’ attention continues to increase, we are coming to a point where content, as it is traditionally defined, is no longer enough.
Content itself is not enough. Even relatively high-value content.
As the ever-growing tidal wave of content amasses and the demand for scientists’ attention increases, companies must begin to look for new, unique ways of creating value. After all, the purpose of content is not simply to be read, but to demonstrate or provide value in a manner which is untethered to the actual usage of a product or service (we call this “product-unrelated value“). Companies must move from delivering solely content to creating and delivering resources.
So what’s the difference between content and resources? Theoretically, content can certainly be viewed as a resource and in many cases resources may take the form of content in one way or another. They are both broad terms and they do overlap, so it’s important to distinguish between the concepts. The key difference is that content can address any question. Resources specifically ask: what are the needs of our target audience and how can we address them in a way that creates value for our brand? In doing so, they circumvent the problem of limited attention by addressing customer needs that would need to be dealt with anyway.
One of our favorite examples is the numerous protocols found in the New England Biolabs catalog. We’ve heard this valuable, long-standing resource referred to as the “molecular biology bible” and it has led to a steady stream of requests for their catalog for many years. This would be an example of a resource in the form of content, but there could be many resources which are not content. For example, digital tools can be resources. Andrew Alliance, a manufacturer of an automated pipetting robot, provides free software which easily creates pipetting protocols which can be readily edited, saved, shared, and viewed in order to help reduce errors in both protocol design and actual pipetting. This provides product-unrelated value (it doesn’t require any purchase or use of an Andrew robot) in a way that is still relevant to them (pipetting / liquid handling). There are certainly other examples as well, but not all that many. Life science companies have, as a whole, not yet become creative with regards to the resources that they provide to scientists.
As more companies become content developers and more content competes for scientists’ limited time and attention, the standards for content become much higher. While high-value content can still be very effective, a shift in thinking is required for companies to provide high-value resources which circumvent the problem of limited attention. The companies which successfully do so will be greatly rewarded in brand value.