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To Date or Not To Date? That’s the Wrong Content Question [Rose-Colored Glasses]

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To Date or Not To Date? That’s the Wrong Content Question [Rose-Colored Glasses]

Wanna start a fight among content marketers? Ask four content marketers whether blog posts should include the date of publication.

You’ll probably get five or more opinions. Yes, you read that right – at least one of the people you ask will likely have at least two opinions.

There are good arguments on both sides. I see the point made by those who say that you can’t correctly cite any content that isn’t dated. And I understand the argument that says including the date will eventually make your content seem old, even if it’s “evergreen.”

But here’s the thing. A timeless piece of content doesn’t automatically mean the content will stand the test of time. And content that stands the test of time isn’t necessarily timeless.

A timeless piece of #content – one without dates or era-specific references – won’t automatically stand the test of time, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The difference between timeless and classic content

When trying to create evergreen content, content marketers typically avoid including anything that links the piece to the time it was made. They’re trying to create something that will be relevant to the desired audience now and in the future.

This seems like an impossible task. Writing in a particular time imbues context that can’t be removed – you can’t know which details will make your piece seem dated in the future.

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But if this is true, how does any content last beyond its own time? How does something become “classic” in the dictionary definition (a work of art of recognized and established value)?

The short answer: Because it turns out that way.

That’s unsatisfying but true. Classic works aren’t classic because the author tried to avoid the context of the time in which they created them. They become classics because the care, depth, and creativity poured into the piece continue to resonate with new audiences.

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I love how author Italo Calvino described a “classic” in his essay, Why Read The Classics? He characterizes it as something “which, even when we read it for the first time, gives the sense of rereading something we have read before.” A classic, he says, is “a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers.”

I just finished rereading Basic Marketing – A Managerial Approach, by E. Jerome McCarthy, for the third time. Even if you haven’t heard of the book, you’re probably familiar with one of the concepts it introduced: The “4 Ps” of marketing.

It’s a classic marketing text. But, having read it three times, I can tell you it’s clear this book was written in the 1960s.

Likewise, I believe the LEGO Movie is a perfect example of a modern-day classic. It offers creative storytelling with a very distinct point of view and – unlike most “evergreen” content – trendy, topical characters. Despite that, The LEGO Movie is also something that families can enjoy watching again and again. The movie never exhausts all it has to say to its audience.

It’s a classic that stands the test of time – it has warranted sequels and spinoffs and remains a core piece of the LEGO content strategy.

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Can you create classic content marketing?

I once asked some clients (without irony, mind you) if they could envision creating a thought leadership paper that was timeless (meaning evergreen) and classic (meaning something people enjoyed so much they’d read it again and again).

They laughed. But I was completely serious. Can you create a classic thought leadership paper? Is it possible to produce a classic video series on SEO? Can you create a classic Thanksgiving Day turkey recipe?

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You probably thought, “Oh, sure,” about the recipe. But didn’t the other two seem odd?

Classic content provides new audiences with value and goes one step further: It provides existing audiences something they can return to time and again.

I continually return to Theodore Levitt’s paper Marketing Myopia to refresh my marketing chops despite its analysis of industries that date it to the 1960s. Dumb Ways To Die, a content marketing effort by the City of Melbourne Australia’s Metro organization, continues to get tens of millions of views every year despite being almost nine years old.

Classic #content provides new audiences with value and gives existing audiences something they can return to time and again, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

A formula for content that stands the test of time

You can’t know if a piece of content is a classic until it – well – becomes a classic. It must stand the test of time. And for that, you need time.

But can you increase the chance that your content’s value will last?

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You can’t know if a piece of #content is a classic until it stands the test of time. But you can increase the chance its value will last, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

I think you can. Whether you are writing for B2B or B2C, fiction or non-fiction, I’ve found that classic content pieces tend to share these traits:

  1. Memorable, diverse characters or points of view. Every classic story – even Marketing – A Managerial Approach – offers something incredibly memorable. In McCarthy’s book, the 4 Ps concept lasted. What’s the thing people will remember from your content?
  2. A fully realized setting. Whether you’re writing for B2B or B2C, think about building a world for your audience. Rich detail allows the audience’s minds to connect to other stories they’ve heard and experiences they’ve had (and that’s a mark of a classic).
  3. A distinctive style. Develop a style (for words and imagery) and stick to it. Be consistent.
  4. Larger truths. I teach this one in all my storytelling workshops. Every great story should attempt to illuminate a universal truth that will change the reader somehow.
  5. Nods (and connections) to tradition. Embrace the tradition of what you’re writing about. Find a way to celebrate it or escape from it.
  6. Structure. Classics follow a story structure. That doesn’t mean they don’t stray from traditional structures (I’m looking at you, Ulysses). But most have a story structure that provides a foundation the audience can follow.
  7. Ambiguity. Classic content leaves room for audiences to find their own way, come to different conclusions, and interpret the work in ways the author may not have anticipated.
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The bottom line? Focus on great storytelling, exploring topics deeply, creating distinct points of view. And don’t shy away from using timely examples to help tell a story. Create content that people will want to revisit again and again.

Then, it doesn’t matter if you put a date on it.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just three minutes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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MARKETING

B2B customer journeys that begin at review sites are significantly shorter

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B2B customer journeys that begin at review sites are significantly shorter

The B2B customer journey can be a long one, especially when the purchase of expensive software subscriptions is under consideration.

“The average B2B customer journey takes 192 days from anonymous first touch to won,” according to Dreamdata in their 2022 B2B Go-to-Market Benchmarks — a statistic described by co-founder and CMO Steffen Hedebrandt as “alarming.”

But the report also indicates that this journey can be significantly sped up — by as much as 63% — if accounts begin their research at software review sites, gathering information and opinions from their peers. Journeys that originate at a review site often lead to deals of higher value too.

Fragmented data on the customer journey. Dreamdata is a B2B go-to-market platform. In any B2B company, explained Hedebrandt, there are typically 10 or even 20 data silos that contain fragments of the customer journey. Website visits, white paper downloads, social media interactions, webinar or meeting attendance, demos, and of course intent data from review site visits — this data doesn’t typically sit in one place within an organization.

“We built an account-based data model because we believe that there’s such a thing as an account journey and not an individual journey,” said Hedebrandt. “So if there are two, three or five people representing an account, which is typically what you see in B2B, all of these touches get mapped into the same timeline.”

Among those many touches is the intent data sourced from software review site G2. Dreamdata has an integration with G2 and a G2 dashboard allowing visualization of G2-generated intent data. This includes filtering prospects who are early in their journey, who have not yet discovered the customer’s product, or who have discovered it but are still searching. This creates a basis for attributing pipelines, conversions and revenue to the activity.

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“Strategically, our ideal customer profile is a B2B software-as-a-service company,” said Hedenbrandt. “B2B SaaS companies are particularly ripe for understanding this digital customer journey; their main investment is in digital marketing, they have a salesforce that use software tools to do this inside sales model; and they also deliver their product digitally as well.” What’s more, it takes twice as long to close SaaS deal as it does to close deals with B2B commercial and professional services companies.

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Read next: A look at the tech review space

The Benchmarks findings. The conclusions of the 2022 Benchmarks report is based on aggregated, anonymized data from more than 400 Dreamdata user accounts. Focusing on first-touch attribution (from their multi-touch model), Dreamdata found that customer journeys where a review site is the first touch are 63% shorter than the average. In contrast, where the first touch channel is social, the journey is much longer than average (217%); it’s the same when paid media is the first touch (155%).

As the Benchmarks report suggests, this may well mean that social is targeting prospects that are just not in-market. It makes sense that activity on a review site is a better predictor of intent.

Hedenbrandt underlines the importance of treating the specific figures with caution. “It’s not complete science what we’ve done,” he admits, “but it’s real data from 400 accounts, so it’s not going to be completely off. You can only spend your time once, and at least from what we can see here it’s better to spend your time collecting reviews than writing another Facebook update.”

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While Dreamdata highlights use of G2, Hedenbrandt readily concedes that competitor software review sites might reasonably be expected to show similar effects. “Definitely I would expect it to be similar.”

Why we care. It’s not news that B2B buyers researching software purchases use review sites and that those sites gather and trade in the intent data generated. Software vendors encourage users to post reviews. There has been a general assumption that a large number of hopefully positive reviews is a good thing to have.


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What Dreamdata’s findings indicate is that the effect of review sites on the buyer journey — especially as the first-touch channel — can be quantified and a value placed on it. “None of us questioned the value of reviews, but during this process you can actually map it into a customer journey where you can see the journey started from G2, then flowed into sales meetings, website visits, ads, etc. Then we can also join the deal value to the intent that started from G2.”

Likely, this is also another example of B2B learning from B2C. People looking at high consideration B2C purchases are now accustomed to seeking advice both from friends and from online reviews. The same goes for SaaS purchases, Hedenbrandt suggests: “More people are turning to sites like G2 to understand whether this is a trustworthy vendor or not. The more expensive it is, the more validation you want to see.”


About The Author

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Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.

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He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.

Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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