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Two (Broke) Content Marketers Walk Into A Bar

Debate 1 - Quality vs Quantity In An Economic Slowdown

Disclaimer: YellowSeed does not promote drinking alcohol, it’s just an analogy. We suggest having ice-cream instead, it’s cheaper and tastier.

Two content marketers walked into a bar. As often happens in a bar, an age-old debate started. The difference, however, was that these guys were way more broke than usual.

"Should we get more of the cheap stuff, or sip on the real deal for once?"

In a time when people are bombarded by content and choices, they're not going to pay attention to what brands have to say. Add to that the problems of an economic slowdown, and content marketers have to fight for the little consumer interest left. So what do you choose to focus on when there’s a slump in the economy - quality or quantity?

The two content marketers had a lot to say, as all marketers do, for defending their answers to this question.

Quantity: get that high traffic!

More content makes you more likely to be picked up by search engines. The more fresh content you chug, the higher you rank. If your first instinct in an economic slowdown is to cut down the amount spent on marketing and the amount that goes out, it might not work out so great. Plus, it’s been observed that companies that increase their expenditure instead have the potential to attract more returns on investment in the long run - and get more sales. They’re more likely to be noticed since their competitors would spend less on advertising. In the recession of 1990 when McDonald’s rolled back on their ad budget, Pizza Hut and Taco Bells went the opposite route. Their sales increased by 61 and 40 percent while McDonald’s sales decreased. Talk about taking a smooth move.

If you’re a digital agency still worried about cutting down on costs, an article in Better Marketing suggests selectively cutting down on production and administrative costs during a recession instead of marketing costs.

Quality: stand out by understanding needs

Irrelevant content doesn’t get you a high index on search engines, if any index at all. The importance of keywords have become passe, there’s more to search engine optimisation today. Topics, or the kind of information you cater to, is one thing to consider. Increased traffic doesn’t assure increased business transactions either. Look at this recession as the perfect time to figure out what your customers need to generate those leads!

It’s the bartending equivalent of being more than just someone serving beverages - you’re serving comfort too. You have peak content to compete against, your aim should be to invest energy in what you’re making, not how much. That means understanding what the audience is going through. For example, Coca-Cola’s former VP of advertising, Jonathan Mildenhall, looks at a recession as an opportunity. In an interview in 2003, he remarked that in times of economic distress, “a marketer’s duty is to lift up the brand and talk about values like happiness and humanity”. In 2012, we saw an echo of this in Indian agencies preferring to target people’s emotions in their ads, rather than taking a fear-based approach. Remember that in these insecure times, everyone needs reassurance that we can get through this together. They just need to hear it differently. Look for that sweet spot that takes into account various consumer appetites, as well as changed public attitude towards your sector. An article in Harvard Business Review classified consumers according to their reactions to an economic slowdown and their readiness to buy, including the likes of “slam-on-the-brakes” customers, “live-for-today” customers and describes how the tone of content can be tailored for each.

Quantity: Letting customers know you’re there

If you want to let customers understand you’re there for them, you’ve got to make sure they remember it. A one-off communication, however engaging, doesn’t do well for establishing brand authority. It’s like being that friend that asks how you are, and then forgets to reply to your message. Don't let your memo vanish into the night! Plus, even viral content gets the shelf life of about a week or so at max. With the number of sales deals customers are about to find in the downturn, establishing your product and service benefits needs to be done repetitively.

Quality: targeting done right

What's the point of shelling out content to people who aren’t interested? Look at where and when your potential customers roam. Companies tend to focus on digital marketing because it’s easier to track the source of the highest returns on investment, and create content according to that. Some may even combine this with behavioral targeting in their ads online. Don’t forget, there’s the option of retargeting customers who are already familiar with your brand too.

Looking for new clients in industries that fare well during slowdowns is another way to go about this. This includes home entertainment and other cost-friendly alternative sources of entertainment, affordable luxuries such as cosmetics, basic sectors such as education and healthcare, etc.

The bartender’s verdict

(As debates at the bar usually go, a third person intervened. It did not escalate and become a showdown, however.)

If content is like serving a good drink, it’s a matter of finding the right mix. Chad Politt in Social Media Today talks about how your brand’s goals and available resources should decide how you bring both quantity and quality together. One would assume that it’s even more important when your resources are limited. We’ve usually seen quality vs quantity debates in content marketing end in “quality wins” or “you need both”. Here’s the thing though. In an economic downturn, it really boils down to how we navigate our way through the wild. Making choices in uncertain circumstances requires both daring to follow your instinct and observing your surroundings. By trusting both the wisdom of collective experience and the ever-enduring human spirit to do the unexpected, we raise a toast to the true spirit of content marketing itself. And that’s to live and tell stories that are passed down from consumer to consumer, client to client, and maybe even bar to bar.


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