A small diner in the northeast had a popular dish and an owner who could have easily been elected mayor if he wasn’t obsessed with making people smile with their mouths full.
Over the years, he’d perfected his clam chowder recipe – focusing on finding the best ingredients and carefully preparing each bowl by hand – and the locals thanked him with their dollars and their loyalty. Word spread about the famous clam chowder and people would drive dozens of miles out of their way just to get a bowl on a cold winter day.
When it came time for the owner to retire, he had no heir to his culinary throne, so he sold the business to a driven young man who had his sights set on turning the cozy diner and its famous clam chowder into a full-scale franchise. But in order to grow, he had to cut operating costs and maximize revenue.
So he started with the clam chowder. He found cheaper ingredients and made larger batches and thinned out the broth to make it stretch further. And it was a huge success in terms of bottom line profitability. At first.
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But as time passed, people stopped ordering the chowder as frequently. In fact, they stopped visiting the diner all together. The place had lost its charm and its identity. As the focus shifted from quantity to quality, the product and user experience suffered.
The lesson from the above story, shamelessly stolen and liberally paraphrased from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (what? I skimmed it!) applies to our world of content marketing.
We know that content beats advertising, and more and more brands are acting as media companies. But in the content marketing gold rush, it’s tempting to act like the ambitious man who took over the diner instead of its original owner. Skimping on quality and diluting content can seem like it is paying off in the short-term as we confuse noise with signal, but in the long run everyone loses.
Before hitting “publish,” apply a healthy-dose of self skepticism and ask:
- Does this content solve a problem or answer a question? Is it satisfying a real need or an imagined need?
- Is this useful or entertaining to my audience? Or is it a copy of a copy of a copy? Are you adding context and commentary the contributes value to the larger conversation?
- Will this piece of content have staying power beyond real-time? Would people Google this? Would they bookmark or save it?
- Is this content worth stealing? Would someone want to shamelessly take this content, throw it in a PowerPoint presentation or an email to their boss and pass it off as their own?
- Is this content worth sharing? Would anyone want to post this to Facebook or Twitter? Does it make a statement that makes the potential sharer look smart or funny or provocative or cool?
- Would you read it? If you’re honest with yourself, and your name wasn’t on the byline, would you still spend more than 30 seconds with it? Would the headline actually earn your click?
- Is it good enough to send to the CEO in an email? Would you be willing to present it at a conference?
If the answer to any of the above is “no,” you might want to head back to the kitchen and check your ingredients and reexamine your preparation method. People have better taste than marketers sometimes give them credit for.
How do you taste-test your content before you serve it?
This post originally appeared on Social Media Explorer.
[Image: neil conway]