Try Things And Iterate

Noah Brier recently published a fantastic presentation entitled everything is media – a must read (embedded at the end of this post for your convenience). I’ve stressed the idea of experimenting for awhile, and slide 59 really nails the rationale behind this:

Try things and iterate. Face it, you’re not as good at predicting success as you think you are. It is well-established that things become popular mostly randomly. Sure you can spend against but even that isn’t a guarantee.

Noah is spot on and hits upon something most marketing and PR pros don’t get. All content needs to be iterative – whether an infographic, video, blog post, white paper, etc. To put this into an action:  you should be following a plan and publishing a stream of new content that has expectation of success with frequency throughout the timeframe of a program. Improve as you go based on data, and refine bit by bit. The old days of optimizing a limited set of pages on a website, linkbuilding and hoping for rankings area dead. So is the idea of publishing one video and trying to push it throughout channels in the hopes of it catching on (if that was ever a good idea).

Most communications pros overvalue each single piece of content because they are following a set of rules applicable to a society where the amount of content created and power to publish it was limited. This world no longer exists. It used to be expensive and time consuming to create and distribute content. If it still is for you, you’re in a lot of trouble – make it cheap and simple to create and distribute with very low cost of failure or forever be dominated by the agile.

In reality, you should never expect a single piece of content you make to be successful. Ever.  First, it does not properly manage expectation, second, none of us can accurately predict success and third – perhaps most importantly – it doesn’t even matter if it is. Not really. One success is not what you should be after. If you are staking your digital marketing results on a limited number of pieces of content that are relatively static you’re doing it wrong.

You need to structure your efforts in a way that you are constantly trying new things and iterating through the content formats that fit the behaviors, preferences and formats of your audience (and perhaps testing new ones that you think might work). Would you rather go fishing with one rod or an ever-increasing number of them?

In a world where every company is a media company, it’s no longer about any single one piece of content. Create, publish, promote, measure, repeat. Don’t dwell.

One other point made in the presentation that stood out is another huge mistake most businesses make with their marketing. They neglect to build an audience and reinvent the wheel with every single thing they publish or promote:

Build on prior success.Too many brands rebuild their audience for every campaign, spending the same money to reach the same people over and over again. Even if you’re not sure what to do with it yet, you’ve got to recognize the value of building an audience.

Spot on – you are in absolutely no position to create increasing returns or build momentum without this. That’s really the whole idea of focusing on opt in at the source.

Here’s the presentation referenced in this post in-full: