Jennifer Beck

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Jennifer Beck
VP & Gartner Fellow
15.5 years at Gartner
32 years IT industry

Jennifer Beck serves digital marketing leaders, specializing in multichannel marketing across digital and offline channels. She offers advice to CMOs and CEOs on how to competitively position their companies, create and manage their brands, enter the digital arena and maximize marketing and sales investments. ...Read Full Bio

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Approach Content Marketing like the Art of Flower Arranging

by Jennifer Beck  |  March 13, 2014  |  7 Comments

 This week, spring is guaranteed to show up in New England at the opening of Boston’s 2014 Flower and Garden Show‎ at the Seaport World Trade center. A New England tradition for over 100 years, this mind-boggling display of flora in every imaginable configuration from single arrangements worthy of an exhibit at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, to miniature landscapes of entire towns, lures gardening aficionados of all ages and interests.

Now my own home might not get vacuumed regularly, but there’s always a fresh flower arrangement somewhere to distract visitors from the dirt. So I couldn’t help making the comparison to the art of content marketing. What you say? Flower arranging and content marketing? Could this analogy possibly go beyond the idea of using good content to cover up the real dirt? You bet.

What does it take to be a great content marketer or an accomplished flower designer?

To start, there are several ways to acquire the necessary skills. You might just have natural talent. As a kid I watched my mom make impressive arrangements out of whatever her garden offered. She could take common place specimens, the right vase, some nondescript greenery, snip here, tilt there, extend a stem, depress a few others and voila – an eye-catching, often breath-taking centerpiece. She did it on instinct. But you can be taught this art. Search for flower design courses and up come about 492 million hits in about 52 seconds. Try content marketing courses and you get 125 million results in 32 seconds. So content marketing may not be as mature an art form as flower design, but we’re getting there.  And you can always learn from others. It might take some practice, experimentation and failure before you hone your particular skill.

So why do we create content or arrange flowers in interesting ways for all to see?

When we select a bud vase it’s like the decisions we make on packaging content or the choice of vessel. When we choose a single bloom it’s like the big brand headline, or story we want our audience to focus on. And when we place the arrangement on the right table top it’s akin to positioning our content or moving it through the right channel. But it all comes together for the desired effect; to attract attention, delight your audience, maybe surprise them, be memorable, celebrate a special occasion, deliver a personal message, display your finery, or just fill an empty space. All notable artists and content marketers are driven by some basic instinct to create – to fill a perceived void.

But like flora, content can die or live on to create great impressions.  

In choosing content, like your flower selections, there are some fundamental considerations as you plan, design and deliver the product. Some flowers are extremely durable and easily accessible. I personally can’t stand any variety of chrysanthemums – “mums” for short. Their colors are brassy oranges and yellows and their tight blooms are so uniform as to be boring. They last forever and appear to be indestructible. No wonder they are a favorite for commercial real estate landscapers. I will admit to having kicked a few on my way out of a building on a bad day. Ah, but the spider mum is the exception. Its color is less vulgar, its petals quite pointed and distinguishable – but its lifespan is half that of its more pedestrian cousin. My dad always bought a single white spider mum for me when he’d take me to the Thanksgiving Day football game at White Plains High. We sat in the bleachers with his high school buddies; doctors, lawyers, and chiefs of industry now, their temples as white as the flower pinned to my lapel. But ah, the tradition and the memories that one flower represents still.

Consider this when choosing your flora ingredients.

Marketing content and flowers come at a price. The exotic varieties might require longer cultivation or a worldwide search. The common carnation is a commodity compared to the orchid. But the orchid makes quite a statement. Some have little faces that look exactly like primates and suggest some primordial species cross-over – a curation of epic proportions.  Content, like flowers come in all shapes, colors, sizes and textures. Do you go with a huge display of red roses – with an accepted and easily understood message, or take a chance on that single apricot rose set against an ancient gnarled vine of sea grape that will define you, once you define it? The precious, exotic hybrids convey you’re unique. They have stopping power in the crowded shop. Head-turners, but pricey and perishable. Many flowers are seasonal and certainly vary in value based on geography. The hibiscus is a hedge in the Caribbean and a pampered house plant in a New York penthouse.

And then there are weeds…

On-line search terms are the weeds of content marketing – easily seen, literally everywhere, constantly proliferating – even sprouting from brick and mortar where no one would think they could find nourishment.  But when your gardening is time-constrained, and grass is the enemy, you might selectively weed, leaving the great sprawling comfrey and powerful burdock as ground cover. Some content creates the backdrop for more showy and colorful specimens.

…and seeds

If you’re lost in the analogy, just remember this. Great marketing content is a renewable asset. Create it with care. Nurture it. Spread it around like Johnny Appleseed with a good cause as your guide. Be ready to trim it back or replant each season. Choose the focal point of your arrangements commensurate with the statement you’re trying to make. Be brave, but behave. Some plants are carnivorous and some cause a nasty rash.

As my colleague and avid blogger, Jake Sorofman will tell you on this subject, “You can’t fake passion”. He says content marketers, “have an insatiable curiosity and a relentless pursuit for excellence in the craft”. And just like my mom made an impression for all to enjoy, content marketers have an interest in leaving a mark on the otherwise barren landscape of their marketplace.

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