Linda Johnson

Marketing 101: What is big rock content?

November 10th, 2017

I had three hours to kill before my next flight to Dallas departed. While sitting in an airport café warming my hands around a mocha, I overheard snippets of an intense conversation in the booth behind me.

“It’s all about your big rocks. They are the most important. What are your big rocks?” 

At the time, I hadn’t heard of Stephen Covey’s analogy, so I had no idea what these two young marketers were discussing. Later, I was enlightened.

In brief, effective people prioritize their goals beginning with the most important (the rocks) and moving on to those of lesser importance (sand). Because when you think about it, if you try to fill a jar with sand before filling it with rocks, you will have troubles fitting the rocks in. Begin with the rocks and fill in the spaces with sand. It’s good advice and can be applied not only to marketing but our personal lives as well.

A central message for your content

Jason Miller, LinkedIn’s Head of Content and Social Media Marketing, took the analogy further and applied it to content marketing. One of his favorite rock bands had a central message, and they repeated that message throughout their work. In return, fans trusted them, believing them to be authentic. Miller thinks we should be strategically writing content that reflects our company’s vision. This is our “big rock” content. All other content should reflect this in some way.

He’s absolutely right. If your company is just spitting out content to meet your deadlines, your customers will notice. I don’t need to tell you that’s not a good thing.

Your business’s value proposition is the biggest rock in your content jar. It should be evident in every piece of content on your site. Every single person in your workplace should be able to state your value proposition — what it is that you offer that is unique from your competitors.

But there is another big rock you can put in your jar that isn’t quite as big. This can be a piece of content that offers substantial value to your customers, usually in the form of a how-to guide. It needs to be both large and visually appealing. Basically, it’s your value proposition in action. You are showing what you know. From this big content piece, you develop smaller relevant pieces in various forms — Blog posts, videos, webinars, slide presentations, downloadable charts, etc. You can repurpose your project over an entire quarter if you wish.

A Big Rock content example from MarketingSherpa

For example, In October 2016, we surveyed 2,400 customers in an extensive research study looking into customer-first marketing and created the MarketingSherpa Customer Satisfaction Research Study, a 54-page report.

Customer-first marketing is a key focus of MarketingSherpa, and helping brands improve results with customer-first science is a key element of the value proposition for MarketingSherpa’s parent research organization, MECLABS Institute.

From that initial big rock, we filled in some smaller rocks of our own, like articles that further analyze individual data points. For example, Marketing Chart: Which advertising channels consumers trust most and least when making purchases and Marketing Chart: Does customer-centric marketing fall short of satisfying the customer?

We also grabbed a few smaller rocks, and skipped them along the pond (my strained analogy for external content) by creating press releases like Study Reveals Customer Satisfaction Expands Dramatically When Companies Place Consumer Needs Ahead of Immediate Business and Marketing Goals that led to small rock articles like this one by MediaPost titled Customer Brand Satisfaction Drives Email Engagement, Study Shows.

Lastly, we sprinkled some sand into the mix with quick YouTube videos that provided analysis of some of the data points, mentions of results from the study in presentations like Rapid-Fire Results: 21 quick ideas for improving your customer-first marketing, and social media posts like this tweet …

Own your subject

This strategy gives your content a solid, unifying purpose. Customers begin to see that you believe in your brand and what you have to offer. You own your subject and you are sharing a lot of value with them. They trust you as an expert in this area and in return, revenue increases.

If you find that you are running out of topics to write about or you feel you’ve lost sight of your original vision, it may be time to dump out the sand and start fresh. Examine your value proposition and remember why you started this journey to begin with. Then make a plan to create your own Big Rock content piece.

You might also like …

Customer-First Marketing Strategy: The highest of the five levels of marketing maturity

Marketing Chart: The importance of making the right promise with your marketing

Learn how to Identify and Communicate Your Value Proposition

Linda Johnson

About Linda Johnson

Linda oversees the technical integrity of the content for MarketingExperiments, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute. She places special emphasis on clarifying the writer’s intentions while preserving the writer’s voice. But first and foremost, Linda is an educator. Before joining the team, she was an educational consultant, a blogger and a freelance writer for various print and digital magazines. Her focus is on simplifying complex topics for all kinds of learners, including aspiring marketers. Linda believes in living life on purpose.

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