The value of content

The term “return on investment” (ROI) gets bandied about a lot in my business, as in “what’s the ROI of you service?”  We all know what that questions is supposed to mean: how much money can I make back from what I pay you?  But no matter how many statistics and case studies you throw at the questioner, the real question is: “How little can I actually pay you for your service?”

I’ve started answering that question with another question: What is your content worth?  If the customer can answer that question, I can better answer their original question.

Every company, especially engineering-driven companies, says their content has immense “value.”  They believe that their customers have an absolute need to hear what they have to say.  It is so vital that the customers very existence depends on purchasing a particular product or service.  At least, that’s generally how they answer the question.  But they can’t put a monetary value on that content.  They can assign a monetary value to their product.  They can justify the price with studies and statistics and benchmarks.  But they have no idea how to valuate their story.  So I break it down for them this way:

If the customer won’t pay to read your content, if the media won’t pay to publish your content, and if you wont pay the media to publish your content... then your content has no value.  And if I promise a 10X return on your investment in proliferating your content, 10 times 0 is still 0.  So the ROI will be 0.

At this point of the conversation, they state that they are making an investment in my services, which is a good point, but that’s where we come back to my original question.  So what is the value of your content?

If you go cheap on your investment in content generation, management and distribution, you won’t get much in return.  On average - 9 times out of 10 - a technology start-up doesn’t want to spend more than $500 on the development and distribution of a news release (possibly the most worthless piece of content any company can ever make), including the cost of the wire service.  Over the years I have determined that even the most incompetent execution of a communications strategy can net a 5X ROI.  So by that measure, the $500 investment can net a $2500 ROI.  

 And that is the value of most content.  You have to determine if that is worth your time and effort.