When you think about promotional marketing and advertising, the very nature of it is quite transitory. If it’s a mailer or advertisement, it has shelf-life of days. If it’s a brochure, it might be a couple of years.

From a profit-and-loss perspective, it’s clear to see why accounts departments view marketing as merely a cost (something, which, ironically, is true of them too).

Fair enough, a website might be written down over a few years, so it starts to take on the attributes of being an asset. But whether it really is an asset depends on the content of the website.

If your content is sales-orientated (features and benefits) then it’s hard to describe it as an asset. After all, the content is as fleeting as a brochure – regardless of how often you choose to update it. It’s just there. It’s not accruing value.

Which isn’t to run it down – every website needs such content, just as every company needs sales-orientated marketing.

Yet there’s another way of thinking about website content.

Really, your customers aren’t interested in you, your organisation or your services – until they want to buy. Which means, most of the time, they’re not interested in you at all.

Savvy companies attract potential customers with content that is of more interest to them for a greater amount of the time. Content which doesn’t sell hard, doesn’t especially promote you – but helps them to solve their problems; content which scratches their itch.

This is what people want – most of the time. If they’re interested in photography, they don’t want to be bombarded with advertisements for cameras all of the time. It’s just noise. They want to know how to judge (and set) depth of field, how to light a model, how to work out which ASA will be best – they want answers to hundreds, perhaps thousands of questions.

That’s what they’re searching for online, most of the time. That’s how they’re more likely to find you and connect with you.

What’s interesting about this kind of content is that it represents an organisational knowledge base. It’s unique to you (in execution, if not always in content – but preferably that too). But it’s more than that. It can be the thing which brings customers to you and keeps them coming back. 

Written well, most of it won’t be that time-sensitive either. 

So, unlike more traditional forms of marketing, content marketing can rightly qualify as being a true asset of the business – and one that appreciates in value.

This is a great litmus test for marketers: “Is what I’m creating an asset?” It’s a question which forces you to think about cost and return in an entirely different way. It forces you to take a reality check on promotional marketing. It pushes you to think more about content that delivers lasting benefits rather than a quick spike in demand.

Not all marketing should need to fit the definition of an asset. Promotional marketing has its place. But for real content, that attracts people, gets them engaged and gets them to connect with you – it’s almost always the case.