The Cost of Content: Turning Expenses Into Assets

Although businesses are increasing their investment in content creation and distribution, a lack of clarity exists around the reasons for this uptick. Companies are scrambling to get on the content bandwagon without a clear reason why.

This is problematic. If an organization is increasing its investment in the content function, someone needs to be able to make the business case for it. 

In our first post on the cost of content, we explored ways of setting a framework for content expenditure that would obtain executive buy-in. In our second post, we reviewed ways of driving efficiencies from a company's content spend.

Turn content into a revenue driver on your balance sheet.

Turn content into a revenue driver on your balance sheet.

In the final post in this series, we examine the traditional view of content as a nice-to-have marketing expense. To what extent can content evolve beyond this characterization into a revenue-generating asset?


The first thing to understand about content is that businesses need it whether they like it or not. At a minimum, businesses require content to describe themselves and explain their products. An enterprise could not function without content through which to communicate. Even a local pizzeria needs a name, a menu, flyers, and some level of signage.  A company without any content is in a precarious place.

A critical step here is reframing content away from a discretionary marketing expense to a necessary infrastructure cost. Infrastructure is an accurate descriptor. Content performs a number of key business functions that would leave an organization weaker in its absence.

  • It constitutes your digital shopfront and your online floor plan.

  • It communicates your brand and value propositions.

  • It describes your product and services.

  • It draws attention and creates engagement.

  • It creates depth and richness around your business

  • It helps close deals and retain existing customers.

This is content as core infrastructure. Additionally, there are practical ways to grow your business and generate revenue from content for organizations that get good at content creation and distribution.

  1. Sponsorship: Allow partner companies to sponsor your capstone content projects, from podcasts to white papers to documentary style videos.

  2. Conferences: Name a B2B enterprise that doesn't organize, or hasn't considered organizing, a user conference of some shape or form. Salesforce, Adobe, IBM: these organizations plan events, and the primary draw of each event is its content. What will I learn, and who will I meet in the process of learning new things and sharing my own best practice?

  3. Networking: Content is increasingly the bedrock of networking. Just look at the significant investment LinkedIn has made in promoting user-generated content across its network.

  4. Advertising: Go old school and consider allowing targeted advertising to appear against your content.

  5. Data: Build trust with clients and prospects through content, and encourage them to share more granular information with you over time. Test and probe through content. Learn what your audience is interested in and what it doesn't want to hear from you about.

  6. Public Relations: Earn favorable media through strong content. Publishing proprietary research is a proven way of winning links back to your website and getting your business' name out there.

  7. Influencers: Content gives your advocates and your influencers in the field something tangible to shout about on your behalf.

  8. Better and Happier Customers: A commitment to content will not only keep your client informed and educated about your product and services but help manage customer service costs. People actively want self-serve information. They want to figure things out for themselves wherever possible in order to enjoy the product or service quickly and fully. Meet their need through content.


“Marketing is not the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make," wrote marketing theorist Philip Kotler. "Marketing is the art of creating genuine customer value. It is the art of helping your customer become better off." Switch out "marketing" for "content" in this statement, and the sentiment holds true.

It's never too late to reframe your organization's approach to content. View content both as an infrastructure cost and as an asset that yields over time. Watch as the question moves from "Why content?" to "How do we do content well?" 

“Marketing is not the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make. Marketing is the art of creating genuine customer value. It is the art of helping your customer become better off.”

— Philip Kotler