Content Lessons to Learn from the Space Program

6 minute read

Upland Admin

Next year will be the 60th anniversary of NASA, and as I looked through the timeline of space exploration and discovery (because I’m a loud and proud science geek like that), I was struck by how many important lessons B2B marketers might garner from the trials and errors of exploring the final frontier (because I’m a loud and proud content marketing geek, too).

Marketing might not seem as flashy as space exploration, but taking on the perspective of such an inspirational field inevitably elevates your content operation. We want to inspire our fellow marketers to learn more, to explore more, to reach for the stars in their business.

So, walk with me through history as we reach for the stars.

Simultaneous Inventions

In the early days of space research, rocket research blossomed simultaneously around the world as the USA and the USSR competed for dominance in the aftermath of World War II. Goddard in the USA, Tsiolkovsky in the USSR, and Oberth in Germany were the pioneers of rocket research, each independently working to develop the infancy of rocketry and astronautics.

Even though all three of these men were separated by politics and borders, their research converged on similar ideas. This sort of thing happens all the time in the content marketing world, too. Whether it’s just something in the air (or on the web), trends pop up seemingly all at once.

This isn’t magic though. For analysts paying attention to trends, predicting the next big thing in marketing can become second nature.

In his “Content Production Imperative” blog post, Kapost CEO Toby Murdock discusses how the last ten years have seen a build-up of the technology (more on that later) that helps us deliver content to just the right people at just the right time. But this build-up of tech left behind the most important piece of the puzzle: the right content. This is the cornerstone of the content mantra: right content for the right context at the right time, or Right3. We are now seeing a trend in developing tools that help marketers create content tailor-made for each of those channels and personas.

And Kapost isn’t alone in recognizing this. SiriusDecisions has also poured their researching prowess into the vital nature of content production resources.

Implementing a content marketing platform (CMP) is indispensable for hitting all the notes of Right3. Content Marketing Institute, too, expounds the value of having a CMP as “a hub for planning, producing, distributing, and analyzing content.” o that we can stand out in the midst of the internet noise.

Ah, so we need a different kind of tech…

Race to Get the Best Tech

We’ve all heard of the space race, when the USSR launched Sputnik 1, suddenly opening up the new frontier of space exploration, and then launched the first man, Yuri Gagarin, into space. Then President Kennedy responded by proclaiming that we would land a man on the moon within the decade. And then we did! (No nonsense conspiracy theories that we didn’t, please. We did. Six times. Photos of the landers on the moon exist!)

Throughout the Apollo program, there was a constant push to bring out the best in NASA’s technology so that the US could achieve what Kennedy had promised. That patriotic push—and the financial support behind it—enabled the scientists and engineers to achieve the impossible.

As mentioned above, the last ten years have seen an explosion of technology ranging from automated communications, to predictive analytics, to account-based marketing tech, to artificial intelligence in search engines. The ROI on MarTech that delivers content seems pretty obvious, given a number of resources that have gone into it.

But how much return is there really if the content that fills in those contexts isn’t compelling?

To achieve our goals of delivering the right content to the right customer at the right time, marketers need to increase investment in content production. We could only get to the moon because we supported the manpower to achieve that goal.

B2B businesses need to promote good writers who pay attention to what their audiences want to discover and learn. The internet is too inundated with material that comes just from trying to fill in the gaps of an editorial calendar without really trying to produce useful content. Ad-hoc content won’t get us any closer to our objectives.

We have technology that informs our buyer personas. But without a system in place to tag each piece of content with persona information, how are writers supposed to know what personas to target.

Developing a documented content operations strategyincluding everything from a content governance charter to a comprehensive marketing taxonomy—is a vital step in creating content that achieves your company’s priorities. Consistency is a vital element of creating a positive customer experience.

Maintaining consistency does not mean eliminating trial and error. A/B testing and experimentation with content are crucial to stay aware of trends in your audience’s preferences. And if something doesn’t work, it means we can learn something to do better next round.

Will It Fly?

The funny thing about products that NASA produces is that they are not fully tested until their first flight. Sure, each component is extensively tested throughout the production process. But, due to the cost of producing all the parts, a completed rocket isn’t actually deemed done until the first time it flies.

Sound familiar? Until you launch a piece of content, you can’t really know if it’s going to hit the mark.

Before any asset makes its way out the door, it has to undergo extensive review, from editors, from managers, from other departments, from higher levels. And once it hits the digital streets, it’s certainly the best that the team had to offer. But will it fly?

The true test of the worth of a piece of content doesn’t come until it’s out in the world, ready for everyone to read it. Sometimes content flops, even though it may have seemed like a good idea during development. Failures in the effectiveness of a piece of content can be due to a lack of alignment with the right target persona, the right channel, or because it wasn’t supported by an effective campaign.

But just like the folks at NASA, a launch failure does not have to mean the end of a program. All it really means is that we have to take a closer look at what happened to make the next asset or campaign something that really resonates with our audiences.

We can learn from the crash, just like we did with this campaign.

Key Takeaway

An important element to take out of this venture into space geekdom is that innovation and value don’t just happen. For any content team to really flourish, it needs the room to experiment and the resources to buckle down and make a good product. Only with the proper support of a full content operations strategy can we really deliver the right content for the right person at the right time.

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