The Economist’s lead article last week was ‘Peak Valley’. Silicon Valley, it claims, is losing some of its allure as a hub for innovation and growth. This is due, in part, to high rents, the FAANGs paying insane wages (the average Facebook employee earns $155k) and remote working.
Also, *whisper it* it’s just not that cool anymore.
The well-worn mantra for Facebook was ‘move fast and break things’. This now looks questionable when, post-Cambridge Analytica, the ‘things’ they’ve broken appear to be democracy, decency and trust.
For a long time disruption has reigned supreme in SV. And with huge success, of course. In the week that Amazon hits a £1tn valuation it would be churlish to suggest otherwise. But disruption is making way, I would argue, for something more meaningful and substantial.
What’s in vogue now? Purpose led businesses. And as part of that same movement, I argue, craft.
When I say purpose-led business, you’ll doubtless think of a firm like Toms – the shoe brand that donates a pair of shoes to a child with every purchase.
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But I believe there’s another route to being purpose-led, one that doesn’t require a huge ethical statement, and one that any business built on expertise can claim. The ‘purpose’ is the refinement of your craft and the maturity of your content to communicate it.
On the day Future Content was born (6 years ago this August if you must know) ‘The Lean Startup’ was the hottest thing in business literature. I read it and set up the business. I, along with many others, was inspired to ‘build-measure-learn’ and ‘iterate and pivot’ this new venture to (massive) scale.
2012 also witnessed the first real boom of content marketing. And for good reason. Our first clients would see their newly minted blog quickly overtake long-standing websites in terms of traffic and leads within 3 months. On reflection, it was easy. The cost of creation was relatively low, because writers weren’t in quite the demand they are today, and the cost of distribution was equally low, as organic traffic on Facebook and Google was easy to come by. How things have changed.
As everyone piled into the content game, the stakes were raised. ‘Content shock’ – the moment when supply of content massively outstripped the population’s ability to consume it – came in 2015. We’ve been working in a maturing channel ever since.
Content-as-a-commodity is still a widely-held view, however. There are some who will never see it as anything more. But the clients who are seeing the best returns from their content efforts are those who have refined their position and their editorial point of view.
They’ve honed how they talk about and share their hard-won expertise and (with our help) have developed their content ‘craft’. It has taken time – in some cases years – but the results (over 50% year on year revenue growth for three long-established, multi-million-pound businesses over three years) are impressive.
These businesses are all expert-led. Their purpose is to use their expertise to help others. They recognise content as the cornerstone of their marketing and the main way to build their brand. And they are enjoying sustainable, meaningful growth in the numbers that matter.
Just a Silicon Valley and it’s disruptive baggage are losing their cool, so is the idea that simply ‘doing’ can replace measured, refined strategy and careful craft.
You can still move fast, of course. But stop breaking things, it’s bad for business.