How addition by subtraction helps content marketers be more efficient

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

This is actually a concept that I’ve seen work over the years: Add capacity by taking something away. But it has to be something that added unnecessary weight.

That can include:

Inefficient workflows

Inefficient approval processes

Team members who are slowing things down, aren’t a cultural fit or are in the wrong roles

It actually sounds so simple. Cut an inefficient workflow and you’ll be more efficient.

Let’s take an example: Marketers are measured by results more and more.

The way to drive results is:

by getting things done

by testing

by creating content and distributing it well with goals in mind

of course: know your goals

The way not to drive results is by not adding to the total body of content marketing work.

Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute reminded me of this during the Publishing Lab at Content Marketing World in 2018 where we spoke together. (My speaking page is here.)

He told the audience that content marketing isn’t a campaign and shouldn’t be measured just as pieces. Focus on the overall body of work. Each campaign might be part of it, but content marketing ultimately works best as a long-term commitment that keeps adding valuable pieces over time.

But it’s harder than it sounds. We have long-term processes. Sometimes the wrong people are in the wrong roles. And sometimes culture isn’t where it needs to be.

I’ve worked with all these different types of cases where addition by subtraction would actually help.

It’s hard because it often involves conflict. We have to address the issue and then address it.

Let me give you an example in the writing camp.

Let’s say you have a team of two writers and one editor.

Scenario 1

Writer 1 submits good copy that includes the basics and works. It drives results. The editor gives it a second set of eyes and then can use their time to make it even better.

Yay! That’s a great example.

Scenario 2

Writer 2 isn’t hitting their stride. They submit content but it doesn’t flow, doesn’t make sense and the editor has to go into above average fact checking mode. Once that’s done they go into massive rewrite mode.

Then there are meetings to discuss things. We might call them collaborations.

There’s a difference of course between working together and doing the work somebody else should have done to begin with.

It also depends on the level of difficulty of something.

A basic article in the standard format of a brand shouldn’t cause much back and forth.

A new type of content – like VR, AR and even multimedia for writers – should be expected to perhaps add some actual collaboration time.

Let’s say writer 2 is also hard to work with. They know everything and don’t listen. Now, all these already not-so-great projects are becoming even more of a strain on the team.

That adds a lot of work, distraction and even hurts team morale.

As you might imagine, the team might be able to get more done with writer 2 gone. Once out of the picture they work better together and get more done because they can focus their time on the right things once again.

That’s addition by subtraction in content marketing.

Of course, depending on the organization and management cutting losses can actually be harder than it might sound in theory.

There have to be meetings, warnings and other items that slow things down. Agreement between the right people is important too.

The same is true for change in processes. It’ll take time. Time that content marketers often don’t have. Remember, the processes are taking all of it. ?‍♀️?‍♂️

I was asked if I’d ever seen a content marketing team that is completely fully staffed? I don’t think that’s a thing. All teams can always use more help.

That’s the business content marketers are in. There’s no such thing as catching up or getting everything done.

Let’s take content creation. We create something, publish it and then do a rockstar job of distributing it.

Job done! Well, no. Let’s get back to creating something else. Or go and analyze what worked and what didn’t. Let’s syndicate it some more. Maybe we can update it further? Link it to something else!

The work is never done because the ideas and opportunities don’t stop. We have to prioritize and that’s why addition by subtraction is a thing in content marketing.

On a personal note, I see this myself quite often. Let’s say something negative happened. Something that pushed a trigger word. Now I’m thinking about that. And when that happens I’m now thinking about that and my energy goes there. As opposed to something more productive and that might have an impact on business.

Stopping that line of thinking falls into this category. Or eliminating what causes the stress to begin with.

Good leaders are looking to add by subtracting. Of course saying to “do new things we must stop doing something else” is something people have said for decades.

It’s true, but it might not mean what we think it does. It doesn’t necessarily mean to stop a product or distribution channel.

It means to add by subtracting the unnecessary and then add some more by adding the right people and processes and work on the right culture.

Content marketing is hard enough as it is and the pressures for results are real. We don’t need to make it harder than necessary.