What Prince (Rogers Nelson) taught to B2B marketers?

Prince_logo.svgOn April 21st, 2016 Prince Rogers Nelson died, returned to his Creator, may rest in peace! Great artist, great loss. But it is impossible to commemorate him without mentioning his endless legal battles that had been hurting his artistic recognition for decades. Without taking sides it is safe to say he could have delivered his artistic messages to a much larger audience by having different views on copyrights and content sharing. And this aspect of his legacy offers a takeaway for all b2b marketers.

Everybody in the B2B business is familiar with the dilemma of content marketing:

How much to share and how fiercely protect?

Now let’s ignore the noble mission of an artist to spread his messages to the most people and let’s only focus on our content sharing dilemma from the point of view of profitability. There are three pain points to come over with:

  1. The ‘war profiteering’ of social media outlets
  2. The daylight stealing of our competitors
  3. The ever-raising expectations of our future customers

Social Networks make profits by my content

Yes, it can be painful to see how much money media outlet owners make on content that they receive almost for free. (not completely free as they do have operational costs providing those services: HW, SW, staff etc.) But anyway it can be very tough for an artist (for a business in that matter) spending tens of thousands on a video and seeing YouTube making money out of its pirate copies. And business owners could also have a strange feeling to see premium content made available for free especially when it was their own marketers sharing it.

Educating our competitors

If we invest a lot in the R&D of our services and/or products how could we share/publish anything of it? We would just give away expensive results to our competitors for free. And isn’t it funny and hard to claim any copy-, or proprietary rights over materials that we shared?

Putting our own bar higher and higher

If we convince our future customers to do business with us by sharing content (aka content marketing by case studies, findings, best practises) we basically share the results of our previous projects. This way we force ourselves to create brand new contents, features, functions etc. project by project. Since we know that “…the business is in repetition…” this way we are burning our future profits. I know this issue is also called productivity but really, how many times can we ‘reinvent the wheel’ for newer and newer users and customers?

“…To share or not to share that is the question…”

Our dilemma is not new at all! In fact in is quite common in history. And it always ends that the cheaper/freer way prevails with new ways of monetisation:

  • After thousands of years of expensive and rare manuscripts – Gutenberg started to print much cheaper books
    (and instead of supporting a complete monastery, books started to have affordable prices)
  • After thousands of years of live music and acting – phonographs and records came with the radio and TV broadcasts
    (and instead of tickets TV and radio spots started to finance the shows)
  • and after thousands of years of expensive universities – free eLearning contents (iTunesU, Khan Academy, etc.) have arrived…
    (and clicks started to ‘pay the piper’…)

So I believe history teaches us that there is no way back and we should not fight battles that are not there to win by design. We must learn to create new business models that can handle the ever growing content sharing challenge.
(Or else we are forced to quit and watch our competitors finding the feasible monetisation models while we are sitting on our yacht chilling or sipping in a soup kitchen shivering.)

What this great musician’s, Prince’s, struggle teaches me is not to be afraid of sharing my knowledge (and here is the proof of it).