How Drift Recycles Content to Cut Creation Time and Maximize Reach

New isn't always better. Learn how Drift repositions, repackages, and reduces every asset to elevate content output and quality.

min read

In May 2020, Mark Kilens, then-VP of Content and Community at Drift, published The Marketer’s Ultimate Survival Guide, a three-book bundle designed to help marketers thrive during the pandemic. The guide was an immediate success, attracting thousands of readers and generating hundreds of leads.

Unlike other large-scale content projects, Mark’s guide required very little investment. In fact, of the three books included in the survival guide, just one was new.

Content recycling underpins Drift’s content strategy, allowing his colleagues to maximize the value from every article, eBook, white paper, and webinar.

In this article, you’ll learn how Mark:

  • Used incrementally larger experiments to identify content topics
  • Recycled content assets to maximize their reach
  • Attracted tens of thousands of new readers with little extra investment

Prove ideas with incrementally larger experiments

Drift’s eBook library covers topics ranging from email templates and outreach plays to buyer behavior and purposefully unscalable growth strategies. While they write on diverse subjects, each one starts the same way: with a small-scale test.

Mark never invests in assets on a hunch. When he commissions a large eBook, he needs to be sure its content will resonate. He achieves that confidence through a series of experiments, each one progressively larger than the one that came before.

The first experiment is something small like a social media post or simple video. For these, Mark usually turns to LinkedIn. Recently, he’s published posts on the importance of event-led growth, competitive differentiation, information sharing, decision making, and even NFTs. After each post goes live, he pauses and evaluates its reception.

First, he tracks the raw numbers: reach and engagement. If both are higher than his average, Mark knows a particular topic is resonating. But there’s some leeway for interpretation, too. For example, on a post about gated content, Mark saw his reach spike, while engagement lagged behind.

“It got tons of views, around 13,000, but not many likes,” he says. “I think it was because it was somewhat controversial.”

To add nuance to the numbers, he also searches for qualitative feedback by exploring the comments. Positive feedback is good, but discussion and debate are better. Good content, says Mark, means “making a stand” on subjects—something that often ruffles feathers.

When an experiment does well, Mark adds the topic to a shortlist of ideas for larger tests. Then, the cycle of experimentation starts over, except this time, the asset and investment are both one step larger.

Using his cycle of experimentation, Mark moves high-performing ideas from social media post to blog to in-depth article. Finally, he takes the best ideas and turns them into eBooks, such as The MQL is Dead and Drift Leadership Principles

In other content programs, the eBooks would live on as finished assets. But at Drift, Mark created a culture of content recycling and reuse.

After launching large assets, he turns his focus to repositioning, repackaging, and reduction. This three-pronged strategy of reuse allows Mark to take one successful piece of content and use it again and again, multiplying its impact many times over.

Reposition existing assets to new contexts

All assets—even evergreen concepts—exist within the historical context you created them. As your company, your market, and the wider world evolve, the context shifts, too. Wait long enough and your eBook, blog, or guide will probably feel out of place. That’s what happened with Drift’s email marketing guide—albeit on an accelerated time frame.

They created the eBook just before the pandemic, when times were good and outbound could be a little more punchy. But when the global economy went into freefall and people began losing their jobs, pushy emails felt out of place. Mark suggested they reposition the book around empathy approaches, teaching people how to run compassionate email campaigns during a crisis.

Although he completely repositioned the asset, the lift was minor. Mark estimates that most repositioning projects require a 10–20% update to the copy, design, or both. Redrafting 10% of the eBook’s content to create what looks like a brand new asset is an exceptional return on investment.

Major life-changing events like the pandemic are, thankfully, rare. However, there are many smaller shifts marketers can respond to. Business milestones like a product launch or new funding rounds are good options. Strategic shifts like product pivots and market entries work, too. 

Repackage assets into new products

Most content strategies treat finished pieces as standalone assets, but Mark suggests a different perspective: treat your content library as a collection of modular building blocks.

Let's use Drift as an example. Here’s a small selection of their eBooks:

  • Marketing & Sales Field Guide for Today’s New Normal
  • 5 Email Templates to Make Your Marketing Outreach More Empathetic
  • The MQL is Dead
  • The Digital Seller’s Playbook
  • The State of Personalization
  • B2B Buying Secrets
  • CMO Secrets Revealed
  • Drift Selling Secrets

Mark repackaged the first three books in that list to create Drift’s pandemic-focused Ultimate Survival Guide. Even with a small range of eBooks, there are dozens of other possibilities.

“With repositioning and repackaging, you’re using content in a way that's either more timely or reactive,” says Mark. “We probably had about 10 different assets created from stuff we've repackaged.”

Reduce large assets to their component parts

Mark’s experimental content strategy creates increasingly larger content assets. A tweet becomes a video becomes an article becomes an eBook. Each step is more ambitious and wide-reaching than the one that came before. After building up to a big cornerstone asset, Mark reduces it down to create yet more content.

“You reduce your content down into different pieces,” he says. “It’s like cooking. When you reduce something down, you pull out the flavors and goodness.”

But smaller isn’t better by default. Mark uses reduction projects to focus on what a particular persona or audience would find most interesting in an asset. For example, he recently reduced a successful 15,000-word eBook to several 1,000-word executive summaries, each tailored to a specific audience.

The reduction process is iterative, too. Just as he uses experimentation to make steadily larger assets, he uses reduction to simplify them. He turns eBooks into executive summaries into blogs into videos into social media content.

Produce better content—faster

Under Mark’s leadership, Drift published one hit eBook after another. He knew every one would be a success because he’d tested each idea at a smaller scale—in Tweets and LinkedIn posts, as blogs, and as longform articles. By the time he commissioned an eBook or report, he knew the idea was solid.

But Mark’s testing tactics were only half the equation.

Mark bundled eBooks, reskinned reports, and reduced every large asset into its component pieces. Where other content leaders published flagship assets only once, Mark released them again and again and again, in new guises, formats, and contexts. With more opportunities for success, Drift’s content machine attracted hordes of readers and masses of customers.

David is a former craft beer journalist turned writer and digital strategist. He now helps ambitious technology brands tell narrative-driven stories.

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