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Content Marketing Success Requires Forward Thinking

By Marc Brown | September 22, 2018 | 2 Comments

Marketingcontent marketingCustomer Experience

Content marketing leaders are seeking better ways to maximize their content marketings impact. And, no matter how creative, memorable, or popular your content may become, every piece you create and publish will ultimately be judged by the impact it makes on your business’ outcomes.

To boost the value of your content marketing efforts, you need to rethink how new and existing content could be linked to strategic initiatives…improving customer experience, bringing campaign narratives to life, or delivering ‘evergreen’ thought leadership pieces. Fundamentally, you need to be smarter about how, where, and when content will be used.

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Ultimately, you need to refine your content marketing strategies, explicitly identifying new ‘forward thinking’ goals that will deliver significant value for today’s digital economy. Today’s buyers are sophisticated and very demanding. To respond, you need to be developing informed, highly-insightful content to accelerate customer experience and integrated narrative initiatives with advanced intelligence (AI and machine learning tools) and data science.

Content Aligned with Strategic Initiatives

Customer experience has been a growing priority for marketers for a few years now, named the most pressing mandate for marketers in 2014, and the driving force behind innovation spending in 2015.  That said, CX budgets are not increasing with increased expectations. Fifty-two percent of marketers with CX responsibility expect their budgets to remain the same or decrease in 2018. While expectations for the importance of CX are rising, CX budgets are not increasing accordingly. However, not all is lost. Savvy content marketers who support CX efforts can provide critical deliverables to advance CX while reusing much of the content for demand generation.  Content marketing, done right, can advance both demand and CX initiatives…a win-win for you.

Narrative design and implementation is complicated. For you and your team, the challenge is even more complex given the need to support multiple, concurrent, intersecting stories that cover various stages in the customer journey, unique audiences, etc. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge. You must learn to develop and work within a nested brand, customer and micronarratives (see ‘How to Connect Brand Story and Content with CX’ – Gartner Subscription Required).

  • Brand stories provide the big picture value proposition of the organization.
  • Customer stories contextualize the brand story for targeted audiences or personas
  • Micronarratives are particular pivotal moments within the customer experience.
This interconnected, multidimensional structure provides a vast canvas for content marketers to contribute and add tremendous value.

Content Informed by Advanced Intelligence

Content marketing has matured from simply telling an interesting story to creating content engineered to drive response. Marketers can’t create an effective content marketing strategy based solely on gut feelings, intuition or limited qualitative insight. Modern marketers must build content marketing success on a combined foundation of quantitative insight that integrates quantitative input on customer personas, content performance and topical trends.

Quantitative marketing insights have always had a place in marketing, but tend to focus on measuring campaign, media performance or customer behaviors across digital properties. The more traditional digital measurements and data are still essential, but marketers must now leverage that data, and other sources to inform the formulation of content marketing initiatives.
A quantitative approach to content strategy and creation can support a more fact-based, measurable approach to content marketing (see ‘Using Quantitative Data to Inform Content Strategy and Creation’ – Gartner Subscription Required).

Content Performance based on Analytics

While it can be tempting to think about targeting and narratives alone, you should recognize by now how critical it is to have the right data on hand to inform every phase of your content marketing approach. That is why it’s a good idea to establish sound measurement practices from the start of every program, enabling you to track, analyze, and optimize your content’s performance on a continual basis. If the content is being developed to improve customer experience, how is it being measured? And what defines success? Or, if your content is being developed to tell a story, what KPIs have you defined to detect positive engagement, growth, and scale?

Marketers need to align their content performance KPIs with business outcomes.

(Source: Gartner 2018)

(Source: Gartner 2018)

Once you finish scoring and ranking your content, it is time for some detailed analysis. Start by looking for patterns (see ‘Improving Content Performance’ – Gartner Subscription Required). Here are some examples of patterns in content performance you should look for:
  • Personas with the highest-performing and lowest-performing content.
  • See if top-performing or bottom-performing content is heavily tilted to specific phases in the buyer’s journey. Try to determine why some phases have top content and why others don’t.
  • Identify content that is generating the highest volume of traffic and the highest levels of engagement or call-to-action completion. Look for patterns such as days of the week the content was published. See if there are patterns around the performance of media types or email templates.
  • Examine which email and social media generate more performance for content, and which ones don’t. Look at the content patterns in email versus those for assets that did not receive email promotion. Do the same for social media engagement and other channels.
  • Look for the 80/20 rule in action. Identify the power assets — that is, the pieces of content that drive the most performance. Look for patterns such as blog posts that address a specific topic or e-books that cover specific personas.
  • Check to see if there are outliers in your content performance. Ensure that bottom-performing content received comparable levels of digital promotion — i.e., email, social media — to top-performing content. Do the same for top-performing content. Note the outliers — content that underperformed, but was not promoted; or content that outperformed, but received disproportionately high levels of promotion.

Of course, if your content marketing program is more sophisticated and well established – or you have dedicated data scientists on hand – you may want to invest more time and effort in your ROI predictions. Add more ‘science’ to your content program…it will add needed insights enabling you and your team to drive value to the most important marketing initiatives.

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2 Comments

  • You said, “Marketers need to align their content performance KPIs with business outcomes.” — in my experience, that’s typically easier said than done in practice.

    Closed-loop online marketing is still the goal of many CMOs, but their chosen collection of best-in-class Martech systems are often not able to deliver meaningful insights — due to a lack of cross-system integration and reporting automation.

    Therefore, it’s still very common for enterprise marketers to piece together the end-to-end results from their disjointed SaaS systems via manual data aggregation. It’s labor intensive — even if you know how to use app integration tools like automate.io (or one of the numerous other similar tools).

    My point: accurately measuring content performance, that’s part of a multifaceted client journey, can be very challenging (and frustrating).

  • Inksplore says:

    This is an excellent post, really enjoyed reading it. I agree that if a digital marketer misses to be the part of bandwagon, they will either miss on the opportunities and won’t be able to see the results they were inferring or perhaps may even fetch penalties from the core algorithm that is being updated frequently.
    Hence, it becomes quite obvious to take a quantitative approach as what used to work today morning might not be able to work day after tomorrow. This is where the data and analytics come into play, and marketers should not really shy away from making the best use of them in their strategies.
    To admit, I have been using “power assets” coupled with relevant CTA’s and the results are really astonishing. It definitely pays well to research, plan and crafting the strategy thereafter. Thanks for these awesome insights.