When you think of content marketing, what definitions come to mind?
- A way to earn attention and interest in social channels?
- A response to media fragmentation?
- A return to direct marketing fundamentals in a digital age?
- A strategy to maintain search rankings?
- A sustainable way to build and maintain customer relationships?
While all these might have fundamentally different meanings, they’re all right. And everyone agrees that defining those meanings it is hard.
It’s no secret that businesses are becoming inundated with requests to increase the amount of content they produce. At the same time, the ask for measurement is increasing but the ability to perform still wavering.
At the Expion Social Summit, Ryan Skinner, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research discussed the “elephant in the room” known as content marketing.
“Content marketing is like bubblegum – it takes the shape of whatever marketer’s mouth it comes out of” said Skinner.
Forrester describes content marketing as:
A marketing strategy where brands create interest, relevance and relationships with customers by producing, curating and sharing content that addresses specific customer needs and delivers visible value.
It’s something immediate and enduring, centered on the customer and his or her situation and delivers an intrinsic benefit to an audience.
Earn goodwill by meeting a need. Customers will seek out and share content with visible value
Skinner went on to outline four things he sees that marketers need to improve at to succeed in content marketing: making valuable stuff. finding audiences, maintaining relationships, and optimizing performance.
1. Making valuable stuff
Value does not correlate to cost. It’s hard for marketers to create content that people want to share, especially if it has a hard sales angle. The traditional economic thought struggles a bit – it isn’t as clear. Just because you spend a lot on content doesn’t mean it will do well. One handheld iPhone video or well-timed voice dub can easily beat out a highly produced spot any day on the web.
The sweet spot is finding content that resonates where customer interest and brand value meet. One example Skinner mentions is OKCupid, who researched their own data to reveal interesting facts about the behaviors of users which they turned into a number of forms of content and eventual earned media.
Companies can earn goodwill by meeting a need. Customers will seek out and share content with visible value. Skinner mentioned Kraft, who made a taxonomy of thousands of tags to organize its content, by researching google search volumes to identify new opportunities and managed data around their content to deliver to their community more efficiently over time
2. Building audiences
This is something audiences are not used to. They are used to interrupting.
The cost for not focusing on owning some form of distribution is higher cost per acquisition later on. It’s that serious, the time to own an audience is now.
Companies need to buy into the idea that you should be telling some ongoing story or narrative and continue to do this over time.
As Skinner explained: Content is an ongoing proposition of story, opt-in and data. Marketers need a more holistic view of consumers in order to continue to deliver value throughout their experience.
3. Maintaining Relationships.
Now that people are consuming content more regularly, we can be more sophisticated than shallow tactics to get them into the door. People openly are consume information, so next time they come back we should strive to provide content that is more relevant to them instead of the same. This is how we being to build a richer relationship and more valuable content.
Skinner calls this Content Tuning, building a richer picture of how they relate to your brand, and how we can apply data to this path of purchase. Through customer journey, they are engaging with us. At every touch point, they are consuming our content and we can connect with them at every point. It’s not about managing them when they’re making a purchase, it’s about helping them after when they’re home opening the product.
Put simply, “content experience tees up customer experience.”
4. Optimizing performance
“What you see in the industry now is people jumping around and trying to find the God metric for content. It’s all about shares or it’s all about time spent.” Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed
There is no one tell-all metric to content marketing. Skinner outlined three dimensions that Forrester attributes to content performance.
How does content drive a specific goal, and contribute to visibility?
How does content deliver relationships with valuable groups?
How does content contribute to business outcomes and marketing goals?
We’re going to have to fumble along a bit, as there are not enough brands who have run enough campaigns to establish definite, industry-wide KPIs. That means testing and trying to gather as much data as you can and use the smartest pieces to determine what’s working and what isn’t.
Just because you’ve promoted a piece of content more and it has converted more than another, doesn’t mean it is the best performing it just means it’s the most promoted.
Start building your content brand today! People will start relating to your content if you invest and experiement. Get out of the silos within the organization to make things that are relevant and valuable and solve a problem.
Skinner left four parting tips to anyone starting today (which you should):
- Start creating cross-channel teams, jobs, and content.
- Start experimenting with organizational structures that map to customers’ experience
- Map your content ecosystem
- Look for tech partners who enable you to be cross-channel data AND content centric
You can watch the full presentation from Ryan Skinner here to learn more about Forrester’s thoughts on Content Marketing and its importance for companies.