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When you think of your website, do you see design or content? If you see content, chances are you want to get the right content to the right audience at the right time. In order to effectively achieve the holy grail of targeted content, you need to first identify what users want. In other words, you need data.

Data + Content = Targeted Content

We talked with Greg Ott, chief marketing officer at Demandbase, and Chris Harmon, principal at theBATstudio, to learn more about how targeted content really works and what companies can do to make it work for them. As you know, Demandbase owns pieces of the targeted content puzzle with its Real-Time ID service, which lets B2B marketers accurately identify their web traffic using IP addresses. Doing so allows business to leverage content for specific audiences based on their behaviors.

This week, Demandbase announced that its Real-Time ID Service now includes enhanced audience classification capabilities for worldwide business web traffic, which means that marketers can classify web traffic into business vs. consumer audiences with further segmentation by industry or company size.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. To be able to successfully target content, you need lots of data. Chris Harmon, who helps organizations develop compelling, cross-channel brand communications by identifying and leveraging their knowledge and assets, asks us to think about how building a website has changed in the past few years. It used to be that the website was a brochure. Now it’s a means of engaging with a user so we can learn more about their behaviors. It’s a lead generation tool, just as much as it’s a customer experience tool. In fact, even the way your sales team views the website has changed. For them, they use the website to engage a customer before, during and after the sales process.

But the experience isn’t just limited to the website. It’s everywhere now. It’s mobile, social and local. And they are all touch points and an extension of the website. As such, they can’t be ignored (or shouldn’t) because they reveal more information about your users, which if leveraged correctly, can help you get relevant information to them when they need it.

A Social Business Mind Shift Required

As with most social business initiatives, technology isn’t the problem here. Companies like Demandbase have the means to implement and analyze website tracking so as to harvest and leverage it so you can develop content that meets the interests of specific audiences. No, the problem is usually never with the technology -- it’s with adopting the mind-shift that such technologies require.

Mr. Ott suggests a few prerequisites for even thinking about merging content with data. First, executives must fully accept that a website is THE channel. Second, they must accept that continuous optimization of the website is central to revenue generation. The words continuous optimization are usually the hardest to accept. It means that there is no magic formula and that you need to adjust your sails according to the way the wind blows -- which means becoming more flexible with your content and more in-tune with your data. Both are very challenging for companies.

Continuous optimization also allows companies the ability to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. It used to be that marketing was all about shouting the loudest. Now it’s about being the most informed about who your customers are, how they use and engage with your content and predicting their next moves based on all that data. Yet, organizational challenges can impede much of how content is leveraged to represent the buyer’s journey, says Mr. Harmon. Once an organization can better adopt data-driven methodologies, the better they can use content to drive revenue.