It’s only the start of a new year, and already there is quite a bit of chatter about content and how it can affect the success of a business. There are debates about the continued effectiveness of content marketing as a strategy, and arguments over whether technology can actually fix anything.
But as we look at marketing -- and how the use of content plays into that -- one of the drivers we have to examine is changing the way we think of success. Rather than looking at “more engagement” -- whether it be “visitors,” “likes” or “followers” -- we should start to examine how content can be tied together to generate revenue.
2014: Time To Focus On Content Revenue
Every year the Content Marketing Institute releases their Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends survey. In this year’s release, they found that 93 percent of marketers are actually using content to drive marketing results, but that only 9 percent consider their efforts as “very effective.”
Further, marketing analyst firm SiriusDecisions reports that 70 percent of the buying process in complex B2B sales is already complete before prospects even think about engaging with a live salesperson. Just to back up that research a bit, a CEB study figures that it’s nearly 60 percent.
What these numbers tell me is that marketers recognize the importance of content, but are still struggling with the true purpose of content and how it should work together to drive success. Many organizations still look at content as a direct marketing tactic, rather than an integrated way to help guide a customer down a journey. They treat pieces of content as discrete “ads” that don’t actually sell but rather engage. This ultimately has the same efficacy as an advertisement -- meaning some “content ads” perform better statistically than others at producing views or likes or engagement. However, none (as far as the marketer can tell) really contribute holistically to the strength of ALL the content in the buyer’s journey, help deepen the relationship with them and contribute to the bottom line.
Integration Is Key – Both Technology and Process
Anneke Seley, co-author of the best-selling book "Sales 2.0: Improve Business Results Using Innovative Sales Practices and Technology” said that she has defined Sales 2.0 as “a more effective and efficient way of buying and selling.”
Certainly, this means sales and marketing have to work better together in order to align all the content being created to feed this revenue engine. But it also means that marketing needs to work with sales, customer service, executive leadership, product development and every other department in order to synchronize the content creation and management process with the buyer’s needs and wants (where they are in their journey).
This is why seamless technology communication, with content collaboration at its heart, is so important. Web content management, Social Media, marketing automation, analytics and all the tools in the marketer’s toolbox must work together if content is actually going to be connected and actually drive revenue.
It’s the Buyer’s Journey, But Marketers Need a Map Too
The key here is that content isn't advertising -- and shouldn't be managed as such. Therefore, the technology that supports that process shouldn't be campaign focused, or in any way measured with equal weight. Too often, all content is considered “equal” even though it may ultimately serve a purpose at a higher place in the customer journey/buying cycle or speak to different personas. Thus, content is created by Web CMS systems ONLY because it’s on the website, or by the Marketing Automation System ONLY because it’s a landing page, or by the Social platform ONLY because it’s a post.
This is where well-implemented technology can help facilitate a bridged process that provides a map to internal teams that can guide the buyer down a path. A Web CMS should focus on helping internal team members to understand why they are writing this content to begin with. Is this content supporting Search Engine Optimization? Is it driving very high awareness and engagement that will lead later to deeper interest? Or, is this the content that is deep, in-depth thought leadership that engages the user to want to speak with someone about a solution? Does it then connect to a landing page -- or is it also being simultaneously published throughout social channels?
This type of process, facilitated by a Web CMS system and integrated well with analytics, gives the marketer the capabilities to not only see audience content consumption, conversions, etc. … but also internal analytics such as which persona is converting more. Or, it might illustrate which outsourced content contributor is driving the most sales, or which type of content on which channel is driving the highest shopping cart value, or conversion to sales revenue.
Ultimately what we’re trying to do is create guided pathways for customers to follow -- and use tools to help us optimize and personalize these pathways so that our customers see in us a differentiated approach to solving their needs.
Marketers need to stop looking at content as another form of banner management. We need to tie together the content so that we can see how we evolve it and ultimately how it contributes to a predictable revenue strategy. Then -- and only then -- will marketers really be confident about how content is contributing to business success.
Editor's Note: Read more from Tjeerd on the customer journey in Optimized Digital Content Experiences Start with Customer Journey Mapping