Content is top of mind for marketers and brands.
We all have access to incredible content, as well as innovative content creation tools and resources. It’s what enables us to connect with consumers in bigger, better, bolder ways, to carry them across our brand experiences seamlessly. We even encourage these same consumers to go create content for us — unique, usable and totally relevant content that fuels the momentum of this powerhouse cycle.
A recent CMO Council survey reported senior marketers around the globe tie rich, personalized content to “higher response and engagement rates,” “more timely and relevant interactions” and “greater customer affinity and word-of-mouth.” Content is also directly linked to increased conversions and added customer retention.
Whose marketing wish list doesn’t include that?
The end result has been a massive rush to create strong, shareable, meaningful content at scale — and it’s not slowing down. Three in four marketers plan to increase their content marketing efforts in 2016.
While exciting, we’re in need of a quick industry-wide gut-check.
High volumes and high speed are all well and good when you’re talking about content, but it’s essential to balance that velocity with relevance. Simply charging out of the content gate and producing image after image, video after video, and articles, listicles, infographics, whitepapers, etc. might drum up some initial engagement, but it won’t be long before that starts to plateau, or worse, drop altogether.
Finding balance is essential to creating a content marketing strategy that actually works.
Steps to Content Marketing that Works
So how do you do it? How do you create high value, highly relevant, high velocity content that engages and activates, while still delivering meaningful, measurable ROI for your organization? Follow these steps:
Step 1: Test (then test some more …)
Your content serves a purpose. Every image, video clip and sentence in a blog post matters and serves a specific goal. Achieve that goal and everyone wins — you and your consumers.
Miss the mark and, well, you don’t.
By adopting a culture of constant, ongoing and iterative testing and experimentation, you’ll ensure more content-led wins. Don’t be afraid to extend the testing circle to include more than just the obvious participants — everyone can get involved in A/B and multivariate testing. That way you'll know you’re not just producing content, but producing content that meets your organizational objectives.
The higher your content velocity — the faster you’re pushing out content — the more testing opportunities you have.
I often hear marketers talk about targeting without testing. Plain and simple, that’s not effective targeting. To say you’re leveraging content and personalization, then showing every customer from the midwest a snowblower between October and February isn’t delivering relevance to them or value to you.
Don’t fall down that hole. Test everything: big ideas, small ideas, ideas you thought of, ideas you heard kicking around the proverbial water cooler. Personalization is always based on what’s known — that’s what makes it meaningful and relevant, and that’s what drives conversions.
Step 2: Think Like a Data Scientist
As you gain more and more wins, keep testing. Understanding who responds to your efforts will help you build on these successes.
And that’s where data science comes in.
Once you’ve got the momentum, data science can help guide the next stage of your journey, determining what works and what doesn’t. Think of it as the crux of your optimization efforts, and an essential step in determining your content stays sharp and relevant as your audience and your velocity grows. Yes, you’ll give up a little control, but the experience-delivery that ensues will more than make up for it.
Step 3: Maximize the Money Spots
With a firm, data-driven foundation in place, focus on determining where your content belongs. Specifically, what content should be inserted into those high-value placements on your website.
Think of these money spots as massive billboards on the freeway. Think of how many people see those every single day. What would you put there?
Something spot-on relevant and compelling, or something that’s more passive and niche, let’s say? Is the billboard declaring that this McDonalds is the VERY LAST RESTAURANT FOR 40 MILES more compelling than a special offer for a newspaper subscription in the same spot? Big Mac, hands down.
Everyone sees this space, so it needs to be your best performing content. Right consumer, right message, right time — that’s the foundation of what marketers do, and that will never change, even when everything else does.
Step 4: Make Sure You’re Always Creating Experiences
Content's reign as king will be long. But that doesn’t mean it’s the end all, be all — it’s just part of the equation.
Your job as a savvy, customer-focused marketer is to combine the content, the velocity and the data to create 360-degree experiences that are personalized to your individual consumers and segments.
These end-to-end experiences are bigger than an image here or cool blog post there. These experiences far surpass even the most incredible content. And, more importantly, they’re what turn consumers into lifelong advocates for your brand.
Your Next Step: Put it All Together
Content for content’s sake, simply isn’t good enough — velocity alone won’t get the job done. What you put out into the universe has to be fast, but it also has to be relevant and it has to lend value.
That’s the next step in our collective content evolution. Done right, it’s an incredibly powerful tool. Done wrong — speed for speed's sake — leads to mountains of images, videos and articles that go ignored.
Speed is essential to content marketing success, but you need to balance it. If consumers don’t immediately connect with the content they’re seeing, they move on to another brand experience, likely, with another brand. And if you do lock them in, they’re going to expect more, more and more — and you have to be ready to deliver.
Deliver relevance, deliver value and deliver a lot of it, fast. If you can connect the dots you’ll draw more and more consumers deeper and deeper into your brand experience. They’ll easily move through touch point after touch point, as they recognize the quality and relevance you’re delivering.
It’s a tall order, for sure, but one that’s essential to success in this new content regime.