Today’s marketers need to focus their efforts on reaching consumers at every stage of the digital journey, from awareness to conversion, by building customer-centric marketing strategies around engaging content rather than paid advertising, according to a new report that digital advertising strategist Rebecca Lieb prepared for Toronto-based content advertising firm ScribbleLive.
“[Customers] quickly realize which companies deliver content at the right time, when they need it most, and which brands continue to push the square peg of advertising into the round hole of new technology experiences,” Lieb writes in the report, which was released on March 24. “Consumers expect contextual relevance in messaging that’s based on their existing relationship with the company, their purchase history, and the mode of communication—which is increasingly mobile in nature.”
To that end, Lieb’s 11-page report, which is based on research conducted late last year and includes input from more than 16 digital marketing experts with leading brands such as Intel, Visa, and MasterCard, provides marketers with three key recommendations for improving their content marketing strategy, so that it both satisfies customer needs and meets their company’s business goals.
1. Create a foundational content strategy before pursuing specific tactics
With users consuming more media – over eight hours per day, according to a 2015 report by ZenithOptimedia, often on mobile devices – it’s hardly surprising that marketers are responding with more content: 70 per cent of B2B marketers will produce more content this year than in 2015, Lieb writes, though many do so without setting a content strategy in place – and risk alienating their audience in the process.
Citing research firm TrackMaven, she notes that merely increasing the number of social media posts has an inverse impact on engagement rates:
How to solve this problem? Focus on quality, not quantity, Lieb writes: An effective content marketing strategy “should encompass persona development, content creation, repeatability, delivery, governance, and the ability to achieve business goals by maximizing the impact of content,” she writes. “Focus on outcomes, not volume, and how to there operationally and organizationally.”
Moreover, a content strategy tied to a company’s overall goals and processes can adapt more easily to new technology, Lieb writes: It’s easier to modify an existing message than to create a new one in response to the latest wearable, beacon, sensor, or IoT oddity.
2. Invest across the customer journey, realigning the marketing mix accordingly
Traditional advertising focuses on where you can broadcast your message for the greatest impact, prizing such fuzzy metrics as “brand awareness” over measurable results. Content marketing, on the other hand, considers who, when, how, and why the message will be consumed, thriving best when it’s applied differently at every stage of the customer’s digital journey, Lieb writes.
“Successful customer retention and advocacy strategies are dependent on customizable (ideally, personalized) content that continues to serve consumers and build favorable brand reputation far after any purchase is made,” she writes. “Rather than strategizing around channel targeting, focus on the behaviors and the needs your customers have during each phase of their journey.”
The best content marketing strategists deliver hyper-personalized content across a series of “micro-moments,” she writes, relying heavily on multiple data sources to ensure they reach every demographic at each stage, and across every relevant platform.
3. Build the right team with the right resources at its disposal
Even the best strategies are only as effective as the team that implements them, and as one anonymous source told Lieb, too many CMOs earned their positions by contributing to brand awareness and little else.
The solution, she says, is for companies to examine the areas of expertise covered by their existing marketing teams, and consider providing a continuing education program or hiring new employees to fill the gaps.
According to Lieb, an effective content marketing team should include not only advertising and PR experts, but practitioners with experience in digital, mobile, and social media – all branches of the same tree, but each requires its own maintenance in order to blossom. Other valuable professionals to consider adding include journalists, bloggers, and what Lieb calls “content storytellers,” who are well versed in understanding both a company’s brand messaging goals and how to best relay them to customers.
“Once the ideal team is built, it needs to be equipped with the tools to succeed, too,” Lieb notes. “Aim to integrate any existing measurement tools wherever possible, focusing on those that measure specific ROI metrics and allow for efficient customer data analysis and action.”