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Creativity Marketing Transformation

Confessions of a Content Marketer: Admitting Where We Sit on the Content Marketing Continuum

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Sitting across a conference table from one of our newest clients, I was excited to hear how her Skyword program was performing and share the success we have enjoyed with the Content Standard—including how we’re beginning to storify our content. I listened to her rave about working with our team, and how passionate she is about her work and its potential within her company. The conversation was going well, but then something happened. She hesitated and looked down.

I was instantly reminded of when I was a young girl sitting in a dark confessional—reluctantly professing my sins to the parish priest, afraid to admit the frailties of my character. Averting my stare, she shared that she was going to have to prove ROI soon. Otherwise, she feared the program would be cut.

“Well, that’s easy,” I said. (Not as easy as reciting three Hail Marys and two Our Fathers, a penance that would make up for pretty much any sin a young girl could commit.) She could measure the performance and ultimate ROI through the analytics within the Skyword Platform along with whatever marketing automation and CRM system the company used.

The sting of her response resurfaced battles I had fought over the past several years. Her IT department wouldn’t allow Skyword’s tracking tags on the site. Therefore, it was difficult to measure reach and engagement metrics for the articles. In addition, there was no marketing automation or CRM system to show conversions. That was a problem.

Our client is not alone in her struggle to educate and transform her team as well as the stakeholders within her company in order to build a loyal audience through brand publishing. Even as CMO of a content marketing company, I had to convince our senior team of the benefits of investing early on in marketing infrastructure that would serve as part of the backbone of our brand publishing capabilities.

Many marketers have begun to shift their budgets to original content creation as an alternative to interrupt advertising. PQ Media estimates that the global content marketing industry will reach $313 billion by 2019. Marketers recognize the need to stop attempting to build an audience through expensive campaigns or ads that are avoided, skipped, ignored, or blocked. But the challenge that still remains for those who have started transforming their marketing is figuring out what types of investments it will take to make content work and ultimately own a loyal audience.

At Skyword, we recognized that this challenge was a threat to both our company and our clients. We knew what it took to transform marketing for brand publishing, but we had never formally outlined the strategic and incremental steps required. So we developed the Content Marketing Continuum. As part of the Continuum, we developed an assessment to identify where brand marketers fall in terms of their proficiency levels. We then created a framework for moving through each level, eventually building a world-class publishing engine. The framework includes what needs to be in place in order to create, amplify, and measure content, and eventually turn content into stories that connect with people on an emotional level and inspire them to act.

Content Marketing Continuum

How to Move Up the Continuum

The process of progressing along the Continuum takes a commitment. One of the hardest things our teams have to communicate to customers is that companies need to learn to walk before they can run. Our most successful clients are the ones who have made a long-term commitment to content marketing and have improved incrementally, building on what they have learned and then experimenting with new and innovative approaches to storytelling.

To read the rest of this series, click on the stories below:

1. If You Want to Move from Content Marketing Strategy Novice to Expert, Let Go of Complexity by Ruben Sanchez, Director of Marketing, Skyword

2. How the Content Standard Moved from Expert to Leader on the Content Marketing Continuum by Jon Simmons, Managing Editor of the Content Standard

3. At Visionary Companies, Storytelling Runs Deep by Tom Gerace, CEO, Skyword

See where your brand sits on the Content Marketing Continuum

Bystander:

The Bystander has their hands in many traditional marketing practices, creating product content and web experiences in silos across the organization. When it comes to content creation, the bystander focuses on content that can found at the point of sale, which helps close-to-converting prospects and customers. But if you need to increase awareness and drum up engagement for your brand, you don’t want to be a Bystander.

Novice:

Novices are shifting their marketing focus beyond product marketing and sales enablement, and creating campaigns to generate demand. While they’re publishing content their customers want and need earlier on in their purchase process, they’re still thinking like advertisers. Many campaigns work, but only for a limited period. Unfortunately, this approach can be expensive and difficult to sustain long term. To prevent content fatigue, perform in organic search, and fuel social media, you need a sustainable content creation approach and need to begin thinking more like an editor than a marketer.

Expert:

Expert content marketers have moved away from one-off, campaign-based approaches to sustainable brand publishing. To do this well, they have shifted their mind-sets from creating content about their company and product to a content strategy that aims to educate, inspire, and entertain their audiences. Chances are the content team is viewed as a pocket of innovation within the marketing team by adopting an editorial mind-set. Team structure has also begun to change, adding roles such as editorial manager, editor, videographer, and analyst. Most impressive, you’re beginning to develop a cross-functional team that publishes daily and amplifies content through paid, earned, and owned channels. With a built-out technology engine, data and insights are collected and funneled into an integrated tech stack that automates performance measurement.

Leader:

As a Leader, you understand the power of story, and you have implemented systems to make publishing simple and efficient. You’re a student of Storynomics, which combines storytelling craft with an economic model to build audience, drive revenue, margin, and brand loyalty. The marketing team’s focus on storytelling has changed the way every marketing asset is produced and delivered—you start story development from the audience’s point of view and you understand the role conflict plays in delivering the intended message. Now, all areas of the marketing team are working in unison to create and amplify brand stories, tapping into how people think and what drives them to action.

Visionary:

Story is at the heart of your entire company, from the way management sets and communicates strategy to how the product is developed, marketed, sold, and delivered. With a storied approach to business, everything your company does starts with the customer. And every person within your company understands what moves people to act. With Visionaries at the helm, you have the ability to disrupt markets, recruit and retain top talent, design leading products and services, and create lasting, emotional connections with a brand-obsessed following.

Now when our client’s management team asks her to prove the worth of the company’s content strategy, she can easily demonstrate what it takes to do it and the commitment they need make to build audience and market leadership through original, sustained storytelling.

Want to see where you and your brand fall on the Continuum and learn how to move up the spectrum? Take the 5-minute assessment.

Tricia Travaline is Chief Marketing Officer at Skyword. She loves reading, golf, Boston sports teams, and spending time with family and friends. Follow @travwin on Twitter, and Circle Patricia Travaline on Google+

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