Content Marketing’s All Grown Up
Gone are the days when the content marketer was the enfant terrible of the marketing department. These days, our rebel with a cause is wearing fancy suits and golfing with the CMO.
Well, maybe not quite. But there’s no doubt that the bounds of content marketing are stretching each year. Now well into its second decade, content marketing has gone from a pure SEO play in the early aughts to today’s multichannel, multimedia behemoth.
Seth Godin famously prophesied that content marketing would be the only kind of marketing. That was 2008. Fast forward to today, and we’re teetering on the precipice of proving him right.
That doesn’t mean that CMOs are tossing out tried-and-true marketing tactics like yesterday’s newspaper. What it does mean is that a content-first mindset has the potential to transform everything from social media to PR to product marketing-and even beyond the bounds of the marketing department to such previously unknown territories as internal communications and customer service.
Enter the content-centric marketing organization, where content transcends marketing silos to touch every aspect of brand communications. This is content as an approach to marketing as a whole instead of as a discreet marketing channel, all centered around delivering excellent customer experiences driven by excellent content.
Delivering Content-Centric Marketing at Scale
Sounds rosy, right? But with big opportunities come big challenges, and their names are scale, scale, and scale.
Expand content marketing to address the cross-channel, cross-division, cross-functional needs of a multinational enterprise, and the stress points become abundantly clear. It’s not simply a question of headcount: explode the scale of your content operations and issues of communication, visibility, process, and measurement become exponentially more complicated.
To set up your team for success on a large scale-double entendre fully intended-there are seven areas of needs to keep in mind. By equipping your team with the tools, skills, and processes to support each area, you lay the groundwork for transforming not just the content marketing team but the marketing organization as a whole.
Content Strategy Should Be More Than a Deadline
Confusion over what content strategy entails puts content marketers at a disadvantage off the bat. Perhaps that’s why, per Content Marketing Institute research, only 37 percent of B2B marketers and 38 percent of B2C marketers have a documented content strategy. A further 38 and 36 percent, respectively, say they have one but it’s not written down-which is the content marketer’s equivalent of the dog ate my homework.
It’s a need so obvious you’d think it didn’t need articulating (though clearly it needs articulating; see the stats above). Without a documented strategy, marketers are flying blind, tossing content randomly to the winds in the hopes that someone will pluck it up, consume it, and convert.
But what do we mean when we talk about content strategy, anyway? Content strategy, at its most basic, consists of personas, stages of the buyer’s journey, and a plan for how content meets the needs of each persona at each stage. Intuition can carry a solo marketer or small team to a few content marketing wins, but a documented strategy fuels collaboration across an entire department and sets the stage for consistent, long-term publishing.
Enter our old friend scale. A content-centric marketing organization certainly needs a content strategy, but that’s just the beginning. They also need mechanisms for capturing that strategy, communicating it across multiple marketing functions, and referring back to it continually throughout content planning and creation to ensure alignment.
Status Quo: Silo City
To say that visibility is a major need of the content-centric marketing organization is to say that the Pope is a Catholic. It’s true; it’s just an understatement.
A 2015 research report from Teradata found that more than 80 percent of respondents blamed silos within marketing for keeping them from a single view of the customer across channels. Yet the modern marketing experience is by its very nature multichannel, consisting of a vast array of touchpoints that add up to create an overarching brand story. With individual channels working in the dark, there is no way to create a cohesive content experience.
But wait, there’s more: the imperative goes all the way to the top. Research published in early 2018 by IBM’s Institute for Business Value found that among the CMO’s most pressing mandates was increased responsibility for managing the end-to-end customer experience-including exerting influence over departments outside marketing, like sales and customer service.
To summarize, marketing leaders need enterprise-wide visibility into all brand touchpoints, stat.
What Your Lack of Visibility Is Really Costing You
From a content perspective, pea soup visibility is an expensive proposition. A lack of visibility into existing and in-progress content translates to redundancies, which multiply as content extends across the multiple regions and divisions of a multinational enterprise. Lost opportunities for transcreation abound as individual geographic units create content from whole cloth rather than repurpose existing assets.
These obvious costs obscure deeper costs. Without a comprehensive view of content in progress, marketing leaders can’t identify process inefficiencies, production roadblocks, and improper resource allocation, all of which add up over time, chipping away at the potential ROI of content marketing.
The Long and Winding Road
The ability to create great content is the heart and soul of the content-centric marketing organization. It’s also such a gigantic need that it deserves its own exegesis. From initial ideation; to sourcing creative talent; to developing a creative brief; to the revision process; to optimizing for search, social, or other modes of discovery; to quality, legal, and brand safety checks; to final approval-the road is long, winding, and often painful.
Without a clear workflow, a single content asset can linger in limbo for months. An integrated multichannel campaign? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
The pressures of scale reveal the stress fractures inherent to the content creation process. What is manageable, if inconvenient, in a single marketing channel becomes completely impossible on an enterprise scale.
Create Content Workflows, Not Mazes
If this is where content marketing is most prone to unraveling, it’s also where there is the most to gain by finding opportunities to streamline and simplify repeatable processes.
To manage production at scale, technology that supports a straightforward but fully configurable workflow for multiple content types is a necessity, eliminating the administrative burden of chasing content across email, spreadsheets, shared calendars, and instant messenger as it skips amongst various team members. A central location for communication across multiple stakeholders and external creative partners removes the informational barriers that slow production.
Content managers should also integrate repeatable quality checks, such as guidelines and scorecards, into content templates to eliminate unnecessary back-and-forth and redundant feedback.
Entering the Content Abyss
Ready for a statistic that will make you want to cry? Research from SiriusDecisions reveals that as much as 70 percent of content at B2B organizations goes unused. Comparable research on B2C content is not readily available, but it’s safe to assume that regardless of industry, the sheer waste of time and money is staggering.
That’s not to say that that content shouldn’t have been created in the first place; on the contrary, that content ought to have its time in the sun where it can drive the value it was meant to. The difficulty is that most content, once it has been published, is promptly relegated to a forgotten corner of the website, only to be revisited by the odd Google search every now and again.
A company that has been producing content on an enterprise scale for even just one year is sitting on a massive treasure trove of unrealized value. Content is an asset whose value compounds over time-but you have to be able to find it first.
Manage Your Content, Don’t Fish for It
Content inventory can add up fast, particularly when it spans numerous company divisions and marketing channels. To prevent all that content from seeing only limited use, a readily accessible, fully searchable digital asset manager is a necessity. This enables quick and easy sharing across departments (who wants to have to track down that case study for sales again?) and makes it easy to repurpose existing assets for new campaigns. Part of moving to a content-centric marketing model is encouraging multiple marketing functions as well as other customer-facing departments to tap into content to meet their own goals, but without easy access to usable content assets, they are unlikely to get on board.
Still, no matter how necessary, managing that inventory has the potential to be a major time suck, and few organizations are ready to bring aboard a full-time librarian just to manage their back catalogue. Instead, a digital asset manager that is integrated with the content marketing platform you already use will be inherently scalable, reusing searchable metadata that is already attached to the content during the creation process and removing the time-consuming extra step of data entry into a freestanding asset manager.
The Finish Line Isn’t Approval; It’s Go-Live
It’s natural for marketers to focus on getting a creative asset to completion. Final approval is a built-in goal post in the production cycle of any piece of content, whether it’s a simple social graphic or a multimedia microsite months in the making. But there’s one small problem: content might be approved, but until it’s live, it isn’t generating any value.
Once we’ve finished patting ourselves on the back, a meaningful gap still looms. What should be a turnkey operation-get that content on the site!-can easily fall apart in the eleventh hour. As often as not, activating content means involving other teams, web developers in particular, and working around their other priorities. Meanwhile, that content is waiting in limbo, slowly going stale as it waits for distribution.
Activating Content Before It Dies
A custom publishing process for every piece of content loses its shine quickly. It may be sustainable for a single distribution channel, but when content covers multiple media types across multiple channels, turnkey content activation isn’t a nice-to-have but a necessity.
Ideally, content should be able to go live upon approval, or as close to approval as possible. At a minimum, an integration between your content marketing platform and your website’s CMS eliminates the need to switch between multiple platforms, enabling marketers to publish content in the same step as approval, without the involvement of additional parties after the initial integration set-up. But beyond onsite content-because it’s far from the only distribution channel in the mix-content teams should also consider integrations with social platforms, with marketing automation tools, and with a digital asset manager for internal content activation. Every step towards minimizing the downtime between approval and publication is more time that content is actively delivering value.
Dear Insert First Name
Personalization, or one-to-one marketing, has been the sine qua non of marketing aspirations since the transition to digital opened up the field of personalization possibilities. Unsurprisingly, content isn’t immune to that shift, but a personalized content experience looks very different from inserting a first name token into an email blast.
The personalization mandate isn’t simply about following marketing trends. Consider the statistics: a study by Marketing Insider Group found that for 78 percent of respondents, personally relevant branded content increased their purchase intent, and 50 percent were willing to pay a premium for the products and services of a company that delivered personally relevant branded content. Clearly, brands that overlook personalization are leaving money on the table.
What Does Personalized Content Look Like?
Personalizing content is about providing an experience tailored to the individual user’s needs and desires at a given time-to steal a much-used phrase, it’s the right message in the right place at the right time. From a content-centric viewpoint, the most obvious way to personalize that experience is through recommending the content most likely to drive deeper engagement.
On an individual level, personalization is straightforward, like recommending a much-loved book or movie to a friend. But despite the oxymoron, personalization must be scalable for it to be useful. Now imagine making a recommendation not just to your friend but to everyone in town-yikes, right?
Recommendations based on tagging are a partial but incomplete solution, surfacing the same handful of content on a single subject repeatedly. The best solutions will take their cue from content recommendation engines like Netflix and learn from an individual’s content consumption habits to surface better and better recommendations over time. What’s more, an added benefit for mature content teams is that aggregate responses to recommendations can potentially inform gaps in content inventory.
Show Me the Money-or at Least the Leads
The popular perception of marketers may be that we’re all Mad Men-esque creatives spouting great ideas like a fish lays eggs, but the hard reality of marketing is that we’re as beholden to the bottom line as anyone else. Cold hard analytics matter as much as creativity-so much so that Deloitte predicts spend on marketing analytics as a percentage of marketing budget will roughly triple over the next three years.
But despite a strong mandate to prove our worth, the picture gets murky for content. A survey by Skyword of nearly 1,000 marketers showed that 82 percent had metrics in place to assess their content performance, and among the top performers, content metrics were nearly universal. Still, we may be measuring our performance, but demonstrating ROI is a widespread challenge. The Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 research showed that 47 percent of B2B marketers and 43 percent of B2C marketers did not measure ROI. Among the most common reasons were that it was too hard, that it was too time consuming, and that they didn’t know how.
Content marketers, then, are data rich but insight poor: we have access to reams of data but struggle to put together the big picture.
Consolidate Your Data-Without Duct Tape
Why is it so hard to see that big picture? Because it’s really, really big, with data spread across multiple locations-an issue that only compounds with each new channel, each new publishing destination, and each new use for content.
Consolidating that data in a meaningful way presents two hurdles. First, marketers need integrations across different marketing technology platforms in order to access performance data from a central location. Second, marketers need the ability to create performance snapshots and dashboards of actionable information-and just as importantly, that filter out the noise.
Ideally, the latter is customizable by the user’s needs, because what the VP of marketing needs to see at a glance is a far cry from the granular picture a content strategist is looking for. A flexible solution should accommodate broad reporting needs alongside the ability to drill down into the performance of individual channels, campaigns, or even single content assets.
The challenges of expanding a content-centric approach to marketing to an enterprise scale are real-but so too are the opportunities to deliver a better customer experience across all customer touchpoints.
Skyword360 is the only content marketing platform designed to answer the needs of an enterprise-scale content-centric marketing organization throughout the entire content life cycle, from high-level strategy through the smallest details of content creation, from multichannel distribution to optimization.
With enterprise-wide visibility, you can fuel marketing across channels, divisions, regions, and countries with a consistent, relevant brand story. Consolidate content marketing software across your organization to create unique, synchronized customer experiences that drive measurable results.