Lee Odden

How to Be the Best Answer with An Integrated, Optimized Approach to Content Marketing

Lee Odden     Content Marketing

Be the Best Answer - Lee OddenA study from Ericsson reports that by the year 2020, there will be over 50 billion internet-connected devices. That means consumers will be able to create, consume, publish interact and transact anytime, anywhere.

Many companies are responding to the rise in information access and consumption by creating even more content to stand out. A LOT more content.

But is more content better?

Internet in Real Time
With over 24,000 gigabytes of data uploaded every second (Internet in Real Time) I think it’s safe to say information overload already has enough of “more content”.

BuzzSumo released a report in conjunction with Moz based on analysis of 1 million articles and found that this increase in content production has a promotion problem: 50% of content gets 8 shares or less.

That low share count is remarkable in comparison to the average 1,047 shares per post over the past year here on TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog (according to BuzzSumo’s reporting tool).

As my pal Ann Handley says,

We don’t need more content, we need better content. @marketingprofs

Luckily, there are solutions to this problem and I was recently sponsored by Crescendo Content Marketing Software to share a framework for creating marketing content that is meaningful for customers and at the same time optimized and socialized for promotion: “Be the Best Answer: The Strategic Role of Content, Social & SEO in Integrated Marketing

Be the Best Answer - Lee Odden

This post covers some of the highlights of that presentation, and the full deck is embedded at the end.

Companies that elevate their content marketing maturity from a focus on “more” to emphasize usefulness and creating great customer experiences are sure to stand out amongst the noise.

Content Marketing Maturity

TopRank’s Content Marketing Maturity Model

Content Marketing isn’t about “more” content; it’s about creating useful information for a specific audience intended to affect a business outcome. There are many content marketing tactics to choose from when designing a content marketing strategy from blogging to custom magazines. The challenge is, to decide which tactics make sense for your customers vs. chasing the competition.

As you look at your content marketing strategy, the thing you have to ask is, are your content marketing tactics integrated? Are they optimized for fundability and the best possible customer experience? In many cases, the answer is no. And that is why so many companies have problems with poor reach and amplification.

Alignment is powerful. Aligning your content marketing strategy with brand goals and customer goals is essential. By meeting your customers’ information needs with content, you can achieve marketing and business goals.

Content needs to be meaningful and useful for customers as well as accountable to helping the business. So what’s next?

Customer Centricity & Data Insights FTW! According to Aberdeen CMOEssentials, companies using multi-channel customer insights average a 228% increase in cross-sell and upset revenue YoY and 430% more referral revenue. This is a pretty compelling case for leveraging customer insights to inform content.

Findings from the Econsultancy Digital Transformation Roundtable have found that a multi-channel customer is worth two times as much as a customer that shops in only one channel.

Content Pulls Buyers to You. Or Competitors. You Choose. Customers are increasingly self-directed, often pulling themselves through 60-80% of the sales process with content. Self-directed customers seek answers and in order for your brand to be the best answer, it takes an integrated, multi-channel approach to content creation and promotion.

By focusing on the customer experience from awareness to purchase, marketers can deliver content that creates top of mind recognition, engagement with the brand through useful content that will result in inclusion in more prospect dialogues. More conversations and consideration means an increase in inquiries and sales meetings. I think you get where I’m going with this.

How to take action on an integrated content marketing approach:

1. Understand buyers and how they discover, consume and act on information they seek in the solution research process.
2. Think about what questions your customers need answered and in what channels to buy. Then provide the answers!
3. Optimize for the customer experience by applying insights about customer content preferences for discovery, consumption and action to your content.
4. Identify your brand story and the unique selling proposition you have to offer your customers. Create signals of credibility for that USP in every channel where customers are looking and can be influenced.
5. Become the best answer in every channel where your customers are present: researching, consuming, subscribing and being influenced.

Digital Marketing is a moving target, so what are major brands focusing on going into 2016?

TopRank Marketing recently connected with digital marketing executives from companies like IBM, Xerox, Adobe, Verizon, 3M, eBay and many more about their top digital marketing priorities for 2016. These insights can be useful to inspire your own prioritization. Here are 3 key areas that stood out:

Data Informed Storytelling

“We are focused on creating an integrated customer experience where we leverage data and metrics to inform compelling storytelling that resonates with the individual.”
Michelle Killebrew @shellkillebrew
Program Director, Digital Marketing Transformation, IBM

Integrated Digital Experiences

“Our top digital marketing priority is to create a unified, integrated digital experience across all facets of EMC.com including a frictionless digital commerce experience that is highly personalized.”
Todd Forsythe @toddforsythe
SVP, Brand & Experience Marketing, EMC

Useful, Agile Content

“We’re focused on creating and enhancing a personalized experience and relevance for customers. We also want to make cross-platform content that is useful, sustainable, and agile across multiple devices and tools.”
Leslie Poston @leslie
Social Media Editor, McKinsey & Company

I think a big takeaway here is:

“If you want your digital marketing to be great, optimize, socialize and integrate!”

What does and optimized and integrated approach look like? My book Optimize covers this specifically:

  1. Audience and personas
  2. Keywords and topic research
  3. Content planning
  4. Content creation and curation
  5. Content optimization for search and social
  6. Social network development
  7. Inbound and outbound marketing
  8. Content measurement and optimization

Measurement to Keep Digital Marketing Accountable. There are many considerations for marketing measurement, but here’s a 3 part model we use at TopRank Marketing that you can use to keep content marketing accountable to business impact.

1. Attract: These are typically “reach” metrics including:

  • Search Visibility
  • Social Network Visibility
  • Views & Impressions
  • Traffic by Source
  • Traffic by Segment
  • Content Distribution
  • Media & Blog Placements
  • Brand + Affinity
  • Brand Sentiment

2. Engage: How is your audience interacting with your content? Engagement metrics often include:

  • Content Consumption
  • Page Views
  • Click Through Rate
  • Social Network Size
  • Social Interactions
  • Content Interactions
  • Comments, Shares
  • Time on Site, Content
  • Paths Through Site

3. Convert: How are you capturing information from your audience for more specific messaging and communications in the future? What values can you apply to lead generation and sales to understand the contribution of your content marketing? Convert metrics might include:

  • Form Data Captured
  • Newsletter Subscriptions
  • Demo & Trial Requests
  • Contact Us
  • Orders
  • Order Volume
  • Order Frequency
  • Length of Sales Cycle
  • Revenue Per Order

I know this is a lot to take in, but if it were easy to win at content marketing, a lot more than 30% of B2B companies and 32% of B2C companies would say they’re effective at it (according to research published by CMI/MareketingProfs).

As you consider applying an integrated approach to content marketing, I would suggest consideration of these three key areas:

1. People

  • Research customer insights to understand how buyers discover, consume and act on content they interact with when researching solutions
  • Assess the skills of your internal marketing organization as well as related departments and subject matter experts that might be able to contribute to marketing content
  • Look at outside resources in the form of industry influencers, subject matter experts and your community as sources for content collaboration and promotion

2. Process

  • Identify internal processes for content planning, creation, promotion and performance optimization. Do they support integration across channels? Do they facilitate integration of collaboration with contributors from both internal and external sources?
  • Look at the process for marketing goals translation to measurement. Are business goals and key performance indicators included in the process for measuring marketing success?

3. Technology

  • Identify marketing technologies that can serve current needs and that can scale.
  • Ensure marketing tools and technology support your initiatives to integrate marketing messages and promotions across channels.
  • Keep it simple. Focus on marketing technology that simplifies the marketing effort (vs. overcomplicating it)

There’s a lot to think about when you consider an integrated approach to content marketing. But if companies can keep in mind the importance of being customer centric, integrating and optimizing content across channels and keeping content accountable with an attract, engage, convert model of measurement, then I think marketers will find a lot more of what we’re all looking for – happy customers!

Here is the full presentation:

Here is the where you can get access to the recorded webinar on the Crescendo website.

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About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.