People, Process and Content ... Then Technology

Jason Stewart
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Key Takeaways
The content produced has the most significant impact on results: 
  • Build a Content Marketing Strategy 
  • Produce & Manage Content 
  • Distribute & Monitor

As marketers we rely on technology to effectively reach and analyze our target audiences, but in the end it is the content we produce that creates the most significant impact on results. For this reason, when it comes to content marketing, our priority should be to understand the audience we need to reach, their buying cycle, and their pain points. Only then can we effectively create the great content that will resonate with them during their buying journey. And only after the content strategy is in place should the technology component be considered. 

Too many marketers look to technology as the first step in any marketing strategy, content or otherwise, and then let the path they take become dictated by the way they set up their website, email service provider, or their marketing automation platform. Technology decisions should come at the very end, when it is time to deliver our information into the buyer’s hands and then monitor, analyze and manage the results. Once we have taken the necessary time to define our content strategy -- the processes we need to reach our audience, and build the content that resonates with them -- we can then focus on how to leverage technology to accomplish our marketing goals. Marketers need to bend technology to work to support their strategy, not to dictate the strategy they create.

Building a Content Marketing Strategy

For organizations getting into content marketing, understanding the buyer’s journey is the first hurdle. Determine who the buyers are, their priorities and pains, the content they are searching for and how they like to consume content. While the temptation to get your program up and running quickly with existing content is significant, you can’t trust responses to that content to be indicative of a prospect’s desire to engage with sales. 

Take the time to evaluate your target buyers and build your content around their needs and interests, providing them with content that will be interesting to them regardless of whether they ever become your customer. Content should serve the buyer first —not your products. Only after they have engaged with your content and shown interest in learning more about the solutions to their problems do you introduce how your products fit into the equation—otherwise your content marketing program may be doomed before it’s launched.

Producing and Managing Content

Within large organizations it’s common for there to be multiple marketing content producers across several departments. Each department likely uses their own siloed processes to gather, manage and access their own content, resulting in a frustrating mix of various "content repositories." There is often very little strategy involved in deciding what content to produce, and product releases or requests from sales often dictate what content is created. Different departments are often working on similar projects, or creating content with limited scope -- and even more limited appeal to the buyers. Content is often product and feature-driven, rather than buyer driven. 

In addition to a unified strategy across content producers, having one centralized marketing hub, such as a content management system or platform, is critical. What content producers need is a way to get the created content into a central repository so it can be actively used. Those nuggets get lost if they aren't tagged for use and recirculation. Having a centralized view and visibility into the content that others are producing can develop into some very interesting and exciting opportunities. It will also help to be sure that all content creators are operating from the same production strategy. A centralized CMS will also strengthen your brand message as departments share content. Not to mention that an organization will be more efficient when no one is gathering or creating content for their department that another department already has on hand.

Distribution & Monitoring

A vital step now is to understand your key performance indicators and have monitoring, reporting and interpretation tools in place. This allows you to optimize and evaluate the program from the beginning and enables you to make adjustments if the program isn’t working as planned. The key is to be agile here, and not throw the good out with the bad. It’s fine if the strategy doesn’t generate the results you expected right away, as long as you know when and how to fix it from the start. The idea is to evaluate, tweak, try again. Repeat this as necessary until you have achieved the sweet spot where the audience is engaged and the leads are coming, or whatever results metric is achieved – but in order for that to occur we need to ensure our content is being delivered to the buyer.

Perhaps the most important technologies are the ones we leverage to get our content seen, so don’t neglect the distribution platform, which is often the last thing people think about when creating content. To be an effective content marketer you must remember that just because you build it, doesn't mean an audience, let alone the right audience will always come find it. 

Once the content is distributed, experienced content marketers skillfully use technology to drive discovery and engagement with that content. Then, they leverage business intelligence tools to consolidate content performance data. Effectively using measurement tools will allow you to see how successful your campaign has been or what may need to be changed to make it more fruitful. I've seen some amazing things with consolidated data pulled from MAS, web analytics and CRM. Centralizing your data offers a 360 degree view that can be very revealing. For example, you can focus on individual content offers to see which ones are successfully pushing people through a nurture program or consistently being accessed by people that eventually become qualified leads. 

Another example of effective monitoring is the use of a video marketing platform to build audience engagement with key video content. Doing this provides a consolidated view of a single video's performance across multiple channels, such as YouTube, FaceBook, etc., In addition to monitoring engagement in the video embed location, another helpful insight is viewing audience drop-off percentage by the second. This can allow you to take pro-active steps to turn the situation around, such as adding new calls-to-action prior to key drop-off points, a strategy that can drive measurable results. This scenario illustrates that sharing content via nurture or through multiple channels should never be a 'set it and forget it" situation, especially when the technology tools we use provide so much data that we can leverage to improve performance. An important point for content marketers to always remember: the content lifecycle doesn't stop when it is posted on the website.

Social Media Monitoring

Social media monitoring in particular can be useful, not just for distribution and monitoring, but also for developing content. Looking at what is trending in your industry or with your competitors is an excellent way to inform your content strategy. Identify what people are actually proactively discussing and build stories around how you fit in these conversations. Social media tools can help you learn what inspires and engages the audiences you want to reach so you can adjust your content accordingly and can even help you to identify what your next webinar or white paper should be about. In addition to measuring​ how content is performing, social monitoring tools can be used to judge quality of engagement and target followers and audiences. If you aren’t creating user generated content as part of your own strategy, there are content delivery tools that can help you curate UGC for use in social posts. Social monitoring tools are also useful for finding influencers so that you can target your messages to them using in-platform tools. 

In the world of content marketing, content is obviously king, but the best content is nothing if no one sees it or engages with it. If you build it, they don’t always come – which is why your strategy is so important, and why you need technology to help measure performance so you can quickly react when things are not performing. Fortunately, we have an array of technology tools to work with that enable us to distribute, monitor and analyze our content’s performance. Technology and content do go hand in hand, you just need to ensure that content strategy leads the way rather than have your technology dictate your strategy.​​​​​​

Author Bio:

Jason Stewart
Jason Stewart
Jason Stewart has more than 15 years' experience in B2B marketing at both private and public companies. He is the Vice President, Strategy for ANNUITAS, a demand generation strategy and change management firm. He was named one of marketing automation’s key influencers in Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation.
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