Though no longer a new concept, content marketing still regarded as a surefire way for marketers to tell their brand story and win the hearts and minds of customers.
The truth is more complex than that.
Delivering quality content to educate and build trust with customers is a sound concept, but actually executing on that idea—in a way that serves both the customer and the marketer—has never been more difficult.
Generating high-quality content is risky business: It takes time, coordination, and money to produce pieces that will capture your audience's attention. And with 2.5 quintillion bytes of online data being created each day, we've entered a vortex of neverending content, making it nearly impossible for content consumers to differentiate valuable information from background noise.
If you are one of the countless marketers who has arrived at a similar conclusion, you might find yourself asking some soul-searching questions:
- What can be done to revive the deteriorating standard of content?
- How can we improve the content experience both for consumers and for marketers?
- How can we harness data to create personalized content that serves the user in a more meaningful way?
There is good news: Martech proliferation, limitless creativity, and forward-thinking leadership are propelling content marketing into a new age of growth and development.
Content marketing can—and will—be saved. Here's how.
The Thirst for Immersive, Interactive Content Experiences
Content is being reimagined. Although the demand for content is strong, so is the competition among those creating it. In 2017, Internet usage reached 47% of the world's population, equating to 3.8 billion people. The Web isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Traditional content pieces, such as PDFs, infographics, and calculators, aren't capturing customers' attention like they used to. What's more, those traditional formats give very few insights back to their creators: Views and downloads give us a surface-level idea of how a content piece performs, but not much beyond that:
- Did the downloader skim the content, read the whole thing, or bounce right out?
- Did a marketing piece get downloaded by an optimistic IT professional, only to end up in the electronic recycle bin?
- Did it get downloaded and shared?
There are some secrets a PDF just won't share.
Content marketing has been proven to generate three times as many leads as outbound marketing, for 62% less. Given the massive investment organizations are making in content marketing, surface-level insights aren't enough—for those making the content, or for the executives making budget decisions.
As marketers, we have to find a way to report on content performance at a more granular level.
Adopting the Data-Driven Approach to Content Creation
"Flying blind and hoping it works" is a failed strategy, and a sure way to waste those coveted marketing dollars.
Once a user begins reading a piece of content, you should be able to know how long it is before they exit—but also whether they make it into the body of the text, and the last thing they read before purchasing. Those are the insights that shape the customer journey, fuel product development, and ultimately leave an impact on the bottom line. Forrester calls those types of organizations insights-driven businesses, which are reported to be growing eight times faster than the global GDP.
Even knowing how things should (or could) be, only 22% of companies report being happy with their conversion rates. One of the driving factors behind that underwhelming statistic is the continued proliferation of generalized content, written without consideration of the user's needs. Such bland, broad-approach offerings are where marketers lose out on the opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of prospective customers.
A lack of prescriptive, personalized content that solves specific problems is a persistent void in the world of content marketing today.
Data Always Wins. Make Sure You're on the Winning Side.
Data doesn't lie, and so the analysis and dissemination of data are heavy but critical responsibilities to own.
Marketers have long been searching for the perfect attribution model that connects the dots between their work and organizational outcomes in a meaningful way. Data, albeit important, is only partly the solution.
Though a perfect model may not actually exist, experience has taught me a thing or two about data-driven content that serves both the customer and the business. Here's what I've learned:
- Create device-agnostic content: Your content should be easily consumable across all channels and devices. If 70% of users are consuming your content on mobile, don't create PDFs, which perform horribly on mobile and will garner a quick exit from your user.
Key takeaway: Consider the user's environment before you decide the content's format.
- Develop personalized content: If I'm an IT professional reading an article about how to implement a martech tool, I likely don't need to read the parts related to marketing. Think: Is there a way to adjust the content piece to better serve the user based on their role? See whether there's a way for you to collect information about your users before they arrive at your content—and adjust what they see accordingly.
Key takeaway: Proactively anticipate how you can serve the user relevant content downstream.
- A/B-test specific content elements in real-time: A/B-test certain paragraphs, titles, and subtitles in real-time—while the content is being presented to the user. Doing so can help you identify specific data points within your content to measure and modify accordingly.
Key takeaway: Pinpoint where you convert or churn a user within a piece of content; use that data to write high-conversion content.
- Declare your value exchange: Give the user a chance to (quickly) understand the value your content is providing. Anticipate skimming. Give users something simple to read through, such as five brief bullet points that will help them get the gist of the content—and encourage them to invest in reading the whole piece.
Key takeaway: Make it easy for readers to access the information they need quickly and efficiently.
- Invest in a team that can support you technically: Tracking all of the above is hard work. The design, development, implementation, and post-tracking are all net new work streams that need to be accounted for. Make sure your team buys in and sees the value the efforts will provide to the customer and the company as a whole.
Key takeaway: Ensure you have an adept technical team in place to implement the tracking and the systems required to measure specific KPIs.
Producing static, one-dimensional content is no longer a viable strategy for content marketers with robust KPIs. In a world where there's nearly 4 million Google searches conducted every minute, your company's content needs to be outstanding, versatile, and data-driven. The more information you have about who your customer is, what they're looking for, and why they're visiting your content piece, the better off you'll be.
As you use responsive content to help you acquire those data points, your content will be easier to refine and will reinforce a positive cycle of trust and information-sharing with your consumers. Just like that, you'll know you've hit the jackpot.
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