The majority of marketers believe content is the future of marketing, but the majority do not have a formal content strategy in place (according to the ANA). And while Chief Marketing Officers are bringing content operations in-house, the lack of a defined strategy for how they will scale and measure success could be setting their operations up for failure.
Marketers need people, process and platforms to accelerate and align their content marketing efforts with business goals. In the last six months, the OneSpot team has met with over 200 content leaders in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto and Washington DC. Each marketer was asked to asked to assess their maturity level from basic to tactical, strategic, advanced and best in class. The vast majority were in the basic and tactical categories. The basic content marketer is creating content, but not sure why. The tactical content marketer is creating content within the confines of a single channel, but there is no enterprise view of content, nor is there is a rigorous approach to measures of success beyond content engagement.
In response to what we heard, we have identified the seven success factors that can help content marketers develop their approach to content that will allow them to move from basic and tactical to strategic and advanced.
1. Three-year roadmap
Content marketing is a long game, which is why one of your first success factors should include a roadmap. Define your marketing priorities across audiences and how content can help you achieve those priorities. Your roadmap should also include plans for testing across channels. And you should consider how your marketing technology roadmap should evolve as your ambitions grow. The roadmap is a good way to manage upwards, so your executive team is kept in the loop for what you are doing, what you aspire to do, and as a result, where they can help provide support and resources. The roadmap should also cover your learning agenda and help you answer strategic questions over time.
2. Organizational structure
You will need to figure out how you will structure your content marketing operation. Where should people sit? Within a channel? Within a line of business? Or as a corporate center of excellence?
You should assess whether you want to build internal resources, or outsource to an agency with expertise. The former may be cheaper, and the latter likely to be faster. Whether you build a team internally or outsource, you should be careful to be able to report on the true cost of operations. The more centralized approaches to content are more efficient because they reduce unnecessary duplication of effort. The line of business or channel approach to content tend to be closer to business measures of success, but can be less efficient. The collaborative culture of your business will trump all formal structures.
What all of the companies we assessed agreed on, is that silos are the enemy for strategic content efforts because content needs to travel to meet the customer at the right point of the journey in the right channel at the right time. Silos can get in the way of content’s movement. So over time, we believe an audience-facing organizational structure will emerge as the right way to go to market.
3. Customer journeys
Customer journeys are the perfect backdrop for a content strategy. Many companies have developed some version or slice of a customer journey. The content team should consolidate this thinking, and use it as a way to develop the opportunities for improvement that content can fulfill. In fact, every piece of content should connect back to a moment within the customer journey. The best and most differentiated content finds a new way to meet an emotional need. That’s much harder than meeting functional needs. To date, most content is focused on meeting functional needs, which is why content looks the same as you go from one brand to another.
4. Content strategy
Once you have insights from the customer journey, you should develop a content vision and strategy that lay out what you want your content efforts to achieve and how exactly that will happen. The content strategy is often the missing layer that connects on one hand to the customer need, and on the other hand to the brand strategy.
The content strategy should describe the content themes, types and channels you will use to meet the customer need and achieve your objective. You will likely need to spend some time to agree to the language you use. Make sure you agree on the definition of content and content strategy. It’s a lot easier if all stakeholders have that shared understanding.
In our view, content should be defined as the experience that customers engage with, that selflessly and objectively meets their needs. It should be clearly distinguished from advertising and product promotion.
5. Content infrastructure
To execute content marketing at scale, you’ll need to assess new content tools and platforms that can make your operation more efficient and effective. From content management systems to distribution engines to personalization platforms, the right technology and partners are essential to success. The moment you need additional infrastructure is when you think you need to add a lot more headcount to manage the increased complexity and scale of your efforts.
6. Content pilots
Your three-year roadmap includes plans for testing and learning across all channels. You’ve established your learning agenda and now it’s time to establish the pilot opportunities that will deliver key insights.
Start with the pilots that most align with top business objectives and the learnings you’ll need to optimize your content marketing programs. Direct marketers know that it is easier to improve good response rates to excellent, than it is easy to establish response rates that are already low. You should have some pilots in areas of your business where you already have decent response rates. Conversion or advocacy measures may be easier to impact than acquisition. Because you already have a base level of performance, where you can explore is how a content ingredient can improve results.
When done well, content marketing can become a genuine way to serve your customers, so you may well see an improvement in customer service scores or that customers spend less time with sales or service teams. That operational improvement should be measured, too.
7. Measurement and analytics
Establish a measurement method and routine that will allow you and stakeholders to clearly evaluate content investments against other business investments, connecting content engagement to important business metrics. Content engagement measures will give you a good early indicator of what is working, but will will not be enough to prove a business impact. You will need to find a way to correlate content engagement measures to harder measures of success like conversion, lead generation, incremental revenue and retention.
Identifying your success factors is just the first step to building a comprehensive content marketing strategy. Click here to learn more about OneSpot’s Strategic Services and how you can apply your success factors to technology assessments, content strategy, analytics and more.
David is Chief Strategy Officer at OneSpot.