Where Is the Content Engine Heading?

Where is the Content Marketing Engine Heading?Content-based marketing is quickly becoming mainstream. Some 91 percent of B2B marketers and 86 percent of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers use content marketing, and their content marketing budgets are increasing.7 Organizations like IBM, Red Bull, and Coca-Cola have become content-media producers in addition to their other lines of business. However, there is evidence that our customers are becoming overwhelmed by the amount of content that is out there, reminiscent of the way they felt when advertising was bombarding them.

#Unplug, #Filter, #Spam

People are finding life in the connected lane to be rather overwhelming. In a blog post titled, “Burnout: The Disease of Our Civilization,” author Arianna Huffington described our culture as being “enraptured with technology to the point that tools meant to give us greater control over our lives have, instead, taken control of our lives.”8

Many of us are inundated with content from work, friends, family, and brands. Often these messages appear in the same information streams on email, Twitter, or Facebook. A photo of a college friend’s recent trip appears just below a message from a local nonprofit describing its upcoming gala, which is just below an invitation to participate in a contest for a soft drink company, which is below a blog post from a favorite columnist, which is just south of a comment left by our mother inquiring as to why we never call. Phew. And that might only reflect updates received in the last three minutes. A recent study by Jack Morton Worldwide found that 39 percent of people are also information frustrated, confused by conflicting messages and reports.9

New ways to filter content are appearing to reduce the noise. Robust RSS Readers are being used to actively avoid information sources to which people have not intentionally subscribed. Google’s Priority Inbox and Tab features automatically sort incoming emails by priority and type (social, primary, promotions) to make it easier to consume—or not. What’s a marketer to do in an environment inundated with content? Distinguish ourselves by only offering the most relevant content possible.

Commit to Relevance

The key to being heard in a noisy world is relevance. Click To Tweet
Rather than unleashing more content in the hope of connecting with more prospects, our goal is to create smarter, more relevant experiences, that appeal to our customers and reflect our organizational priorities.

How do we accomplish this? Our prospects and customers want to see themselves in our content. To see themselves, our content must be personalized, reflecting each individual person’s motivations, attitudes, preferences, needs, desires, and past behavior. More and more, our content must also reflect the setting in which our prospect or customer is experiencing it. Sometimes these contextualized experiences are also predictive, anticipating the future needs and buying behavior of prospects and customers by providing relevant recommendations. Amazon is a prime example, as is L.L. Bean, which was tied with Amazon for first in customer satisfaction during the holiday season. When customers visit L.L. Bean’s site, in addition to receiving personalized product recommendations, the company also offers them suggestions for seasonal outdoor adventures available in their geographic area.11

While not every piece of content needs to be contextualized, we should aim to build out our most pivotal interactions. Most contextualized experiences are currently experienced through smartphones as they accompany people throughout their days and they generate the necessary situational data. A lean-forward medium, mobile also allows us to create richer experiences because we can engage customers through touching, swiping, voice recognition, cameras, and GPS technology.

Mobile Is Essential

Mobile has become an essential component of today’s customer experience. People have adopted mobile faster than any previous technology; it has rapidly become the remote controls for running people’s lives. Fogg explained, “In my book, you don’t adopt mobile, you marry it.”

People are not just using their phones to talk and text. Mobile has become a key search and discovery tool. The number of people accessing the Internet via a mobile phone has increased by 60.3 percent to 818.4 million in the past two years.12 Already more Chinese Internet users access the web via their mobile phones than they do their desktops.
Most mobile interactions lead to a cross-channel experience; 75 percent of mobile searches trigger a follow-up activity on a desktop or a phone and more than half of those follow-up activities take place within an hour.13 As a result, our content must be coordinated across channels, creating a cohesive story and customer experience.

Consider the case of the data-savvy online retailer Rue-La-La. Its data analytic efforts revealed that its most profitable customers shop across multiple devices. (It is unclear if these customers spend more because the cross-channel shopping experience is better, or if bigger spenders prefer shopping in multiple environments.) Further, Rue-La-La has uncovered consistent patterns in device use among members of its shopping community. During the day, shoppers prefer to purchase via their desktop; during the evenings and weekends, those same shoppers use the company’s mobile app. To offer its customers the experience they want and have come to expect, Rue-La-La’s shopping experience must be comparable, consistent, and coordinated across screens. And it is.

Optimize Mobile Engagement

To provide an omnichannel experience, our content must be optimized for each channel and for each device. Google found that 61 percent of consumers are likely to leave a site if it is not mobile optimized.14 What is more, they also found that sites that do not render properly can harm a company’s reputation as 48 percent of people said if a site didn’t work well on their smartphones, it made them feel as if the company didn’t care about their business.15

Responsive web design (RWD) facilitates optimization across devices as it automatically adapts content to the screen size of the user’s viewing device. This is a key consideration in emerging markets, where access to the web often takes place exclusively on mobile devices, and for email communications, as much as half are now opened on mobile devices.16 RWD also improves search results as traffic from all devices are routed to a single web address.

There are instances when RWD does not make sense, however. Sometimes we may want to vary our content by device because our customers use their devices differently. NZ Kiwibank redesigned its mobile when it realized that its customers were only using a fraction of the features. Supplementary content remains available on its website. This approach would not work for Rue-La-La, however, as its customers want access to the same content wherever they are and on whatever device they choose.

A word of caution: Do not assume that mobile devices are all the same. While tablets and mobile phones are often used for on-the-go browsing, they have different demographics and are generally not used in the same way. Tablets tend to be employed more like desktops than mobile phones; as a result, the user experience should be designed accordingly.

Mobile Apps Offer a Unique Opportunity

In addition to optimizing their mobile websites, many companies with well-developed customer bases are also choosing to create their own mobile apps. People seem to have an insatiable appetite for apps. Mobile-app downloads almost doubled from 64 billion in 2012 to 102 billion in 2013.17 Do not let the numbers wow you. Only a fraction of apps remain active over time. An app has to be highly compelling to remain permanent real estate on users’ devices.

Mobile applications can deliver remarkable customer experiences. Take the app created for the Guatemalan athletic shoe store, Meat Pack, for example. Through its app, Meat Pack sends discount-based offers to its customers when they enter a competitor’s store. The feature is known as Hijack because it is designed to stop, steal, and redirect Meat Pack’s customers away from competitors’ stores. The deal offers them a generous 99 percent discount; however, a timer accompanies the offer, which reduces the percentage discount by 1 percent for every second that passes from the time customers receive the offer, until they enter a Meat Pack store. A novel approach, this Hijack feature is made possible by real-time data, a location-enabled device, and Meat Pack stores that are located within running distance of competitors’ retail presences. Does the app work? In one week over 600 people were hijacked away from competitors, with one speedy customer earning a hefty 89 percent discount on his new sneaks.18

An app does not have to have hijack features to be useful, however. Some of the most active apps simply make it easy to renew a prescription, pay for a coffee, or sign up for a spin class. In terms of the Fogg Behavior Model (explained in our recent blog, The Science of Behavior), they enhance customers’ ability to scratch the itch or get the job done.

Develop a Content Experience Strategy

Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general, philosopher, and strategist during the Zhou dynasty. Although he lived more than 2,500 years ago, his words about strategy remain relevant to marketers: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is noise before defeat.”

Knowing where our businesses are headed and how we want to get there remains essential. Developing a content strategy keeps us focused on creating experiences that are results-driven and meet both our customers’ goals and objectives and our own.

Our content experience strategy describes our vision for the type of customer experiences we want to offer. This vision sets the course for how we will create, deliver, manage, and evaluate content experiences for all of our personas, at each stage in the customer experience journey, across all of our channels and devices. While it sounds like a laborious process, developing our content experience strategy does not have to be unnecessarily grueling. Our goal is not to preplan our every move; that is a futile task in rapidly changing environments. Rather, we set out to develop a vision and point-of-reference that allows us to act now and next quarter, to be thoughtful and spontaneous.

Aim for a Brand Journalism Platform

As we set out to design our content experience strategy, it is helpful to remember Horace Greeley and Jim Bellows. Rather than following the traditional marketing model of executing discrete campaigns to generate short up-ticks, our goal is to build relationships with customers over the course of a customer journey. To do so we have to act more like these respected newspaper editors, generating a steady, but not overwhelming flow of useful and increasingly contextualized content to keep customers tuning in regularly.
Following this approach, corporations are turning their websites into publishing platforms. Coca-Cola has launched Coca-Cola Journey™ through which it is “Refreshing the world, one story at a time.”20 The dynamic digital magazine, which replaces its traditional corporate website, focuses on news, opinions, and stories in a variety of areas. (A food section was added after web analytics revealed that most common search term that brought people to the site was “Coca-Cola cake.”) The site has been quite successful, managing to engage Coke customers and keep them coming back. Several localized versions of the Coca-Cola Journey have been launched around the world.

Keep Your Brand Promise in Mind

Effective content meets the needs of our customers while remaining consistent with our brand promise. People want their brands to be creative, but they also want them to be trustworthy and consistent, something they can understand and count on. Inconsistent brand messaging is confusing and erodes our brands.

To ensure that we are on-brand, it is important to develop design identity guidelines for our content and touchpoints that reflect our brands’ essential identity including their values, personality, attributes, promise, and purpose. What tone, style, typography, page layout, and colors reflect our brands? What type of visual imagery accurately and adequately captures our brand’s essence? What interactive qualities define our brands? These parameters ensure that our brands are instantly recognizable and that the experiences we create reinforce our brands in the eyes of our prospects and customers, rather than confuse.

Identify Themes, Events, and Opportunities

The experiences that we bring to life reflect the themes that are on our customers’ minds, our organizations’ top objectives, promotional events such as product launches or major sales events that we want to highlight, as well as ideas and interactions that we believe will encourage the conversation and move our customer relationships forward. In addition, our content calendar is flexible enough to incorporate real-time events, chatter, and trends. Oreo’s brilliant tweet when the Superdome lights went dark during Super Bowl XLX—“You can still dunk in the dark”—is a prime example. To take advantage of these moments, we need to have people and policies in place to craft and approve quality messaging in real time.

Real-time engagement also refers to creating messaging and experiences around seemingly unexpected events. J.P. Maheu, the CEO of Bluefin Labs, a social analytics company now owned by Twitter, explains that conversations about many topics in social media are fairly predictable. Surprisingly, tweets about ice cream or running take place in patterns that can be anticipated. As a result, in many cases it is possible to plan ahead for spontaneous engagement. Through Twitter’s paid media products, brands can schedule and promote content during these proven peak discussion times.

This content is an example of what ContentOro does for its customers…providing high-quality, relevant content from experts and their published books.

About the Authors

Larry Weber and Lisa Leslie Henderson are the cowriters of this Digital Marketing guide. Larry is the CEO of Racepoint Global, an advanced marketing services firm. A globally known expert in public relations and marketing services, Larry has successfully built companies and brands and is passionate about the future of marketing. Lisa is an observer, synthesizer, and writer who draws extensively from her background in marketing and consulting. Lisa and Larry have collaborated on two guides to date, The Digital Marketer, and Everywhere: Comprehensive Strategy for the Social Media Era. To stay current on their thinking, frequent www.racepoint.com/thedigitalmarketer and follow them at @TheLarryWeber and @ljlhendo.

Buy on Amazon: The Digital Marketer: Ten New Skills You Must Learn to Stay Relevant and Customer-Centric

7. Joe Pulizzi, “B2C Content Marketing Research: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends,” Content Marketing Institute
8. Arianna Huffington, “Burnout: The Disease of Our Civilization,” Huffington Post (blog)
9. “New Realities,” Screenshare, Jack Morton Worldwide
11. For more information see http://www.llbean.com/parkfinder
12. Jeff Bullas, “21 Awesome Social Media Facts, Figures, and Statistics,” Jeff Bullas Blog
13. Google and Nielsen, “Mobile Search Moments,” Google Insights
14., 15. Google, “What Users Want Most from Mobile Sites Today,” Think Insights
16. Yesmail Interactive, “Study: Almost Half of Brand Emails Opened on Mobile Devices”
17. “Gartner Says Mobile App Stores Will See Annual Downloads Reach 102 Billion,” Gartner
18. Meat Pack, “Hijack,” YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CekUwaPKUUM
20. Coca-Cola Journey, www.coca-colacompany.com

ContentOro
ContentOro revolutionizes the way digital marketers and brands acquire content for marketing. We partner with the world’s best publishers to bring the contents of their books to life on the web with our innovative technology. Creating compelling experiences that tie our content to our clients’ product is our mission.

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