Tag Archives: content marketing

The Top 15 Metrics for 2015

Are you a digital marketer?  Best practice marketers align their objectives with business outcomes to improve the organization; they use data-driven decisions to predict outcomes and can envision the impact of their work. They think strategically to maximize revenue and create contextual engagement with the customers they serve. To do this, they use solutions that aggregate the right metrics and tools that help them derive accurate insights.

The definitive guide to the top 15 Digital Marketing Metrics for 2015
The definitive guide to the top 15 Digital Marketing Metrics for 2015



Here’s a peek at the first three to get you started:




1. Social interactions – Your firm’s social interaction ratio is determined by the total number of interactions all of your accounts received within the last week, month or quarter. You’ll first need to decide how frequently you’d like to measure your social media interactions, which is necessary to increase the number of interactions and build rapport with your customers and client base.

Next, you’ll want to determine your share of the social voice. Share of Voice is defined as the proportion of the total audience commanded by your brand across its full range of media activities.
Share of Voice is an accurate indicator as to where you rank compared to your competitors when people talk about your industry.

2. Amplification Rate – The amplification rate is the frequency at which your followers take your content and share it through their own network. It goes without saying that the higher the amplification rate, the further your content will reach.

This will also increase your social media page views, which is the number of times a web page is viewed as a result of being directed from a social media channel.

3. Quality Score – The quality score is a score assigned by search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing that influences both the rank and cost per click of ads. The purpose of the quality score is to enable the major search engines the ability to maintain and improve the quality of advertisements listed on their sites. The primary reason for this is to improve the experience of users who click on sponsored links. The more relevant the advertisements, the greater the likelihood a user will click on them more frequently, which increases revenue for everyone.

Those who achieve higher quality scores are rewarded with top placement and lower bid cost.

Download the complete list of The Top 15 Digital Marketing Metrics for 2015 to see what are the must-have metrics are for next year. 

How to Create Fearless Brand Advocates

If you want your sales professionals to be advocates of your brand, you must first sell them on it. Naomi Garnice, Director of Marketing at Salucro, makes sure her sales professionals understand that part of being a brand advocate is the realization that daily duties with customers and partners carry into the company’s overall brand image.

I sat down with Naomi Garnice, Director of Marketing at Salucro.
I sat down with Naomi Garnice, Director of Marketing at Salucro.

What are the best ways to breakdown the “Great Wall of China” between content marketers and sales professionals to ensure that all employers are active brand advocates? 

 Breaking down the walls is easy when you open lines of communication in the right way. Marketing and Sales professionals usually speak in completely different dialects. Numbers and measurable goals move people in Sales. Part of being a brand advocate is the realization of how your day-to-day actions with customers and partners carry into the company’s overall brand image while supporting your own professional goals and quotas. To pitch your Sales leaders and department you’ll need to sell them on the direct benefits: how their added visibility will support their clout in the industry, client relationships and quotas. At the Advancements in Content Marketing event, we’ll take a deeper dive into this with some go-to lines and examples.

What metrics and measurements do you use to determine what content is most valuable to your customer base and has the most likelihood to build trust and brand recognition?

 Let your audience show you which content moves them by tracking their monthly clicks, shares, comments and resulting referral website traffic. This will take time to gauge as you build a meticulous content strategy centered around the goals and needs of your customers and prospects — we’ll look at different approaches to ensure that content is valuable to your intended audience.

What can we look forward to learning at the conference?

 At the conference, I will walk you through a powerful brand advocacy training series I’ve developed at B2Bs, which not only produces results but also aligns the business goals between the Sales and Marketing departments. Further, we will touch on all of the must-topics for your own brand advocacy training series, why they are important and how they can directly impact your business and Marketing efforts.

Don’t Claim to Be a Brand Leader … Become One

Sue Kwon is an Emmy award-winning storyteller and global corporate communications leader, holding on-air and leadership positions in CBS, NBC, and ABC stations around the U.S. She is also on the Stanford GSB Mastery in Communications team, teaching branding and storytelling to entrepreneurs.

Before joining Symantec to lead Content Strategy & Storytelling, Sue served as Digital & Social Media Director for Gap, Inc. leading internal and external communications focused on increasing employee, customer and influencer engagement.

I interviewed Sue Kwon, Senior Director of Content Strategy at Symantec.
I interviewed Sue Kwon, Senior Director of Content Strategy at Symantec.

What are the key considerations to take into account when a company sets out to establish itself as a brand leader?

You can’t SAY you’re a brand leader, you become a brand leader. It’s like saying ‘I’m cool’ on a grade school playground. Others will determine your ‘cool’ factor by what you say, what you do and how you are perceived by the most vocal influencers.

So key considerations to take into account when a company sets out to establish itself as a brand leader include:

Do you have something interesting to say that is unique or differentiated?

Is what you do actually relevant to what people need?
And, is the experience you offer as a brand worth participating in and advocating for?

Establishing your company as a brand leader requires a plan – not just for those one-off moments of positive reinforcement – but for telling a story through unique experiences over the course of a customer’s journey.

Will you outline for us the necessary materials and personnel required to elevate a content marketing strategy into a functioning media outlet that can publish, promote and deliver content across a spectrum of mediums?

I will outline an overarching Content Marketing strategy, which includes:
1. Building a Content Lifecycle plan to reach the right audience.
2. Building your Content Marketing ‘Newsroom’
3. Budgeting for multi-channel production.
4. Why Cross-Functional collaboration is the key to success.

What are your tips for re-envisioning content to imitate news media outlets?


• Your Marketing Team Structured like a Newsroom Roster– At the conference, I’ll show you who on your PR & Marketing team should play these roles– News Director, Managing Editor, Executive Producer, Show Producer, Reporter(s), Photographer/Editors/Graphics, Promo Dept.

• Secrets of the Field Crew– I’ll show you how 3-5 person crews work on deadline, within expertise, and toward a common production goal – despite hierarchy.

• Thinking like a Reporter not a Marketer – I’ll show you how to tell stories that can beat the competition – that are relevant to customers, influencers, advocates and critics.

• It’s not just about Prime Time – I’ll show you how to map your content against the customer’s journey where you are positioning assets at the right time and on the right channels.

• Speed and Expertise – TV ratings are based on capturing and keeping audience attention… and offering the most compelling insight. I’ll show you how to secure audiences early and keep them around through a structured thought leadership amplification plan.

How can you ensure that your thought leader’s subject matter stays aligned with business initiatives?

It’s important to define what a “Thought Leader” is in your organization and get shared vision across Marketing, Global Communications and C-suite. A shared definition will allow you to create a Thought Leader amplification plan where the right individuals are selected and supported. The plan will ensure that individuals authorized to speak on your company’s behalf are aware of inputs and considerations that line up to business priorities. The plan will also empower those thought leaders to show well and show often on Owned, Paid, and Earned channels – LinkedIn, 3rd party blogs, media outlets, etc.

What are the ways you can create content that has an enhanced accessibility by focusing on highlighting relevancy and importance rather than assumed value?

• Adopting a Breaking News “fast flow” content production process is important to add thought leadership and value in conversations pegged to headlines and trending topics.

• Creating a global content production plan that lines up to a company editorial calendar is important to prioritize “evergreen” stories that are supported across Geos.

• *Teaching all writers, editors and producers across the Content Lifecycle process the principles of Award-Winning storytelling is important to teach marketers how to talk about products … without literally talking about products.

**At the Advancements in Content Marketing 2014 event, I’ll give the 3 Secrets to Winning an Emmy – that will change the way you think about storytelling and content marketing.

What does the future of content marketing look like to you?

I will be out of a job. Telling great stories will become an easy habit. We need to master the science of positioning those stories with robust SEO strategy, for multi-channel consumption, with instant metrics insight. Marketing automation and the ability to position our stories to the right audiences at the right time and measure acquisition, retention and product renewal is the shiny object we should all focus on. (But first, we need to produce great assets to pump into the system.)

The Top 5 Reasons to Outsource Your Marketing

Marketing isn't as easy as 1-2-3.
Marketing isn’t as easy as 1-2-3.

Marketing is simple, right? Everyone is aware of the boxes that need to be checked: Launch a website and set up a Facebook page and Twitter account. Perhaps you assign someone on your business development team the task of maintaining a corporate blog with the goal of posting several times per week. You create a strategy, an agenda and an editorial calendar. Then, you sit back and wait for your plan
to take hold and gain attention, traction and a countless number of clients.

But, sometimes not everything goes to plan. Maybe you hit a plateau of Facebook likes or you realized you’re not quite sure what to post on Twitter. Perhaps you have a sneaking suspicion that no one is reading your blog posts. Slowly, your enthusiasm and interest in your marketing plan dwindles and it’s clear that there is no proven return on investment of your time and resources. You’re not sure anyone is hearing your message and you don’t know how to track your campaigns.

Don’t lose heart. The digital age is among us and establishing your brand online is a must. What you need is a digital marketing plan that includes Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC), content creation, blog integration and social media. Entire marketing firms, such as Cirgenski Marketing, exist to evaluate and execute upon marketing strategies. The firm spends days, weeks and months perfecting marketing plans. You’re not in that business, so why do you expect yourself to be a marketing maven on their level?

Placing your marketing in the hands of experts with the know-how to execute tailored plans is just one reason to consider outsourcing your advertising and branding goals. Outsourcing saves you time. It says you money. Consider that running an effective online marketing campaign will cost you at least $3,000 per month, according to Forbes. The truth is your competitors are most likely spending several times that amount. If that number seems exorbitant to you, keep in mind that hiring an in-house marketing and SEO professional will cost at least $50,000 per year at a base level. An experienced professional will demand upwards of $70,000 depending on your location.

Outsourcing not only saves you money, but it also ensures that your message will be heard. But, there are even more benefits than that. Let’s take a look at the top 5 reasons you should outsource your marketing campaigns.

Reduced overhead

There’s no need to hire additional personnel when you choose to outsource your marketing. Not only will you save $50k+ in salary and benefits – depending on your location – but you can also avoid or reduce costs spent on office space, overhead and hardware.

Increased time management

Even if you have your own marketing department, outsourcing at least some of your marketing spend will free up your in-house personnel to focus on strategy instead of “busy work.” Your team will have the ability to play to their strengths and focus on branding deliverables as well as the business’s core focus.

The gift of impartiality and neutrality

Sometimes it’s hard to separate yourself from your marketing plan. Of course you believe in your product and service – if you didn’t, why would you be in business? By outsourcing your marketing you will have a fresh set of eyes on what you truly have to offer and, conversely, what it is that your clients and/or customers need and want. Outsourced marketing agencies identify and deploy depending upon the company’s goals and its budget alone without being bogged down by a clouded vision.

Expanded talent and creative pool

Your staff can’t do it all. Perhaps they excel at email marketing, but their skillset is not up to par in SEO or PPC. Outsourcing allows you to be more agile on complex projects that require acute understanding on numerous components of the marketing plan. While you might not be able to hire in-house for the functions that you need, outsourcing allows for the ability to enjoy new, innovative and creative ideas and energy at half the cost.

A fresh perspective

This leads to the last benefit of outsourcing: A fresh perspective that is not influenced or handcuffed by an established company culture. It might not be for lack of dedication or ability, or even resources, but perhaps your team may not be able to see the forest for the trees. Oftentimes marketers become too involved with their functions that they forget or are unable to take a step back and analyze their strategies from the customer’s perspective. An outsourcing team often provides the fresh, objective perspective that is so hard to maintain.

It’s clear by now that outsourcing marketing is a viable option. But, who should you trust to handle this very important function? You need a firm who will evaluate your current marketing programs to identify where there are opportunities for optimization.

This includes taking a close look at your top competitors and identifying/developing your differentiation and key advantages over them. If clients already have a marketing plan in place, firms such as Cirgenski Marketing look at key indicators such as the marketing mix and implement solutions to find the best opportunities suitable for your business’s end goals. Next, they develop a customized integrated marketing plan which includes recommendations for the top prioritized marketing initiatives that all will provide the best results. What better outcome is there?

Sarcasm in content marketing

My marketing team received a very eloquent, middle-fingered response to a content email that was sent in my name. It’s for an event we’re hosting on a very niche topic – dredging in ports. No further introduction needed.

Dear Hannah-

I can’t believe that I failed to respond to your unsolicited email – shame on me!  

As you know, I am a big fan of dredging and reclamation, and ever since I was a little nipper I would brag to my friends about how some day I would dredge and reclaim with the big guys – little did I realize that some day I would actually get a personal email from you inviting me to a real live dredge and reclaim party!  Hannah, thank you so much for looking out for me!   I don’t know how to thank you enough for getting this invite to me – to bring me front and center tomeet and rub army boots with the celebrities and the kings of the world of sludge!

Again, I apologize for losing your email in the white noise of annoying irrelevant and unwanted spam.




The ROI of Big Data for Marketers

Chief Marketing Officers know the benefits of Big Data. Oftentimes what they don’t know is how to use it. David Rogers and Don Sexton at the Columbia Business School wanted to gain a better understanding of the changing practices among large corporate marketers. What they found was support for the use of new data to drive marketing decisions and measuring ROI and a widespread adoption of new digital tools.

Still, significant gaps exist between conception and execution when it comes to Big Data Marketing efforts and there remains a need to improve on the use of data, the measurement of digital marketing and the assessment of ROI.

Successful brands use customer data to drive marketing decisions, 91% of senior corporate marketers

Yet, 39% say their own company’s data is collected too infrequently or not in true real-time

A lack of sharing customer data within their own organization is a barrier to effectively measuring marketing ROI, according to 51% of respondents

Around 85% of large corporations maintain brand accounts on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Foursquare

Comparison of the effectiveness of marketing across different digital media is “a major challenge” for 65% of marketers

Financial outcomes where omitted by 37% of respondents when asked to define what “marketing ROI” meant for their own organization

57% of respondents are not basing their marketing budgets on any ROI analysis

Brand awareness is the sole measure to evaluate marketing spend for 22% of marketers

Source: Marketing ROI in the Era of Big Data: The 2012 BRITE/NYAMA Marketing Transition Study

Think like a Journalist to Become an Excellent Content Marketing Strategist

Why can’t marketers think more like journalists? Like myself, Kristine Kelley, Head of Editorial and Content Strategy at Grant Thornton, wants content marketing strategists to start thinking like journalists. Your organization should ask itself: Who is our audience? What do we want them to do with our content? And, how are we going to reach them?

hrh media: Content strategists face a market that is saturated with touch points – from websites to mobile devices to social media. How does a company elevate their content marketing into a content strategy in an effort to gain more consumer attention?

We really shouldn’t talk about content marketing until we have high-quality content – and a process to generate it – to market. Companies must start with the absolute basics: who is our audience, what do we want them to do with our content, and how are we going to reach them?  A solid mission statement is a solid start. Then, mapping our content to a basic sales cycle helps ensure that our content strategy is mapped to our business strategy. A successful content strategy also combines brand with solid writing best practices, to ensure what’s put out there sounds and looks like our company, and is naturally optimized. Finally, companies need to ensure they have a content org in place. Agencies are great, but depending on the volume of content generated (B2Bs generate a LOT of content), we need a team of people who understands how to speak to our audiences, and how to curate content in various channels over the entire life cycle.

hrh media:  What argument can be made to upper management that the time investment involved in implementing and initiating a content strategy is worth the gain?

Content appropriately mapped to the business strategy and corresponding sales cycle ensures that what we’re creating isn’t just stuff being generated and thrown out to see if it sticks. An actual content strategy is just that.

a.    Where do you start to develop a new content strategy, including a framework to keep it going?

In addition to the above, I like following the traditional magazine publishing model to develop a content-savvy org, which can then be executed against our strategy.

hrh media:  Marketing is still, at its roots, about building relationships and trust and evoking positive emotions to its customers. Could you name a company whose content strategy has achieved this and note some of the factors that attributed to that success?

Most big publishing companies have figured out how to execute their original content strategy in a multi-channel world. A few big brands, such as Ford and GE, are doing a great job of keeping their brands relevant and in the conversation. And a few big B2B groups, such as McKinsey, are keeping their markets reasonably satisfied but not completely inundated with solid “thought leadership.”

hrh media: Could you name a few tools you are particularly fond of that help you achieve your content strategy goals?

My tools are tools for writers: inverted pyramid, Strunk & White’s “On Writing Well,” AP Style, our company’s style guide, our company’s brand voice and our marketers’ marketing goals.

Do You Know Your Customers As Well As You Think You Do?

Anthony Perez is the Vice President of Business Strategy with the Orlando Magic. He and his team are credited with building a predictive analytics ticketing model that can help the Orlando Magic tailor their fan experience to increase customer satisfaction. In this interview, Anthony shares how he uses data to gain understanding of his customers and to establish a loyalty connection.

hrh media: Would you mind telling us a little bit about your background and how you became interested in data analytics?

I started in finance so I think it was a natural transition into analytics. When I first started with the Orlando Magic I was really focused on the financials of the new arena. From there I went into investment banking for a little while, but ultimately came back to the Magic and my focus, again, started out on the financial metrics side of things. But my position ultimately became the much broader role around analytics that it is today.

hrh media: The Orlando Magic is both one of the most technologically advanced arenas in North America so it’s no wonder that you have a wealth of data at your fingertips. Would you share a key business driver behind the Magic’s decision to use analytics to establish a loyalty connection with fans?

Sure, for us it just really made sense going into the Amway Center with the technology that we have, all the data that we’d be collecting, all of the capabilities that we had in terms of leveraging the technology and the building, we really wanted to make sure that we were doing the best job that we could to drive the customer experience. So, analytics was an opportunity for us to expand the things that we were doing in a much more systematic way to make sure every fan felt like there was a customized experience for them and that we are really marketing to them and what they were looking for. For our season ticket holders in particular, we wanted to make sure that when they came to games and interacted with their service representative or anyone else from the team, that they felt like the experience really spoke to them and their preferences and the like. So that was the main driver behind taking a bigger step into the realm of analytics.

hrh media: How have you and your team been able to turn the data that you’ve collected from the scanned and tracked tickets into a tailored fan experience? Can you provide me with an example?

That’s something that we’re continuing to develop. A great example, in particular for season ticket holders, but really for anyone in the building, we run a program where if you purchase something at a concession stand or at one of our retail stores you can scan your ticket during the checkout process and get entered in for a chance to win courtside seats. What this allows us to do is capture the ticket barcode information and ultimately match that back to the account. So we can see what account purchased the various items for that transaction. We start to see trends around what people are buying and when they’re buying.

The season ticket holders are folks that are coming to the majority of our games, so we can get a feel for when they typically purchase merchandise throughout the season and what their preferences are in terms of concession stands. A great example we like to point to is if a family of season ticket holders is taking frequent trips to Cold Stone at halftime on the terrace level, if we see that they have a preference for Cold Stone, that’s something our service rep can use the next time they want to visit that season ticket holder in their seats. Maybe they’re surprising them with Cold Stone, bringing it to them just as a gesture to say that we really appreciate them being a season ticket holder and everything they do for us. I think that’s the small example but that’s the type of thing that we continue to do.

Right now we’re working through taking all that information that we’re collecting from scanned tickets, putting it into a format that’s actionable for our sales team and service team and ultimately delivering that.

hrh media: Retaining season ticket holders year after year can be pretty tricky for sports franchises. Have you been able to solve this riddle with somewhat of a success rate using data analytics?

I don’t know that anyone will ever solve the riddle completely, but I think for us, we’ve done a good job of being as smart as we can about how we target season ticket holders and how we focus on retention. We’ve done a lot in that area in terms of predictive modeling and trying to understand the biggest drivers behind the renewal decision for a season ticket holder and ultimately boiling that down to things that are actionable and then working with our service team to act upon those things.

A great example is ticket utilization, which I think for everybody is pretty intuitive, but we’ve really focused on that and what we found is that season ticket holders that aren’t really utilizing their tickets to a certain level are ultimately ones that are at risk not to renew. We’ve built an entire campaign throughout the season about touching those season ticket holders that aren’t utilizing their tickets and doing it in a way that we can be preemptive so we’re not finding out that they felt like the value wasn’t there for them because they didn’t use their ticket throughout the season.

Instead we’re trying to jump on that if they’ve missed one or two games, and if we escalate the actions we take as they go further into the season and not utilizing their tickets. I think for us it varies from team to team in terms of how the structure is set up for a service representative and the amount of accounts they deal with. For us, one of our service representatives could have anywhere between 400 to 500 accounts, so it’s really difficult to build a personal relationship with each one of those people, so what can we do to help our service representatives cut through all of their accounts to really get the biggest impact and focus on those people who need or want the additional action—that’s where we try to use predictive analytics to help us do that.

hrh media: Are these actions that you’re taking being noticed and appreciated by the ticket holders?

I think so. For us, with ticket utilization, it’s really making sure that season ticket holders feel like they’re getting the value for their tickets in whatever way that means. It may mean selling their tickets for games they can’t attend or it could just mean giving them away to a client, colleague or friend, but we’re just trying to make sure that we’re proactively driving those actions and making sure that it’s not something that the season ticket holder looks back when it’s up for renewal; and in retrospect says, well if I’d done things differently maybe I would have gotten the value, but I didn’t.

I do think they appreciate it and I think they’ll see that as we continue to go deeper and deeper into how we’re leveraging our data I think they’ll continue to see a better experience game after game.

hrh media: What does the future look like for customer data analysis within your franchise?

I think the future is really exciting for us. We do a lot of really interesting things now and I think we’re a team that’s really trying to push the envelope and be more advanced in terms of how we’re applying analytics. Even from our standpoint I think there are so many things that we can continue to do, there’s a lot of unstructured data that we’re really not leveraging as well as we could, and social media is a whole frontier of opportunity for us in utilizing data. Even just outside of social media when we talk about unstructured data, a lot of communications with our season ticket holders are happening through email correspondence, text messaging and those types of things. So how do we really leverage those kinds of conversations because right now without any type of text mining application, we’re really not able to maximize the insights we can draw. We do a lot of research here and even with surveys we see the open-ended responses and we try to leverage that as best as we can. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there in terms of text mining and just utilizing unstructured data better, whether it’s in our predicted models or just driving key insights for our management.

If You Build Remarkable Content, the Readers Will Come

This is the first installment of a two-part interview with content strategy extraordinaire, Rebecca Lieb.

Content is not necessarily a build it and they will come proposition. Content has to be very good for them to come.

It may seem like a basic principle, but according to Rebecca Lieb, many companies still just don’t get it. Rebecca is an author, columnist, journalist and digital advertising and media analyst at Altimeter Group. In this interview she answers some important questions regarding content marketing strategies, going beyond how your organization should create content and into how it should be published and on what channels.

hrh media: Before we dive in, would you mind sharing with us a little bit about your content marketing journey and how you became interested in the industry?

I think you encapsulated it very well when you enumerated some of the positions that I’ve held prior to my current role as an analyst. I’ve effectively only done two things in my life. On the one hand I’ve worked as a marketer, always for media companies; and on the other hand I’ve worked as a journalist, as a content creator. So when you combine content creation, editorial acumen, running a newsroom (which I’ve also done) with marketing, I think content marketing and strategy is a very logical outcome of those two skill sets.

hrh media: Could you define what content marketing is, and furthermore what differentiates content marketing from public relations and even advertising?

I’m so glad you asked that. I’ll even take it a step further and differentiate content marketing from content strategy; first and foremost, because I think those terms get conflated very often. Content marketing is the art and science of marketing with media that a Brand owns; as opposed to advertising that you buy. That’s almost the definition of advertising, there’s a media buy associated with an ad. Content can be created in all sorts of ways, shapes or forms – on a blog, on websites, and certainly in offline channels if you publish newspapers, magazines, etc. What the digital revolution has really enabled is for any brand or any marketer to become a publisher and to become a content provider. You no longer need to buy media when it’s so easy and so accessible to create media yourself.

I really divide content marketing into three different categories: there’s content that is entertainment—this is your typical viral video. It makes people laugh, cry, or pass along. There’s content that’s entirely informative—this is used a lot in high consideration purchases such as a mainframe computers, another piece of technology, or a car that you have to do a lot of studying up on before you’re comfortable buying. The third form of content I’d like to call utility content. It’s things like mobile apps that help you deposit a check into the bank without visiting the bank—you take a picture and you zap it. It’s a vertical search engine that helps you find nearby restaurants or choose the right wine to order. So those are the forms of content marketing and effectively what it is.

The underpinning of content marketing is content strategy. Content strategy is planning for content marketing. Not just how you’re going to do it, how you’re going to create it and who’s going to create it; but how you’re going to publish it, in what channels, and what’s all the rules, processes, technologies and procedures are around the governance of that content. Just like the New York Times has a staff and that staff is specialized at doing different things, and the staff has an editorial calendar that says we publish this sort of stuff on Monday, this sort of stuff on Tuesday, this at the end of the year, this around the holidays, so too is content marketing very calendared, very seasonal. Without a plan you’re just looking at the proverbial white sheet of paper and you’re not going to know what to do next, so I’m very much looking forward to hearing new thinking around content strategies at the conference this spring.

If You Build Remarkable Content, the Readers Will Come – Part II

This is the second installment of a two-part interview with content strategy extraordinaire, Rebecca Lieb.

Content is not necessarily a build it and they will come proposition. Content has to be very good for them to come.

It may seem like a basic principle, but according to Rebecca Lieb, many companies still just don’t get it. Rebecca is an author, columnist, journalist and digital advertising and media analyst at Altimeter Group. In this interview she answers some important questions regarding content marketing strategies, going beyond how your organization should create content and into how it should be published and on what channels.

hrh media: So, it can be said that currently there is a content deficiency among companies and brands, especially the kind of content that speaks to and engages prospects and customers. How can this be addressed easily, especially for smaller to mid-sized businesses?

You know, I think that’s almost a chicken and egg question. Is there a content deficiency or is there a good content deficiency. On the one hand, marketers who really haven’t worked enough on creating a strong content strategy do have that sort of panicked, “I haven’t studied for the test, I haven’t thought about what we’re going to publish today on Facebook, on Twitter, on our YouTube channel, on our blog.”

Planning can take away a lot of that anxiety. Planning, along with analytics and listening, can help you determine how to make content that’s good, that resonates, and that’s shared and passed along. Remember, when you’re advertising and making that media buy, you’re guaranteed a certain number of eyeballs or a certain amount of attention. It might not be good attention, it might not even be effective, but you’re out there.

Content is not necessarily a build it and they will come proposition. Content has to be very good for them to come. You know that in a multi-channel universe you’re really only watching one channel at a time on your television set. You’re only reading one book at a time, so the job of the content marketer as well as the content strategist is to make sure that content stands out, is attractive, is professional, is well presented, is compelling and is appropriate to the medium. These are all skills that publishers are very well versed in and require a lot of publisher and/or producer acumen.

hrh media: So one of the top reasons why business leaders shy away from content marketing or content strategy is a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of its return on investment or ROI. How would you address this?

In a research report that I published earlier this year called content, the new marketing equation, which by the way you can download at no cost from the Altimeter Group’s website, we developed a content marketing maturity framework, and one of the earlier stages in content marketing maturity is learning how to measure content and learning how to attribute return on investment to content so that you can actually gauge its effectiveness and know what you’re doing right and what you’re doing that’s not so effective.

My favorite hero story of that is a company called Eloqua that had a recently departed head of content marketing, a man by the name of Joe Chernov, and Joe enabled a way to trace all of the downloads of the white papers and free e-books his company made available to prospects. Because you had to fill out a form before you could download this free content, he was able to capture everybody’s title who downloaded the content. His goal was to get content downloaded by Vice President and above titles, and he could demonstrate that that’s who was downloading the content and he could also trace those names and those downloads through a very long sales cycle until he got to the point that he could attribute $3 million dollars in sales that the company made directly to that content that he had produced.

So content really is attributable, it really is measurable, you just have to decide what legitimate key performance indicators there are to gauge the value and the work of that content and then build in a mechanism to measure them. That requires planning and that’s part of content strategy.

hrh media: Thank you for sharing that example of a great success story. On the flip side, are there some key factors or traits that you see companies consistently make that leads to an unsuccessful content marketing strategy?

The companies who aren’t measuring very often are the companies that aren’t listening. They just throw content out there and never stick around to see what’s resonating, what’s being read, what the very basic web metrics say about the use of that content, if and where it’s being shared in social networks, whether there’s discussion around that content in social channels and whether that discussion is positive or negative. If you listen to what consumers say and if you engage in their conversations you learn more about your customers and what they expect from you as a business, as a product, as a service, but also how to better serve their needs. Just like going to a dinner party, nobody likes a one-way conversation. It has to be give and take.

hrh media: In your blog you mention that media conversions or the blending of owned and earned media will continue and intensify in 2013, which you said will spark new technological solutions and skills. Would you mind explaining that idea further in depth for us?

Certainly. Again, I’ve written another research report on the convergence of paid, owned, and earned media that is also available as a download from our website at no cost, so anybody interested in diving in can help themselves. We’re noticing a trend, as our environment is increasingly multi-screened and multi-media that consumers are making very little differentiation, or much less differentiation between paid, owned, and earned media. By those terms I mean paid media is advertising, that’s media that you as a marketer pay for; earned media is what consumers, influencers and journalists are saying about you. You don’t control that, but it is listening to the chatter that’s out there. Finally, owned media is content. It’s the content that you control both in terms of its creation, its production, and the channel that it lives on. You own your Facebook page, you own your website, you own your blog, etc. We’re finding that as budgets and attention move to social media, which is largely earned, as well as owned media channels, these are becoming much more important in the marketing mix than paid media-advertising; which until very recently was the boss of everything, pretty much by the fact that it cost the most.

hrh media: Before we wrap up, is there a content medium today that is perhaps receiving less attention than it deserves, but is primed for the future?

That’s a great question. When I was conducting research earlier this year I asked close to 60 marketers, most of them at major multi-national global corporations, what content channels matter now and what channels are going to matter three to five years in the future. Over and over everybody said, “video and mobile.” Content channels that were noticeably diminishing importance were channels that were written word, so online press releases, blogs, media kits, press kits and white papers. Interestingly I interviewed all of these marketers, and not a single one mentioned e-mail, which is very definitely a content channel and very definitely something that every single company I know is doing. Only one of them mentioned search, and we all know that SEO is a very important component in content marketing, so while I’d be reluctant to single out one specific channel as being overlooked, I will accuse marketers of what I like to call bright, shiny object syndrome of looking at the newest, coolest, most gee whiz technology, perhaps at the expense of the basics and fundamentals that underpin campaigns.

We’re now finding that the creative ideas that surface in content and earned media, the conversations around those pieces of content, are forming the creative seed for advertising. So whereas advertising messages used to rule everything, they’re now, in a way, subservient to content and social chatter. That said, from a grand perspective, it’s incredibly important to unify this messaging. So as consumers slip across screens, channels and media, they can consistently recognize a brand as it appears on paid, owned and earned media. I’m certainly not suggesting advertising is ever going go away, it’s not in our lifetime, but the people who work on advertising now almost work very closely with the people who work on content, the people who work on social, the people who are handling measurement, this needs to be a much closer collaboration, because as these walls between paid, earned and owned become more porous and these media channels overlap the distinctions that exist within the organization in terms of who controls what are coming increasingly meaningless.