How to Use Content to Drive Marketing ROI
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The Personalization Game: How to Use Content to Drive Marketing ROI

by NewsCredMarch 2, 2016

Think about the way we live our lives – we’re always on, and always connected. We consume content at all hours of the day, across every channel. In fact, content has become core to who we are. According to a 2014 New York Times study, 68% of people share content to give others a better sense of who they are and what they care about. More and more, our identity is defined by what we share.

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With so much information at our fingertips, consumers are more empowered than ever before. Today, 70% of decisions are made before a buyer ever reaches sales. But when it comes to content, we only choose what matters. We like, share, and follow the blogs, Twitter feeds, and newsletters that really matter to us. This makes things a lot harder for marketers. In today’s social, mobile, and global world, reaching and engaging our audiences has become harder than ever before. As marketers, we’re tasked with connecting, engaging, and influencing millions of individual people – wherever they are, at the exact moment they need us. Relevance is everything. Content without context is at best overlooked, and at worst, annoying.

It’s not just about reaching more people, it’s about connecting with the right people. This means shifting gears in marketing — moving away from the message and making people the focus of our efforts. To succeed, we need to create and deliver relevant content that evolves with each individual across the buyer’s journey. This requires having a clear picture of exactly who we’re trying to reach, what content will resonate with them, and how it impacts their decision-making process. If you can reach the right people, then everything from pricing to promotion becomes easier to optimize.

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Personalized marketing is easier said than done. To succeed, marketers need to build a strategy with a clear target audience and goals. We hear you — you already have so much data and feedback to measure, you may feel like you’re in over your head. So how can you create not just a strategy, but one that serves a highly targeted audience? It’s not just about more people, it’s about the right people.

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Even if you have a solid content output strategy, we won’t tell your boss that only 27% of B2B marketers say they are effectively tracking content utilization metrics. This could possibly be because 69% of content marketers feel a lack of time is their greatest challenge. And we feel that — nearly half of marketers struggle with producing enough content, as well as content that engages. To top it off, audiences are more discerning than ever. 73% of consumers get frustrated when content isn’t relevant to them. In the age of Facebook, everyone wants information curated just for them — they don’t have time for much else (just like you, buried under all those metrics). And the younger generations want even more personalization — 54% of millennials respond positively to content that is tailored to their age, 55% respond positively to content that is tailored to where they are, and 63% respond positively to content that is tailored to their cultural interests.

Basically, it all comes back to that original statistic about the content we share being an expression of ourselves. If your content doesn’t apply to your audience and the way they view themselves, they’re not going to bother reading or sharing. Your content marketing platform should be able to provide insights to your team about the users who are sharing and talking about your content. If not, you need to comb through your social channels manually, identifying influencers and noting the types of content they are sharing. You should be practicing this with your competitor’s influencers as well.

Most marketers don’t have the knowledge to truly answer these questions — or, they have bits and pieces, but not the full picture. That’s because the metrics most marketers rely on today barely scratch the surface. We track things like page views, traffic, shares, bounce rate, and engaged time, but these metrics don’t tell us anything about who our audience is or what they care about. They don’t equip us with the insights needed to translate content into consumer value. And they certainly don’t set us up for global reach and scale. At NewsCred, we believe that the foundation of smart marketing decisions starts with a strong understanding of who your audience is and what they want — demographics, interests, identity, and intent. That might seem obvious, but in reality, there’s a huge gap between the soft metrics we track today and the audience insights we really need. Over the past year, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this problem. We’ve talked to hundred of customers — from Pepsi and Pfizer to Dell and Diageo — and through these conversations we’ve worked hard to reinvent content marketing analytics from the ground up. At the core of our philosophy is a single belief: it’s not just about reaching more people, it’s about reaching the right people. While thousands or maybe even millions of people share your brand’s content — how do you identify the people who are important to your brand? The handful who are ready to act? Or your biggest fans who are constantly telling their friends and family about your brand? How do you serve your entire audience while elevating these conversations?

Marketers need to take a new approach. Most marketers think about analytics as the metrics needed to measure success and failure. Their content marketing process starts with strategy, creation, publishing, distribution….and analytics are thrown in at the end to determine what’s working and what’s not.

Why does this matter? Efficiency and results. A strong, data-driven process enables you to create content you know your audience wants — now you can stop wasting time guessing or creating content duds and actually optimize your strategy for the exact right person, place, and time. More importantly, this process directly informs your paid, owned, and earned media strategy, ensuring even greater reach, engagement, and conversions across platforms. So what does this engine look like? In the following pages, we’ll walk you through a three-step framework that simplifies the process and helps you understand the analytics needed to build it.

 

1: Know your audience Understand who your audience really is and what they want.

2: Know what content works Get an in-depth look at the content journeys of your audience and understand what sticks and gets shared.

3: Drive content marketing ROI Optimize your paid, owned, and earned media strategy by reaching the right people, at the right time and place.

 

Know Your Audience Understand who your audience really is and what they want. Who is your audience? Go deeper – beyond pageviews and shares. Understand the exact people engaging with your brand: where they work, what their title is, and how important they are. What audience trends should inform my marketing strategy? Find commonalities in your audience profiles, look for niche groups you might not have been targeting, and build out audience segments (i.e. Fortune 2000 brands, social media influencers, stay-at-home moms, etc). Who are my competitors talking to that I’m not? View all people engaging with your competitor’s content and identify the most important people that you should be talking to. Intercepted! How can I use these insights to inform my marketing strategy.

Most marketers build their content strategy off of buyer personas: fictional representations of who their target audience is. Why not build your content strategy off of real people? These insights will enable you to build out an Audience Profile: a real-life look into your audience’s demographics and interests, which will inform your content strategy. What if I don’t yet have content marketing software? If you haven’t yet invested in content marketing software, you can still identify and track your influencers (it’ll just be a more manual process). For example, you can build out a document that manually tracks the influencers that have engaged with you and your competitors on social. Track who they are, their company, followers, number of engagements and what content they are sharing. You can even go one step further and build out their interest profiles by looking them up on LinkedIn.

 

Know what content works Get an in-depth look at the content journeys of your audience and understand what sticks. What is my audience interested in? Leverage search, social, and audience behavior metrics to uncover the key topics and issues that you know your audience is interested in. These topics may range from Affinity topics (things that your product makes possible), to Category topics (a type of product), to Branded topics (a specific brand that you are highlighting). The full list should be grouped out as themes and mapped against customer pain points. This list forms the foundation of your editorial calendar. For example…

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What does their content journey look like? A content journey is the full picture of the content an individual engages with from the first moment they hear about your brand through the customer lifecycle. This journey captures engagement across all channels, devices, time of day, etc. — it’s the full picture of the digital life of your customer. These insights should help you understand what content brings people in, what content engages at the consideration stage, and what converts them to a sale.

How do these insights help me create content for the right channels? We behave differently on different platforms, so tailor your content purposefully, keeping in mind audience behavior, context, platforms, and experience. You engage differently with content (and often, with different types of content) on your mobile lying in bed than you do on your desktop at work.

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Drive content marketing ROI. Optimize your paid, owned, and earned media strategy by reaching the right people, at the right time and place. How do I measure success? Reach, engagement, and conversions.

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How do I use these insights to reach the right people? Execute more effective paid media campaigns. Spend less and attract more of the right people through more strategic paid promotion efforts. Audience Insights not only helps you identify your highest performing content, it also offers insight into your highest performing channels. It shows you which channels are successfully engaging the people who matter most to your brand. For example, you may find that Twitter is driving your most engaged users and segments; despite the fact that your team has been investing in Facebook paid promotion strategies. Now, you can shift spend to reach your audience on Twitter. You can even further target your paid promotion by exporting a list of the Twitter IDs of your most engaged influencers and segments to run targeted ads against those IDs. Identify top influencers, customers and prospects Discover and reach out to specific prospects or influencers who have shown high interest and engagement with your brand. Audience Insights works for you to understand more about the audience you are trying to reach and then only surface the people who are most important to your business. You can see immediately when a new promising prospect has entered your sales funnel and you can alert your sales teams by quickly emailing a direct link to that prospect’s content journey. Now, your sales team will know exactly who to ask for when they begin their initial lead-qualifying conversations.

Leverage paid media to unlock earned media Amplifying your content through social advertising is a proven way to cut through the noise quickly and unlock earned media. But, targeting the right people from the onset is crucial to getting the most out of your dollars. At NewsCred, we believe that if marketers are empowered to reach the right people, everything else becomes easier to optimize – time, channels, and messages. This enables brands to get more value from their content & paid media spend, while also saving time and resources.

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Conclusion

Now that content creation has become mandatory for modern brands, we can all admit it’s not as easy as it was once. The good news is technology is improving every day to give us better analytics and better insights into what content works and what doesn’t. But as technology improves, audiences become shrewder content consumers, not willing to read or share just any old boring content.

Marketers need to not only reach the right people, but stay innovative — wowing audiences at every turn and keeping the industry on their toes to truly stand out. When your brand starts with analytics and adds a dose of creativity to every step of the process, you have the power of knowledge and ingenuity. Will every piece of content you create win awards and leave leads falling at your feet? Probably not. But if you stay fresh and creative, tracking metrics and analytics every step of the way and thinking critically and personally about your audience, you can get there.

The future of marketing is about connecting with individual people – like you and me. At NewsCred, we believe that the only way to connect with real people and win brand love is through meaningful conversations. This means you need to truly understand who your audience is and what they want. The bottom line? Your marketing platform should be able to help you intelligently identify, analyze and act on these people and content trends – at every step of the buyer’s journey.