Measuring success in any field means showing results for your efforts. What is disturbing in the world of content marketing is that the majority of marketers do not have a documented strategy. No written strategy means there are no KPIs and goals behind their efforts. Since goals and outcomes make up a strategy, it’s hard to understand how 35% of marketers say they have a strategy, but it is not documented. You see why we are concerned. You should be, too.
This disturbing news was among many findings by Content Marketing Institute in their 2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report. On October 24, 2014, Erin Robbins O’Brien, COO and Marketing Strategist, and Ray Grieselhuber, CEO and Founder, GinzaMetrics, got together on a FOUND Friday episode to discuss some of the finding of the report and to offer some solutions for content marketers to become more strategic in 2015.
Write It Down/Email It/Send Smoke Signals
Creating a documented strategy does not mean that you spend your time writing documents. However, to begin understanding what you are doing and why you are doing it requires creating some kind of a system where goals and KPIs are written down. “Goals, objectives, and strategies are not the same thing,” explained Erin, “The goals determine the objectives. Once you have goals and objectives, then you can have strategies to implement them.”
A written strategy is the first step to creating a shared vision and a place to begin a conversation about what efforts, what channels, and what expenditures are working and which are not. A strategy document doesn’t have to be a 400 page tome that no one will ever look at again. It should be a working document that is revised and updated based on measurable results.
“A strategy should outline how you are going to accomplish what you want to accomplish. It expresses what you see in the market that others don’t see. Strategizing is finding unique ways to execute and finding ways to use that to build an advantage long term,” stated Ray.
Part of a Larger Picture
I am sure you have heard of that pesky little trend of breaking down silos and communication across departments. Nowhere is that more true than when creating a content marketing strategy. According to Ray, a content strategy must be aligned with an overall corporate strategy. Before developing a marketing strategy, it is important to understand a few key things first:
- What does leadership want to accomplish?
- How is that going to be accomplished?
- How can a marketing strategy line up with larger goals?
- What else in the advertising, PR, and the marketing mix will work as part of that core strategy?
- How does content marketing, specifically, contribute to goals?
“Start by asking why you’re doing what you’re doing. Dig into the numbers. Know what’s driving people to your brand and what’s working for competitors and the industry as a whole,” Erin suggests, “Build your strategy based on what’s working for you and what seems to be working for the industry at large. Establish best practices taken from what’s working for competitors and then pepper in experimental things.”
Tactics vs. Strategy
Content marketers need to have a foundation of known bread and butter, tried and true tactics. The challenge for many in the profession is that the tactics begin to lead the strategy, or once a strategy is in place, the tactics are allowed to overrun the workflow.
In a space where things are changing rapidly, new channels are becoming available and brands are finding new and interesting ways to gain attention. The problem arises when content marketers get distracted by the shiny, new things and lose focus on their goals. Sometimes, the executive suite is part of the distraction as they become excited over the attention gained by competitors or unrelated brands and want to play with the cool kids, too. Sometimes, it will pay to be flexible and try something that is working for a competitor. At other times, the CMO, VP, or Manager needs to ask how that particular tactic and channel fits with the overall corporate and marketing goals.
Doing More With Less Purpose
According to the report by CMI, 70% of marketers are creating more content than last year. That includes those that feel it is the least effective part of their marketing mix and those with no strategy. On top of that, measurement is still a challenge for 80% of marketers.
“People are spending money and time creating content without knowing whether or not it’s working, why it’s working, who it is working for, how much revenue it’s generating or how many conversions it’s driving,” observed Erin, “Why would you do something if you don’t know what it’s impact is?”
The need is clear. Marketers must invest the time and money into getting and learning measurement tools. If you can’t measure ROI, you can’t justify your time and efforts. “ROI is one way to express the goals you want to achieve. If you don’t understand what goals you want to achieve, then there’s no way that you have a coherent, executable strategy,” stated Ray.
A Three Step Fix
We keep talking about the problem. CMI keeps reporting the problem, year after year. It’s time to fix the problem. Marketers need to get strategic. Here are three steps to get you started:
- Figure out how to measure what you’re doing. Determine if you’re measuring the right things and if what you’re measuring is guiding your strategy.
- Work with your department, team, and company to come up with at least some goals, objectives, and strategy so that you understand how the tactics that are regularly happening are actually applicable.
- Make sure you have a tool, or suite of tools, to enable you to track the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly progress and that helps you make smarter decisions moving forward.
Having the data and numbers is not enough. The key is knowing what the data means and having the insights to help you move your efforts and your brand forward. Understand the core driver of your business – whether that is repeat buyers, or retention and referrals – know what will drive the growth of the business to set strategic goals over the long term.
Channel vs. Content
When you’re evaluating the success or lack of success of any campaign or single piece of content, it’s important to differentiate between the viability of the channel vs. the appropriateness of the content for your brand. Having a tool that allows you to look at all the things that are driving traffic by channel and then being able to drill down to see what content type, and even what individual piece of content is performing well, will be the tool that helps you to measure ROI and optimize your efforts.
Although marketers understand what they are supposed to be doing, many are just not acting on it. Part of the problem may be insufficient tools to do the job. The key, according to Ray, is building a conversation around the customer. Understand the market, and understand customers and competitors.
The solution seems simple enough, if you want to be more successful at content marketing, document your strategy. According to CMI, 60% of people who have a documented or written strategy rate themselves highly in terms of marketing effectiveness, compared with only 32% of those who have just a verbal strategy. Need I say more?