Everyone is talking about the importance of not just creating content, but creating quality content that drives sales and increases brand awareness. We have been talking to marketers about the challenge of knowing what content to create and how to measure it. This week, we asked Cory OBrien, Digital Strategist at The Richard’s Group, to help us sort out what content to create and how to decide what channels to use to reach a brand’s target audience.

A Research-Based Process

A successful process begins and ends with measurement. For Cory, the process goes something like this: First, create research reports to match client goals to measure the effectiveness of a campaign. Next, the team puts together a strategy, tactics, and reporting to help the client reach their goals. Throughout the campaign, maintain ongoing measurement and check in to make sure the campaign is producing the desired results. Finally, adjust the strategy based on the results. This cycle repeats throughout the campaign and begins again with every new campaign. The key is measuring the results and having data to support creating or adjusting content and channel distribution.
Erin Robbins O’Brien, COO of Ginzametrics commented that she has seen a disconnect for marketers between their goals and the measurement of those goals. “A recent survey by CMI shows that the survey goals for content marketing and how those goals are measured are two seperate things. While the top goals are esoterics, things like thought leadership and increase brand awareness, marketers named driving website traffic as one of their last goals. Eventhough webite traffic is not a number one goal, website traffic is the number one measurement of success,” Erin said.

The Right Content, The Right Time

A frustration for many people involved in the development of brand awareness is the practice of potpourri tactics. A  little Twitter here, a little Facebook there, some landing pages, a sweepstakes form, and a mishmash of content creation. In a siloed organization, one person or group is charged with creating the content, another with pushing it out, and a third with measuring its effectiveness. “It’s a hard system to be successful in,” offers Erin, “Everyone in the system does not understand the how and why of what should be created.
A successful system involves the interaction and cooperation of all the departments. At The Robert’s Group, decisions and strategies are made by all the teams coming together; strategy, creative, brand management, and brand planning. “The goal is to all work together with the understanding of what the goals are and to come to an agreement about the best way to get to those goals,” states Cory.

Good News/Bad News – Lots of Channels

One of the biggest challenges that Cory sees are the number of possible channels available to tell a client’s story. Not that long ago, a brand had the option of creating a blog or two and maybe a video. Now, just within the video arena, there are a multitude of options including, Vine, Instagram, short form, long form, interactive, and more. Which channel to use is a function of many different factors. How much money does the client have to spend and who is the target audience? “The challenge here is that we have a story to tell and an audience to reach. There is a wealth of opportunity, but we must decide which choice is the most efficient use of dollars,” remarked Cory.
For most companies there is a trade off, a decision to make. They can tell  their brand story more with a less costly medium, but maybe not tell the story as well. The trick is to try to figure out the right balance of budget to channel to type of content.

The Challenge of Good Measurement

The challenge for most marketers is the ease, or lack, of setting up measurement. “A lot of people default to measuring website traffic as a metric because it is easy to track,” explains Cory. Google analytics is a simple way for marketers to demonstrate success. The platform allows users to print out a report that shows an increase in views, and that looks like success. But when the goal is brand building, then the process is a lot more complex.
“You have to set up surveys pre and post so that you can measure overall changes in metrics.  Results need to be measured over time with percentage changes. It’s harder to keep that data clean and understandable,” notes Cory.
For marketers who are looking for an easy way to show some data, driving more website traffic can make them look like a hero.
As new channels emerge, the challenge becomes even greater. Marketers must be able to identify appropriate measurement for their efforts. “When the goal of any marketing program must be a change in revenue, there is no value in counting the number of followers on Twitter or the number of Likes and Views on Facebook. The trick is being able to translate that action into something that really changed revenues or sales,” according the Erin.
On the other hand, “Some channels haven’t matured to the point of being able to track, but that doesn’t mean there is no value in that channel,” asserts Cory.

Choose Your Own Adventure in Marketing

As new channels emerge, how do marketers measure the value of their efforts and prove that the results are worth the effort? According to Cory, “There is value when the channel is a good match for the target audience.” Before choosing a channel, marketers must have a clear picture of their market, what channels they are already using, and what types of content they are consuming. Just because a channel is the latest trend, doesn’t mean that you will meet your target market on that channel.
One trend that is reaching across demographics is the use of video instead of written content to tell a story. The challenge with written content is the ability to tell an interesting story while getting your key marketing points across.”The value in video, ” according to Cory, “is that it works because you can tell a story in a more engaging way.” The trend toward visual representation of information has its own challenges, for one it is hard to apply metrics to video. Yet, there are enough benefits that the rise of video has created the need for a new member of the maketing team, the video artist.

 Smart Reporting/Smart Goal Setting/Education

Whether working inhouse, or at an agency, there are three important tennets to getting buy-in for your content marketing plan; smart reporting, smart goal setting, and education. Clients and decision makers within companies should be as educated as you can get them, especially if you are recommending something newer. “Everyone should understand the value of a channel and why it is being considered, advises Cory. There may be a variety of reasons for choosing a channel or choosing to use a channel in a specific way. In a successful campaign, the nuances of a channel must be understood and matched to the target audience.

Everyone Wins

The tools are finally catching up with the desire of the marketers and allowing brands to serve the people in thier audience. “The current environment is a win for marketers and consumers. People on the receiving end of marketing are getting something more tailored to them and marketers have a lot more resources to choose from,” concluded Erin.