Is Content Marketing the Future? Lessons for the Digital Engagement Path


With the 2012 elections receding in the rear-view mirror, digital marketing pros are taking note of lessons to be learned from the Obama campaign’s success, especially its use of technology.

After setting new standards with its 2008 win, the campaign made it clear that technology and social media were still integral to its strategy this cycle. At the Chicago headquarters, a team of almost 100 data scientists, web developers, and analysts were assembled to build a sophisticated data-mining infrastructure. Their goal was to gather and process huge amounts of information to generate donations, volunteers, and votes. This allowed the campaign to determine which voters to target and how to do it on a scale and scope that’s never been seen before.

In fact, the Obama For America team accrued 223 million new pieces of voter information, according to Timothy Murphy at Mother Jones. This allowed the team to identify trends and craft messages calibrated to appeal to individual voters. For example, when swing state voters joined the Barack Obama Facebook group, the campaign would follow up to ask them to knock on doors or donate to the campaign. Fundraising emails were personalized for a variety of different engagement levels, with up to eleven different variations of emails going out each time.

Marketers, take note: This ability to segment an audience and develop and deliver relevant content to each segment is clearly becoming one of marketing’s main objectives. Expertise in this arena is vital for long-term business growth.

Create a digital engagement path tailored to your specific audience segments. The journey that consumers take from awareness to purchase is now a multi-touch journey through numerous channels simultaneously. Like the Obama campaign, the most successful marketers will be those who integrate the right channels to engage users with a consistent message across that journey while making the consumers’ experience appear seamless.

Integrated digital marketing requires a deep understanding of how and where your customers engage with your brand. This means thoughtful and thorough analysis of suspect, prospect and customer behavior, even before they indicate interest in your product or service. As I wrote in this column in July, audience segmentation enables organizations to target only those customers who are actively seeking to purchase your goods or services and will be positively influenced by a marketing campaign, helping to reduce campaign costs, increase conversions, improve customer experience, increase customer lifetime value, and improve retention.

Start with content. As smartphones, tablets, apps, social media and even TV evolve to become more integrated with each other, people’s expectations for a unified informative experience are rising. Rather than “siloed” communications that treat each customer differently whether they are reading a blog post, in a store, working on their work PC or their tablet at home, companies need to deliver a consistent and relevant experience across all these channels. However, developing informative and relevant messaging across multiple platforms is a big challenge for marketers in all industries.

Content marketing is gaining in popularity. Not only does it answer the needs of information thirsty customers but it is proven to enhance SERP rankings. Moreover branded content helps to generate leads, educate consumers, retain customers, and enhance brand loyalty.

According to MarketingProfs:

  • Some 86 percent of B2C marketers in North America are using content marketing, employing 12 individual tactics on average.
  • 83.5 percent of B2B marketers say they are stepping up their content marketing production over the next 12 months, up from 71 percent a year ago.
  • The most popular B2B content tactics are case studies, whitepapers and e-books, press releases, newsletters, and blogging.
  • Compared with their B2B counterparts, B2C marketers use more mobile content, mobile apps, print magazines, and print newsletters and fewer case studies, whitepapers, webinars/webcasts, and research reports.
  • A survey of 100 US corporate marketers found that total spending on branded content rose to its highest level ever in 2011: $1,913,609 per company on average.

Here are seven suggestions for implementing content marketing:

  1. Segment your audience. There are many different ways to slice and dice customer data – demographics, psychographics, behavioral patterns, purchasing habits and more. Choose the strategy that provides the most useful insight for your company.
  2. Build a messaging strategy. Once you understand your audience and have defined your goals, create messaging designed to be relevant to each particular segment.
  3. Use a variety of formats. Focus on creating a library of digital content including blog posts, newsletter articles, videos, photos, webinars, charts, graphs, e-books, podcasts, and other information that delivers value to your marketplace.
  4. Tell your story. Convey your company’s message in a compelling way by uncovering stories about your brand and how your customers are using your products and services. Telling them in an emotional and accessible way will start conversations about your company, customers, or employees.
  5. Be channel-independent. Marketers need content that can be effectively disseminated through all channels. Don’t develop content that will only work on your site, social media accounts, or blog — your customers are using them all.
  6. Make a plan. Figure out which channel it makes sense to leverage at which time with which segments and create a publishing calendar.
  7. Develop cross-platform expertise. A typical organization has experts in particular channels — social media or mobile for example — who know the customer through that channel and aren’t familiar with others. Step out of the silo and encourage channel-independent development.



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