The broad promise of brands building direct relationships with stakeholders via genuinely valuable content seems right enough. Coca-Cola seems to be living its Content 2020 mission (see this original manifesto). GE continues to innovate with content that captures the grandeur of great, big machines. (see their Instagram channel). Even the investment firm, Blackrock, has committed to a steady flow of POVs meant to help customers with their investment strategies (see the Blackrock Blog and how they publish in LinkedIn).
We all want content marketing programs that are creatively relevant, operationally successful, and measurably effective. These seem to be the three key activities we must continually master to make these content marketing efforts pay off. They all have to be done. It’s likely that one of these, however is more of a lynch-pin. I would guess for Coca-Cola, creative relevance comes first and without that, nothing else matters. For many more, effectiveness is key to building belief internally that content marketing is serious business.
7 Ways to Design to Effectiveness
Have you ever designed and even deployed a content program only to define the measurement criteria after-the-fact? I have, and I don’t want to do it ever again. Even an experiment or pilot deserves a crisp, hypothetical measurement model.
Having the measurement discussion during the ‘marketing brief’ phase is the only way to go. Here are 7 ways to design highly measurable programs. I know there are more and that different businesses demand their own. These are simply the ones that I can apply today.
Conversion, Relevance and Retargeting
Content marketing is not just middle-of-the-funnel stuff. If Lowe’s Home Improvement delivers valuable ‘how-to’ content promoted out via Facebook and other platforms (see this article on creating home gyms), They can easily re-target ads to those who have engaged with the content. These ads can be customized messages that drive people considering a home-gym project to buy online.
Metric: conversion and/or sales
Building Relevant Awareness
Unless you have a new product or brand, simple awareness isn’t the name of the game. We want the right people to understand what a brand stands for – what it could mean to them. That’s making a brand more relevant, thus, relevant awareness. Ford wants people to believe in Ford as a technology brand, as well as 2-3 other qualities. Sure it’s top-of-the-funnel but that’s how we begin to attract the right people with the right intent for deeper engagement and, ultimately, sales.
Metric: reach + positioning (via survey)
Engagement to Preference
“Engagement” usually is an amalgam of likes, shares, comments and time-spent with brand content. Many of these are indicative of people ‘leaning into’ your content and more consciously thinking about you. Today it's more than just spending more time with a brand or even more interactions. In social, "engagement" covers all of those actions which actually spread advocacy (like when I "share" via Facebook which forces the story out to my friends). Great content can do more than engage. It can strengthen and, even, create preference for a brand.
Metric: reach + positioning (via survey); engagement + positioning (via survey)
Attracting New Recruits
Content marketing can serve recruitment. Many of the big consultancies like Ernst & Young are designing social + content programs to identify quality candidates earlier and earlier (and beating out their competitors at the job fair table). Brands that were once mysterious or “boring” launch content programs to reveal the inner greatness of the company.
Metric: new candidates + quality scores (to confirm they are the “right” candidates)
Strengthening Trust, Brand and Reputation
Many companies put a value on the strength of their brand. Sometimes framed as ‘brand health,’ content (and social engagement) can have a measurable impact. Many brands establish content and social channels to build reputation now and grow channels and positive communities now for activation should an issue or crisis arise.
Metric: sentiment, trust, competitive benchmarking
Increasing Marketing Efficiency
A full content marketing program where you are targeting important audience segments, consciously strengthening search engine results and improving operational efficiency can make for a more efficient marketing mix. Advertising in proximity to owned and earned content works harder (gets better results without additional cost).
Metric: ROI studies against measured values (e.g. sales)
Improving Discoverability and SEM Efficiency
Maybe this is a bit tactical. Still, many brands put a value on their ranking in the first two search results pages for hundreds of terms. Organic placement can be combined with paid search engine marketing(SEM) to efficiently drive traffic to a valuable storefront or thought-leadership platform. You need great content for that.
Metric: search visibility/ranking for relevant terms/intent