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The seductive allure of technology as the elegant solution to our business challenges is a chimera we have all chased at one point or another in our careers. We shouldn’t forget that technology vendors employ marketers that can weave compelling use cases as well as we can! But more often than not, we only have ourselves to blame for the inevitable failure to launch, because we expect the technology to do all the heavy lifting for us. The intersection of technology and content marketing is no different, offering companies the same divergent paths leading to either meaningful outcomes or unmet expectations. Correctly framing your approach to incorporating technology into your content marketing strategy will go a long way towards helping your company choose the correct path.
If we think about content marketing in the simplest terms, it really involves three main activities: creation, distribution, and measurement. But before we explore how technology can help with each, one high-level observation I’ll share is that, in most cases, content itself isn’t good or bad. Like buttered toast or a Kenny G album, it just…is. Of greater consequence to the act of successful content marketing is relevancy and timing. The most successful campaigns accomplish both, regardless of the varying metrics companies may utilize to define success.
"At the end of the day, with few exceptions, the goal of content marketing should be to increase revenue generation"
For example, imagine a scenario where you have been tasked with getting content in front of a target audience, let’s say luxury watch buyers. Your objective is simple: convince them to buy your company’s amazing watches. You huddle with your team of content writers and come up with a campaign. You click a button and send it out. Three potential customers see the campaign:
Customer A loves luxury watches and your campaign catches their eye. Unfortunately, they just bought an expensive new watch two months ago. Your content marketing campaign is relevant, but not timely.
Customer B recently lost their watch on vacation and is in the market for a replacement. They glance at your campaign and immediately continue their search because they aren’t looking for luxury watches, they prefer an economical watch they could lose again and not be upset over. Your content marketing campaign is timely, but not relevant.
Customer C has a big interview at an investment bank next week and wants to impress the people she’s going to be meeting with her impeccable taste in wristwear. She comes across your campaign and throws money at youto have that watch.
In each of these cases, the content itself contributed only partially to the end result. I would contend that relevancy and timing had more to do with the decision to purchase. Obviously, there are other factors that come in to play as well, such as brand perceptions, pricing, etc.
The moment of creation…
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics have been popping up more and more over the last few years as promising technologies that can help companies generate and even automate their content creation. Though these applications are still nascent, early returns are encouraging, if limited to high-volume, low-sophistication use cases. There are also a number of tools that can help smaller marketing teams format the content they create.
Change the (distribution) channel…
Now that the content is ready to go, identifying the most relevant distribution channels is an important next step. There are a lot of options, so instead of taking a shotgun approach (which can waste resources and deliver lackluster results – not to mention being harder to track and measure), it is helpful to identify the top channels that you believe will reach your target audience. Email, websites, social media and publications are all common options, but don’t forget about direct mail, radio, podcasts, mobile texts, or even good old fashion phone calling.
How you measure up…
It’s hard to know whether your content marketing efforts have been successful if you can’t measure what you’ve done. Creating a measurement infrastructure is generally a four-step process:
1. Determine what platforms you’re going to track activity on (website, email, LinkedIn, etc.)
2. Establish what metrics are important to track (new meetings, new contacts, comments, etc.)
3. Identify how you will track activity (Google Analytics, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, etc.)
4. Understand how you will use the data (content optimization, audience insight, lead gen, etc.)
Once this framework has been propped up, realize that it may be 12-18 months before you’ve collected enough data to take actionable next steps – and that’s ok! You don’t want to take potentially ineffectual actions based on small sample sizes.
At the end of the day, with few exceptions, the goal of content marketing should be to increase revenue generation. Brand awareness, loyalty, customer education, engagement, search engine optimization, or anything else are simply objectives contributing to that goal. Technology on its own won’t bridge the gap between where you start and the magical island of more revenue, but it can certainly help companies improve their chances of getting there when utilized correctly.