Content marketing

Turning Content into Marketing

Measurement is what makes content generation marketing, but you need to look at a wider range of measures than customer conversations.

Measurement is what makes content generation marketing, but you need to look at a wider range of measures than customer conversations.

Generating great content and providing people with a GPS tracker to find it is only part of a successful content marketing strategy. The final piece is measuring whether the content has value to viewers.

Conversion rates measure when a viewer becomes a buyer and can inform you about the cost of customer acquisition. Testing for a budding consumer relationship requires other tools.

Content marketing without measurement isn't a strategy. But not measuring a range of values for content marketing may result in missed opportunities.

For example, content that is shared is a measure of that content's value in the eyes of a viewer. Sharing content isn't the same as buying a product, but it is a major clue about value and usefulness of information. On social media platforms, shares afford opportunities to ask why shared information is of value – or, better yet, to see the reaction of people who receive the content and comment.

This kind of measurement may get a snarky comment from Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank, but it is a rich stream of frontline consumer feedback.  They are voting with their clicks on whether content is worth viewing and sharing.

Younger viewers, who constantly look for free, may be willing to give their email in return for content they find of interest. The exchange is its own message, but the greater opportunity is to use collected addresses as a sounding board to test and refine your content marketing menu.

Comments in response to your content provide a top-of-head reaction, which can reveal a lot about first impressions  from how your content is packaged and illustrated to whether it is useful and relevant. In this regards, comments are like an open-ended focus group where tone and inflection matter as much as the vocabulary of what is said.

Great artists may afford themselves the luxury of producing masterpieces and then launching them into the universe. Content marketers don't have that luxury. They need to know as much as possible about their target audience to inform content generation, make sure that content is viewed and measure whether it hits the mark. 

Failing to measure your content's value and relevance is as pointless as writing copy for a newspaper you never publish. Measurement is what turns content generation into marketing.

Open-Ended Survey Comments = a Content Treasure Chest

There are many uses for open-ended survey comments. 

There are many uses for open-ended survey comments. 

Open-ended responses in surveys are a treasure trove of information, but usually the marketing team doesn’t review the verbatim. Instead, similar comments are combined into short-worded themes, such as on-time delivery, great customer service or product doesn’t perform.

Combined comments are easy to read and give managers overall concepts. However, combined comments are the Cliff’s Notes of research – short, succinct and to the point, but without depth, nuance or insights.

Marketing and communications managers should read and use verbatim to provide food for thought and action. Here are some suggested ways verbatim from open-ended survey questions can be used to support marketing and operations.

Topics for articles

Open-ended remarks are full of new ideas or angles for articles, tweets, speeches and case studies. Use quotes to highlight themes or emphasize why actions will be taken.

Content

Open-eneded remarks can be converted into quotes for newsletters, press releases and social media. The phrases are genuine and will be recognized as such. Remember to get permission from respondents if you want to attribute the comments to an individual.

Improving the Customer Experience

When customers write: “I love this product but...,“ take note. It is that additional information that identifies where your customer service or operations team are falling short of expectations. Once changes are made, prepare an article about what you heard and what you did.

Promotions

Nuggets about why people buy or recommend products can be found in open-ended remarks. Encourage the PR and advertising team to incorporate the features and benefits that customers say are important into promotional materials and advertising.

Customer service

Don’t ignore complaints found in surveys. Customers who have bad experiences will complain to 20 people. Ask customer service to follow up with people that had trouble navigating customer service, a website or simply weren’t treated well. The people you call will be surprised you read their feedback and impressed you want to make amends.

FAQs

Use questions found in open-ended remarks to develop FAQs. The responses provide information about real concerns and problems.

Thought Leadership

Organizations in crisis will conduct research to understand how customers may react to communication about the issue. Encourage senior managers to use quotes from surveys in speeches and articles to highlight that customers are heard and help in providing direction. Don’t forget to include the changes that will be made as a result of the comments. For more information about handling a crisis read CFM Crisis Ebook.

Research can be much more than statistics. It can provide the foundation and content for communicating and engaging with customers, communities and stakeholders.

The Changing Office Environment

Everyone senses the office environment is changing. Just look around. People wearing casual clothes. Or just look around and notice a lot of people are absent and working somewhere else.

Gordon Plutsky of King Fish Media, writing for ragan.com, provides a provocative look at the office world just around the corner. He contends the emerging office will be a fluid place, with as much work done on people's patios as their office desktop — all because of exploding use of mobile technology.

The fragmentation of roles, Plutsky says, will solidify into a common marketing function with a single aim — revenue generation. Next to the CEO, the most important person in the shop will be the chief marketing officer, whose job will center on perfecting the consumer or client experience to maximize revenue potential.

Here are some of Plutsky's other predictions:

1. Backslapping salespeople will disappear, replaced by people who have the industry experience or special expertise to be valuable resources for customers, who mostly will place orders online. 

2. Cold calling or other disruptive sales tactics will become obsolete. You will need to establish an online reputation for offering insight of value that attracts customers.

Keep Media Relations in the Mix

A new study suggests consumers depend on credible third-party sources of information a lot more than branded content — but after trust is established, branded content can be a valuable consumer resource.Branded content can be persuasive, but it often needs to follow effective earned media efforts that build a bridge of initial trust.

That conclusion comes from a study of 900 consumers by Nielsen and commissioned by inPowered that examined the relative effectiveness on consumers of branded content versus credible earned media. Nielsen found credible, third-party stories, usually the result of media relations efforts, are 80 percent more effective in convincing consumers to make a purchase or establish an affinity with a brand.

What the study affirms is that consumers rely largely on unbiased advice, reviews or information to make buy decisions. The gap between independent sources of information and branded content is much larger than content marketers may feel comfortable admitting.

However, the study isn't a complete indictment on content marketing. It suggests that once trust is established, consumers will engage with branded content.

The bottom line message of the report is that smart marketing plans include a healthy mix of earned media and branded outreach. Or put another way, get published wherever you can, by whoever you can.

Finding Your Consumer's Pain Points

Many companies complain they don't have enough content for a content marketing campaign. If so, then they haven't looked hard enough at their consumer's pain points.

Content marketing is all about providing useful, relevant information to your consumers.  The most reliable way to connect with your consumers is to give them useful, relevant information that eases their pain.

Jerry Seinfeld has a funny riff about Home Depot. He says the super hardware store sells you everything to remodel a kitchen or install a floor — except the expertise to do it. That's why stores like Home Depot and Lowe's post how-to videos for a variety of DIY projects. That's content marketing.

Hardware stores don't have trouble figuring out what pains their consumers — from fixing leaky toilets to killing pesky weeds in a garden. If you think about it, you won't have to strain very much to imagine the problems that drive people to your front door. Those problems are or should be welded into your company's value proposition, the reason why you exist in the business world.

You can extend and deepen that understanding of consumer pain points by engaging with your customers. Talk to them when they are in your store. Conduct quick online surveys. Share some information of relevance to your consumers and ask for their opinions.

Joining the Consumer Journey

Self-educating consumers represent a new challenge — and a new opportunity.

Consumers are increasingly using online resources to do their homework, relying less on paid and earned media as trusted sources. This presents the challenge of getting your message to target audiences in ways they view as credible.

This challenge exists as more companies and organizations are tapping the opportunity latent in their databases of customers, contacts, stakeholders and employees. These databases represent a built-in opportunity to start engaging target audiences.

The most obvious form of engagement is to query your customers, stakeholders or employees about significant issues. Your questions can make your target audiences partners, not just targets.

Another form of engagement is to help consumers find the quality information they are seeking to make a decision. This may mean websites that aren't electronic sales brochures but more like magazines. The content might include genuine stories that are testimonials to your product, service or responsiveness — what some call brand journalism. Content also might include consumer ratings, safety information or simplified explanations or demonstrations. Most important, the content should answer questions and provide information that is relevant and useful.