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4 Content Marketing Goals That Really Matter to the Business

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Updated May 16, 2022

Have you ever heard a sales leader or business exec disparage content marketing or wonder about its business value?

They believe the myth that content marketing is some nebulous, feel-good, unmeasured thing that gets told too often. Several industry experts mentioned it when we asked about the most irritating content marketing misbeliefs last year:

  • “There’s a perception that content marketing is pretty pictures and words,” said Penny Gralewski, now senior director, product and portfolio marketing, DataRobot.
  • “Too many people still talk about content marketing as something that can’t be measured. That is simply not true,” offered Inbar Yagur, vice president of marketing, GrowthSpace.
  • Jacqueline Loch, executive vice president, customer innovation, SJC Content, said, “There’s still a tendency for content marketing to be viewed as pretty pictures, snazzy videos, and storytelling.”

#ContentMarketing myth: It’s all pretty pictures and words, says @virtualpenny via @KMoutsos @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The business purpose of content marketing is written into its definition:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

So, why does this myth persist?

The talking heads of the content marketing industry shoulder some of the blame. Dale Bertrand, president of Fire&Spark, shared:The content marketing industry does a poor job of communicating the full value of high-quality content … As an industry, we need to do a better job communicating that high-quality content should drive SEO, sales enablement, conversion, email marketing, advertising, affiliate programs, and more.”

The #ContentMarketing industry does a poor job communicating the full value of high-quality content, says @dbertrand via @KMoutsos @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Awareness isn’t everything

We content marketers can blame ourselves if we’re not setting (and hitting) goals business leaders care about.

We asked marketers which goals they achieved using content marketing over the past year for our B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – Insights for 2022. The one goal nearly everyone claims to have achieved? Brand awareness (88%). Among B2C marketers, brand awareness was also the top response (80%).

We see similar results year after year.

Brand awareness is a worthy endeavor. But you may struggle to explain how it ties into an outcome business leaders care about. That lack of a common understanding or language often divides marketers from other business leaders.

Marketers might consider increasing awareness as a return on the content marketing investment. But most business leaders equate the term “return” with one thing – revenue.

Simply saying, “Our content marketing increases brand awareness” isn’t going to cut it when it comes to securing, keeping, or increasing the budget.

Justifying #ContentMarketing by saying it increases brand awareness won’t help you secure, keep, or increase its budget, says @KMoutsos via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet


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How to align content marketing and business goals

Instead of setting brand awareness as THE goal, think of it as one step toward a business goal.

And what’s the business goal of content marketing? To drive profitable action.

Boom. Goal defined. My job here is done.

Except … you probably have questions. What counts as a profitable action? Let’s explore.

To be useful (and measurable), content marketing goals must be specific – and match a meaningful business goal your company is working toward. CMI founder Joe Pulizzi likes to say businesses care about three things:

  • Sales
  • Savings
  • Sunshine (i.e., customer loyalty, retention, cross-sales, and evangelism)

Choose goals that support one of those three things, and you should have no problem communicating how content marketing contributes to the business goals.

Here are several business-related possibilities to consider when setting your content marketing goals:

Subscribers

Building a subscribed audience is the basis of content marketing. These are people who provide their contact information and agree to receive communication from you. That also gives you permission to subtly market to them while providing value outside your company’s products or services. In fact, CMI Chief Strategy Advisor Robert Rose says the business asset created by content marketing isn’t content; it’s the audience.

When it makes sense: Set a subscriber goal when your business wants to penetrate a new market, compete with a high-profile market leader, or begin the content marketing journey.

Profitable actions to track: Measure progress by the number of subscribers to an owned channel (email newsletter, blog alerts, magazine, podcast, etc.) or the subscriber conversion rate compared with the general audience conversion rate.

Go deeper into the subscribed audience as a goal:

Leads

Great content can encourage consumers to become prospects by signing up for a demo, registering for an event, or requesting access to a resource center. (In some organizations, a lead could be defined as a contact.) Unlike subscribers, leads provide more than an email address. They trade more information about themselves because they see value in the content offer.

Caveat: Some leads aren’t really leads. These contacts might have wanted the piece of content, but they may not want to hear from your brand again or aren’t interested in your product or service now. Consider converting these not-really leads into opt-in subscribers who may become more valuable over time.

When it makes sense: Focus on lead-related goals if your business sees content marketing as a tool for the sales team – to help find or qualify new prospects or nurture leads through the funnel.

Profitable actions to track: Measure content’s impact with form and landing page conversion rates, downloads, and percentage of marketing- and sales-qualified leads.

To go deeper on tracking lead generation, check out:

Sales support/enablement

Supporting sales with content typically involves creating pieces that offer proof points to help customers decide to choose (or justify choosing) your product or service. Think testimonials and case studies that show how similar customers have solved their problems.

When it makes sense: Focus your content here when your company needs to grow sales or open up new revenue streams.

Profitable actions to track: Measure your sales support through lead-to-customer conversion rates, effect on time to close new customers, and revenue generated.

Go deeper on aligning content with sales:

Customer support and loyalty

Though many treat content marketing as a top-of-the-funnel play, content can work to reinforce the customer’s decision after the sale. How-to and activation content can help make sure the customer gets value from the purchase – and is likely to buy again.

When it makes sense: Focus on customer support and loyalty content when reducing support-related costs (i.e., high volumes of support calls) is a priority, when the business struggles to secure repeat business, or when upselling product options and add-ons are a priority.

Profitable actions to track: Measure the impact by the percentage of existing customers who consume content, the reduction in the number of support calls, the number of repeat customers, revenue from upselling, customer-retention rate, and changes in churn rate.

Don’t hide your goals under a barrel (or in a PowerPoint slide)

Most of us know the SMART (specific, measurable, actionable/achievable, realistic, and time-bound) framework for goal setting. Authors of an article from MIT Sloan argue it omits important elements – frequent discussions and transparency – that can help eliminate quarter or year-end surprises.

The article suggests FAST as a better acronym and framework:

  • Frequently discussed, so the team stays focused on the right things and can change/correct course as needed
  • Ambitious, so they promote innovative ideas
  • Specific, so they include milestones and metrics
  • Transparent, so teams understand and coordinate on each other’s needs and goals

The frameworks are seemingly complementary and could easily be a blended mix (SMART-FAST, FARMS-STAT?) for your content marketing goal-achieving plan.

Whichever framework you choose, do your content marketing program a favor: Set ambitious goals tied to a business outcome. Then talk about those goals in ways that make your business leaders care.

As usual, Joe nails what’s at stake:

Most content marketing programs don’t stop because of a lack of results. They don’t stop because they aren’t working … They stop because the people with the purse strings – the ones who control the budget – don’t understand content marketing, why you are doing it, and what impact it could and should make on the organization.

What goals are you working toward? How are you making sure the purse-string holders understand what content marketing is contributing to the business? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

There’s still time to set growing your content marketing skills as a professional goal for 2022. Then join us at ContentTECH Summit in San Diego and Content Marketing World in Cleveland.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

The world survived the first three months of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

But what are marketers doing now? Did your brand follow the shift Dennis Shiao made for his personal brand? As he recently shared, he switched his primary platform from Twitter to LinkedIn after the 2022 ownership change. (He still uses Twitter but posts less frequently.)

Are those brands that altered their strategy after the new ownership maintaining that plan? What impact do Twitter’s service changes (think Twitter Blue subscriptions) have?

We took those questions to the marketing community. No big surprise? Most still use Twitter. But from there, their responses vary from doing nothing to moving away from the platform.

Lowest points

At the beginning of the Elon era, more than 500 big-name advertisers stopped buying from the platform. Some (like Amazon and Apple) resumed their buys before the end of 2022. Brand accounts’ organic activity seems similar.

In November, Emplifi research found a 26% dip in organic posting behavior by U.S. and Canadian brands the week following a significant spike in the negative sentiment of an Elon tweet. But that drop in posting wasn’t a one-time thing.

Kyle Wong, chief strategy officer at Emplifi, shares a longer analysis of well-known fast-food brands. When comparing December 2021 to December 2022 activity, the brands posted 74% less, and December was the least active month of 2022.

Fast-food brands posted 74% less on @Twitter in December 2022 than they did in December 2021, according to @emplifi_io analysis via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

When Emplifi analyzed brand accounts across industries (2,330 from U.S. and Canada and 6,991 elsewhere in the world), their weekly Twitter activity also fell to low points in November and December. But by the end of the year, their activity was inching up.

“While the percentage of brands posting weekly is on the rise once again, the number is still lower than the consistent posting seen in earlier months,” Kyle says.

Quiet-quitting Twitter

Lacey Reichwald, marketing manager at Aha Media Group, says the company has been quiet-quitting Twitter for two months, simply monitoring and posting the occasional link. “It seems like the turmoil has settled down, but the overall impact of Twitter for brands has not recovered,” she says.

@ahamediagroup quietly quit @Twitter for two months and saw their follower count go up, says Lacey Reichwald via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

She points to their firm’s experience as a potential explanation. Though they haven’t been posting, their follower count has gone up, and many of those new follower accounts don’t seem relevant to their topic or botty. At the same time, Aha Media saw engagement and follows from active accounts in the customer segment drop.

Blue bonus

One change at Twitter has piqued some brands’ interest in the platform, says Dan Gray, CEO of Vendry, a platform for helping companies find agency partners to help them scale.

“Now that getting a blue checkmark is as easy as paying a monthly fee, brands are seeing this as an opportunity to build thought leadership quickly,” he says.

Though it remains to be seen if that strategy is viable in the long term, some companies, particularly those in the SaaS and tech space, are reallocating resources to energize their previously dormant accounts.

Automatic verification for @TwitterBlue subscribers led some brands to renew their interest in the platform, says Dan Gray of Vendry via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

These reenergized accounts also are seeing an increase in followers, though Dan says it’s difficult to tell if it’s an effect of the blue checkmark or their renewed emphasis on content. “Engagement is definitely up, and clients and agencies have both noted the algorithm seems to be favoring their content more,” he says.

New horizon

Faizan Fahim, marketing manager at Breeze, is focused on the future. They’re producing videos for small screens as part of their Twitter strategy. “We are guessing soon Elon Musk is going to turn Twitter into TikTok/YouTube to create more buzz,” he says. “We would get the first moving advantage in our niche.”

He’s not the only one who thinks video is Twitter’s next bet. Bradley Thompson, director of marketing at DigiHype Media and marketing professor at Conestoga College, thinks video content will be the next big thing. Until then, text remains king.

“The approach is the same, which is a focus on creating and sharing high-quality content relevant to the industry,” Bradley says. “Until Twitter comes out with drastically new features, then marketing and managing brands on Twitter will remain the same.

James Coulter, digital marketing director at Sole Strategies, says, “Twitter definitely still has a space in the game. The question is can they keep it, or will they be phased out in favor of a more reliable platform.”

Interestingly given the thoughts of Faizan and Bradley, James sees businesses turning to video as they limit their reliance on Twitter and diversify their social media platforms. They are now willing to invest in the resource-intensive format given the exploding popularity of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short-form video content.

“We’ve seen a really big push on getting vendors to help curate video content with the help of staff. Requesting so much media requires building a new (social media) infrastructure, but once the expectations and deliverables are in place, it quickly becomes engrained in the weekly workflow,” James says.

What now

“We are waiting to see what happens before making any strong decisions,” says Baruch Labunski, CEO at Rank Secure. But they aren’t sitting idly by. “We’ve moved a lot of our social media efforts to other platforms while some of these things iron themselves out.”

What is your brand doing with Twitter? Are you stepping up, stepping out, or standing still? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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