Remember when digital marketing was simple? Create content, throw it over the wall, hope for the best.
Note that we said “simple,” not effective.
To be effective is more complicated, and this keeps accelerating. There are so many options, so many channels, and so many audiences, that effective digital marketing requires a term to which people often react strongly—
Very few people inherently like the idea of “process.” It brings forth visions of rigidity and inertia.
But there simply has to be a framework in which to produce and publish effective marketing assets. Without this, you have nothing but chaos from which productive work gets done accidentally, at best.
How did it get this way for the enterprise? How did things become so interconnected?
- Marketing isn’t a point in time, it’s an activity stream. It’s a line of dominoes you need to knock over, roughly in order. Lots of organizations do well at some, but fail on others, and thus break the chain of what could be an effective process.
- Marketing activities overlap. It’d be great if we could do one thing at a time, but the marketing pipeline is never empty. Campaigns target different audiences at the same time, and new campaigns are being prepared as existing campaigns are closing.
- Marketing involves a lot of actors at vastly different levels. There’s your content team, of course, reviewers, external agencies and contractors, designers, developers, and—of course—stakeholders and executives. Each group has different needs for collaboration, input, and reporting.
Some of the best business advice boils down to this: “Always understand the big picture.” You might be asked to do one specific thing in a process, but make sure you understand the context of that specific thing—where does it fit in the larger framework? Where does it get input from? How are its outputs used?
In this article, we’re going to zoom out for an overhead view of how Optimizely One helps you juggle the complete marketing lifecycle, from start to finish, without letting anything drop.
Ideas are born everywhere—maybe with you, maybe with your staff, maybe with someone who has no connection with marketing at all, and maybe from an external source, like an ad agency or PR firm. Leading organizations have found a way to widen the top end of their pipeline—the start of their content marketing funnel—and take in more ideas from more sources.
Good ideas combine. Someone has one half of an idea, and someone else has the other half. The goal of effective collaboration is to get those two pieces together. One plus one can sometimes equal three, and more ideas mean better ideas overall. Creativity is about getting more puzzle pieces on the table so you can figure out which ones fit your strategy.
How do you manage the flow of ideas? How do you make sure good ideas don’t get dropped, but rather become great content? The only way to publish great content is to get ideas into the top end of the pipe.
Optimizely One can streamline and accelerate your content intake using templated intake forms mapped to intelligent routing rules and shared queues. Everyone in your organization can know where content is developed and how to contribute to ideas, content, and campaigns currently in-process. Your content team can easily manage and collaborate on requests, meaning content development can become focused, rather than spread out across the organization.
Campaigns don’t exist in a vacuum. They share the stage with other campaigns—both in terms of audience attention and employee workload. Leading organizations ensure that their campaigns are coordinated, for maximum audience effect and efficiency of workload.
Pick a time scale and plan it from overhead. What campaigns will you execute during this period? In what order? How do they overlap? Then, break each campaign down—what tasks are required to complete and launch? Who owns them? In what stage of completion are they in? What resources are required to complete them?
Good marketing campaigns aren’t run in isolation. They’re a closely aligned part of an evolving body of work, carefully planned and executed.
Optimizely One provides comprehensive editorial calendaring and scheduling. Every marketing activity can have an easily accessible strategic brief and dedicated workspaces in which to collaborate. Your content team and your stakeholders can know, at a glance, what marketing activities are in-process, when they’re scheduled to launch, who is assigned to what, and what’s remaining on the calendar.
Good content takes fingers on keyboards, but that’s not all.
Content creators need frameworks in which to generate effective content. They need the tools to share, collaborate, structure, stage, and approve their work. Good content comes in part from tooling designed to empower content creators.
Your content team needs a home base—the digital equivalent of an artist’s studio. They need a platform which is authoritative for all their marketing assets; a place that everyone on the team knows is going to have the latest schedules, the latest drafts, the official assets, and every task on the road to publication.
Content creation isn’t magic—it doesn’t just appear out of the ether. It comes from intentional teams working in structured frameworks.
Optimizely One gives your editors the tools they need for the content creation process, AI-enabled editing environments for fingers-on-keyboards, all the way through intelligent workflows for collaboration and approvals. Authors can write, designers can upload and organize, project managers can combine and coordinate, stakeholders can review, and external teams can collaborate. All within a framework centered around moving your campaigns forward.
Leading organizations look at content beyond its immediate utility. Everything your content teams do becomes an incremental part of an evolving body of work. Content doesn’t appear and disappear; rather, it continually enlarges and refines a body of work that represents your organization over time.
Good creative teams remix and transform old ideas into new ones. They can locate content assets quickly and easily to evolve them into new campaigns quickly. They don’t reinvent the wheel every time, because they lean on a deep reservoir of prior art and existing creative components.
Digital asset and content management should store content in a structured, atomic format, allowing your organization to store, retrieve, organize, and re-use marketing assets quickly and easily.
Optimizely One gives your content team a place to store their content assets, from text and rich media. Content can be archived and organized, either manually, or by using AI to automatically extract tags. Content can be stored as pure data, free from presentation, which makes it easy to re-use. Your content team will always know where to find work in progress, media to support emerging campaigns, or assets from past campaigns. Brand portals make it easy to share assets with external organizations.
Business happens all over the world in every language. To effectively compete around the world, your content needs to be globalized.
Globalization of content is a holistic practice that affects every part of the content lifecycle. Words need to be translated, of course, but you also need to consider cultural globalization—images and symbols that might change—as well as globalization for numbers, currency, and time zones. Going even deeper, you might have to make design changes to accommodate things like differing word lengths and the flow of text.
Beyond simply changing content, your work process is affected. When does translation happen? Who is authorized to order it? Who can perform it? How do you bring external translation companies into your internal processes, and how does this affect the flow of content through your organization?
Optimizely One helps you manage the entire globalization process, whether it’s done in-house or automatically via one of our translation partners. Your customers can be served content in their language and culture, and you can carefully control the alternate, “fallback” experience for languages not yet available, or when you’re not translating all of your content.
Some experiences need to be visually composed from a palette of content and design components. Designers and marketers want to see exactly what their content looks like before they publish.
In some cases, this is easy—everyone should be able to see what a web page looks like before it goes live. But what about your mobile app? What about display advertising? A social media update?
And what happens when you’re modifying content based on behavior and demographics? If you want to see how your web page will look for someone from California who has visited your site before and already downloaded your whitepaper on their iPhone…can you?
Content no longer leaves your organization on a single channel. Composition and preview is always contextual—there is no single, default experience. Leading organizations want full control over their visual presentation and they know that they need to see their content through the eyes of their customers.
Optimizely One provides the tools to visually compose experiences across multiple channels and can preview that experience when viewed through the personalization lens of whatever demographic and behavioral data you can dream up. And this works regardless of channel: web, email, display advertising—everything can be previewed in real-time.
Content can’t do any good unless it can reach your customers. You need to publish your content to them, wherever they are, which means having the flexibility to push content into multiple channels, in multiple formats.
A consumable piece of media is an “artifact.” Your content is the idea and message that make up that artifact. Leading organizations develop their content separate from any concept of an artifact, then transform it into different formats to fit the channel that will spread their message most effectively.
Sure, make a web page—but also push that content to your mobile app, and into your social networks. Broadcast a text message, and an email. While you’re at it, push the information into the display panel in the elevators. Let’s be bold and broadcast it on the TV screens that play while your customers fill up with gas.
The key is delivery flexibility. The world of content delivery has changed remarkably in just the last few years. It will no-doubt change more in the future. No platform can anticipate what’s coming, so you just need the flexibility to be ready to adapt to what happens.
Optimizely One provides complete delivery flexibility. Our systems store your content separate from presentation, and allow multiple ways to access it, from traditional websites to headless APIs to connect your content to mobile apps or other decoupled experiences. Your content can be combined with internally-stored content or third-party content to provide a seamless “content reservoir” to draw on from all of your channels.
Throughout this lifecycle, we’ve moved from content, to artifacts, and now on to “experiences.”
One person consuming an artifact—reading a web page, listening to a podcast, watching a video—is an experience. Just like one piece of content can generate more than one artifact, one artifact should enable thousands of experiences.
Technology has advanced to the point where all of those experiences can be managed. Instead of every customer getting the same experience, it can be personalized to that specific customer in that specific moment.
You can do this using simple demographic or technographic data—perhaps you cut down the information and make your content more task-oriented when you detect someone is on a mobile device. However, the real power comes when you begin tracking behavior, consolidating information about your customers, and giving them specific content based on what you’ve observed.
Leading organizations have a single location to track customer behavior and data. For every experience, they know exactly what this customer has done, how they’ve interacted with the organization, and they can predict what they’ll do next. Content and artifacts will morph themselves to fit each individual experience.
Optimizely One connects both customer behavior and demographics along with the tools to activate that data to affect your customers’ experiences. Our platform allows you to track customer behavior and match that with customer demographics—this includes behavior tracking for customers you can’t even identify yet. Based on that behavior and stored data, editors can modify experiences in real-time, changing content and design to match to what each individual customer is most likely to respond. Or let the machine do the work, with personalized content and product recommendations.
No matter how much you know, customers will always surprise you. The right answer to persuading your customer to take an action might be something you’re not even thinking of. Or, you might have an idea, but you’re not confident enough to bank on it. And let’s face it—sometimes, you just love two different ideas.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could publish more than one thing?
You absolutely can. And you absolutely should.
Leading organizations let go of the idea that an experience is bound to one version of an artifact. Don’t just write one title for that blog post—write three. Publish them all and show them randomly. Let your customers tell you—by their next action—which one was the right one to use.
Experimentation allows you to try new things without the inertia of re-considering and re-drafting all your content. Ideas can go from your mind to pixels on the screen quickly and easily, and you can see what works and what doesn’t. Try a new title, or next text on a button. Does it give you better results? If so, great, keep it. If not, throw it away and try something else.
Refine, refine, refine. The idea that you publish content in one form and just hope it’s the right one is a set of handcuffs that can be tough to shake. But the results can be impressive.
Optimizely One allows you to quickly create and publish multiple variations of content and content elements to any channel. You can separate your content into elements and try different combinations to see which one drives your customers to move forward in their journey, then automatically route more traffic through winning combinations. You can manage feature rollouts and soft-launches, enabling specific functionality for specific audiences in any channel.
The key to a learning and evolving content team is a transparent and unflinching look into what happens to your content after it’s published.
Analytics need to be considered in the context of the entire content domain. What content performs well but has low traffic? What content is consumed often but never moves customers down their buying journey? Customer behavior needs to be tracked carefully, then used to segment customers into audiences, based on both your content team’s observations and insights provided by AI.
Optimizely One offers complete behavior tracking and content analysis, showing you what content works, what content doesn’t, and what your customers are doing during every step of their relationship with your entire digital estate.
Juggle the entire lifecycle
“Publishing myopia” prevents most organizations from truly benefiting from the power of their content and marketing technology. Too many ideas are undercut by an obsession with the publish button. We rush content out the door and just throw it over the wall and hope it lands.
Within that mode of thinking, great ideas get trapped under the surface. Great content is delivered to only one channel in one language. Great experiences never see the light of day because content exists in only one form. And every customer sees the same thing, no matter how their own experience might benefit from something else.
Remember: the marketing lifecycle is a series of stages
Each stage builds on the last and allows content to grow from a random idea your team takes in from the field and turns it into a spectacular multi-channel experience which rearranges and modifies itself to fit each customer.
Juggling all of the steps in the marketing lifecycle can be done, but it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees and get too myopic about individual steps in this process. Leading organizations step back, consider the entire cycle from start to finish, and make sure their ideas, their products, and their messages are enhanced and strengthened in every step.