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How To Recognize (and Solve) Wicked Content Strategy Problems

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How To Recognize (and Solve) Wicked Content Strategy Problems

Content strategy is a wicked problem.

Don’t worry. I didn’t adopt Bostonian lingo.

A wicked problem is hard to solve because of “incomplete, contradictory, or changing requirements that can be difficult to recognize.”

I like information researcher Jeff Conklin’s description of wicked problems as those “not understood until after the formulation of a solution.”

I see wicked problems a lot in content strategy. One of the toughest is recognizing why you need to change when you can’t see how things are broken.

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One of the toughest things to recognize is why you should change when you can’t see how things are broken, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Cooking up a wicked problem

My wife and I get around our kitchen just fine. We cook. The kitchen gets messy. We clean up and put things back where they go. We do the same thing at the next meal. It works fine for us.

Recently, a friend who came over for dinner wanted to help us cook. It was pure chaos. “Nothing is in the right place,” our guest said. She went to our junk drawer looking for silverware and opened our spice cabinet seeking plates. “Don’t even get me started with how the refrigerator is organized,” she said.

My wife responded, “This is how we’ve been doing this for years. It works for us.” Then I chimed in, “It’s the way we do it. It’s an optimized process.”

Our friend played along and said, “No. It’s the way you do it. But it’s not optimized.”

She was right. As she pointed out how things could be more efficient, we realized we had a problem.

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A wicked problem.

In content strategy, experts often say documentation indicates a business’s commitment to its content. At its surface, a document seems oddly bureaucratic. How can creating a robust Google Doc or PowerPoint presentation be the lynchpin of a content strategy?

Spoiler alert: The document isn’t important.

However, having documentation means you’ve thought through the details of who’s responsible for what and how content works in and for your business.

Imagine how different our friend’s cooking experience would have been, for example, if we’d given her a detailed map of our kitchen and meal preparation workflow to review before her visit.

As the chef, she still could have pointed out the sub-optimal parts of our workflow and “asset management” strategy. But she also would have functioned better and, more importantly, could have seen where our kitchen organizational hacks made pragmatic sense.

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It’s a lighthearted example, but it shows how documentation takes a lot of wickedness out of the problem.

#Content strategy documentation can take a lot of wickedness out of a problem, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Questions with no answers (yet)

About three months ago, I worked with a large, fast-growing technology company to roll out a new governance model, workflow, and content lifecycle management plan. The people who’d been with the company less than a year rejoiced. They loved it.

On the other hand, senior leaders and many veteran marketing and content practitioners didn’t. They agreed the solution sounded fine, but they didn’t see the problem it would solve.

Wicked.

I hear this question from CEOs and CFOs all the time: “I don’t see the problem. Tell me what’s the benefit of fixing it.”

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The answer: We don’t know – yet.

Good people always lose to bad processes

Engineer and professor W. Edwards Deming once said, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

What does that mean? For example, I can’t describe the process of writing this column every week, but I still get it done. I know what I’m doing.

But Deming doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s that the organization doesn’t know what it’s doing.

For example, I talked about the technology company’s content creation process with the two global marketing practitioners responsible for translation and localization. I asked them to explain the process for how the hundreds of content pieces are selected, planned, and prioritized for distribution.

Here’s how they described it:

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  1. They select articles based on gut feelings. Sometimes they have email conversations about the options, but sometimes whoever has time chooses the pieces.
  2. They list the chosen content on a spreadsheet, prioritizing each asset by highlighting it in red, yellow, or green.
  3. They upload the assets to an external file-sharing service because their internal digital asset management system doesn’t allow access by the agencies doing the translation and globalization.
  4. The agencies return the translated files to the two managers through the file-sharing service.
  5. The global marketing managers email the translated files to the local marketing managers in the correct regional offices.

How were other regional offices made aware of the content? How were the translated assets made centrally available? The two managers would upload them when they had time.

If those two managers left the business, the business would have a big ball of tangled translation and localization twine for the new person to unravel.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Cleaning the occurrent kitchen

Let’s return to the wicked challenge.

How can you answer the executives’ question about the potential value of fixing problems the business doesn’t know exists?

You can’t.

But you can develop a culture of examining occurrent behavior.

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Occurrent behavior is what happens in the business vs. what is supposed to happen or what the business perceives is happening.

The technology company offers a great example. From the CMO’s perspective, nothing was broken. She perceived the operating model she inherited as working. When I showed her the translation and localization “process,” she said, “That’s not the way it was designed to work. But if it’s working, it’s working.”

Thousands of similar examples exist in every company. How people think things work differs from how they actually work. How many times have you onboarded an employee with advice like this: “This document says to email this department to get this answer, but just email Jane. She’ll get you the answer 10 times faster.”

Examine your content strategy ‘culture’

Stack up all that tacit knowledge, and it becomes the “culture.” Whether you conduct an audit, a review, or a simple set of experiments, really examine the occurrent behavior of your content strategy.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Figure out what’s going on

Develop a team to examine and document the occurrent behavior around your content – ideating, creating, managing, activating, publishing, promoting, measuring, and archiving.

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If necessary, start with one area, such as marketing or thought leadership. Even better, start with one area of the customer’s journey. Document what happens (not what’s supposed to happen.) Identify and categorize the obvious challenges and where approaches go outside perceived models (even for good reason).

2. Plot the obvious gaps and inevitable costs

With the gaps documented, identify the costs, missed opportunities, or high-probability risks if they remain as is. For example, at the technology company, the siloed content creation process prompted employees to create new content rather than reuse content created from another silo. They found one e-book had 32 versions. What is the cost of the time spent on 31 unnecessary e-books?

3. Take a dragonfly view of estimating the challenge

Dragonflies see 360 degrees around them. People don’t. No one can develop a perspective that encompasses every aspect of every business process. But after looking at one area, you may be able to estimate the value of fixing your wicked problems based on the audits or experiments you’ve run.

Look at the costs for the obvious things (like the 31 extra e-books). Assume similar issues lie in other unexamined areas and extrapolate the costs. Include estimates based on what organizations similar to yours have found if you can.

Answer the value question

These steps should give you a helpful estimate of the value of developing or improving your strategic content processes.

People (and businesses) are reluctant to change, especially when they’re not feeling pain. But take heart. I’ve worked on more than 300 content strategy engagements and found companies that struggle to build a case for content strategy change end up finding the most success.

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They’re already cooking, making meals, cleaning up, and succeeding, and they fear a change to that working routine will mess things up.

They’re not wrong to be reluctant. If they can’t understand the problem, looking at solutions can be confusing.

It’s a wicked problem.

But, if you don’t examine ways to improve incrementally, you’ll always have to fix things disruptively. You may not solve the wicked problem, but you might just pull enough wickedness out of them to be helpful.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news (in just three minutes)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries
Want to learn how to balance, manage, and scale great content experiences across all your essential platforms and channels? Join us at ContentTECH Summit this March in San Diego. Browse the schedule or register today. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

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Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

As we march closer to the 2024 U.S. presidential election, CMOs and marketing leaders need to prepare for a significant shift in the digital advertising landscape. Election years have always posed unique challenges for advertisers, but the growing dominance of digital media has made the impact more profound than ever before.

In this article, we’ll explore the key factors that will shape the advertising environment in the coming months and provide actionable insights to help you navigate these turbulent waters.

The Digital Battleground

The rise of cord-cutting and the shift towards digital media consumption have fundamentally altered the advertising landscape in recent years. As traditional TV viewership declines, political campaigns have had to adapt their strategies to reach voters where they are spending their time: on digital platforms.

1713626763 903 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626763 903 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

According to a recent report by eMarketer, the number of cord-cutters in the U.S. is expected to reach 65.1 million by the end of 2023, representing a 6.9% increase from 2022. This trend is projected to continue, with the number of cord-cutters reaching 72.2 million by 2025.

Moreover, a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2023 found that 62% of U.S. adults do not have a cable or satellite TV subscription, up from 61% in 2022 and 50% in 2019. This data further underscores the accelerating shift away from traditional TV and towards streaming and digital media platforms.

As these trends continue, political advertisers will have no choice but to follow their audiences to digital channels. In the 2022 midterm elections, digital ad spending by political campaigns reached $1.2 billion, a 50% increase from the 2018 midterms. With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, this figure is expected to grow exponentially, as campaigns compete for the attention of an increasingly digital-first electorate.

For brands and advertisers, this means that the competition for digital ad space will be fiercer than ever before. As political ad spending continues to migrate to platforms like Meta, YouTube, and connected TV, the cost of advertising will likely surge, making it more challenging for non-political advertisers to reach their target audiences.

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To navigate this complex and constantly evolving landscape, CMOs and their teams will need to be proactive, data-driven, and willing to experiment with new strategies and channels. By staying ahead of the curve and adapting to the changing media consumption habits of their audiences, brands can position themselves for success in the face of the electoral advertising onslaught.

Rising Costs and Limited Inventory

As political advertisers flood the digital market, the cost of advertising is expected to skyrocket. CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) will likely experience a steady climb throughout the year, with significant spikes anticipated in May, as college students come home from school and become more engaged in political conversations, and around major campaign events like presidential debates.

1713626764 529 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626764 529 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

For media buyers and their teams, this means that the tried-and-true strategies of years past may no longer be sufficient. Brands will need to be nimble, adaptable, and willing to explore new tactics to stay ahead of the game.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: A Perfect Storm

The challenges of election year advertising will be particularly acute during the critical holiday shopping season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which have historically been goldmines for advertisers, will be more expensive and competitive than ever in 2024, as they coincide with the final weeks of the presidential campaign.

To avoid being drowned out by the political noise, brands will need to start planning their holiday campaigns earlier than usual. Building up audiences and crafting compelling creative assets well in advance will be essential to success, as will a willingness to explore alternative channels and tactics. Relying on cold audiences come Q4 will lead to exceptionally high costs that may be detrimental to many businesses.

Navigating the Chaos

While the challenges of election year advertising can seem daunting, there are steps that media buyers and their teams can take to mitigate the impact and even thrive in this environment. Here are a few key strategies to keep in mind:

Start early and plan for contingencies: Begin planning your Q3 and Q4 campaigns as early as possible, with a focus on building up your target audiences and developing a robust library of creative assets.

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Be sure to build in contingency budgets to account for potential cost increases, and be prepared to pivot your strategy as the landscape evolves.

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Embrace alternative channels: Consider diversifying your media mix to include channels that may be less impacted by political ad spending, such as influencer marketing, podcast advertising, or sponsored content. Investing in owned media channels, like email marketing and mobile apps, can also provide a direct line to your customers without the need to compete for ad space.

Owned channels will be more important than ever. Use cheaper months leading up to the election to build your email lists and existing customer base so that your BF/CM can leverage your owned channels and warm audiences.

Craft compelling, shareable content: In a crowded and noisy advertising environment, creating content that resonates with your target audience will be more important than ever. Focus on developing authentic, engaging content that aligns with your brand values and speaks directly to your customers’ needs and desires.

By tapping into the power of emotional triggers and social proof, you can create content that not only cuts through the clutter but also inspires organic sharing and amplification.

Reflections

The 2024 election year will undoubtedly bring new challenges and complexities to the world of digital advertising. But by staying informed, adaptable, and strategic in your approach, you can navigate this landscape successfully and even find new opportunities for growth and engagement.

As a media buyer or agnecy, your role in steering your brand through these uncharted waters will be critical. By starting your planning early, embracing alternative channels and tactics, and focusing on creating authentic, resonant content, you can not only survive but thrive in the face of election year disruptions.

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So while the road ahead may be uncertain, one thing is clear: the brands that approach this challenge with creativity, agility, and a steadfast commitment to their customers will be the ones that emerge stronger on the other side.


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Tinuiti Marketing Analytics Recognized by Forrester

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Tinuiti Marketing Analytics Recognized by Forrester

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By Tinuiti Team

Rapid Media Mix Modeling and Proprietary Tech Transform Brand Performance

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Tinuiti, the largest independent full-funnel performance marketing agency, has been included in a recent Forrester Research report titled, “The Marketing Analytics Landscape, Q2 2024.” This report comprehensively overviews marketing analytics markets, use cases, and capabilities. B2C marketing leaders can use this research by Principal Analyst Tina Moffett to understand the intersection of marketing analytics capabilities and use cases to determine the vendor or service provider best positioned for their analytics and insights needs. Moffett describes the top marketing analytics markets as advertising agencies, marketing dashboards and business intelligence tools, marketing measurement and optimization platforms and service providers, and media analytics tools.

As an advertising agency, we believe Tinuiti is uniquely positioned to manage advertising campaigns for brands including buying, targeting, and measurement. Our proprietary measurement technology, Bliss Point by Tinuiti, allows us to measure the optimal level of investment to maximize impact and efficiency. According to the Forrester report, “only 30% of B2C marketing decision-makers say their organization uses marketing or media mix modeling (MMM),” so having a partner that knows, embraces, and utilizes MMM is important. As Tina astutely explains, data-driven agencies have amplified their marketing analytics competencies with data science expertise; and proprietary tools; and tailored their marketing analytics techniques based on industry, business, and data challenges. 

Our Rapid Media Mix Modeling sets a new standard in the market with its exceptional speed, precision, and transparency. Our patented tech includes Rapid Media Mix Modeling, Always-on Incrementality, Brand Equity, Creative Insights, and Forecasting – it will get you to your Marketing Bliss Point in each channel, across your entire media mix, and your overall brand performance. 

As a marketing leader you may ask yourself: 

  • How much of our marketing budget should we allocate to driving store traffic versus e-commerce traffic?
  • How should we allocate our budget by channel to generate the most traffic and revenue possible?
  • How many customers did we acquire in a specific region with our media spend?
  • What is the impact of seasonality on our media mix?
  • How should we adjust our budget accordingly?
  • What is the optimal marketing channel mix to maximize brand awareness? 

These are just a few of the questions that Bliss Point by Tinuiti can help you answer.

Learn more about our customer-obsessed, product-enabled, and fully integrated approach and how we’ve helped fuel full-funnel outcomes for the world’s most digital-forward brands like Poppi & Toms.

The Landscape report is available online to Forrester customers or for purchase here

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Ecommerce evolution: Blurring the lines between B2B and B2C

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Ecommerce evolution: Blurring the lines between B2B and B2C

Understanding convergence 

B2B and B2C ecommerce are two distinct models of online selling. B2B ecommerce is between businesses, such as wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers. B2C ecommerce refers to transactions between businesses like retailers and consumer brands, directly to individual shoppers. 

However, in recent years, the boundaries between these two models have started to fade. This is known as the convergence between B2B and B2C ecommerce and how they are becoming more similar and integrated. 

Source: White Paper: The evolution of the B2B Consumer Buyer (ClientPoint, Jan 2024)

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What’s driving this change? 

Ever increasing customer expectations  

Customers today expect the same level of convenience, speed, and personalization in their B2B transactions as they do in their B2C interactions. B2B buyers are increasingly influenced by their B2C experiences. They want research, compare, and purchase products online, seamlessly transitioning between devices and channels.  They also prefer to research and purchase online, using multiple devices and channels.

Forrester, 68% of buyers prefer to research on their own, online . Customers today expect the same level of convenience, speed, and personalization in their B2B transactions as they do in their B2C interactions. B2B buyers are increasingly influenced by their B2C experiences. They want research, compare, and purchase products online, seamlessly transitioning between devices and channels.  They also prefer to research and purchase online, using multiple devices and channels

Technology and omnichannel strategies

Technology enables B2B and B2C ecommerce platforms to offer more features and functionalities, such as mobile optimization, chatbots, AI, and augmented reality. Omnichannel strategies allow B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across different touchpoints, such as websites, social media, email, and physical stores. 

However, with every great leap forward comes its own set of challenges. The convergence of B2B and B2C markets means increased competition.  Businesses now not only have to compete with their traditional rivals, but also with new entrants and disruptors from different sectors. For example, Amazon Business, a B2B ecommerce platform, has become a major threat to many B2B ecommerce businesses, as it offers a wide range of products, low prices, and fast delivery

“Amazon Business has proven that B2B ecommerce can leverage popular B2C-like functionality” argues Joe Albrecht, CEO / Managing Partner, Xngage. . With features like Subscribe-and-Save (auto-replenishment), one-click buying, and curated assortments by job role or work location, they make it easy for B2B buyers to go to their website and never leave. Plus, with exceptional customer service and promotional incentives like Amazon Business Prime Days, they have created a reinforcing loyalty loop.

And yet, according to Barron’s, Amazon Business is only expected to capture 1.5% of the $5.7 Trillion addressable business market by 2025. If other B2B companies can truly become digital-first organizations, they can compete and win in this fragmented space, too.” 

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If other B2B companies can truly become digital-first organizations, they can also compete and win in this fragmented space

Joe Albrecht
CEO/Managing Partner, XNGAGE

Increasing complexity 

Another challenge is the increased complexity and cost of managing a converging ecommerce business. Businesses have to deal with different customer segments, requirements, and expectations, which may require different strategies, processes, and systems. For instance, B2B ecommerce businesses may have to handle more complex transactions, such as bulk orders, contract negotiations, and invoicing, while B2C ecommerce businesses may have to handle more customer service, returns, and loyalty programs. Moreover, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses must invest in technology and infrastructure to support their convergence efforts, which may increase their operational and maintenance costs. 

How to win

Here are a few ways companies can get ahead of the game:

Adopt B2C-like features in B2B platforms

User-friendly design, easy navigation, product reviews, personalization, recommendations, and ratings can help B2B ecommerce businesses to attract and retain more customers, as well as to increase their conversion and retention rates.  

According to McKinsey, ecommerce businesses that offer B2C-like features like personalization can increase their revenues by 15% and reduce their costs by 20%. You can do this through personalization of your website with tools like Product Recommendations that help suggest related products to increase sales. 

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Focus on personalization and customer experience

B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses need to understand their customers’ needs, preferences, and behaviors, and tailor their offerings and interactions accordingly. Personalization and customer experience can help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy, as well as to improve their brand reputation and competitive advantage. According to a Salesforce report, 88% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.

Related: Redefining personalization for B2B commerce

Market based on customer insights

Data and analytics can help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to gain insights into their customers, markets, competitors, and performance, and to optimize their strategies and operations accordingly. Data and analytics can also help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to identify new opportunities, trends, and innovations, and to anticipate and respond to customer needs and expectations. According to McKinsey, data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times more likely to retain customers, and 19 times more likely to be profitable. 

What’s next? 

The convergence of B2B and B2C ecommerce is not a temporary phenomenon, but a long-term trend that will continue to shape the future of ecommerce. According to Statista, the global B2B ecommerce market is expected to reach $20.9 trillion by 2027, surpassing the B2C ecommerce market, which is expected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2027. Moreover, the report predicts that the convergence of B2B and B2C ecommerce will create new business models, such as B2B2C, B2A (business to anyone), and C2B (consumer to business). 

Therefore, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses need to prepare for the converging ecommerce landscape and take advantage of the opportunities and challenges it presents. Here are some recommendations for B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to navigate the converging landscape: 

  • Conduct a thorough analysis of your customers, competitors, and market, and identify the gaps and opportunities for convergence. 
  • Develop a clear vision and strategy for convergence, and align your goals, objectives, and metrics with it. 
  • Invest in technology and infrastructure that can support your convergence efforts, such as cloud, mobile, AI, and omnichannel platforms. 
  • Implement B2C-like features in your B2B platforms, and vice versa, to enhance your customer experience and satisfaction.
  • Personalize your offerings and interactions with your customers, and provide them with relevant and valuable content and solutions.
  • Leverage data and analytics to optimize your performance and decision making, and to innovate and differentiate your business.
  • Collaborate and partner with other B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses, as well as with other stakeholders, such as suppliers, distributors, and customers, to create value and synergy.
  • Monitor and evaluate your convergence efforts, and adapt and improve them as needed. 

By following these recommendations, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses can bridge the gap between their models and create a more integrated and seamless ecommerce experience for their customers and themselves. 

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