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If You Want To Create Exceptional Content, Limit Your Options

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If You Want To Create Exceptional Content, Limit Your Options

Many content marketers are asked to do more without getting more resources. With audience attention harder to capture than ever, how can a creative content team cope?

Go to Raising Cane’s and study the menu.

If you don’t have time to go or aren’t near one of the chain’s 500 restaurants in 27 states and five countries, I’ll explain. The restaurants sell:

  • Chicken fingers
  • Crinkle fries
  • Coleslaw
  • Texas toast
  • Cane’s sauce

Five things. That’s it.

Why such a limited menu? Raising Cane’s says the model lets it deliver exceptional quality food quickly without cutting corners. And the model seems to work for customers – the company surpassed $1.5 billion in annual sales in 2020, with the average unit (i.e., restaurant) earning 25% more than the average McDonald’s store.

What does this have to do with content marketing operations? It’s a reminder that you don’t need to be the McDonald’s of content marketing. You can deliver a big return by carefully curating your content strategy like Raising Cane’s does its menu.

You don’t need to be the @McDonalds of #ContentMarketing. You can achieve more by limiting your menu items a la @RaisingCanes, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

1. Identify your core content items

A do-more-without-more content marketing approach starts with determining your content menu. To do this successfully, you need two things:

  1. Buy-in from your internal content stakeholders
  2. Analytics that show what content has worked best

Get stakeholder buy-in

To get stakeholders on board, bring together everyone involved in the content – those who create it, use it, share it, and approve the budget for it. If that’s not feasible, bring together the key stakeholders in each of those categories and email a short survey to everybody else so they can have input, too. Everyone involved needs to have a voice in this process, or it won’t work.

Give the stakeholders a list of topics that you already cover or think might be valuable, and include a write-in option. Ask them to rank the top three topics – labeling them as 1, 2, or 3 (with one being the most important).

Record their responses on a spreadsheet. Start with two columns – topic and topic ranking.

Let me illustrate a simple example for a financial services company. In this situation, three stakeholders ranked options from a list of seven topics: commercial real estate, community development, investing, leadership, market and economy, taxes, and wealth planning.

Add two more columns to the spreadsheet:

  • Rank value, which translates the responses into a point value to make the math easier.
  • Total topic value, which shows the cumulative score for each topic.

In this example, every first-place ranking equals 10 points, second place is eight points, and third place is six points. (In this visual, I show only those topics that received a ranking.)

Using this method, internal stakeholders at the financial services company rated these content topics as the most important to cover:

  • Investing. One stakeholder rated it most important (10 points), and one ranked it second (8 points) for a total topic value of 18.
  • Wealth planning. One stakeholder rated it most important (10 points), and one ranked it second (8 points) for a total topic value of 18.
  • Taxes. One stakeholder rated it most important (10 points), and one ranked it third most important (16 points).

TIP: Consider adding a column to track the respondent’s role. It may be helpful to weight the rankings if one role affects your goals more than another. For example, if your goals are tied to sales, you might weigh responses from the sales team over those from a writer.

Study audience data

Now it’s time to see what topics your audience prioritizes by studying data that measures progress toward the goals detailed in your content marketing strategy.

Let’s keep it simple and use three website-related metrics for topical content hub pages: total impressions, total conversions, and conversion rate for the financial services example.

Combining both sets of information reveals the qualitative (i.e., people) and quantitative (i.e., data-based) topic priorities for the financial services company:

  • Stakeholder topic priorities: investing (tie for first), wealth planning (tie for first), taxes (third)
  • Data-based rankings: investing (first), wealth planning (second), leadership (third)

Given these results, investing and wealth planning definitely go on the content menu. But the third topic requires a closer look. Leadership received no votes from internal stakeholders, yet it earned the third-highest conversion rate. The taxes topic came in third for internal stakeholders and fourth for conversion rate, losing to leadership by just 0.22%.

My conclusion? Taxes will be the third topic on the content menu.

2. Offer content combos

Now that you know the topics, you can package them into convenient options that serve your audience.

Looking at your content menu ingredients (i.e., topics), identify which formats resonate best with your audience based on the same metrics you used earlier.

For the financial services example, let’s say the team creates content in four formats: blogs, e-books, podcasts, and videos. How does format affect the conversion rates?

To discover this, I create a new spreadsheet that breaks down the content hub into individual assets, identifying the format, total impressions, conversions, and conversion rate.

With this data, I can see the top formats for our three topics are: e-books (~56% conversion rate), videos (~8% conversion rate), and blogs (~5%). Podcasts (< 2%) don’t make the cut.

Now the team can develop the content combos based on three topics (taxes, investing, and wealth planning) and three formats (e-books, videos, and blogs).

3. Make your limited menu an ingredient in your content mission

Raising Cane’s incorporates its limited product offerings into its brand narrative. Here’s how the company explains its menu concept:

Our concept is simple and unique… we only have ONE LOVE – quality chicken finger meals! At Raising Cane’s you get an exceptionally high-quality product served quickly and conveniently. We can do this because we offer a limited menu. The specialized systems developed by Raising Cane’s allow us to maintain a level of quality unmatched in the industry. Our commitment to this concept will not allow us to compromise our quality, cut corners or clutter our menu with new products that do not fit our core menu offering.

While your selective content menu may not make it into your brand story, it should be part of your content mission statement.

As Jodi Harris explains: “A content mission statement is a centering principle of your brand’s content, and it can govern your content team’s creative and strategic decision-making.”

A #content mission statement is a centering principle of your brand’s content, and it can govern your content team’s creative and strategic decision-making, says @joderama via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Most mission statements center on three components: who you aim to help with your content, what kind of information you provide, and how that information delivers a positive outcome or benefit to your audience.

Consider including a fourth component – why a limited content menu better serves your audience and brand. For example: “At ABC Financial, we believe in delivering our audience only the highest quality, most timely, most relevant content. To do that, we don’t create content about everything in every format on every platform. We focus on investing, wealth management, and taxes in video, e-book, and blog formats because that’s what our audience prefers.”

4. Don’t take special orders that require new ingredients

When you implement a limited model for your content operations, expect special-order requests, especially initially.

These inquiries (which may sound like demands) will likely take one of two forms:

  1. A new combination. This kind of request only requires repackaging. If you have the resources to fulfill it, do so.
  2. An off-menu request. In the financial services example, an off-menu request might be a blog post about commercial real estate. Explain that you can’t order a burger at Raising Cane’s – in other words, that the content team isn’t set up to do special orders. In declining the request, reiterate why your brand has decided to limit its content offerings. (You can even share the content mission statement if you think it would be helpful to the conversation.)

Don’t delete special-order requests you can’t fulfill. Add them to a research-and-development spreadsheet, noting the “what and who” of the request along with the expected outcome. Review the R&D tracker quarterly to see if any of those ideas are worth a pilot project.

If an off-menu request tests well, consider whether it’s worthy of placement on your content menu.

Don’t delete special-order #Content requests you can’t fulfill. Test them when possible. The results will indicate if they deserve a place on your limited content menu, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

5. Check content ‘sales’ frequently

Even the best-researched menu may have items that don’t sell well. After implementing this limited content model, frequently review the relevant metrics to see what’s “selling” better (i.e., helping you achieve your goals).

But don’t let that frequent monitoring lead you to make kneejerk changes. If one content combo isn’t doing well, consider amping up its promotion to ensure your target audience knows it exists. If it still doesn’t do well, you can consider changing it. Similarly, if you find a combo sells particularly well, repackage it to see if you can amplify that success.

Review your metrics to see which #Content sells better, but don’t make hasty decisions. Test promotion or package tweaks before changing the menu, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Host a content “sales” meeting every six months or year (depending on your content cycle). Revisit the menu from quantitative (i.e., metrics) and qualitative (select stakeholders) perspectives. Then, decide if you need to change your content menu items.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Enjoy this delectable content model

The Raising Cane’s approach to content can serve your brand well. When you consciously curate a limited set of content products and offerings, your content marketing team’s productivity should rise. Content creators won’t don’t have to jump between many topics and formats. Instead, they can hone and perfect quality content your brand and your audience will appreciate.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

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

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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MARKETING

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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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

At this stage, your goal is to generate repeat buys and real profits. While your entry-point offer was designed for conversions, your ascension offers should be geared for profits—because if you’re serving your customers well, they’ll want to buy again and again.

Ascension offers may be simple upsells made after that initial purchase… bigger, better solutions… or “done for you” add-ons.

So now we must ask ourselves, what is our core flagship offer and how do we continue to deliver value after the first sale is made? What is the thing that we are selling? 

How we continue to deliver value after the first sale is really important, because having upsells and cross sales gives you the ability to sell to customers you already have. It will give you higher Average Customer values, which is going to give you higher margins. Which means you can spend more to acquire new customers. 

Why does this matter? It matters because of this universal law of marketing and customer acquisition, he or she who is able and willing to spend the most to acquire a customer wins.

Very often the business with the best product messaging very often is the business that can throw the most into customer acquisition. Now there are two ways to do that.

The first way is to just raise a lot of money. The problem is if you have a lot of money, that doesn’t last forever. At some point you need economics. 

The second way, and the most timeless and predictable approach, is to simply have the highest value customers of anyone in your market. If your customers are worth more to you than they are to your competitors, you can spend more to acquire them at the same margin. 

If a customer is worth twice as much to you than it is to your competitor, you can spend twice as much trying to acquire them to make the same margin. You can invest in your customer acquisition, because your customers are investing in your business. You can invest in your customer experiences, and when we invest more into the customer we build brands that have greater value. Meaning, people are more likely to choose you over someone else, which can actually lower acquisition costs. 

Happy customers refer others to us, which is called zero dollar customer acquisition, and generally just ensures you’re making a bigger impact. You can invest more in the customer experience and customer acquisition process if you don’t have high margins. 

If you deliver a preview experience, you can utilize revenue maximizers like up sells, cross sales, and bundles. These are things that would follow up the initial sale or are combined with the initial sale to increase the Average Customer Value.

The best example of an immediate upsell is the classic McDonalds, “would you like fries with that?” You got just a burger, do you also want fries with that? 

What distinguishes an upsell from other types of follow up offers is the upsell promise, the same end result for a bigger and better end result. 

What’s your desired result when you go to McDonalds? It’s not to eat healthy food, and it’s not even to eat a small amount of food. When you go to McDonalds your job is to have a tasty, greasy, predictable inexpensive meal. No one is going there because it’s healthy, you’re going there because you want to eat good. 

It’s predictable. It’s not going to break the bank for a hamburger, neither will adding fries or a Coke. It’s the same experience, but it’s BIGGER and BETTER. 

Amazon does this all of the time with their “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought …” But this one is algorithmic. The point of a cross sell is that it is relevant to the consumer, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be aligned with the original purchase. What you don’t want to do is start someone down one path and confuse them.

You can make this process easy with Bundles and Kits. With a bundle or a kit you’re essentially saying to someone, “you can buy just one piece, or you can get this bundle that does all of these other things for a little bit more. And it’s a higher value.”

The idea behind bundles and kits is that we are adding to the primary offer, not offering them something different. We’re simply promising to get them this desired result in higher definition. 

The Elements of High-Converting Revenue Maximizers (like our bundles and kits) are:

  1. Speed

If you’re an e-Commerce business, selling a physical product, this can look like: offering free shipping for orders $X or more. We’re looking to get your customers the same desired result, but with less work for them.

  1. Automation

If you’re a furniture business, and you want to add a Revenue Maximizer, this can look like: Right now for an extra $X our highly trained employees will come and put this together for you. 

  1. Access 

People will pay for speed, they’ll pay for less work, but they will also pay for a look behind the curtain. Think about the people who pay for Backstage Passes. Your customers will pay for a VIP experience just so they can kind of see how everything works. 

Remember, the ascension stage doesn’t have to stop. Once you have a customer, you should do your best to make them a customer for life. You should continue serving them. Continue asking them, “what needs are we still not meeting” and seek to meet those needs. 

It is your job as a marketer to seek out to discover these needs, to bring these back to the product team, because that’s what’s going to enable you to fully maximize the average customer value. Which is going to enable you to have a whole lot more to spend to acquire those customers and make your job a whole lot easier. 

Now that you understand the importance of the ascend stage, let’s apply it to our examples.

Hazel & Hem could have free priority shipping over $150, a “Boutique Points” reward program with exclusive “double point” days to encourage spending, and an exclusive “Stylist Package” that includes a full outfit custom selected for the customer. 

Cyrus & Clark can retain current clients by offering an annual strategic plan, “Done for You” Marketing services that execute on the strategic plan, and the top tier would allow customers to be the exclusive company that Cyrus & Clark services in specific geographical territories.



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