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Is an Unbranded Content Site Worth It? All Signs Point to Yes

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What’s the future for unbranded content sites? SAP runs an unbranded content site whose future’s so bright, that the team behind it had better wear shades (to paraphrase that old Timbuk 3 song).

The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience earned the tech brand a finalist nod for Best Content Strategy and Best Multi-Author Blog in the 2021 Content Marketing Awards (CMAs).

And it’s easy to see why. Total page views for the blog hit the high six figures (767,190 in 2020 and 1,177,123 in 2021). Top-performing content generates between 5,000 and 10,000 views a month.

And those aren’t even the most impressive stats.

Visitors spend an average of eight minutes on the site. Almost all (99%) of its archives get views every month. And its bounce rate has never been over 5%, as SAP explained in their CMA nomination.

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Seventy percent of traffic comes from organic search. The other 30% arrives from direct or bookmarked links, with social shares and an email newsletter rounding out the traffic sources.

“We never spent any money on advertising, campaigns, or promoted content,” says Jenn VandeZande, the site’s editor-in-chief.

We never spent any money on advertising, campaigns, or promoted #content, says @jennvzande of @SAP_CX impressively successful #ContentMarketing hub via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

So how did the site become such a success? Jenn shared some principles and practices behind the content marketing strategy.

Downplay the brand to play up trust

The robust content hub operates under a non-branded URL. The (barely noticeable) SAP connection comes through employees, customers, partners, and industry experts they’ve onboarded as freelance writers.

SAP created the site based on two basic principles, and it’s never swayed from these:

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  • To become an authoritative source and community for all things commerce and business related by focusing on great content that answers business challenges in an unbiased way
  • To use journalistic standards with an SEO-first, evergreen content strategy

Jenn says the site’s independence is “sacred” because return readers and subscribers expect it and because of the critical role of trust in business relationships: “You can lose a customer in an instant by breaking that trust.

“Nobody wants to be sold when they’re trying to research a problem – at least in the beginning stages. SAP is keeping their eyes on the future, focusing on the importance of unbranded content to lead into the next step of the journey.”

The site draws interest from searchers and a faithful readership of C-suite executives and other leaders with decision-making responsibilities. SAP has found readers come back to places they trust when it’s time to purchase.

@SAP_CX has found people return to the places they trust when it’s time to purchase, says @jennvzande via @AnnGynn and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

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Use data to please readers and leaders

The initial buy-in was simple. SAP likes forward-thinking, Jenn says, and the site represented a new concept. As the site grew and content competition increased, data led to continued support from SAP leadership.

“It turns out that doing this day after day, year after year, earns loyalty, which then earns sales deals, which has also helped earn executive buy-in,” Jenn says. “It’s a long game with big dividends.”

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Data drives content decisions, too. “Most of us on the team are data nerds, and we live by it,” Jenn says.

The hardest decisions she’s had to make involved ideas that sounded great in concept but didn’t resonate with readers. “While it bummed me out to pull the plug on these things, the data made the decision easy.”

To arrive at content decisions, the data nerds looked beyond the general (though impressive) metrics like visits, views, time on site, etc. They wanted a collection of data that would help them better understand their audience’s behavior, such as:

  • Which posts get the most clicks?
  • Where exactly on the site do most people click?
  • What content leads people to the next step on their SAP journey?
  • What parts of the site do they engage with and which ones do they not?

The content team’s developer Aaron Graham created a custom plugin to track those metrics.

Now, they can drill down and identify the typical paths visitors follow on the site and what works and what doesn’t. “It’s been a big game-changer for us and helps us to stay focused on what readers want,” Jenn says.

That doesn’t mean their data game is perfect. Attribution remains the unicorn the team continues to chase. Ultimately, they’d love to be able to show that a reader started on X post and then purchased a product at some point in their journey.

But Jenn prizes the anecdotal evidence from readers who forward that day’s newsletter to her with a comment about loving the subject, the content, etc. “I save those emails in a folder because they’re a great reminder of the purpose of what we do,” she says.

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It’s also immediate feedback that can prompt a change. “We’re always tweaking copy, reoptimizing, testing, so when we get feedback that folks love what we’ve written, we use it,” Jenn says.

And the feedback isn’t always positive. One reader complained about the subject line “Not new, not normal” and explained why. Jenn thanked the engaged reader for sharing her opinion. The team assumed others might feel the same. “It can be easy to lose perspective when you’re on the inside looking out,” Jenn says.

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Act big, even if you’re small

SAP is a global company with over 100,000 employees, but The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience site doesn’t involve a big team. Executive Editor Marcia Savage manages the calendar, day-to-day content scheduling, and editing and contributes some writing. She’s the other full-time employee besides Jenn and Aaron (the team developer). Contractors help with site images, and the team relies on TAG Communication Services for freelancers.

Ideas come from anywhere – the content team, the contractors, customers, employees, and even competitors. Freelancers craft the content, then Marcia and Jenn edit it for SEO, tone, etc. They also reoptimize and update content every day.

Jenn also keeps an eye out for potential writers on social media. If she reads something interesting, she reaches out to invite the author to contribute. “We’ve gotten some fantastic bylines this way,” she says.

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Grow the platform

A couple of years ago, The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience added more specific sections at the top of the navigation bar based on the topics most critical to their audience:

  • Commerce
  • Customer experience
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Service
  • Purpose

“Those sections have turned out really well and been useful for our readers … They’ve proven to be a simple way for the user to find what they’re looking for and to discover content they didn’t know they were looking for,” Jenn says. “We also discuss the topics that are important to our audience, focusing on purpose and the whole self. In doing so, our authentic tone has won over our subscribers and advocates.

But that isn’t the only growth for the original content hub. The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience team launched a podcast that features guests discussing the site’s most engaging content.

Given a prompt from contributor Jesús Hoyos, who wondered about content in languages other than English, the team is now working on updating its content into regions.

Without a big budget for translation, Jenn uses Google Translate for the content on the site, then sends it to a peer in a region with that language to review before she publishes it.

Inclusion is really important to us, so getting it right has taken time and is constantly evolving, but it’s made a difference for our readers,” Jenn says.

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And that’s just one more reason why The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience shines so bright.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

Learn more from Jenn VandeZande at Content Marketing World this fall, where she’s presenting the session CTR, ROI, KPI, Cry: Breaking Through Jargon to Deliver Kick-Ass Results. Use 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.

1713626764 197 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626764 197 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

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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