Connect with us

MARKETING

What Most Companies Get Wrong About Content Strategy (And How To Fix It) [Rose-Colored Glasses]

Published

on

What Most Companies Get Wrong About Content Strategy (And How To Fix It) [Rose-Colored Glasses]

Author David Foster Wallace addressed the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College with a speech that would become one of his most-read works.

In it, he told this parable:

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

The point of the story, he explained, is that “the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”

In business, content is water

Business leaders ask me all the time, “What do you mean by content?”

Let’s back up, though, and ask, “What is a business, exactly?”

Peter Drucker defined a business as “a social group that differs from other social groups in only one way: businesses must have customers.”  (This definition comes from his book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, which is also the most Drucker-y of all Drucker titles.)

Advertisement

Other bits make up a business, too: products and services, a marketplace to showcase those products, and the processes and methods by which the group operates.

A business comprises one other inextricable thing (and I argue that it’s the most important):

Content.

Content is every business’s core operating system. It’s the communication between the social group and the customers it creates.

It’s the body of knowledge that describes the method by which the business operates. It’s the main ingredient of the experiences created to showcase products in the marketplace, and it’s the core to helping customers derive the most value from the product or service.

Content is everything. It’s all around us all the time. It is the water of business.

#Content is everything. It’s all around us all the time. It is the water of business, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Content strategy puts purpose behind communication

Calling content the “water of business” might sound a bit esoteric. But stay with me.

Advertisement

Just as the two fish in the story are so immersed in water that they struggle to see it, businesses are so immersed in content that they can’t make sense of it.

I see so many executives struggle to rationalize putting a strategy around content. Managing the entirety of a business’s content can seem unachievable. Unsurprisingly, executives don’t consider it the best use of time.

But leaders must pick and choose the elements of the business to focus on.

Some rationalize their hesitation – they say that trying to affect the water all around doesn’t make sense. That’s why one of the first questions I get when talking about content strategy is, “What do you mean by content?”

But think about the impact of an unconscious approach to content: Content gets created with little purpose and without understanding how it affects the business’s big picture.

Without a strategy, #content gets created with little understanding of how it affects the big picture, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

A content strategy’s entire purpose is to improve the quality of the water.

The implication for any business’ content strategy is two-fold:

Advertisement

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Content teams must lead communication

Content expresses a business’ strategy – it’s the byproduct of any one function (whether that’s
brand value, lead generation, sales enablement, customer service, or internal knowledge management initiative).

Yet, in many businesses, teams in different functions approach their content needs in a self-centered way. That’s understandable when they lack awareness of the greater context.

In that kind of environment, content practitioners are expected to respond to the needs of the “stakeholders.” Yet the content teams rarely count as stakeholders themselves. Every request is valid, and the content team acts on it.

That’s not a strategic approach.

Often, business leaders say they have a content strategy. Typically, though, they understand what the company has said – but still lack insight into what it should say.

The answer is to elevate content strategy to the level of business strategy. That means every content strategy needs a planning and prioritization step – an awareness of what the teams will create, not simply a measurement of what they created.

That feeds the second implication of a successful content strategy.

Advertisement

You need both quantity AND quality

Every business will always create more content. Every new customer, every new product, every new marketplace, and every new communication creates a need for more content.

A successful content strategy adds value by improving quality as it facilitates scale. The tension between improving quality and facilitating scale means you’ll never create too much content.

If content is the operating system for business, then every person – from senior executives to the frontline workers – serves as a coder for that system.

Content strategy should enable everyone to code at quality. You may prioritize some areas over others in the moment, but your mission isn’t to pick and choose which water to improve. It’s to be aware of the quality of all of it and then prioritize efforts to improve what you can.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: You Could Build a Content Strategy While ‘Flying’ It – But Here’s a Better Way [Rose-Colored Glasses]

The role of a strategic content team

Businesses don’t need the ability to create any content requested. They need a process for making deliberate choices about what content they should create.

Differentiating your brand as a “thought leader” isn’t about writing the most intelligent white papers or having the most entertaining or compelling blog. Differentiating your brand comes from having the awareness and processes to direct all of the business’ knowledge into the most meaningful communication and experiences.

To end his graduation speech, Wallace came back to the fish-in-water story:

Advertisement

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”

I’d translate that thought for content strategy this way:

The real value of a content strategy has almost nothing to do with the content and everything to do with the awareness of how content is essential, how it connects everything all around us that makes up the business.

To do that, we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is content.”

“This is content.”

Advertisement

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries
 
Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



Source link

MARKETING

8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

Published

on

8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

As email marketers, we know we need to personalize the messages we send to subscribers and customers. I can’t think of a single statistic, case study or survey claiming an email program of one-to-everyone campaigns outperforms personalization.

Instead, you’ll find statistics like these:

  • 72% of customers will engage only with personalized messages (Wunderkind Audiences, formerly SmarterHQ)
  • 70% of consumers say that how well a company understands their individual needs affects their loyalty (Salesforce)
  • 71% of customers are frustrated by impersonal shopping experiences (Segment)

But what marketers often don’t understand, especially if they’re new to personalization, is that personalization is not an end in itself. Your objective is not to personalize your email campaigns and lifecycle messages. 

Rather, your objective is to enhance your customer’s experience with your brand. Personalization is one method that can do that, but it’s more than just another tactic. 

It is both an art and a science. The science is having the data and automations to create personalized, one-to-one messages at scale. The art is knowing when and how to use it.

We run into trouble when we think of personalization as the goal instead of the means to achieve a goal. In my work consulting with marketers for both business and consumer brands, I find this misunderstanding leads to eight major marketing mistakes – any of which can prevent you from realizing the immense benefits of personalization.

Mistake #1. Operating without an overall personalization strategy

I see this all too often: marketers find themselves overwhelmed by all the choices they face: 

  • Which personalization technologies to use
  • What to do with all the data they have
  • How to use their data and technology effectively
  • Whether their personalization efforts are paying off

This stems from jumping headfirst into personalization without thinking about how to use it to meet customers’ needs or help them solve problems. 

To avoid being overwhelmed with the mechanics of personalization, follow this three-step process:

Advertisement
  • Start small. If you aren’t using personalization now, don’t try to set up a full-fledged program right away. Instead, look for quick wins – small areas where you can use basic personalized data to begin creating one-to-one messages. That will get you into the swing of things quickly, without significant investment in time and money. Adding personal data to the body of an email is about as basic as you’ll get, but it can be a start.
  • Test each tactic. See whether that new tactic helps or hurts your work toward your goal. Does adding personal data to each message correlate with higher clicks to your landing page, more conversion or whatever success metric you have chosen?
  • Optimize and move on. Use your testing results to improve each tactic. Then, take what you learned to select and add another personalization tactic, such as adding a module of dynamic content to a broadcast (one to everyone) campaign. 

Mistake #2. Not using both overt and covert personalization

Up to now, you might have thought of in specific terms: personalized subject lines, data reflecting specific actions in the email copy, triggered messages that launch when a customer’s behavior matches your automation settings and other “overt” (or visible) personalization tactics.

“Covert” personalization also employs customer preference or behavior data but doesn’t draw attention to it. Instead of sending an abandoned-browse message that says “We noticed you were viewing this item on our website,” you could add a content module in your next campaign that features those browsed items as recommended purchases, without calling attention to their behavior. It’s a great tactic to use to avoid being seen as creepy.

Think back to my opening statement that personalization is both an art and a science. Here, the art of personalization is knowing when to use overt personalization – purchase and shipping confirmations come to mind – and when you want to take a more covert route. 

Mistake #3. Not maximizing lifecycle automations

Lifecycle automations such as onboarding/first-purchase programs, win-back and reactivation campaigns and other programs tied to the customer lifecycle are innately personalized. 

The copy will be highly personal and the timing spot-on because they are based on customer actions (opting in, purchases, downloads) or inactions (not opening emails, not buying for the first time or showing signs of lapsing after purchasing). 

Better yet, these emails launch automatically – you don’t have to create, schedule or send any of these emails because your marketing automation platform does that for you after you set it up. 

You squander these opportunities if you don’t do everything you can to understand your customer lifecycle and then create automated messaging that reaches out to your customers at these crucial points. This can cost you the customers you worked so hard to acquire, along with their revenue potential.

Mistake #4. Not testing effectively or for long-term gain

Testing helps you discover whether your personalization efforts are bearing fruit. But all too often, marketers test only individual elements of a specific campaign – subject lines, calls to action, images versus no images, personalization versus no personalization  – without looking at whether personalization enhances the customer experience in the long term.

How you measure success is a key part of this equation. The metrics you choose must line up with your objectives. That’s one reason I’ve warned marketers for years against relying on the open rate to measure campaign success. A 50% open rate might be fantastic, but if you didn’t make your goal for sales, revenue, downloads or other conversions, you can’t consider your campaign a success.

Advertisement

As the objective of personalizing is to enhance the customer journey, it makes sense then that customer lifetime value is a valid metric to measure success on.  To measure how effective your personalization use is, use customer lifetime value over a long time period – months, even years – and compare the results with those from a control group, which receives no personalization. Don’t ignore campaign-level results, but log them and view them over time.

(For more detailed information on testing mistakes and how to avoid them, see my MarTech column 7 Common Problems that Derail A/B/N Email Testing Success.)

Mistake #5. Over-segmenting your customer base

Segmentation is a valuable form of personalization, but it’s easy to go too far with it. If you send only highly segmented campaigns, you could be exclude – and end up losing because of failure to contact – many customers who don’t fit your segmentation criteria. That costs you customers, their potential revenue and the data they would have generated to help you better understand your customer base.

You can avoid this problem with a data-guided segmentation plan that you review and test frequently, a set of automated triggers to enhance the customer’s lifecycle and a well-thought-out program of default or catch-all campaigns for subscribers who don’t meet your other criteria. 

Mistake #6. Not including dynamic content in general email campaigns

We usually think of personalized email as messages in which all the content lines up with customer behavior or preference data, whether overt, as in an abandoned-cart message, or covert, where the content is subtly relevant.

That’s one highly sophisticated approach. It incorporates real-time messaging driven by artificial intelligence and complex integrations with your ecommerce or CRM platforms. But a simple dynamic content module can help you achieve a similar result. I call that “serendipity.”  

When you weave this dynamic content into your general message, it can be a pleasant surprise for your customers and make your relevant content stand out even more. 

Let’s say your company is a cruise line. Customer A opens your emails from time to time but hasn’t booked a cruise yet or browsed different tours on your website. Your next email campaign to this customer – and to everyone else on whom you have little or no data – promotes discounted trips to Hawaii, Fiji and the Mediterranean.

Advertisement

Customer B hasn’t booked a cruise either, but your data tells you she has browsed your Iceland-Denmark-Greenland cruise recently. With a dynamic content module, her email could show her your Hawaii and Mediterranean cruise offers – and a great price on a trip to Iceland, Denmark and Greenland. Fancy that! 

An email like this conveys the impression that your brand offers exactly what your customers are looking for (covert personalization) without the overt approach of an abandoned-browse email.

Mistake #7. Not using a personal tone in your copy

You can personalize your email copy without a single data point, simply by writing as if you were speaking to your customer face to face. Use a warm, human tone of voice, which ideally should reflect your brand voice. Write copy that sounds like a one-to-one conversation instead of a sales pitch. 

This is where my concept of “helpful marketing” comes into play. How does your brand help your customers achieve their own goals, solve their problems or make them understand you know them as people, not just data points?  

Mistake #8. Not personalizing the entire journey

Once again, this is a scenario in which you take a short-sighted view of personalization – “How do I add personalization to this email campaign?” – instead of looking at the long-term gain: “How can I use personalization to enhance my customer’s experience?”

Personalization doesn’t stop when your customer clicks on your email. It should continue on to your landing page and even be reflected in the website content your customer views. Remember, it’s all about enhancing your customer’s experience.

What happens when your customers click on a personalized offer? Does your landing page greet your customers by name? Show the items they clicked? Present copy that reflects their interests, their loyalty program standing or any other data that’s unique to them?  

Personalization is worth the effort

Yes, personalization takes both art and science into account. You need to handle it carefully so your messages come off as helpful and relevant without veering into creepy territory through data overreaches. But this strategic effort pays off when you can use the power of personalized email to reach out, connect with and retain customers – achieving your goal of enhancing the customer experience.

Advertisement

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Kath Pay is CEO at Holistic Email Marketing and the author of the award-winning Amazon #1 best-seller “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers.”

Advertisement

Source link

Continue Reading

DON'T MISS ANY IMPORTANT NEWS!
Subscribe To our Newsletter
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

Trending

en_USEnglish