This is the second in a Ninja blogger series of opinions on the current state of Content Marketing. See Ann’s previous introduction: The Birth and Evolution of Digital Content Marketing
I had the opportunity at SES New York earlier this year to meet with and give advice to aspiring marketers that were finishing up college and looking for advice on resumes. One student asked me “if I want to become an integrated digital marketing expert, what steps should I take to master each of the channels?” My suggestions was that he should seek instead to master one channel, but while doing so, he must always look for the integration and synergy points with each other medium the organization(s).
Within many enterprises I have worked with to hone my “core expertise,” Search Engine Optimization has grown in prominence partially because of its nature to “play well with others.” Once turf wars and misunderstandings are cleared up, companies which embrace SEO best practices within other marketing, design, and public relations functions end up attracting traffic and delivering positive user experiences.
These days many people are into “Content Marketing.” In my experience, this nouveaux moniker is a modern rebranding and encapsulation of advanced SEO strategies that many agencies and in-house teams have evolved since the late 90’s. Ann’s series introduction recommended focusing on people, long term objectives, and more marketing channels (among other things). Let’s dig into how each of these allows us to fit content marketing into “real” integrated marketing across digital and non-digital.
The Peeps and the Channels
Yes, we have to love our peeps. We need to fully understand them to market to them. In 2013, sophisticated marketers use advanced segmentation and persona-developing assets as well as a number of tools to effectively shoot a laser instead of a shotgun. But targeted advertising still has plenty of opportunity for improvement. Digital marketers have an advantage over television advertisers, enabling hyper-focused brand message delivery, but TV can miss the mark, and needs to ensure that digital content is able to support it.
Here is an example: last night I happened to watch a few minutes of “Golf’s Greatest Matches” on cable TV. A commercial aired imploring me to consider a new way to learn golf through a sponsored series of clinics, designed for “people to be introduced to the game.” First I thought to myself “why would anyone potentially interested in picking up golf as a new sport ever be watching a repeat of the 2005 PGA Championship?!?” I was laughing at whoever spent money on the genius strategy of airing that ad during that show. I tried to think of some reasons they would run the ad during this particular show (other than the fact that it was probably dirt-cheap), and a couple possibilities arose, but to me, this had to be mostly wasted money.
Yet, today I thought about it again and maybe some golfers watching that show would be influencers and want to suggest the program to other non-golfing friends or family. To the Google Cave!
Unfortunately, across a number of searches like the above there are no paid or organic search results for the brand I have since forgotten. I will have to get lucky to see the ad on TV again. Thus, I feel that this campaign has now missed twice: once not really appealing to the right market on TV (maybe air an ad on ABC Family Channel which can’t be that much more expensive?), but also not having digital content available to searchers.
The #FAIL of digital content not being used to support television and other advertising dates back years. Well before I wrote Superbowl-related articles complaining about it in 2007 and 2008, content was not published enough in advance to show up for searches related to specific campaign slogans, products, or concepts. Paid search has become more integrated into larger campaign planning, but in 2013, if whoever owns the digital content asset calendar isn’t informed of broader marketing initiatives, integration has failed before the campaign even launches.
What about Social Media? To the Facebook Cave!
Good job big brands…
Long Term Objectives
Fitting Content Marketing into the big picture is more than adding a tree to a landscape on a canvas. This is the backyard! The canvas doesn’t have to worry about that tree someday blocking sun from the garden, or dominating the lawn with its root system. Content Marketing has to be integrated into long term objectives and matched with the desires and interests of the target segments. Long term objectives don’t simply look at “women between the ages of 25-45.” If I evaluated the personalities and triggers of only the women I know in that demographic, it would be very hard for me to break them into just a few personas. Big brands spend big dollars dividing their segments, and then pour all the findings into “expensive” advertising strategies and creative, and often miss informing SEO (aka the content marketers). This integration failure translates to a huge opportunity for competitors that do it right…no matter the size of the company!
I feel long term objectives should never be set based on past performance achievements, but rather by the total market opportunity. What types of content do the target segments consume? What is the “half life” of particular types of content? Some commercials air on TV for years, thanks to their appeal and “likeability.” Effective digital Content Marketing must incorporate HTML Text as well as other digital assets in order to find those occasional wells that people keep going back-to. Long term objectives should be to commit to a process to create, launch, and test all types of digital content. This should result in increased visitor satisfaction, and will be measured by overall business lift. The best part is that this is a fluid “living strategy” process which allows for business changes such as addition of services or product categories, as well as climate changes driven by target consumer evolution.
Content Marketing, SEO, Branding, and Marketing Communications should be considered synonyms, and should be weaved into all marketing macro-strategies. Please share your thoughts in the comments?