Big Data, Metrics & Analytics may be the most popular subjects in the hard knocks school of marketing right now. But CONTENT is still the topic putting many CMOs to the test. September 9 through 11, Boom participated in the “Back To School” Conference in Austin, TX, put on by The Digital Collective, Chicago. As might be expected, attendees were exposed to pleasing numbers, revealing graphs and illuminating pie charts. But content proved to be the source of, well, discontent.
Lesson One: In spite of all the buzz and purported experts, most brands are just fending for themselves when it comes to content. Many are daring to dive in and work through the how-to’s via trial and error. Some are standing eagerly on the sidelines, awaiting that moment when it all becomes clear or the imperative too pressing. Whatever the current stance, the executives responsible for figuring out this content “thing” are asking a lot of questions!
- What constitutes content?
- What content is meaningful to my customers?
- Who creates content?
- How does a brand brand content?
- Where does content strategy come from?
- How is content distributed?
- If I host it on my own web properties, how do I drive traffic to my content?
- How do I staff to handle content?
- How do I go outside for content?
- How do I budget for content creation, distribution, tracking?
- How do I track interaction and engagement and, daresay, conversion?
- Who’s doing content right?
- How do they know if and when a content strategy is successful?
- And perhaps one of the most challenging questions of all (addressed by Bryan Jones, VP North America & Commercial Marketing, Dell): Am I willing to invest in content when 80% of it may have everything to do with relationship-building and connecting personally, while only 20% has to do with selling!?
Lesson Two: One hurdle is that the term “content” itself may be too unwieldy. Almost every conceivable kind of marketing communication has been tossed into the content bucket; from old-fashioned tv spots to text-links. That doesn’t make things any easier. Even for brands who’ve chosen to focus on one area versus another, it’s safe to say the trade is still in the pioneering days of content creation, distribution and evaluation.
Lesson Three: The carrot of measureability is being held out before us in the age of big data. The fact that content is such a conundrum is evidence enough that we still don’t know how to do it. We don’t yet know how to leverage the data we already have, learn from it and then apply that knowledge in ways that have utility for the customer and drive value for the brand. The brands who are succeeding have struck the “relevance” chord. Some are acting on the “fail fast” principle, operating on the promise that one day they’ll discover what works.
Lesson Four: There is evidence that brands are successfully “doing content.” Consider Whole Foods Market. Attendees enjoyed a Q&A with Digital Activation Leader, Nicole Lindstrom and their content partner OneSpot. Her content strategy goes beyond recipes to blog posts and guides to culinary topics and information that validates brand values, as well as the values of its passionate core customer. Their “north start” is personalization — which is likely the secret ingredient in a successful content strategy for almost any brand. After all, what is all this data for if it doesn’t ultimately lead to targeted, branded content that is meaningful to each customer?
Lesson Five: @CMOCollective indeed featured inspiring teachers:
- Julian Aldridge, VP, Brand Evangelism & Activation, Schwab, roused our courage to create marketing with a venture capital mindset. (#killfear)
- Bryan Jones, of Dell, illuminated us about the principles of “social selling.”
- Philip Rather, Head of Partnership, Facebook, drove home the age-old direct marketing mantra of “right person, right message, right time,” but stirred the group with surprisingly convincing data about how FB delivers on that rubric in the new-world.
- Stephen Webster, VP, Global Brand & Design, Mary Kay Global, shared how to be “nimble control freaks” to help a brand stay consistent, while also being adaptable enough to stay relevant to cultures and customers around the world.
Lesson Six: Don’t give up hope. The CMO Collective introduced us to three Austin-based companies focused on addressing “content” questions like those above: Invodo, Spredfast and Umbel. Tony Weber of Time, Inc. hosted the conversation.
As for technology, Techstars offered up four start-ups who are wrangling new tools, data and metrics to shape marketing and customer experiences in the digital age: Experiment Engine, FashionMetric, MetricStory and Written.
Our Test: Here at Boom, we are applying what we learned. Our lesson plan is to explore new and efficient ways to harness our vetted crowd’s energy to produce relevant, branded content on-demand. Stay tuned for contentment. Boom.