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Content marketing: Five things CMOs need to know

Matt Preschern, CMO, HCL Technologies, outlines his five tips for content marketing

New research from the Content Marketing Institute shows that the top two priorities for B2B content creators are creating more engaging content (cited by 72 per cent of respondents) and having a better understanding of content that is effective (65 per cent). CMOs are increasing their investment in developing compelling, personalised content that is relevant to consumers and drives engagement with their brand. 

Now that the stakes have been raised, how do CMOs ensure their content remains on-point? Here are five things CMOs need to keep in mind about content marketing in 2016:

1. Ensure content is relevant to the customer experience

Content is the context through which your customers experience your brand, whether that content is a video, a blog post or an email. It is the first touchpoint and opportunity for engagement. But to create effective content, marketers need to understand exactly what this audience expects and wants on every step of the journey.

To do this effectively, you’ll need a deep, iterative understanding of your audiences based on real-time data, which can be achieved through MaaS analytics tools. These tools can be valuable in helping you answer questions like: Who are my customers? What are they looking for? Where are they spending time on my website? What are they sharing? Considering the relevance of your content marketing to the customer experience is a key way to ensuring that the ultimate product stands out.

2. Focus on personalisation

According to the Content Marketing Institute, one in five internal content creators said that they wanted to become better at personalising content, which was slightly higher than the 19 per cent who wanted to “become stronger writers.” Consumers are inundated with so many messages today; making sure each message is targeted to the right person is absolutely key.

To effectively personalise the experience, start with the data to create a customer mind map. This mind map will identify what matters most to them (probably not your brand - yet) and the issues and content they find compelling. From that, you can determine the value your brand can offer in this space.

In effect, this mind map will enable you to develop a content journey that mirrors and adapts to the customer acquisition journey. Personalisation of content - even in a B2B setting - is crucial for changing behaviour. If you can meet a customer where they are in their journey with your brand, you are more likely to convert their engagement to behaviour change, the goal of marketing.

3. Assemble the right toolkit with new visuals

In this case, the platforms are driving content to move toward more visual offerings. Consider the runaway success of Instagram and other photo-sharing sites, which is conditioning the public to respond to and expect visuals. Every piece of content, even if it is a 2000-word whitepaper describing a new product, needs compelling visuals to bring it to life, from photos to infographics to videos.

The key is to assemble a suite of tools that work toward the right goal at each stage in the content marketing process. A new viewer may be attracted by a compelling photo, while an engaged consumer may take the time to watch a video providing more details. Understanding what the consumer wants, and when they want it, is key to delivering the right toolkit.

4. Target content to your employees

As a marketer, you may know that your focus is external stakeholders who can drive sales for your brands. But content marketing is a powerful tool for activating internal audiences as well. Your employees are your best advocates, so invest in knowing them like you know your customers. By providing content they enjoy and want to share, your employees become ambassadors, generating organic excitement around your brand and content.

At HCL, we call our employees our idea-preneurs, as we know they are key to the value system of our company. We also know that the authenticity of our brand is reflected through our employees. As a result, it is vital that we ensure that our employees are receiving the right information about our company, from our new initiatives to our past successes and challenges, so that they can continue to champion our messages and our goals in their networks.

5. Test, measure, repeat; do it again

This is where the hard work for marketing takes over from the creative content ideas. Just do it, again and again. Today, data and A/B testing provide an understanding of what content is working and what isn’t, allowing you to improve your customer experience. Measure data that is relevant to your business and benchmark content performance against KPIs to identify the 'best' content for your marketing goals. Analyse overarching trends in your content performance and draw out key findings to inform your strategy. Through consistent, rigorous testing, you can ensure your brand’s content is tailored to consumers’ ever-changing needs and preferences.

This is necessary because today’s empowered consumer is expecting a digital experience across different touch points, and so it is vital to make sure that this experience is a consistent one, from the webpage visit to the conversation with a call specialist to the results from a Google search. The key to content marketing is iterative improvement and patience, as it is necessary to fine-tune the strategies and drive optimal engagement.