In this age of constant business and marketing transformation, attempting to stay ahead of, or indeed keep up with technology is the single biggest challenge for businesses and brands.
We have seen new content marketing philosophies, principles and frameworks come and go and, increasingly, reporting and focus both appear to be on the channels rather than the content. But where is the focus on what fills the channels? And how does an organisation harness and leverage its own resources to manage it all?
As an industry we have instigated 360-degree marketing campaigns, developed multichannel strategies and attempted to figure out exactly what omnichannel means – only to discover that it often looks like a 360-degree multichannel strategy. Our world has got more complex through technology and its disruptive influence on when, how and where to connect with audiences to help us build sustainable and profitable growth.
For businesses and marketers, this will open up new routes to market and audiences. That’s great, but it can also dissipate both energy and budget as you feel the irresistible pull of shiny, new and emerging channels and platforms, and try to figure out what is delivering the best return on investment. Choice is great – but it can also destroy focus.
Many businesses, especially those in the SME space, have limited human and financial resources with which to manage the modern marketing communications mix. Where there is the resource, it often sits in different parts of the organisation.
Some have been able to pursue innovation (or want to) and have invested in expanding their communication offerings, hiring teams or agencies to harness an increasingly large number of channels and possibilities. But many businesses and brands have neither the time nor the resource and, when they do, the focus is often on the channels and not the content.
A number of marketing directors we have spoken to are now referring to channel overload and the need to be able to figure out what is right for their business and brand. They need to focus on delivering proven results in a few channels well and not many channels less well.
This is compounded by the fact that channels that started out as one ‘form’ have crossed the line into another. Facebook, for instance, has rapidly transformed from a social interface for brands into an advertising platform for brands. So, whether it’s Facebook, Periscope, Snapchat, Instagram or others, when these channels change, how you approach them should too.
Reach and engagement for brands on social is not the only challenge though. Ad blocking,
ad blindness and viewability create problems for online and mobile banner advertising. Native/advertorial is a risk as trust is eroded, with clickbait breeding irrelevance and suspicion.
Getting back to the basics
So, while it feels noisy and complicated, don’t forget the basics.
1. Re-examine your audiences and what you know about them: Understanding audiences through both data and insight is key to navigating our communications maze. Demographics are less relevant now; the key to good marketing and content is to understand attitudes, lifestyles, online and offline consumption, cultures and mindsets. Interests can be shared across age groups – so find and target the interests.
2. Have a plan: You need a joined-up and single integrated content and distribution plan defined from the outset: who is my audience, what am I offering, where will I find them, how do I engage with them, what content will work best, what channels can I reach them through? Whether you want to call your approach multichannel or omnichannel, have a plan.
3. Get your own house in order: Build on owned media. It is a great place to start and should be part of your plan: your website, email marketing, printed communications – platforms that not only broadcast messages but also encourage engagement and feedback and, importantly, are easily measurable.
Weave in native, contextual or programmatic advertising on other websites, but create truly native content on your own site as well.
4. Content is not just king, but the whole deck of cards: Great content is not just born out of knowing your audience. It’s also a craft. Anyone can produce content, but not everyone can create relevant, engaging, compelling and valuable ‘stand out and be noticed’ content.
Incorporate a healthy dose of ‘and now for something completely different’ moments, otherwise all you are doing is recycling ideas to the same audience. Nintendo perfected Pokemon on its owned platforms. Now Pokémon Go is able to capitalise on new platforms and technology to take it far beyond the realms of the handheld games console.
5. Integration, not silos: Sustainable, profitable growth will also come from how your business structures itself. Consolidate and integrate your teams: the digital team, the social platform team, the communications team, the PR team, the marketing team. Most of all put the customer and content at the heart of everything you do.
Measuring success means different things to different people. There are well understood metrics for websites: there are subscribers, opening and click-through rates for emails; subscribers or pickup numbers for printed materials. There are short-term financial measures: monthly, daily or sometimes hourly sales, coupon redemption sales. Then there’s a longer tail of metrics: increased basket spend by database members versus non-database, return visits, return purchases, increased frequency in-store or online, or a variety of survey-based metrics about awareness, recall and recommendation.
Ultimately though, your total investment in customer intimacy through content should also be measured against truly long-term metrics: customer lifetime/lifecycle value and long-term shareholder return, and increasing the value of your brand on your balance sheet. In short, this focus on content, if planned and resourced properly, will also help transform your business outlook from short-term to longer-term.
In our rapidly changing and noisy landscape, now is the time for a customer- and content-first, not channel-first, approach. Putting content first will become much simpler, more attainable, more engaging and more measurable. So, rather than focusing on multichannel or omnichannel, perhaps our new marketing philosophy, principle and framework should be called omnicontent.