7 CMOs share their content marketing dos and don’ts
- 01 October, 2013 08:25
Content marketing is the hot area of investment for marketers both in the B2B and B2C space. According to research by ADMA and the Content Marketing Institute, 96 per cent of Australian marketers are engaged in producing content, allocating an average of 25 per cent of their total marketing budget to these efforts.
But is there a right way of approaching curation, production and distribution to ensure relevance and effectiveness with your target customer group? If the industry commentary is anything to be believed, there are plenty of marketers out there who still don’t know how to get it right.
Disturbingly, analyst firm, Altimeter Group, found many fail in their quest to gain truly effective results from their efforts. Equally, the Corporate Executive Board recently told CMO that many B2B content marketing strategies aren’t working because the marketers behind them aren’t challenging the way customers think or committing to innovative content.
In light of these challenges, we asked CMOs and content producing experts to share their views and experience with content marketing in an increasingly fragmented and real-time world, and their dos and don’ts when it comes to telling a story.
Being individually relevant: Pitney Bowes
For David Newberry, group marketing officer at customer management software provider, Pitney Bowes, marketing comes down to three things: Understanding customers by tapping into data and information about that individual; interacting with them via appropriate channels of communication; and creating an emotional, personal bond through content.
“Content is really the third leg of the stool, and it always has been,” he said. “It has become more important because of the sheer number of messages available today, and because of the fragmentation of channels.”
Some industry pundits claim the average American is supposed to send 3000 messages a day. So what can you do to cut through?
“People now will only consume or pay attention to content if it is saying something that’s going to be of interest and importance to them,” Newberry said. “The second thing is making sure it’s relevant and again, aligning that message to an individual who you know is likely to be interested in it.
“It comes down to the opt-out piece, and there are three elements to that: The people who will respond positively to that content; those who will ultimately ignore it; and those who will negatively respond to that content – in other words, will opt out or take a negative view.
“With content marketing, marketers have to now recognise it’s not just about getting a positive response, it’s also about understanding that you can also get a negative response, and understanding the implications of that to the business, because they could be huge.”
Newberry said the days of marketers treating digital marketing as a broadcast medium, or relying on batch and blast emails of content, are gone. “It’s also about trying to treat the consumer as an individual, and in real-time. That’s really the challenge of marketing now – it’s all about a one-to-one interaction,” he said. “The more you can put in place to drive your ability to do that, the more likely it is you won’t get a negative reaction.”
Knowing your ABCD: Intrepid Travel
The marketing team at Intrepid knows a thing or two about content marketing. Recently, the global travel company partnered with The Perennial Plate on a content strategy to draw attention to its new grassroots food adventures. As well as more than 3 million views, the operator has been able to access the food community, a previously unknown audience.
“The Perennial Plate has a very respectable audience size but they also distribute videos through The Huffington Post, Vimeo and Serious Eats,” global PR and social media manager, Eliza Anderson, said.
“Its work has secured traditional media coverage in top tier publications and we have signed a distribution partnership with YouTube channel, Tastemade. This ensures we are amplifying the reach of our content and getting better bang for our buck.”
A surprising bonus was that these activities represented less than 1 per cent of the company’s total annual marketing budget, proving content marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, Anderson said.
“We needed to develop this relationship in order to support the launch of our new range of authentic, grassroots food adventures that, one year on are selling well, getting great feedback from customers and that we’ll expand next year,” she said.
“If you can hit that sweet spot where you’re getting great content generated and securing solid distribution channels, then I think you are winning. At Intrepid, we have a great team of creative people but they are stretched thin and so we have looked to get our blogger relationships to work for us in terms of both generating and distributing engaging content.”
As a way of managing how it crafts and measures content marketing, Intrepid has devised its very own acronym: ABCD.
- Audience – will the partnership help you speak to the right audience?
- Brand fit – does the partner share your company and brand values?
- Credibility – does the partner have a good domain authority and reputation that will support your marketing efforts and not detract from them? We bundle SEO opportunities here. We are interested in working with people who can help us achieve our search aspirations by providing quality links to our website.
- Distribution – does the partner provide solid distribution so that you are not just relying on your own channels and speaking to the same audience?
“There are two parts to content marketing – telling a great story and ensuring it gets consumed,” Anderson continued. “Make sure you consider both the generation and distribution of each piece of content. Before you begin, you really need to understand what you are wanting to drive – brand support, website visits, or sales.”
Marketers also need to be clear about what content they need to deliver for their brand. “It will help keep you focused and will ensure you are making the right decisions,” Anderson said. “There’s so many great stories to be told but if they aren’t supporting your business objectives, then leave them to someone else to tell. Stick with what will help you achieve your business objectives.”
Critical contexts: Tourism Australia
As the Web becomes more about watching and participating than reading, Tourism Australia CMO, Nick Baker, believes the way brands tell stories and promote engagement becomes a far more important part of the marketing mix.
“Content marketing is about being able to tell stories that inspire and inform people at the same time,” he said. What many organisations fail to recognise, however, is that no content should be produced or curated in isolation.
In addition, while a highly emotive piece of content might work for an emotionally suggestive brand, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the same strategy should be used for a B2B product or service.
“If it’s not relevant, or not a clear call to action, it’s a wasted effort,” Baker claimed. “There must be a business reason and business context if you’re going to do it at all. There are organisations out there that say content must be engaging, but if it’s not integrated with the rest of your plan, it’s just content.”
When asked for his top dos and don’ts on content marketing strategy, Baker stressed that content marketing is not a vanity project. One key is to ensure any content you produce is highly shareable.
“Resist the temptation to do all of your content on your own platforms,” he advised. “Putting branded content on YouTube not only makes the content more reachable and shareable, it also helps with curation and syndication.
“What’s the reason to share and care about that content? If you don’t know how to distribute it, don’t do it.”
These strategies underline a raft of activities undertaken by Tourism Australia, one of which is its YouTube channel. This features hundreds of videos created in-house, along with co-created and industry-focused content. Consumers can use the content library to search for elements relevant to them, as well as mash up different videos to suit their own taste and needs, Baker said.
Another of Tourism Australia’s recent content-led campaigns, ‘Trip in a minute’, saw backpackers produce one-minute videos of their Australian travels to share their insights and experiences with wider audiences. The videos generated hundreds of thousands of views, and also provided the tourism organisation with valuable research into the current most popular destinations with travellers, Baker said.
The most successful recent campaign was ‘Making Tracks’, which paired up international musicians from YouTube’s symphony orchestra with Australian musicians to produce tunes together based on their journeys around Australia. The winning track, ‘It’s like love’, was so compelling, Tourism Australia is now using it on its wider television advertising campaigns.
“Content is not just about long form video; it’s also photos, and how you share these with your audience,” Baker added. “We get a thousand photos per day through our Facebook and Instagram social channels, and each is a piece of content in its own right.
“If you link and share these things people do, you’re also gleaning valuable insights into what things people do, and what they want to see more of.”
Next up: NRMA, Qantas, Samsung and GE Capital
Channel strategy: NRMA
Australian motoring insurance and services giant, NRMA, has a long history in producing content for its members, but until recently lacked a cross-channel strategy, as well as a clear plan on how content could contribute to its marketing efforts and brand messages, head of publishing, Emma Cornwell, said.
“We invest heavily in our Open Road magazine for members, do reviews and so on, but we’d never looked into how we could use this content better in engaging customers interactively, or on a daily basis,” she said. “We were also telling customers what they wanted to hear, as opposed to getting feedback, hearing about their interests.”
A little under three years ago, NRMA decided to change all that and “start a love affair with our customers”, Cornwell said. This wasn’t about creating a lot more content, but placing more emphasis on positioning and tailoring information for a variety of communication channels including social, EDMs, its MyNRMA information portal and YouTube.
“We’re constantly assessing the content that’s working, and doing things like transitioning our EDMs to be less openly offer-driven, and more member-driven,” Cornwell said. “With the car reviews that we’d usually do, such as something on a new Commodore model, we do a long technical review, which goes up on our site, but also produce a short video for our YouTube channel. We’ll then use that content but change the tone and make it more ‘snackable’ for our social channels.
“It’s also about content that supports the needs of the business, and where we can position content in a range of platforms to touch as many people as possible.”
To support its efforts, NRMA appointed its first digital content manager six months ago. The company has also brought on consultancy group, King Content, to help produce content that it hasn’t previously had any expertise or experience in as a way of pushing the boundaries of its brand. This also helps meet the diverse and changing needs of its customers, Cornwell said.
“You need to do it right, or not do it at all,” she advised. “Don’t just write content – you have to have a comprehensive and clear content marketing strategy. Good content is invaluable, but crappy content can destroy a brand.”
Other musts for Cornwell include constantly reassessing your content strategy on a regular basis and being agile, as well as recognising the ROI may be in the long-term. “Don’t think a small investment upfront will see it through,” she said. “Not everything happens quickly and you’re investing for the long-term. Content does play a role in conversion, but it’s a process.
“Also don’t write just about what the CEO or executives are passionate about; you are writing for your audience.”
Being adaptable: Qantas
Qantas head of digital for brand, marketing and corporate affairs, Jo Boundy, said it was the airline group’s increasing participation in digital and social platforms that triggered a change in the way it approaches content.
“We quickly realised we needed to become faster, more adaptable and more cost-effective in the way we produced content,” she said. “Users generate so much content within these channels that we had to adapt to ensure what we were doing remained engaging and relevant to our audience.
“As we adapt our content strategy we know it’s important that we really understand our audience – it’s not always about what we want.”
The Qantas team has made structural changes to help achieve this, including consolidating the digital team within the brand, marketing and corporate affairs department, and empowering the digital team to become content managers. It has also brought roles such as design, video and photography in-house.
“That’s given us much more flexibility and consistency, and has proved to be cost effective,” Boundy said. “It’s important we continue to look at what we’re doing to ensure that we evolve with the space and develop our thinking about what makes successful content.”
Finding the right story: Samsung, GE Capital
During the recent Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) event in Sydney in August, several brands also discussed their own content marketing experiences, and the lessons they’d learnt along the way.
For Samsung MD, Arno Lenier, content marketing is increasingly gaining importance as Samsung strives to lift the emotional connection consumers have with its products.
“Consumers love content provided it’s timely, credible and authentic,” he said. “It’s also about great storytelling – when you tell a great story and integrate products seamlessly, it’s a magic potion.”
At Samsung, the notion of scale – well told, well made and timely – is vital to the story. “You must choose your story, tell it well and choose your meaning wisely,” Lenier said.
The CMO of speciality lending group GE Capital, Suzanne Ristrevski, also highlighted the importance of content as part of her presentation on efforts to improve brand awareness among Australian corporations.
GE Capital identified an untapped opportunity in servicing Australia’s mid-market organisations, and decided to build its marketing program around their unique needs and challenges. A key component was to provide relevant content that these mid-market organisations could relate to, she said.
The content base GE used was research into the mid-market, produced in partnership with the Australian Graduate School of Management. From there, GE had the foundation for a range of content that backed up its thought leadership position, and could be delivered through multiple channels, Ristrevski said. This included producing a series of customer case study videos reflecting the challenges mid-market CFOs are facing, which also aligned with print and digital advertising material.
“You need a content plan that can support your overall advertising strategy,” she added. “Start to segment, then invest in a thought leadership story around this target market.
“When you spend on advertising, you have to give, not just get. Marketers need to give something back for customers around their expertise.”