The agency business is subject to continuous structural changes. A look at the Google trends of recent years illustrates how our client’ desire for creative presentation has given way to their demand for concrete results from marketing efforts, or even a return on investment. There is no end to this development in sight because it is the customer who is setting the pace. For us as service providers, it therefore makes sense to look at this challenge as an opportunity for our future business. This is already a reality in Rol-driven content marketing.
The bottomless pit
Even in the recent past it was downright bizarre: the investment in content marketing campaigns, such as for example a corporate publishing website, could be quantified quite accurately, while the financial returns remained vague. There were many reasons for this.
Reason number 1: Fragmented objectives
Content marketing is a niche discipline for a variety of specialist marketing disciplines, although not always clearly defined and distinct. This is where creatives, editors and copywriters, performance and e-mail marketers, sales representatives, developers and many others all come together. Each of these professions has different goals, which at first glance are hard to define consistently. Creatives want to optimally position the brand and communicate, the performance marketer is interested in impressions and clicks and the sales reps want more customers.
Reason number 2: Fragmented data situation
Each of these job descriptions has individual assessment techniques. Creatives win their awards, performance marketers are judged by their conversions and sales representatives are glad to get sales from referrals.
The common objective
What it needed was a common denominator. The greatest common denominator is the return, the return on investment. It’s not just a random idea, because the investment in media and staff – regardless of whether they’re a creative or a salesperson – is measured the same way as the revenue: financially.
To achieve a return on investment, all content marketing parties have to agree on common targets:
· Content marketing should achieve a return on investment.
· Content marketing is a strategic approach to the achievement of corporate objectives.
The pecuniary Rol is generated by a transaction, a purchase, a transfer or a direct debit. Each of these transactions represents a user’s individual expression of will. It is therefore self-explanatory that content marketing is primary about the information needs of the users, with the content needs of its creator being secondary. Which means:
· Using content marketing, users can be activated and motivated to interact and potentially become customers and multipliers.
· In content marketing, valuable content, tailored to the needs of the user, is generated and fed to the customer at the most suitable time on the distribution channel with the strongest conversion figures.
The above points describe the user’s customer journey from first activation up to the final, revenue-generating transaction. Our creative marketing efforts therefore contribute to the initiation of a purchase. There’s a simple reason for that.
The customer journey
The customer journey is 65 percent completed before the seller is even contacted for the first time. The preconditions for a successful transaction are laid down in the first phases of the customer journey: facts are communicated, opinions exchanged and experiences shared. The potential buyer is aware of their own problem, perhaps guessing which solution suits them best, but still far from choosing a product. Once these missing pieces of information are exchanged, a context for a future successful use of the product is predicted, in order to build up trust with the potential seller. Only then will the transaction, the purchase, most likely be carried out.
The buying process can be divided into the following phases:
The user realises there is a problem. The information they seek during this phase should help to clarify the need. They become aware of their problem.
The user can designate an actual name to the problem or the adopted solution. They are now looking for information that will solve the problem. The problem is evaluated along with a possible solution.
In this phase, the user searches for a consolidated solution – i.e. for a product or service. Comparisons are made between the various pieces of information about consolidated solution offers and the purchasing decision is made.
All of this information must be communicated. That’s why the creative is needed in this rather sales-oriented process, because they open up the heart and mind of the future buyer. Content marketers create the “reasons to buy”.
Conversion into the funnel
The customer journey I have explained can readily be converted into a conversion funnel, by placing the user at the centre.
1. In the awareness phase, our users are interested parties, who, for example, inform themselves about problems and solutions via a search engine query.
2. During the consideration phase, as visitors to the website, they evaluate our solution offers and via newsletter subscription, become the lead.
3. In the decision phase, the users qualify themselves as a qualified lead for marketing or sales by opening personalised mailings and visits to corresponding landing pages.
4. With the purchase – regardless of whether digitally, online or offline via sales representatives– the Rol is generated and the process completed.
Of course the process can be continued here because each newly acquired customer should hopefully become a return customer or multiplier. But in this context of Rol-driven content marketing, that shouldn’t play a role.
Measured data in the funnel
Each platform visited by the user during the conversion process provides individual KPIs: Google shows us the monthly searches and our website provides all kinds of information about visitor behaviour; our CRM provides information about dealing with e-mail marketing and generates significant information on buying behaviour. Beyond that, we can calculate conversion rates between the individual stages of the funnel, and finally, there are industry standards that we can gradually adapt in ongoing projects.
This means that in the face of this data situation, it should also be possible to predict the success of our action, to give a promise of performance, as well as to calculate the break-even and Rol.
Excellent, systematic content marketing
As was illustrated in the previous sections, the situation is ideal for a “performance promise”:
· The stakeholders are identified.
· The stakeholders share common goals.
· The infrastructure informs us about the relevant KPIs.
What we ultimately need is a method that collates the necessary activities into a consistent operating system. We call this method “Content Marketing Excellence” and it consists of six elements:
1. Planning: Definition of objectives, requirements and KPIs within the project.
2. Research: Verification of chances and opportunities by analysing the target group’s digital footprints on the basis of content, social, marketing, tech and SEO audits of competitors and best cases.
3. Concept: Summary of the planning and research results in a consistent masterplan, which contains specific instructions for the operational staff.
4. Production: Economic and scalable content production on the basis of the previously developed masterplan.
5. Distribution: Marketing of content to owned media (own website, blog, newsletter, social), earned media (bloggers, influencers, multipliers) and paid media (paid advertising).
6. Analytics: Continuous monitoring of performance in order to optimise production and distribution.
We have been successfully using this method in each customer project since 2012. But it can only succeed with a team of trained professionals in digital marketing. In addition to this, other “talents” are required:
Creative content, process-oriented thinking and technical expertise
First and foremost, Rol-driven content marketing requires creativity in content creation, because the content is the currency with which we pay the user for their data.
Communication between providers and users during the initiation of the purchase is also a sales process. That’s why the responsible content marketer must have adequate knowledge of sales processes.
As the individual user is at the focus of Rol-driven content marketing, content and processes need to be customised. Regardless of whether the user is addressed personally by name in an e-mail or the website adapts to the visitor’s individual need using dynamic content: personalisation is crucial to success. The effort and expense resulting from this approach can only be achieved by using automated environments. Rol-driven content marketing requires technical understanding for marketing automation environments.
Rol-driven content marketing
With the possibilities of scalable content architectures, as well as a comprehensive analysis of the individual user’s digital footprint, in the future the sales process can kick in during the earliest phase of the customer journey, as soon as the user has communicated their individual challenge for the first time and we can provide the right solution. The vendor becomes a partner. Companies aiming to achieve a return on investment with their content-marketing efforts in the future will need to merge three areas, frequently acting as “silos”: communication, sales and IT. Doing this will guarantee long-term business success.