This post is part of the Content Q&A Series, featuring interviews with top content strategists and bloggers about their work and insights about the industry.
Content marketing needs more than great writing to truly add value to your brand. Whether you’re producing videos, articles, or blog pieces, you need to ensure that what you produce has a clear place in your company’s sales funnel.
“A viable content marketing strategy relates each persona and target audience to each phase of the sales engagement cycle,” said Suzanne Baran, content strategy director at Saatchi & Saatchi LA.
Her experience spans brands and publishers, as she has spent the last 14 years working with brands such as Yahoo, AT&T, Cisco, Scottrade, POM Wonderful, DirecTV, Teleflora, FIJI Water, California Psychics, AVG, The Hollywood Reporter, and Buzz Media.
Here’s what she’s learned:
“Companies can learn from creating content that provides rich information.”
First and foremost, brand marketers need to jump into their content plans with clear revenue goals. A first step in that process is to create a map that links content back to your business model.
“Creating a content engagement map informs what type of content will serve the needs of a potential consumer,” Baran said. “For example, if Jane is unfamiliar with a retail brand, she might fall in the top of the sales cycle under ‘awareness.’ Jane may not have a pressing need or pain point just yet. Her only pain point is not being able to find the perfect pumps.”
Content will facilitate the introductory handshake to our brand, according to Baran.
“Instead of bombarding her with bombastic marketing materials, companies can learn from creating content that provides rich information, such as a photo gallery on spring’s hottest colors,” Baran said.
“Brands often lack structure around content creation … buy-in is often a challenge, and the process is rarely collaborative.”
The most common reason why content strategies fall flat is simple — brands fail to jump in with clearly defined objectives. You need a person to take the lead to oversee planning, creation, production, and maintenance of the entire content lifecycle. Leading content strategist Erin Scime calls this individual the “content czar.”
“Brands need to empower their czar with authority, accountability, and responsibility,” Baran said. “Often, companies do a poor job of creating this role and evangelizing the significance to internal and external facing stakeholders. Brands often lack structure around content creation. Outside resources will build their strategy, but buy-in is often a challenge, and the process is rarely collaborative.”
The key to success is flexibility.
“Brands are becoming publishers,” Baran said. “They are breaking news and require a nimble approach to publishing content across multiple platforms, especially social. Social influencers are becoming more convincing than other digital mediums.”
“The most commonly used metric isn’t the most effective measurement tool.”
Baran encourages brands to get their metrics in order.
“Most brands I’ve worked with have multiple tools and disparate metrics, poor tagging, and the list goes on,” Baran said. “I advocate for Google Analytics and dashboards for content teams so that they have access data to inform their programming decisions.”
Don’t rely on a cookie-cutter approach to measuring success, she recommends.
“Conversions are defined differently by each brand,” Baran said. “The most commonly used metric isn’t the most effective measurement tool—pageviews and reach. Sign-ups, registrations, and information requests are widespread types of content marketing conversions. The least widespread type of conversion is video views and downloads, which is increasing in relevancy.”
It is essential that content marketers be data driven.
“I help brands by optimizing their content, specifically by identifying and delivering the right message for the right audience at the right time,” Baran said.