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Article Uncovering the True Value of Content Marketing Experiences

As marketers, trying to keep up with today’s fast-changing marketplace can seem like a Herculean task.

Not only are there now dozens of channels (everything from traditional print to the wide array of digital channels like social media and email, just to name but a few) but there is often increasing pressure on marketers to bring in more leads with fewer resources. To say marketers are stuck between a rock and a hard place today would be an understatement.

So what are today’s marketing teams to do? If having robust and well-managed strategies on every single platform available is too exhausting to even contemplate let alone oversee, then how can marketers be successful with today’s audience?

"Now there [are] just tens, hundreds, of new channels that we have to be engaging on and that our consumers expect us to be on. Really, when we start looking at it, we've got to understand how we're going to get better insight from all of the things that we're doing and all of the prospective consumer behavior," marketing expert Robert Rose advises. "How are we going to scale our efforts across either multiple divisions, multiple products, multiple global offices, and scale our efforts to be able to address all of that in a quality way? It's a very challenging time."

To succeed today, don’t try to be everything to everyone, marketing expert Robert Rose advises. Instead, focus on providing the right marketing experiences in a way that makes sense, prioritizing audience building over lead acquisition. Robert, a Senior Contributing Analyst with the Digital Clarity Group and the Chief Strategy Officer with the Content Marketing Institute, noted this in his webinar on content marketing experiences with Mura’s Sean Schroeder.

Current state of digital overload

In marketing, the logic goes that everything needs to be built around leads. So, marketers create all these content experiences and campaigns and messages for their audience. The hope is that all of this proves compelling enough for a prospect to eventually reach out to Sales and become a bona fide lead.

There are a few problems with this approach though. For one, many business take a “spray and pray” approach whereby they get their message on as many platforms as possible. After all, potential buyers today are using lots of different channels (email, social media, organic search, etc.) on many different devices every day. The idea then is to be everywhere the potential buyer is, at all times. But who has the time for that? As the number of possible channels proliferate, the odds of being successful on each and every one are miniscule.

Then there are the issues with the idea of leads as the sole goal of marketing. Sure, inbound leads are always great, but does that mean everyone else who isn’t ready to convert right now is chopped liver? The answer, at least in Robert’s view, is absolutely not. When you focus on building an audience with great content experiences as opposed to just hunting for leads, you can derive greater value out of your marketing efforts both today and well into the future.

"We're building an audience. We're not building leads. We're not building opportunities yet," Robert noted in the webinar. "We're building an audience - somebody that's engaged and wants to exchange some level of data, [either] behavioral or explicit - in exchange for a great experience. That's the heart of content marketing for sure, and it is the heart of what really is at the heart of content marketing, which is developing an audience."

Why you need to focus on audience building

Most marketing strategies involve offering something of value in exchange for data. More often than not, the data being requested is a phone number or an email. But what if that wasn’t the only valuable information you could glean? What if there’s more to the data-gathering equation?

And, this all assumes that you’re providing content experiences that actually lead someone to want to give over their precious private information. But how do you really know what your target market is looking for? How do you exactly what they’re interested in and where they spend their time?

Ultimately, you may not be thinking about marketing in the right manner. Essentially, there are two core elements to keep in mind. One, you need to really know your audience. And then, you need to provide them with the very best content experiences so they really want to interact with you and learn from you. That, according to Robert, is how you can be a successful marketer today.

Let’s break this down a little bit further. What do you know about your target market? At most businesses, the answer to that questions is, unfortunately, not much. Most marketing records are incomplete and disjointed.

"One of the common misconceptions here is when we start saying okay, well, we've got to look beyond customer records. Well, that assumes, by the way, that we have good customer records to begin with, because so many times I'll go into an organization and they'll say, 'Great. We've got a marketing database,' or, 'We've got a customer database.' You go, 'Great. Well, let's start using that to deliver some value or some piece of content or how do we create a content strategy that's going to be valuable to those consumers?' Once we start peeling back the layers of the data that we have, we realize we don’t really have that much or what we have, quite frankly, is all inaccurate - either inaccurate, old, or quite frankly just not that valuable," Robert said.

This is a key point, because it’s difficult to effectively market to people if you know little to nothing about them. Audience building is extremely valuable for this exact reason. If knowledge is power, then audience building is how you can accumulate your necessary knowledge.

How to develop your audience

Describing the value in an audience is one thing, but how can marketers obtain one in the first place? If existing marketing efforts aren’t making the grade and data stores in place now are incomplete, then where do you begin? Robert’s suggestion is to use great content marketing experiences:

"If [you] can, start to look at a strategy that creates valuable content where customers want to give us that data in exchange for that content - that means the content itself has got to be pretty, pretty darn good - we're really focusing on subscription. We're really focusing on getting people to subscribe to this content or this experience and then connecting multiples of those experiences together so that progressively that rich data profile gets bigger and better over time."

The idea here is that when you provide something that is so incredibly valuable, people want to engage with you and hear from you. The goal of content marketing here is not to push people through the funnel and convert them, but rather simply to interest them.

"These are not leads or opportunities yet," Robert noted. "At some point we hope that they're going to raise their hand and we're going to push them into a marketing process or a sales process where we want to facilitate some buying decision down the road. We're building an audience here and we're exchanging value for data. We're building an engagement with an audience that has nothing to do with them being leads or dripped or automated in any capacity. What we're hoping to do is actually deliver it and build that progress."

This is a bigger shift than you may realize. Essentially, the core of Robert’s message is to think about the value of marketing, especially digital marketing, markedly differently.

Once you have your audience well developed and curated, then you can do lots of cool things. You can focus our marketing efforts on a specific number of channels. You can use marketing automation tools to more effectively get your core messages out to a variety of channels. You can actually have fine-tuned messaging for all of your target personas (and know who your target personas are). But, none of this happens without audience data.

Audience development success story: Kraft

To see how this kind of marketing effort works, looks to Kraft. In particular, one of the main ways in which the company was able to develop its audience was through its free recipe database.

When you think about this effort from a traditional marketing lens, it seems like a waste of effort. After all, not only is it probably not bringing in tons of leads and sales, but all the time and energy that goes into the site means less can be done with other channels. But, when you look at the effort with audience building in mind, it’s easy to see the efficacy of a recipe database with 3.5 million subscribers who very willingly gave over their information to access this content.

"They'll tell you that increased purchase intent is a wonderful thing and they create it, but that's not why and not how they benefit most often from this idea," Robert said in the webinar. "This idea is that the subscribed content provides actionable insight for them to take action on. In other words, they have more data and better research about their consumers than any research company on the planet. They actually don't even buy external research about their consumers any more because they've got better research than any research company does."

There is so much a company can do once this kind of audience is developed and curated. Want to know what product messaging will best resonate with potential buyers? Want to know what your new service should be named? All of these questions, and more, are much easier to answer when you have a built-in audience to tap.

“We can try out all kinds of things with an audience that's much bigger than our lead funnel at any one time and get tremendous business value out of it and then, yes, some percentage of them will also come through the lead funnel,” Robert noted. “It's looking at multiple ways to generate actionable insight out of data, not just pulling them in through the lead funnel.”

How to learn more about audience building and content experiences

Building an audience with prime content is no easy feat. To learn more about the full value of content marketing experiences, be sure to download this white paper today. Co-authored with Robert, the white paper dives into the full value of audiences and content experiences.

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