@Gilbane: Integrating Website and Mobile Strategy

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011 – Gilbane Conference – Boston:  There’s no question when you attend a workshop with Scott Liewehr of Outsell’s Gilbane Services and Robert Rose, co-author with Joe Pulizzi of the book “Managing Content Marketing,” that you’re going to learn a lot and have a good time.

Tuesday’s three-hour workshop for web content management and marketing professionals lived up to the promise. From watching Scott Liewehr hop enthusiastically up the aisle to illustrate how perceptive engagement moves prospects through Robert Rose’s seven-stage buying cycle, to hearing Robert respond to a full list of WEM/CEM acronyms with, “It’s all B.S.,” it was clear the gloves were off and it was time to think differently about consistent customer engagement and why an organization should care enough to do it right.

There’s a lot of interaction involved in a three-hour workshop, so here are the key messages and some how-to examples to kick-start your strategy.

If You Only Take Away One Thing From This Report…

Let it be this: Most businesses today are still suffering from the effects of a major disconnect between what they want to say in their marketing and what their prospects and customers want to hear—and how and where they want to hear it. Getting to know who they are and what they need, then creating useful, targeted content that guides them through their own buying cycles (not just your internal sales cycle) will reap significant rewards for your organization.

That’s the basis of content marketing, which relies heavily on persuasive content targeted at the needs and interests of diferent customer or consumer profiles. And as Scott said very directly, “Persuasive content must first be perceptive.” So listening, gathering information on who your visitors and prospects are and how they engage, then building experiences to match their expectations is fundamental to marketing success today.

Another key takeaway from Scott Liewehr: Yes, technology can help you with customer engagement across web, mobile, and other channels. There are some great tools on the market to support your efforts. But process is the largest part of engagement done right, and it has to come before technology.

SEO is Answers, Not Engagement

It’s still true that search engine optimization (SEO) is important to your digital branding and marketing success. But work on it should come after the creation of compelling and targeted content, Robert says. SEO will help a customer find you, but it won’t help a customer move from interest through conversion and ultimately to advocacy.

What works is “a high velocity of good, sharable content.” You can worry about the title character count and metatags later, when you “fine-tune the race car.”

Why Does Content Marketing Work?

If your content is good, it will both engage and be shared and spread by your customers. But good, engaging content that enables interaction with the customer requires transparency and immediate communication, and most companies are not yet good at this.

Content Marketing Requires Innovation, Which Involves Risk

It’s critical when you’re gearing your team up for innovation to make it OK to fail, Robert said. In content marketing, where justifying the cost of innovation can be so tough to do, it makes sense to do a series of small, iterative experiments. Some will work. Some won’t. And you’ll learn some absolutely vital things along the way that will make your bigger projects work well.

Ask your team, where are we not doing well enough? Where are our results poorest? That’s the place to start creating an innovative content-marketing experiment to find out what works best for the profiles or types of prospects or consumers you’re targeting.

Real World: When inbound marketing and web content management (WCM) consultant Scott Templeman, a workshop attendee, began working with young-adult-fiction author Laura Kreitzer, she was experiencing a tremendous problem with pirating of her e-book. The two brainstormed a content-marketing experiment, making the first book in her series available as a free download on Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites, which increased the sales of the succeeding books in the series tremendously. This shows the power of meaningful content as a motivator for buying decisions and customer loyalty.

Building a Business Case for Content Marketing

There’s no question about it: Done right, content marketing is innovative, and getting budget for innovation can be a hard sell. That’s why Robert advocates starting with a series of small, adaptive experiments and adopting the philosophy that it’s OK to fail as a team. Get budget for a small experiment and “fail small” until you hit the right idea, then leverage that for a bigger win.

He also notes that real innovation is an open process, and that requires networking across the usual divisions and groups. “The I.T. guys will have good ideas for content marketing, too.”

First, to begin the internal sales process for content marketing projects, evangelize the idea of content marketing to decision-makers by doing an internal workshop showing some case studies from companies in your industry and brainstorming some potential projects.

Then, to get that first chunk of budget for a “skunkworks” project, Robert suggests the creation of an actual innovation business plan, which would include:

  • The Challenge
  • Outcomes
  • Risk
  • Targets (Who) – the total addressable market (TAM) and their profiles
  • Actions
  • Budget
  • Deliverables

And the big, red, “Oh, No!” button. (Editor’s Note: I cleaned up the name of the button in order to keep this site’s G rating.)

Building the WHO

To communicate effectively in an age in which consumer/customer trust is down and “the peer review is always right,” Scott says a digital marketer—in fact, a brand—must:

  • Be open
  • Be a good listener
  • Be prepared
  • Be knowledgeable
  • Be consistent
  • Deliver value.

In other words (Scott’s): “Listen. Be relevant. Engage.”

The stages of engagement in digital content marketing

There’s more to engagement than a click to purchase, which anyone involved in customer retention and upsell initiatives understands. Scott said:

Engagement occurs when a consumer interacts with a brand, and elects to invest in it physically, financially, or emotionally.

The tipping point comes in gaining a consumer’s attention and trust through a process of engagement. As Scott outlines it, the engagement journey moves a prospect from Awareness through Conversion, then Loyalty, and finally, the ultimate stage: Advocacy.

Define Key Personas and Build a Segmentation Plan

Personas are about more than demographics. Personas actually tell you who your key buyer types are as people. So defining personas means identifying your key types of buyers, who they are and what pushes their buttons. Following a few key players on Twitter and learning what they like through their comments and retweets is one way to get to know them, but engaging with your own customers is always the best place to start.

A segmentation plan (covered at length in Robert’s book, “Managing Content Marketing”) will help you plan content for each of your key buyer personas.

Map Content to Both Your Sales Cycle and Your Buyer’s Buying Cycle

If you stop and think, it’s fairly obvious that these two cycles are broken out differently, but if you don’t deliver compelling content that your buyers need at the different stages through which they pass before signing up for your product or service, you’re not going to convert as many buyers. Period.

Robert presented a spreadsheet that shows how you can delineate and work with both of these important cycles:

Planning Content by Buying Cycle

The main point to bear in mind as you plan content is that if you don’t know where your buyers are in their buying cycles, you can’t deliver the right content.

Building the WHERE: Context is Critical

Using a map of the world as an example, Robert talked about how our perspectives on “facts” or situations can vary greatly, depending on our contexts (such as culture, economic rank, geography, language, age, and more). Those of us in North America who are over the age of 30 grew up with maps of the world that made the United States appear nearly as large as or larger than the African continent. However, when shown a map that represents the actual proportions of each of the continents in relationship to each other, it becomes clear that several of our larger nations, including the former U.S.S.R. and the United States, can all fit easily within the space represented by Africa.

This illustrates the importance of context for content, which deals with how we uniquely respond to a situation. Context for your key personas is a critical element in delivering persuasive, compelling, engaging content to the right people right where they “live.”

Creating a Very Simple Content Channel Plan

To help map out your content definition, creation, and delivery plans, create a chart showing your:

  • Situational Analysis: What you should change or stop doing altogether
  • Channel Objectives:  The purpose, personality, and velocity of your content
  • Content/Conversion Plan: Mapping out what will be developed, how, when, and where
  • Metrics: How will you measure success or return on investment (ROI)?
  • Personas: Your key buyers or consumers by channel
  • Editorial Calendar: This should be driven and fed by multiple initiatives wihtin your organization.

Mobile Content Strategy

Scott and Robert stressed the fundamental importance, as with content for any channel, of knowing your buyers and who they are. This should extend in your research stages into knowing how they use their mobile devices and what they want to view and interact with on them.

Real World: One workshop attendee who helps a Fortune 500 financial company deploy content across platforms noted that their strategy was to use short videos delivered through mobile apps to bring more customers and prospects to the longer videos on their corporate website.

Do your prospects want to get the latest news? Read longer articles while they’re on planes or waiting in a restaurant? Or do they need to perform simple, but time-critical transactions such as checking into a flight online, reserving a seat at a major event, or buying high, then selling low?

Doing due diligence on what your customers actually want to do and only delivering those experiences and that content to them on mobile platforms will ensure better results to meet your business objectives. Robert noted that it can be a best practice for certain kinds of content to create longer version for websites at the same time as smaller, more portable versions are created for mobile sites. It’s all part of the workflow.

Before Approaching Technology, Get the Process Right 

It’s important to figure out how to manage content centrally as an asset, Robert and Scott both noted. But even more important than that is the creation and support of a content strategy process for the organization. Once that’s in place and you’ve got both process and a plan, then you can make swift work of finding technology that can support your targeting and cross-platform delivery efforts.

In Closing

This is by no means a complete review of the excellent workshop I attended. The intent is to give you a kickstart and some inspiration for beginning to leverage content marketing in your organization – content marketing that can make a difference to your topline revenue and overall marketing success.


Cynthia Siemens is the Editor-in-Chief of ContentManagement.com. She has worked in software and technology companies since 1986, beginning as an application developer and trainer, then developing a focus on writing and editing about technology for business. She has worked for and with such companies as Hitachi Data Systems, Citrix, Symantec, Cisco, Adobe, CA, BroadVision, Knowledge Adventure, MetaCreations, LivePix, Oracle, Sun, Logitech, Uniloc USA, Magnify360, and Sony Digital Entertainment.

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