Rebecca Lieb has created digital marketing strategies for some of the world’s leading brands, including Cisco, Home Depot, Save the Children and The Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As a strategic advisor, research analyst and author she is an expert in the digital marketing field. She has published three books, and in her latest, Content—The Atomic Particle of Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Content Marketing Strategy, she covers how content is rivaling traditional advertising, which tools, techniques and content stacks are out there, and how to prove the ROI of content.
In an interview she gave to Content Magazine she spoke about the importance of creating customer-centric content, using data to identify customer journeys, and how organizations can build a culture of content. Plus, she outlines the 10 steps you need to take to create an effective content strategy.
Content: In your latest book, you say that marketers need to deliver customer-centric content; the right content, at the right time, on the right channel. Why is this important? Can you give an example of this being effective in practice?
Rebecca Lieb: It’s very critical marketers take a customer centric approach. All too often I see marketers who lack a strategic mindset, they spend their time focusing on tactical approaches, such as, ‘we need to market on Facebook’ without conducting the due diligence and ensuring their audience is indeed on that channel. It may be that they are on Facebook, but when they are there, they aren’t in a receptive mode to marketing or what a brand is selling or trying to interest them in.
A customer centric approach is a beautiful culmination of getting to the right consumer, at the right time, with the right message—it’s a mantra we’ve used in digital marketing for years, right back to the era of email marketing. There are all kinds of examples of this being effective in practice. I’ve seen automotive dealers using cell phones, beacons and sensors to market to their consumers at the point of entry into their dealership. If the consumer walks right into the ‘service area’ or left in to the ‘buy a car’ area—they can send an appropriate message to that person, related to their journey, rather than just a random one.
Buying journeys are so different from what they used to be. People start research online, go to social media, ask a friend, read reviews… and they zig zag around rather go down a than a set funnel. How can marketers adapt their approach?
RL: It’s important to note that customer journeys are becoming more multichannel; it started with web, then web + mobile + social, and pretty soon it will be web + mobile + social + smart watches and wearable tech. Customer journeys can now go in all kinds of directions at once, and happen on all sorts of devices. It’s critical that marketers collect data that allows them to analyse these patterns, so they can understand where their customers go while on the journey.
You can find out about customers using social listening tools, but equally important is CRM data. CRM, which departed from marketing for several years, is now back. It is much easier to tie all the data from the differing channels using customer records and CRM data.
MGM Hotels and Resorts in Las Vegas, has an app that doubles as a customer loyalty scheme. Every time a customer visits one of its hotels it knows where they are and what their preferences are, i.e. whether they like fine dining and shopping vs going to shows or plays. It can then tailor offers to its customers based on location, preferences and past purchase history. It’s hyper personalized marketing – and goes way beyond sending them a personalized email with their name on it.
In your book, you say that content strategy and content marketing are distinctly different. Can you define each term, and say which comes first?
RL: You can’t do content marketing without first having a content strategy. A content strategy is equitable to having a blue-print for building a house. The content strategy defines what you’re trying to achieve with content marketing. It sets out your goals, and states how you are going to measure and optimize progress within those. It then identifies the tools, software and processes, and personnel you need to achieve those goals. When businesses don’t have a strategy, they tend to get very channel specific i.e. they say ‘We’re on Snapchat, it’s the latest cool thing, all the kids are doing it’, without having a reason for being there. Also, their measuring gets ridiculous – they use vanity metrics – such as likes, shares or visits. It is far more important to align metrics with tangible business results, so you can see if you’re moving the ROI needle.
What are the three types of content marketing—and at what stages (in the buying journey) should they be used?
RL: There are three categories of content:
Entertaining content — this is your typical viral video, where people tune in because it is fun, entertaining, and it’s amusing. They’ll share with friends, and just plain enjoy it. People think of this as a very consumer orientated approach to content, but there plenty of examples of high tech brands that serve B2B customers, like IBM, using this kind of content to tackle difficult subjects.
Educational content — this is thought of as mainly B2B, but is applicable to B2C too. There are many, many products and services that have a certain degree of learning associated with them, to allow consumers to make the best decisions. Say a consumer wants to buy running shoes – they will be looking to find out what shoe works best for which terrain etc. and educational content can aid that search.
Utility content – this is primarily, but not exclusively, mobile in nature. This content removes friction and helps consumers solve problems – whether that’s a mortgage calculator or a calorie calculator or Yelp.
The type of content you would use will depend on the type of buyer you are trying to target. There are no hard and fast rules where each should be used.
From your experience what are content marketers investing in?
RL: When I poll marketers, and ask them what they are investing in, they always say ‘we are investing in getting more content’. But when I ask them what they need from their content marketing, they say ‘more audience targeting and better measurement’. So, there is a diversion between strategy and tactics. Tactically they want more content, and strategically they want their content to reach the right people and to be able to measure the effect.
Many successful organizations have developed a culture of content. Who should drive this initiative?
RL: A culture of content comes from a variety of places. Ideally it should permeate the organization. Content marketing is extremely important in achieving a lot of marketing goals, filling the pipeline and increasing sales, but increasingly sophisticated organizations are using content in other ways. For example, to advance thought leadership, to get their executive speaking slots at conferences, it is also being used as a recruitment and retention tool too. Content can be a fantastic customer support tool, and can help significantly reduce cost of customer care, especially if it is digitized. C-suite buy-in is fantastic, but it needs an internal champion who can demonstrate what I call the WIIME, What’s in it for me. Who that person is can depend, because there’s no standardized model, so, that is one of the challenges of content marketing.
The C-suite are interested in quarterly metrics, KPIs and ROI. While some marketers look to measure quantity, others quality.
What should businesses be focusing on—what is realistic? And in what time-frame?
RL: I focus on helping organizations look at metrics that go beyond sales—if you can prove, for example, as Sony Europe did, that you deflected 42,000 calls from the call center in two weeks when people were having an issue with the product, in the process saving the company 350,000 Euros, then that’s a big win. Results like this demonstrate how effective content can really be. Those are the kind of figures you can take to the CFO.