With 75 percent of marketers reporting an increased investment on content marketing in 2016 and about 70 percent reporting they expect to produce even more content in 2017, it’s clear that content is king. But, without the right foundation, attempting to produce curated, personalized content can quickly become overwhelming and ineffective. Why? According to a 2017 Content Marketing Institute survey, the top two reasons cited for sub-par content programs are strategy issues (49 percent) and a lack of time (48 percent).
In this issue of The Pulse, we’ll address these two common problems and how you can overcome them.
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Twenty years ago, personalized marketing was as simple as adding a variable name field to a direct mail piece. Today, however, customers expect more. They know we’re tracking their every move on and offline. And, thanks to successful disruptors like Amazon, Uber and Netflix, these customers also know that this data can be used to create VIP-level, curated, customized experiences.
That’s a lot of pressure on marketers.
The good news is that you don’t have to create bespoke content for every single one of your customers. You just need to create an experience that makes them feel like you did.
Done right, personalization can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50 percent, lift revenues by 5 to 15 percent, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10 to 30 percent.
To get results like these, most marketers have the technology and tools needed. But when it comes to integrating and orchestrating the technology stack to unlock the full value of personalization, many marketers get stuck.
Don’t Just ‘Set It and Forget It’
With about 5,000 Marketing Technology companies out there, it’s easy to get swept off your feet with promises of automated success. But, as much as we’d like to believe it, long-term success doesn’t come from flipping a switch and walking away.
Currently, an average of 49 percent of companies use marketing automation technology to help plan, manage and measure content. However, many of these same companies latched onto a technology solution before determining their content marketing strategy — and now they’re out of money and time.
It’s helpful to think about marketing automation technology in the same way you think about a car’s cruise control. Whether you’re driving a campaign or a car, you can tell your machine to maintain a certain speed. However, both scenarios require someone in the driver’s seat to steer and, occasionally, to pump the breaks.
Even the biggest brands have fallen victim to the siren song of automation.
In May 2017, UK-based Walkers Crisps put their #WalkersWave campaign on cruise control. The crisps company featured Twitter-submitted selfies in a video where FIFA World Cup record holder Gary Lineker held up their portrait, showed them performing the Mexican wave and wished them luck in a sweepstakes for Champions League tickets. Unfortunately, trolls overloaded the system with photos of murderers, dictators and other ne’er-do-wells causing Walkers to pull the campaign and issue a public apology.
In 2012, Target automatically mailed promotions to women based on their “pregnancy scores” — a proprietary equation triggered by Target purchases commonly made by women in their first trimester. For those public about their pregnancies, this mail was timely, effective and helpful. However, for a teenage girl who hadn’t revealed her dilemma to her parents, it was disastrous.
In both of these examples, extreme personalization backfired. That’s not to say that hyper-targeted marketing materials should be avoided, but it is to point out that hyper-targeting and personalization isn’t always the right answer. The more important moral to this story is recognizing how quickly things can spiral out of control when you don’t have a contingency plan in place. And, while you can’t predict everything, you can build a solid strategy that can be adjusted along the way.
Building a Foundation for Marketing Automation
According to the 2017 B2C Content Marketing Trends report from CMI and MarketingProfs, the number one factor contributing to B2C marketers’ stagnant success over the last year is strategy issues (49 percent). This is followed by not having enough time devoted to content marketing (48 percent) and the challenge of content creation (37 percent).
In order to avoid the pitfalls of content marketing and customization, it’s critical to partner with someone that understands the value of and is experienced in developing content marketing strategies to unlock personalization at scale.
At HackerAgency, we’ve developed an agile process designed to help us predict the future for your brand and develop the content your customers need before they know they need it. Although we customize our approach for every client, three common elements include:
Plan Ahead to Pivot Quickly
Although a solid piece of content can quickly go viral, the best content marketing programs aren’t built from fly-by-night strategies. Determining the right strategy takes time. Developing the right creative takes time. Measuring results and pivoting the approach takes time. And, although automated marketing technology makes things move more quickly than managing everything manually, it still takes time.
When you’re scrambling to keep up with the content marketing Joneses, the last thing you want to hear is someone telling you to slow down. But the world of content marketing and personalization requires the ability to analyze the past, tune into the present and predict the future — and that definitely takes time.
The return on your investment in the initial content marketing strategy will pay off when you’re about to hit the new fiscal and know you don’t have to create a new content strategy from scratch. Instead, this malleable foundation is designed for year-round testing, analyzing, fine-tuning and scaling. So, although it’s a hefty investment of brainpower up front, the long-term results far outweigh alternate short-term solutions.
Learn even more about the convergence of technology and branded content at the FUSE Enterprise summit. Artificial intelligence and personalization will be featured among many other techniques and technologies.