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What is the Role of Content in the Customer Decision Journey?

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Good content resonates with the reader or viewer because it fits with their goals or general interest. Great content maps to their desire, emotions, and journey, delivering an outcome that will build advocacy and drive engagement mapped to revenue. In other words, content can be the “path to purpose” for the customer.

Navigating that path requires the use of analytics to get a clear understanding of the impact of your content on your audience. Here’s where the intersection of PR and content becomes the pinnacle of great storytelling.

Custom content is expected to grow with the continued use of mobile, and the expectation is that personalization within content marketing will be the focus. The right metrics can elucidate your audience and where they are trying to go — before you move forward with content marketing efforts. With defined personas, content can engage customers and anticipate behavior that will drive desired outcomes. Without insight into your data and analytics, your brand’s opportunity to connect a story is unlikely to be a compelling rest stop.

Learn more about integrated marketing and PR, read: Defining Your Integrated Marketing & PR Strategy.

Content Must Be Agile and Systemized

Analytics provide real-time data around which campaigns are built. But adjustments are often required based on events, opportunities in the market, or the behaviors of the audience who receive the story. A content plan must be agile yet organized, with a calendar to manage projects and story pillars that ground content around relevant themes.

With an overarching management system, teams can climb out of silos, collaborate, and respond to real-time data and customer opportunities. The pillars are the core of a campaign built across social platforms and within brand properties such as blogs and websites. Account-based marketing and personalization can leverage intent data to maximize potential relationships and deliver relevant experiences with valued knowledge.

CSG International, a business support systems software provider to the telecommunications industry, wanted a compelling story to appeal to those most likely to be choosing options for content viewing. To achieve this goal, the company launched a “What Is Your TV Persona?” quiz to create social buzz.

A systemized, end-to-end approach ensured a proficient process from initial analytics to post-campaign press meetings for CSGi. Promotion of the survey and results helped to build awareness around CSGi’s presence. Within one week, the company reported:

  • More than 1.2 million media impressions
  • Over 41,200 social media impressions
  • 15 pieces of tier-one coverage within the first week
Content Metrics

More than half of marketers today are not confident in how they are measuring the impact of their content strategy, but doing so is more crucial than ever. According to The Harvard Business Review, the funnel process, on which marketers have typically based their marketing outreach, is less relevant today because the customer decision journey is more circular. But measuring the effectiveness of content and aligning metrics to brand goals can be a struggle. Marketers must remain agile and engaged in order to play a role in this evolution — or risk disengagement with your audience.

So which metrics matter? That depends on your goal. According to the Marketing Insider Group, if too much tracking is attempted, the opportunity to pinpoint the most important data (or experience) is lost. Also, the content marketing objectives you choose can help further define your key performance indicators (KPIs).

For example, regarding revenue generation, such KPIs as search traffic, lead conversion, and return users are crucial to determining what is stimulating user engagement. Also, behavior flow metrics show how a user navigates your content, while metrics on social shares can identify which pieces are shared socially and to what extent. Metrics on inbound links can tell you the number of sites linking to your website for higher domain authority, and knowing your bounce rate can help you to re-orient your content. Metrics that reveal churn rates and performance of content over time will sustain your success.

But the critical measurement factor in all this is sales — did your content help move marketing qualified leads (MQLs) over to sales qualified leads (SQLs) resulting in increased revenue. Content can drive cash — it just needs to be smart and integrated.

Content Curation and Social Sharing

Without ideation and collaboration, many marketers overlook other channels and amplification opportunities to promote your story and drive connected content. Complementary use of paid, owned, and earned media will increase the impact and influence. But there must be a curation strategy that optimizes content to the number-one influencer, Google. Marketers need to use all three — social media, branded content, and earned media — to find the “converged” media sweet spot with today’s “always on” customer.

This leads us to the brand’s opportunity to connect with industry leaders (or voices). Influencer marketing, for example, has emphasized the need for marketers to be more agile than ever because the effect of influencers is immediate, leaving little time for adjustments. It’s time for marketers to treat influencers like they do an ABM strategy: personalized, smart, and driven with a dual-value purpose.  That’s when the engagement will be rewarded with results and value — across expanded “trusted” audiences of like minds.

Florastor, a probiotic company under Biocodex, sought out strong engagement and a larger follower base by hosting a two-week sweepstakes campaign, the “Florastor’s FitBit Blaze Giveaway.” By using a combination of compeling content marketing and PR, the company was able to increase their brands overall engagement.

The promotion strategy created an exponentially larger fan base for Biocodex. By optimizing ads and targeting them towards specific audiences, the brand was able to grow its presence at a rapid pace and become even more impactful and relevant. The campaign resulted in: 6,300 engagements, a 4,942 percent increase in entries compared to past content campaigns, and over 3,100 Facebook followers during the two-week sweepstakes period.

Content is no longer the pathway to purchase; it’s now being called the pathway to purpose. While only 64 percent of marketers think their content is tailored to their customers’ needs, many are turning to integrated marketing (with strong content) and PR to hone their analytics and provide the right promotion mix to create content for brand ignition.

In order to build out a content marketing program that drives results, engagement, and emotion, be sure to tie together the PR and creative storytelling opportunities across your integrated marketing efforts. It’s clearly how your customers search and find their products or services, so why aren’t you building your playbook with this in mind? This is the year CMOs must integrate their content marketing and PR efforts. Be ready for that opportunity or risk halting your customers’ journeys.

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