Measurability Will Determine the Future of Content Marketing

Content marketing best practices

By Dorothee Seedorf

Do you know the effect that your content marketing strategy is having? Although the discipline has become a staple within the world of marketing, there are still only very few full-fledged content marketers active in companies. This underrepresentation has its consequences — quite often it can lead to overly hasty decisions to switch back to more traditional, tried-and-true channels after a brief trial phase. In such cases, content marketing formats are only analysed in the short term while their actual long-term benefits are ignored.

So Many Benefits, But Difficult to Measure

Content-heavy formats such as guides, tutorials or recipes can be integrated very effectively in customer communication and bring a real added value to the mix. In the long run, strategically created content can represent a real differentiating factor, especially as a service offer touching everything related to product and brand in the e-commerce sector. The only downside to date: the effect of content is not measurable.

In general, content marketing formats can be divided into three levels:

  1. Category specific and product relevant content in the sense of traditional SEO optimised product texts;
  2. Product relevant content with enhanced transactional keywords;
  3. Informative content that can be relevant to the product and sector but may also be of another nature entirely.

Content marketing as its own distinct channel focuses above all on the third level. This could be for example recipe tips from an online shop for nutritional supplements or a guide to changing winter tires from a platform for auto parts.

Formats such as info graphics, video tutorials or product tests can also be integrated — there are no limits to your creativity here. In this manner, brands can design a customer experience that binds the customer long term and fulfils needs that go far beyond the mere purchase of a product.

Sharing Content is Key

In most cases, the emphasis is placed on the use of transactional keywords, since initial cost-benefit analyses only take those channels into account that promise to bring in a lot of revenue in the short term. Thus, already scarce resources are directed to channels that will presumably create more revenue and seem more effective from a short or mid-term perspective.

For keywords in close proximity to conversion, the period of time leading up to a purchase is in fact much shorter than it is for informative content. This serves as the basis for many decisions in content marketing. However, it is precisely here that the great advantage of informative content can be found.

Long before the customer makes a decision to purchase a product, customer loyalty can take root through service offers covering the brand, market and products. By actively sharing content, a relationship of trust is established with the brand, which literally pays off later on.

Our experience with a large e-commerce player shows that regular customers who read the company’s own in-house magazine regularly buy more of the brand’s products than those individuals who do not take advantage of this sort of offered content.

So, if before purchasing the customer asks him or herself the core question “How well advised do I feel?”, then online shops can hold their own against fixed-location retailers and establish a strong degree of customer loyalty in combination with providing first-class customer service.

Content measures can play a significant role in building a brand on a budget, especially for budding enterprises and startups, for which I often have to create effective campaigns with modest means in the course of my daily work. For established companies, content marketing can make a valuable contribution to securing customer loyalty and acquiring new customers.

A Method for Forecasting Reach

In order to provide management personnel and their teams with a basis for making decisions — whether in a startup, at an insurance company or for an automotive manufacturer — we have developed our own individual approach to show the relevance of content marketing in a way that is backed up by data. Forecasting the reach of specific formats enables particular content to be integrated in the marketing mix in a more targeted manner and contribute more effectively to a sale.

How does this work? For starters, we divide content into the categories “transactional” and “informative” and then break it down into particular formats. Next, both types of content are clustered on a timeline in relation to search volumes and analysed in terms of customer segments. In this regard, more general informative content is considerably further removed from the final sale than content featuring transactional keywords.

It is only through a detailed analysis of the content formats in relation to the target group and independent of the temporal aspects that certain formats can be clustered and rendered measurable in the form of estimated reach. A forecast of the customer journey dependent on the created and distributed content can then be made and later lead to customer lifetime calculations after collecting initial insights and results. In general, not only must significantly more time be set aside for the planning of informative content than for that of transactional content — more elaborate event planning must also be carried out for the former category.

Making Deliberate Decisions

With the help of this method, content marketing becomes measurable and can be integrated in the existing marketing mix totally supported by data. However, this only works when the evaluation of content marketing is not done on the basis of classic input/output figures taken from the data warehouse, but is instead based on the strategic planning of the long-term effects of content marketing formats.

In order to sustainably establish content marketing as an integral sub-department, CMOs should ask themselves the following questions: Is my content marketing team big enough to generate new formats and topics? Do I have experts for various media, tonalities and target groups? The profile of an appropriate candidate should be different here than that of a traditional paid marketing staff member.

All too often initiatives in the content area are stopped too early because only the direct results are being looked at. That’s why it is important that decision makers have reliable forecasts, in order to be able to make realistic estimates and use the potential of content marketing effectively.

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