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Wrap Your Head Around the Marketing Cloud

What do you see in the cloud?

Everyone in digital marketing has their heads in the cloud -- the marketing cloud, to be precise. The marketing cloud might very possibly be the most-discussed and at the same time, least-defined term digital marketing has ever seen (and we've seen a lot of new terminology and neologisms).

What is the marketing cloud? What's its promise, and what's its future? Let's unpack how marketing technology is evolving into that elusive cloud and the role it plays, and will play, in marketing's future. (Credit is due to CIO.com's Matt Kapko for sparking these thoughts in a recent interview.)

Marketing cloud promises and objectives

The marketing cloud promises to make all marketing operations faster, easier, more streamlined, efficient and optimized -- to deliver measureable results and actionable data that's integrated not only across marketing, but across the entire enterprise as well as the scope of customer experience with the brand, product and/or service.

Evolution

The marketing cloud is not yet ready for prime time. We're still in an era of hyper-growth, development, and refinement of not only marketing technologies, but also of marketing channels and media. The promise is that everything will somehow pan out, streamline, integrate and just plain work. The reality is that we're still very much in the cycle of building, invention, disruption, and innovating. There's little in marketing technology that's static or standardized. This shouldn't be confused with failure, but it's hard to adjust and refine during a period of hyper-growth.

Objectives

Integration is a huge issue. As an analyst, I've surveyed marketers on what enterprise software they want and need marketing technology to play nice with. Responses stray far from just marketing -- I've heard everything from financial software to telephony. But we're still at a stage where, for example, content software, social media software, and advertising technology exist in very separate silos. So, too, does digital asset management. And that's to say nothing of the need to integrate with outside vendor and technology partners. Other issues include marketers investing in one solution to solve a problem, then acquiring another software package with duplicative functionality. There's such quick evolution that basic education and understanding of the space is problematic.

Consumer trends and expectations

Consumers complicate the marketing cloud landscape even more. CRM, for example, is a function that exists outside of marketing, replete with its own tech solutions. Mobile, too, is often in a corporate silo -- enterprise organization certainly plays into this to reach the right consumer with the right message at the right time not only requires technological integrations, but also an orchestrated waltz between the CMO, CIO, and CTO. Throw in customer service, HR, and various and sundry other departments and you've got geometrically multiplying layers of complexity.

That's to say nothing, of course, about not creeping consumers out by acting snoopy or Big Brotherish. (And please, no data breaches!)

Consumer expectations are high when it comes to marketing. It's incumbent on brands to deliver the experiences they expect -- and even to exceed those expectations. Consumers have the power to go elsewhere now more than ever. That's exactly what they will do with ever-increasing levels of transparency, trust, service, experience, and pricing.

The marketing cloud can go a long way in helping to unify and connect the dots between marketing and advertising, between paid, owned, and earned media, as well as data and other functions. But we're far from resolution and standardization.

This post originally published on iMedia

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The Three Types of Content Marketing

squattypotty

Content marketing is more than just storytelling.

Don't get me wrong. Stories are wonderful. Everyone loves them, and stories can be an enormous component of a content marketing strategy. Yet increasingly the word "story" is used in some quarters to supplant the term "content marketing," and that's just wrong. Of course, to the man with a hammer, i.e., the person with "storyteller" in their title, everything looks like that proverbial nail.

There are three types of content marketing and, as a general rule, only one of them classically "tells a story." The other two content marketing modes are equally important, and often follow the rules of a story arc while not adhering to other rules of narrative.

Here are the three types of content marketing.

Content that entertains

Content that entertains is the most likely of the three types of content marketing to "tell a story." Think viral video, comic strip, or webisode. Whole Foods' Do Something Reel film series is a prime example, and so was last year's viral hit from SquattyPotty, This Unicorn Changed the Way I Poop. Chipotle's The Scarecrow is another standout in the genre, prompting every agency with a fast-food account to receive a "build me one of these" phone call. Purina's Dear Kitten is a recent standout in this genre, so is The Lego Movie (also an example of my highest level of content maturity, monetizable marketing, with a $550M box-office take). Entertaining, storytelling content needn't always be video, there are certainly other forms. But increasingly storytelling is going visual, and audio visual, given those formats are easiest to consume on the small screen, and are more frequently shared in social channels.

Content that informs and/or educates

Overwhelmingly the choice of B2B companies, as well as B2C products and services with a high need for information/education or longer consideration and sales cycles, content that informs helps prospects evaluate options, the product or service, and make decisions. It can also, post-purchase, enhance the customer experience and lead to cross- or upselling. Marketing software maker Hubspot, for example, publishes enormous volumes of extraordinarily useful content for digital marketers and advertisers, rivaling that of trade publications in the space. American Express' OPEN Forum has been a content marketing poster child for years, but isn't a storyteller. Instead, the brand publishes information helpful to small business owners and entrepreneurs. 

Utility content

Zenni Optical doesn't tell stories to its buyers. Instead, it offers them tools to help make buying decisions. How do you measure the bridge of your nose for optimal fit? The distance between pupils? Utility content helps users accomplish tasks; think mortgage calculator from a bank. Calorie counter from a health or fitness product or service. Realtors offer tools that help homebuyers find properties and assess neighborhoods for amenities such as schools or crime rate. Unsurprisingly, utility content tends to be embodied in apps, and is idea for mobile content plays. And while arguably they may be a "story" in every mortgage or home sale or calorie, that's not the purpose of utility content. Instead, more akin to informational and educational content, it helps nudge a buyer toward a decision, as does this table from Crutchfield to calculate how big a flat screen TV to buy, based on room size.

So which of these three types of content should you invest in? (I'm asked this a lot.) The answer, I'm afraid, is "it depends." That's why content strategy is so essential. You may be able to accomplish your goals with storytelling. You may require other types of content in addition to, or instead of storytelling.

Without strategy, it's impossible to tell.

This post originally published on iMedia
 

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Content Marketing Targeting Fallacies

When I conducted a substantive survey of marketers and asked them what their biggest content marketing needs were, two responses tied for first place. The first was measurement, which I’ve written about extensively, both here and in subsequent research.

The other pain point is somewhat less discussed: audience and targeting.

This phase of content strategy is threefold: first, identifying the right audience of products and influencers that are appropriate to the product or service produced by your business. Second and third, creating and publishing the right content in the right channels to reach those defined targets.

Small wonder, then, that audience targeting is one of marketers’ top needs, given it’s a three-part process. If work I’m conducting with clients is any indicator (not to mention the conversations conducted with marketers at conferences worldwide), a primary reason why audience targeting is so difficult is a widespread refusal to take the time to develop personas.

Instead, far too many organizations are targeting not only content, but also advertising and social media messaging, to a single monolithic über-persona who by definition is not a persona (or a person, for that matter) at all.

Just as a for instance, what’s endemic in the marketing technology sector is to take the supposed shortcut of addressing all messaging to “The CMO.” The CMO is not a persona; it is a job title, and not necessarily a relevant one at that, given the CMO is by no means necessarily the buyer any more than is some vague notion of “the customer” in the CPG world.

As one of my savvier clients put it recently in a discussion of this persistent issue, “The CMO doesn’t want to talk to anyone. They want to set direction and have their VPs and staff take care of the details. They don’t come to my meetings or my roundtables. They sign IOs [insertion orders].”

Moving Beyond “The CMO”

Thinking beyond the monolithic CMO (or “our customer”) is the first and most pressing task in targeting the right audience for content or advertising initiatives by creating personas. Yet it never ceases to amaze me how many marketing organizations believe it’s possible to skip this essential strategic step.

Yes, persona creation is time-consuming. It involves parsing out the many “whos” that comprise a target audience, identifying their job titles, pain points, needs and wants.

The paths toward achieving this are many, but all involve labor, thought and methodology. Sure, speak to sales staff, but it’s more critical that clients and customers be regularly interviewed to learn why they elected to purchase your product or service over the competition’s.

Where do you provide value — price, design, ease of use, value-adds? — and how does each factor into the buyers’ differing roles? Are these people influencers in the buying decision? Approvers? Decision makers? Each has varying needs, wants and roles to play at different stages in the purchase cycle.

Tap Into Influencers

Audience targeting, however, doesn’t stop with a constellation of buyer personas. Just as critical isadding influencers to the persona mix, which broadens it considerably.

Who are influencers? The media. Industry analysts. Bloggers. Academics. Subject matter experts.

These are the voices buyers listen to. They not only can create awareness, but they reverberate up and down the purchase funnel, swaying opinion, sentiment and affirming (or dissenting) when buying decisions are made.

Everything about audience targeting is subtle, nuanced and highly calibrated. It’s hard work even before “what kind of content” and “for what channels” can begin to be addressed.

Yet for some reason, perhaps because of its very complexity, marketers shortcut defining the target audience to a hypothetical endgame (“We need to reach CMOs, and they’re on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or reading our company blog.”)

And the culmination of that endgame, the distribution piece that is channel and media selection, can’t succeed if they don’t ladder back to the essential process of carefully crafting personas.

Neither will investment in audience targeting software solutions. If they’re only used to hunt hypothetical or illogical targets, you may as well use them to seek out Bigfoot.

Sometimes there just aren’t any shortcuts. Audience targeting will always be a challenge, though it needn’t be the biggest one. You can make this task manageable with some time, effort and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

This post originally published on MarketingLand

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

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