How to audit and measure content marketing activities? What is „content sales“? In which ways can content communities help with involving target groups? These and more questions have been answered at the second workshop of the management focus group „Content Marketing and Brand Management“ on September 5-6, 2016, in St.Gallen. The workshop consolidated the insights gained at the first topic-related workshop at Schloss Marbach on June 2-3, 2016. This time, we heard from Jan de Schepper (Swissquote Bank), Sven Korhummel (Cyperfection), Ulrike Lauerer (Namics) as well as Christopher Tapley (Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG). Apart from this input from business practice, Prof. Fischer (Institute of Marketing) conducted several interactive group work sessions with the participants from our partner companies. The subsequent theses represent the key learnings we obtained throughout the 2-day seminar.
1. Foster cross-functional collaboration between Marketing and Sales!
Heidelberger Druckmaschinen is a global leader in the printing industry offering machines, services, and consumables for diverse printing needs. As such, the company has a strong heritage in the B2B sector and has been confronted with typical challenges of large plant manufacturers until recently: Subordinate role of marketing, dominant sales departments due to primary customer access, conservative and engineer-driven corporate culture, weak cooperation between marketing and sales in order to synergize long-term and short-term market positions, among others. One approach that worked out well for Heidelberg to exploit untapped potential is their „Content Sales“-model, a symbiosis of content marketing and the sales-driven B2B environment in which the company operates: Targeting relevant content through the right sales and communication channels to the right customers at the right point of time. The basis for a successful implementation of that model in a real B2B company is the strong willingness of both Marketing and Sales to work together and join forces.
Steering relevant content between the priorities of right customers at the right point of time through the right channels (Tapley, 2016)
In detail, the model includes:
- Right customers: In order to address the desired customers with sales activities and marketing communications transparency is key. Heidelberg, for instance, invested lots of effort in segmenting, classifying, and prioritizing customers. The result are future-oriented customer portfolios, integrating several factors such as profitability, potential assessment, customer attractiveness, and others. In combination with a globally standardized CRM-system and several control initiatives for understanding customer needs (e.g. Net Promoter Score), this approach supports Marketing and Sales in prioritizing and developing existing and potential customers.
- Right Channel: Overall, Heidelberg manages eight different sales channels that range from global key account management for top customers to a callcenter being available for customers of every size. The selection of the appropriate channel in a specific case depends on customer priority, product complexity as well as sales cycle. Moreover, Heidelberg conveys its communication channels increasingly into the digital world – and makes use of remarkable targeting opportunities on social media platforms such as LinkedIn. Statistics affirm that more than 50 percent of Heidelberg’s customers have an own company presence on LinkedIn with an average of 182 employees being interconnected on that platform.
- Right Point of Time: Customer journeys differ. Since the ways in which decisions are taken in a certain industry by a specific customer, the optimization of the timing at which marketing and sales communication are intensified might be extremely company- and segment-specific. Sales managers‘ market and customer knowledge might be very helpful in depicting their sales cycles. Marketing managers might identify patterns in improving effectiveness and efficiency in those processes. „Content Sales“ is emerging!
2. Mind the 3H model!
The so-called 3H model differentiates between communication needs (people who browse, search, or subscribe), the kind of content being required for each kind of person (inspiring, relevant, or regular content), and the frequency in which each content type should be played across time (major initiatives, staggered, or regular). The online bank Swissquote uses this model extensively to plan, create, and spread its content across its various marketing communication channels. Although the pure implementation of that model is not a guarantee for success, it might help companies to prevent that certain stakeholders are neglected with their specific communication needs, the type of content they are looking for as well as the sequence in which they would like to receive that content.
The 3H model: Hero, help, and hub content across different communication needs and across time (De Schepper, 2016)
3. Listen to the voice of your customers when creating content!
Today’s customers expect valuable, relevant, and consistent content that helps them to improve their lives. According to the four truth of storytelling the so-called „Truth to the Audience“ asks the question of how to integrate customers in a way that they create content being used by the company. Engaging customers in the process of content creation is of mutual benefit: Whereas customers might perceive this dialogue communication as more relevant and joyful to them, the company might enhance its authenticity.
A promising option for integrating customers in content creation as well as product innovation are online communities. As Roche’s Accu Chek online community for people suffering from diabetes #meinbuntesleben demonstrates, putting customers‘ challenges and problems in the center of attention is key! More than 400.000 users are registered with an individual account on that platform, more than 3.000 frequently post own content. The target groups‘ positive resonance to that platform can be explained by their perception that they are not suffering from a serious disease, but rather have a daily life with some extra issues to be considered. Here they can find valuable tips for handling these issues as smooth as possible – the platform focuses on life, not on a disease.
Importantly, the platform also is a great example on how to integrate previously fragmented marketing functions as well as sales. For example, when a customer contacted the service department asking them where to get the Accu Chek at the Fiji island (due to the fact that she forget her device at home), the customer care posted the request on the community and many members were willing to help out immediately. As a consequence, this success story was taken up by both the PR and the sales department, strengthening the brand, the community, as well as the quality of sales talks.
Web presence of Accu-Chek’s online community #meinbuntesleben
4. Apply content audits as a basis for performance measurement!
„A qualitative audit analyzes the quality and effectiveness of content. Your findings […] provide insight to whether or not the content is useful, enjoyable, and persuasive to your audience.“ – Kristina Halvorson
As the quote above demonstrates, content audits serve the purpose of analyzing current effectiveness and providing a foundation on which improvements can be derived as well as measured afterwards. If that kind of baseline measurement is neglected ahead of content marketing activities, the optimization of content is like poking around in the dark. Success factors of a content audit are (in excerpts):
- Honesty in evaluating existing content
- Neutral, objective perspective
- Quantitative („hard“) as well as qualitative („soft“) criteria
- Mix of internal and external assessors
- Audit before strategy before implementation
- Company-specific criteria selection to be measured: There is no ONE best audit template that suits all!
- Clear categorization of a company’s status quo with regard to the maturity of content integration
Categorization of a company’s current maturity of content integration (Lauerer, 2016)
Based on Namics‘ experiences from various consulting projects, most of the audited companies can still be located on level 1 or 2, meaning that content is mainly produced spontaneously or isolated from other publishing processes. Much time and effort might be involved from the initial content audit to measurable improvements with regard to that categorization. As the case study of KUKA revealed, shifting the company from level 1 to level 4 has been an ongoing process of more than a year. The audit itself consisted of 799 web pages to be analyzed, 30 days of intensive work, 26 evaluation criteria to be applied to every single web page, and 16 internal and external people being at least partly involved. So-called editorial categories (direct migration, modification, new content, or delete site) help to cluster those 799 web pages and develop a call-to-action. In most of the cases, almost 50 percent of all existing pages can be deleted or migrated with almost no loss of relevant content.
5. Fight silo mentality wherever it’s obstrusive to content marketing!
Content Marketing is not a marketing communication tool alone: The concept overarches several marketing communication instruments and should be integrated in the overall marketing strategy. Nevertheless, many companies are struggling with organisational obstacles and a wide-spread silo mentality – both being obstrusive to successful implementation of content marketing. The communication network below depicts the primary lines of communication in the case of Accu-Chek’s online community #meinbuntesleben. Due to the complexity of cross-functional collaboration it has been key to convince all stakeholders of what their individual advantages of that online community will be. This benefit-oriented communication has enabled the project board to implement almost 100 percent of the original idea and has prevented political friction losses.
Communication network across departments in the case of Accu-Chek’s online diabetes community (Korhummel, 2016)