Content marketing is like a well-fitted suit. Like the perfect cut, the message must fit the channel seamlessly to stand out and make an impression. According to IMN’s recently released study “How Engaged Are Your Customers?,” 78% of respondents listed content marketing as a medium or high priority for customer engagement–making pairing the right message with the right channel a necessity.
“You need to tailor the message for the channel,” says Nancy Liberman, VP of marketing at digital marketing company IMN. “Part of it is just the result of how many characters you have to work with, so you need to be able to capture and engage someone’s attention within those parameters.”
To generate content, marketers must first be able to define content.
“I think about content as really any kind of information that can help to get your message across: blog posts, social media content, really anything that can be packaged to help your customers and prospects better understand your brand, better engage with your brand, and help them to move through your funnel,” Liberman says.
Sixty-five percent of marketers claim to have a good grasp of content marketing, according to the study. However, Liberman attributes lack of understanding of content marketing by the remaining 35% to siloed practices that typically occur in under-resourced organizations. “In a lot of companies, you still have specific people as masters of their own domain and not really sharing that information,” Liberman says.
The report urges marketers to develop a content marketing plan that includes specific goals, strategies for each channel, an editorial calendar, and a plan to measure results.
Engagement and awareness are top drivers for content marketing, according to the study. Liberman says that understanding the customer’s journey and providing them with relevant content is principal to attracting and retraining customers. She cites the newsletters IMN creates for its auto dealer customers as an example.
“You’re not buying a car every other week,” Liberman explains. “Part of our challenge is developing with our dealerships content that is going to keep somebody interested post sale–it might be a coupon for your first oil change. Then it might be how do you get the most life out of your tires…. It allows you to take all different kinds of sales and service materials and really present it in the best light when it’s most relevant to the customer.”
Marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all industry, yet 52% of survey participants say they don’t have a separate marketing strategy per channel. Liberman notes that not every channel a brand uses has to show an identical message.
“A newsletter is going to allow you to say these are the ten things I like about “a,” “b,” or “c,” but you might pull the really provocative one to Twitter and you may put the one that’s best illustrated on Facebook…” Liberman says. “You can take the same idea but execute it in different ways for each channel.”
Liberman adds social has forced marketers “to get smarter” when it comes to marketing messages due to space constraints; yet, she doesn’t peg social as the answer to every content marketer’s prayers.
“[Social] has taken away the luxury of all that space to tell your story, and you really need to learn to look at any piece of content and cull it down to one nugget of information that’s going to make somebody think, or react, or engage,” Liberman says. “Has it helped sell and be that silver bullet that everybody that it would be? In certain markets it has, but not across the board.”
Liberman also advises marketers to publish non-brand-related content on their social sites.
“Does it look like you’re committed to your customer base because you’re providing information that’s not solely about your brand? It might be about a challenge a customer has,” Liberman says. “It allows you to position yourself as more than a vendor, but somebody who’s really trying to help a customer get through whatever the issue is.”
Additionally, 82% of respondents claimed to be either directly or indirectly involved in their company’s content marketing strategy–hinting that company roles are beginning to merge.
“You’re now seeing much more coordinated efforts around taking a particular idea and making it available for each kind of venue, each kind of context, and each kind of channel,” Liberman says. “I think you’re finding single ideas that are being created across the company and being distributed in different ways.”