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Content that understands me

In 2018 we will creatively prepare ourselves to combine technology and storytelling in new ways. With the rapid pace of technical development, it will not only be possible to create different content for different people, but also to make the content reactive. A film that notices that I’m in a bad mood and tries to cheer me up, but surprises another user with another ending; a visual that immerses my mood in colours; music that adapts to my situation. In terms of narrative, this results in infinite, progressive possibilities.

Marketing is relationship development – good customer relationships thanks to good contents

Content marketing is not a 21st century invention. In spring 1897, long before the first “http” was typed into a browser line, John Deere – at the time an inventive manufacturer of plough machines, today a global market leader for agricultural engineering – published an early “Sponsored Post” in the agricultural magazine called “The Furrow”. In the ad, the manufacturer explained how farmers can increase their yield by using agricultural machinery. John Deere thus created the link between his product and the needs of his customers. The message: We are convincing you with substantial arguments! Even 120 years later this goal has not changed: Only companies that provide additional benefits for their customers will achieve this goal. Marketing is relationship development! And you can particularly strengthen the connection with your customers through relevant content:

This, in turn, requires a sophisticated system to create targeted, user-tailored content. The basis for this is a deep understanding of the various impact levels of content marketing. The process can generally be divided into four phases:

Phase 1: To grab the people’s attention, the contents have to be created in an informative and/or entertaining way, which adds value.

Phase 2: So that the contents can be viewed and used by people, you need to ensure sufficient reach. Media support also plays a large role here because virality only works with certain types of content.

Phase 3: As people use the respective content, they establish a deeper relationship with the brand.

Phase 4: As they have established this relationship with the brand, they prefer to buy products from this brand.

It sounds very simple in theory. Of course, in practice, there are some predetermined breaking points, e.g. between phase one and two: Just because a brand produces good contents, does not mean that enough people use and see these products. And just because I like a brand, does not necessarily mean that I will buy their products. At predefined breaking point number one, a sophisticated media plan helps as it guarantees a basic reach in the desired target group. Predefined breaking point number two is the result of a simple equation: Customers usually shop in places where they can find the simplest solution to their problem and they need to know that it is the simplest.

If you take a closer look at user behaviour, you will see that: Today’s users are rushed, “always on”, have a very short attention span and take in a lot of information in a very short space of time. At a time when smartphones are the favoured devices, it is mainly visually processed contents that are used and shared. The rapid rise of Instagram is proof of this. In addition, users are very self-determined in what they want to use. The good news is: There is at least one solution for all these challenges. For example, by being “always on” with communication as well. And snackable content provides short and easily consumable content, which consistently fits to the brand. The value of recognition is particularly important, especially in a highly fragmented market: Contents must be divisible, multimedia, segmented and personalised.

How can you produce content for such a fast-paced and mobile world? By working dynamically! Paul Adams, Head of Brand Design at Facebook, gets straight to the point: “To be a successful advertiser on the web in the future, you will need to build content based on many lightweight interactions over time.” Short and simply put: If you don’t let go then you won’t be current. Many, small interactions – combined with few, but big highlights.

At the office, we call this agile brand communication. To achieve this, you need many different disciplines within an agency or an agency group to be involved: Insights, content strategy, media strategy, concept team, editorial department, creation, paid media, community management, influencer management, PR and account management. All departments of the agency have to work hand in hand with the customer.

Content is king! The customer is king! But where is the king hiding?

Currently, many companies produce “their” content primarily from the perspective of the sender. They are stuck in the broadcaster or sender trap, which they are familiar with from their previous classical advertising. A more promising approach is content analysis for content production: Based on valid data, it examines what people actually talk about and in what form (social listening). These findings are then compared with the topics and messages that the company or the brand wants to work with. Residual topics are then conceptualised using storytelling. Similar to the way Snapchat and Instagram stories work – individual images and individual parts are strung together to make a story. These stories are then reused on various channels that are suitable for the target group and the content. For logical reasons, the user is divided into different segments and also addressed with various versions of the contents – for example, regarding their gender or where they live.

A lot has happened in agriculture too. Although John Deere’s ad was revolutionary 120 years ago, it would not have the same effect today as an advert in the “top agrar” specialist medium, for example. Among today’s farmers, the smartphone is the dominating source of information. What is searched on the go? Today’s farmers are not only searching for a wife, they also spend plenty of time looking at the weather report and the weather forecast. According to a study by the Kleffmann Group, with 46% of farmers using it, the weather app is by far the most used feature. The study also showed that agricultural machinery manufacturers such as John Deere now combine their products with mobile real time content regarding the weather.

Content Marketing + Marketing Automation = ROI

Back to the future

When we hear the term content marketing, we tend to think of Red Bull and its stratospheric leap, the Michelin Gourmet Guide, or the John Deere DIY Magazine. Yet do these excellent and all-eclipsing examples of good communication not have a rather abstract effect on our current marketing reality, which is characterised by tight budgets, performance goals and technology? Can we replicate such success under our everyday conditions? Hardly, which is why we have to redefine content marketing, if it ever was defined in the first place.

Content marketing today

Content marketing is an umbrella discipline for a variety of specialist marketing disciplines that are not always so easy to differentiate from one another. Content marketing concerns creative experts, editors and copywriters, performance and e-mail marketing specialists, sales experts, developers and a host of other disciplines too. Each of these disciplines interprets content marketing in its own way, yet all stakeholders agree on the following principles:

  • Content marketing should achieve a return on investment.
  • Users take centre stage in content marketing since their ultimate transaction is what allows a return on investment to be achieved.
  • Content marketing therefore serves to activate users and motivate them to interact with the content producer so they are converted in terms of perspective to customers and disseminators for the producer.
  • Valuable, user-centred contents are therefore produced in content marketing so they can be conveyed to the distribution channel with the highest conversion rates at the most appropriate time.

Content marketing is therefore first and foremost a strategic approach to achieving corporate objectives. Entrepreneurs plan, forecast, validate, optimise and seek to scale. This is precisely where marketing automation comes into play, since it can do all of this and much more.

Marketing automation: The Swiss army knife

A marketing automation platform is a modular system that integrates a variety of different individual solutions, where Asset Management (the collection of all content assets needed in the marketing process), Distribution Management (control of distribution channels such as SEO, content, e-mail, social, paid and mobile), Data Management (the aggregation of continually generated user data) as well as Analytics (the cross-channel evaluation of all aggregated data at user level) come together in a uniform working environment. Depending on the stage of development, content management systems or testing suites then also come into play. The critical factor here is that the aggregated data describes the individual user behaviour and provides us with information on how we can satisfy the current information needs of the individual user in the best possible way in each case.

Personalisation “to scale”

In keeping with the principles we formulated at the outset, content marketing is therefore a sales-driven communications process in which the individual content is the currency. Because the individual user is the centrepiece of this process, the personalised content is the life force of content marketing. Regardless of whether the user is addressed by name in an e-mail or the website adapts to the individual needs of the visitor through dynamic content: personalising the content is critical if the measure is to succeed. The effort this requires can only be mastered by using automatable environments.

ROI-driven content marketing

The sales process can start in the earliest phase of the customer journey in future thanks to the opportunities afforded by scalable content architectures as well as the holistic analysis of the individual user’s digital footprint – namely when users communicate their individual challenge for the first time and we provide the right solution. The seller becomes a partner. Any company set on achieving a return on investment with its content marketing endeavours will in future have to unify three areas that frequently act as silos: communication, sales and IT. If a company can do this, then sustainable business success is guaranteed.

This article was first published by onetoone.de.

Trends 2017

The old year is drawing to a close. It’s time, therefore, to take a look at the coming year.  The experts of the Serviceplan Group have summarised their personal communication trends for the year 2017.

Dr Peter Haller, Founder and Managing Director of the Serviceplan Group

Public discussion has adapted itself to a good dozen mega trends. They trigger business trends and these lead to consumer and communication trends. Those who want to develop faster than the economy as a whole have no choice but to follow the growth trends. But which ones?

There are hundreds of trends and counter-trends. All of this against the backdrop of an accelerating change in digitalisation. But which of these trends are relevant to which industries? Which can I embrace for my brand? And which of these in this confusing process is the reliable guidance for my brand management?

This is the theme of our 2017 Brand Roadshow together with GfK, which is once again sponsored by the German Trade Mark Association. “Dynamic brand management through the jungle of consumer and communication trends” will take place on 7 March in Munich, 9 March in Berlin, 22 March in Frankfurt, 28 March in Cologne, 30 March in Hamburg, 9 May in Vienna and 11 May in Zurich.

Jens Barczewski, Deputy Managing Director Mediaplus Strategic Insights

2017 will be the year inflationary KPIs become the measurement of success for campaign and media performance. In 2017 there will be an agreement between AGF (the television research working group in Germany) and Google/Youtube over the designation of a common video currency. The ‘Quality Initiative for Research into the Effect of Advertising’, driven by the Organisation of Brand Advertisers (OWM) in cooperation with Facebook and Google, will deepen its work and define the first indicators. The AGOF will firstly designate reach on a daily basis and therefore facilitate a continuous improvement of the booking units.

With the associations’ initiatives the individual publishers will open up their own measurement and success indicators to customers and agencies in order to obtain greater transparency in the market. The commotion over the erroneous increase in video viewing times on Facebook showed that not every KPI should be accepted without deep understanding from the customers and agencies.

Winfried Bergmann, Head of Human Resources, Serviceplan Group

Political correctness is on the retreat

Overly cautious political correctness has definitively disqualified itself as being the spiritual leader towards populism. The US presidential election was marked by dishonesty – from both sides. You did not know what was worse – the evident lies from the one side or the awkward, fearful avoidance and concealment of highly relevant issues from the other. Someone who conceals topics, about which large portions of the public worry, because of an alleged sense of decency and misunderstood consideration, must not be surprised when the sovereignty of interpretation is lost in societal discourse. This is even more so in Europe.

Therefore, dear reputable conservatives, break free from political correctness and in the coming year engage strongly in your issues. Let us argue about all of that – from the centre of society, which would then have found the courage for free debate once more. For when we do it like this, there will be nothing more for populists to do other than peep out from the right side of the screen. And it will be lonesome again and they will go back to their crossword.

Stephan Enders, Head of Mobile Marketing of the Plan.Net Group

Chatbots

With the first bot shops among messengers the subject flared up in 2016. And, as it often happens when a new trend emerges, a euphoric, partly activist test phase was swiftly launched, sometimes even when the worth and meaning of a certain discovery could not be estimated. However, chatbots are merely the cherry on top of an older idea, whose impact stretches far wider than it looks at first sight. It’s all about the perfect customer dialogue.

Chatbots, together with artificial intelligence, are (or, rather, will be) a valuable instrument, perhaps the most valuable of them all. Because the trend of 2016 will be the mega trend of 2017, meaning that it will pool together different mechanics, half trends and instruments:

01 CRM: Customer service with a chatbot, whose reaction is always quick and precise.

02 BIG DATA: Only learning chatbots, with all customer data at hand, will be able to unfold their power. The evolution of chatbots will enforce Big Data processes.

03 MOBILE FIRST: Chatbots are perfect for mobile use and, therefore, ideally fit for the future – wherever the user might decide to roll: Facebook, (mobile) web, you name it.

04 SERVICELAYER: In a world of information overload, it will be vital to deliver the right information, at the right time, in the right place. Nothing more, nothing less. A chatbot will be able to do just that.

Gerd Güldenast & Marcus Person, Managing Directors at hmmh

Voice control
Google Home and Amazon Echo open up new possibilities, however still clearly show us their limits . 2017 is the year the merits of the products and services will be demonstrated convincingly without a graphical user interface. Creative individuals and developers are asked to smarten these systems and to further develop companions for everyday life or for an intelligent touchpoint in connected commerce.

Big data aids human customer service
The topic of customer service in the online world stands to change in 2017. Today chatbots are being used more commonly. They show however shortcomings where subjective feelings and emotions play a crucial role. With new customer intelligence systems and smart chatbots based on big data analysis, customers will receive a completely new quality of service in 2017.

Oliver Grüttemeier, Managing Director of  Serviceplan Cologne

Digitalisation only succeeds with empathy.

For years, we have experienced dramatic changes in the workplace through technological developments. Although companies attempt to increasingly fuse their processes along the supply chain, the digitalisation often only comes along sluggishly. 2017 will change that, because the top management currently recognises that leadership through ‘command and control’ no longer works. In the future, executives managers of successful companies will therefore be measured less by their accomplished goals, but rather much more by their social competence—the foundation for every form of cross-departmental collaboration.

In this area, Google is already 10 years ahead. Since 2007, Google already offers its employees the opportunity for personal growth and the development of business empathy with the program ‘Search Inside Yourself’. The success of Google is not only based on the accumulation of more data, but on the knowledge that the best search engine is our spirit.

Stefanie Krebs, Managing Director of Plan.Net Technology

In 2017 a creative thinker requires analytically and technically broad shoulders. While the mega trend digitalisation advances rapidly, the majority of companies have reacted and digitalised their structures. Now, together with their associates, they are facing the challenge of building an integrated business model from the emerging digital island which can also exist in a future shaped by big data, machine learning, the internet of things and perpetual digital innovation.

Those who want to deliver creative responses and celebrate communicative success must be able to develop organisationally and technically complex systems in a short amount of time. 2017 will therefore be the year of the creative team player, where it pays to deliver elegant solutions to complex questions using the input from your multi-faceted team with specialists for tools, technology, processes and people. It is no longer about the colourful façade, but the whole package.

Andrea Malgara, Managing Director of the Mediaplus Group

TV works

According to the ARF (Advertising Research Foundation) TV is still the most important advertising medium when it comes to building a broad reach and increasing return on investment. E-commerce companies are investing more and more in TV advertising. In 2015 almost every third TV advertising spot was occupied by an e-commerce product. TV advertising is strongly increasing online shopping traffic. Digital business models require a wide reach, however, to generate significant turnover.

If the appropriate special interest channels are chosen and screen planning is optimal for an advertising campaign, the advertising recall, brand awareness and the conversion rate all significantly increase. Through brand-unique and innovative media strategy, we can achieve a 20 percent increase in turnover with a targeted media mix.

Kevin Proesel, Managing Director of Saint Elmo’s Berlin

In 2017, IOT (Internet of Things) and clever ideas are changing retail marketing.

We have observed that the classic sales funnel of companies is changing: through the technology shift and the increase in use of smartphones, customers themselves are becoming points of sales and points of information, because they are networked everywhere and can obtain information as well as provide information at any time. As a result of this, personalised and networked campaigns that are implemented close to consumers will be the most convincing in the future. In 2017, we will be seeing the first campaigns which will use networked Smart Buttons as marketing incentives in the Internet of Things.

‘Smart Button’? It sounds smart, and it is smart: in advanced retail campaigns, a branded button acts as a pivot point. It is not like the dash buttons on Amazon, which act purely as facilitators of a networked ordering process, but it is a starting point for a networked campaign storytelling, which unfolds once the customer connects their button to their smartphone—and once they press the Smart Button. Predefined processes now tell a story, which, through several chapters, leads the customer to more and more touch points of a company: always through the simple push of a button. In this way, a guided tour takes place from home to the retail department, which constantly further qualifies the customer and allows campaigns to be experienced fully networked. It is virtually engagement marketing par excellence, since it goes beyond only displaying content and includes the user directly: ‘2017? Press the button and see what happens.’

Dominik Schütte, Managing Director of Serviceplan Content Marketing

Content quality instead of quantity

In 2017, people will ultimately comprehend that the purpose of content marketing goes beyond simply selling. Therefore, companies will be more confident in finding narrative niches outside their brand. In the process, they will be astonished to find out that people actually have their own interests and that it is exactly through these interests that they can be reached and turned into customers. A win-win situation, for both companies and the people out there. Storytelling for the masses – yes, thank you. But make it qualitative, relevant and, please, don’t be annoying.

Klaus Schwab, Managing Director of the Plan.Net Group

I believe that 2017 will bring along two highlights:

First of all, it will be the year when voice command becomes widely adopted, meaning that digital services will be triggered through speech. And this will be the collapse of technical interfaces, such as displays and keyboards.

Secondly, we will witness companies developing platform strategies inside different branches. Namely, they will be more open to start-ups and work together, in order to facilitate their clients’ access to specific services within their own ecosystem.

Julian Simons, Managing Director of mediascale and PREX Programmatic Exchange

With the progressing digitalisation of the use of media, and even in most areas of life, the long known types of borders between offline and online advertising channels are beginning to blur. More and more advertising spaces are being digitalised, are therefore accessible via IP, and are going ‘online’. Subsequently, this also means that programmatic advertising will lead to an increased distribution and control of channels such as radio, out-of-home, and in the end, television. This will lead to big changes for the advertising market.

The tremendous opportunities of comprehensive control and of addressing someone individually are not without great challenges. Business models change and become more complex. Strategies and management logics that make it possible for the new complexity to be meaningful to use, have to be found to prevent campaigns from losing impact in an aimless atomisation. This change must always keep the interests of the user and their data protection concerns in mind, otherwise it will not be successful.

Klaus Weise, Managing Director of Serviceplan Public Relations

Digital enraged citizens are changing the world

Great Britain is to exit the EU, Donald Trump is moving into the White House. Who would have believed, last year, that any of it would happen? The two results are neither coincidences, nor singular political accidents. They are the beacon of a world quake that has just begun. The triggering force of that quake is the fear caused by a change in the world, brought along by digitalisation and globalisation. Similar fears have always existed, but today they are a million times amplified and multiplied through social media. Fuelled by shady hate speeches and sparkled by social bots and opinion robots, whose sole purpose is to rile up the crowds. In 2017, dealing with digital enraged citizens will be the main challenge of political parties, unions, companies and brands.

Why many brands need to get to know their customers again

Honestly, would you believe any entrepreneur who boasted: “We know our customers better than ever, because of digitization! We have a huge database full of customer data which reveals their wishes. We fulfill these wishes immediately and make our customers happy – and they reward us for it with their purchasing power and strong loyalty”. Sounds good, right? But let’s be honest: Few brands could actually claim that so far. Most are experiencing the opposite: the decreasing loyalty of their customers as they turn away, are suspicious and “ad-phobic”. In Germany, for example, 44 percent of all manufacturers’ brands are losing more than 30 percent of their regular customers per year – and the number is increasing, as we found out in a study with GfK.

What’s going wrong? To get an answer a change of perspective helps. Consider the situation from the viewpoint of consumers. They are, according to global studies, disappointed; in the United States, according to Accenture, more than four out of five consumers (84 percent!) are frustrated, because companies do not deliver what they promise. And we are not doing much better in Germany; where only 30 percent trust brands and their messages. Instead of the hoped for closeness to consumers, the advertising industry is experiencing estrangement. It is as if digitization has not helped them to get to know consumers better,  as hoped, but rather to lose sight of them. With regard to entrepreneurial success, this is a catastrophic development. What can be done? One thing is clear; familiar methods will not help here, neither trusty advertising power nor wily technical finesse.

We need a fresh start. The product is no longer the starting point for all marketing activities, but the consumers and their life phases. They are the starting point of all activity; customer orientated production, brand management and marketing.

To inspire consumers, the marketing of the future has to create worlds of experience in which engrossing customer experiences ensure long lasting customer relationships. Airlines then sell travel events, not tickets. And car makers offer mobility experiences, not just cars. The product? It’s only part of a larger picture.

For marketing this change means, among other things:

1. Away from the “14-to-49-years-mentality” – towards micro-segmentation and personalisation

Because consumers move in the new consumer media world individually, media planning with rough-edged categories like “14 to 49” can no longer achieve a lot. In future the focus won’t be on target groups, socio-geographic data and ranges, but the stages of life, needs, experiences of each individual consumer. For the media planning for this personalization, we need more than ever to focus on methods such as micro-segmentation.

2. Away from the channel perspective – towards customer journey accompaniment

Nowadays, consumers use more channels, contact points and marketing resources for their purchases than ever before. The customer journey is now many times more complex than even ten years ago. Online or offline? It doesn’t matter, any mixture is okay. Studies show that few companies have concerned themselves with the customer journeys of their customers.

3. The way from the advertising message to relevant content offers

Exaggerated advertising promises no longer match present purchasing behaviour, because consumers believe nothing without checking. Up to 90 percent of product research is made before visiting a store. Therefore, companies need to develop ideas on how they can support potential customers at an early stage with information and persuasive arguments.

4. Away from self-serving data analysis – towards the use of media for customer satisfaction

In future it won’t be about hoarding data for advertising purposes. Instead, companies should consider how they can use the information to shape their business model, improve their products – and ultimately to make their customers happy. That is the real power of Big Data. Its intelligent use can be absolutely decisive.

Marketing can only achieve this fresh, stronger position if it drops outdated mechanisms and tactics; instead it needs the courage to make a fresh start. The consumers will be grateful. Our task, the task of the agencies, is to accompany this change, sometimes even to carefully push it.

This means we agencies need to reconsider our services and processes, to monitor and constantly optimize them to be perfect consultants for our customers in these difficult, but also exciting times. At Serviceplan, we are working on it; on a daily basis, at more than 30 locations worldwide. And, as of March this year, also in Spain.

First released in World’s Leading Independent Agencies 2016.

What brands should consider: 10 rules for content marketing

“Communication without content marketing has no future”

Buzzword or not – the need for content is greater than ever. In these times of the Internet as a platform, the power is shifting to the consumer. It used to be the other way around. Today, I can simply click everything away or use Adblocker. The consequence: the consumer has the power.

But someome do it right and do not get clicked away. What do Vodafone and South Tyrol have in common? Both know how good content marketing works. They are among the winners of the German Content Marketing Awards, which were awarded in 2015 for the first time. The South Tyroleans impressed us with their visually stunning stories (www.wasunsbewegt.com), and mobile operator Vodafone with the witty product testing of the “Gadget Inspectors”. They also convinced us through their networking with other content offerings as well as consistent marketing. In short: Vodafone and South Tyrol practice content marketing as it should be: Paid, Owned, Earned, and balanced out.

Such exemplary practice is still rare in German-speaking countries. We are, in fact, currently experiencing an accumulation of “pseudo-content marketing”. Content marketing, which only pretends to be such. Sometimes even a single blog can already be touted as content innovation, or native advertising articles, just because they rate well in the rankings. Sorry, they may well be successful measures, but they are only details of a larger whole which would deserve to be called content marketing.

Properly understood, content marketing provides an opportunity to revitalize the entire realm of corporate communication with fresh impulses. Everyone could benefit from it – from PR, marketing, customer services, and sales right through to HR. Content marketing concerns us all because it could be the solution to an acute problem: the rapid loss of customer confidence and the resulting threat of revenue loss. Meanwhile, 44 percent of all manufacturers brands are losing more than 30 percent of their regular customers per year (Marken Roadshow).

To counter this, companies need to put customers increasingly and more consistently in the centre of their actions. They need to develop experience worlds in which customers’ needs are met at the right time and in the right place. The product does not play the main role in the marketing of the future. The time of Customer Centricity is dawning – and in it, content marketing plays a central role. That, because it creates values without which such an adventure world can not function. Strategically, cleverly placed content which is free from paralyzing “advertising speak” should spur the conversation with customers. To put it boldly: without content marketing, corporate communications has no future.

For this reason, communicators should first ask themselves some holistic questions:

  • How can we create a “customer experience” and we what content do we need at which touchpoints?
  • How can each piece of content contribute to increasing brand appeal?
  • Do current content offerings have the necessary quality – from brochures to native advertising?
  • Is all content compatible? Do they complement each other? Or is it more of a muddle?
  • Which “Paid, Owned, Earned” content, do we need to be convincing?

Even if communication professionals plan only single content-marketing activities, they should have the higher-level communication aims in mind. Then there is no dramaturgical problem later if the content marketing is expanded. The final goal should always be to have all the content elements interacting perfectly.

In order to enable content marketing to develop its full potential, companies should be aware of these ten rules:

 

  1. Focus on top quality

In content marketing, bad quality and mediocrity have no chance. Average, interchangeable content gets lost in the flood of information. There are nearly one billion websites, and around 2.5 million emails are sent per second, while over 10,000 tweets are sent and more than 100,000 videos uploaded to YouTube. Bitter, but true: no one out there is waiting for your content.

Nevertheless, 70 percent of American B-to-B companies are now producing more content than a year ago. This abundance is not inspired, but rather annoying. Four out of five US decision-makers complain they get too much information, and on top of that it is useless and therefore, after a brief scan, lands right in the trash.

To clarify: of course content marketing is also about creating new content, but it is the quality and networking with all other content offerings which is decisive, not the quantity. The content must be first class and unique, to earn the recognition of consumers and search engines. The bottom line is: if you do not strive for excellence, then you can just as well do without content marketing. And save money.

 

  1. Use your brand as a storytelling turbo-booster

Of course you need to know what content stakeholders expect from you, but this does not mean that you should only tell them what they want to hear. It is better to show personality and strength of character which is visible in every single piece of content. Use your brand as a source of good topics and storytelling. This clear focus creates trust – and is the basis for good business.

In content marketing, it is not just about building trust; it is also about giving a brand meaning. How that can succeed is shown, for example, by the TexMex chain Chipotle. From the top quality information on the website through to top class animated films and a lavishly produced series “Farmed and Dangerous”, each of these different content measures makes a single brand message clear: we are committed to healthy, responsible food. We sell “Food with Integrity”.

Or did you know, for example, that the engines which power the famous London Tower Bridge are from Bosch? In the “Bosch World Experience”, Bosch sent six young people to places where Bosch is active, and had them recount their experiences. Through this, stories, such as that of Tower Bridge, did the rounds, and Bosch succeeded through its content marketing campaign in positioning itself as a versatile and inspiring brand.

The Marriott hotel chain’s success came through its magazine “Marriott Traveler”. It is full of inspiration for avid travelling millennials. None of the articles is about Marriott – but the selection of stories makes clear: with its 19 hotel brands and 4,200 hotels, Marriott knows the furthest reaches of the globe. Content marketing allowed Marriott to promote itself, more or less indirectly – no matter where the journey goes.

Chipotle, Bosch and Marriott – three brands, three strong characters. They show that whoever adopts an attitude, has the best starting point for strong themes and storytelling.

 

  1. The customer journey is also your “content journey”!

Did you know that consumers already have up to 90 percent of the customer journey behind them before they enter a store? And that they have used up to eleven content offerings?

Consumers now possess, thanks to the “Internetization” of the media and trade channels, an enormous research potential and freedom of choice. Businesses need to make every effort to provide timely, excellent content at every single touchpoint. For us marketers this means that we have to make the customer journey to our “content journey”.

There is much to learn and explore. For example, we need to find out when or where an interested party could become a lead or buyer. Websites seem rather unsuitable for this: 96 percent of visitors, almost all of them, are not in a buying mood. When and where can we can present sales arguments without being pushy? We need to find an answer. So far, at any rate, consumers do not seem satisfied with the information supply; only 14 percent are currently of the opinion that brand companies provide a good multichannel experience.

One thing is certain; patience pays off. Three out of four consumers give purchase preference to the brand which best supplied the most useful content during the customer journey.
For this reason, all stakeholders need – also in sales – to appreciate the need for a particularly cautious approach to content marketing.

 

  1. Determine what content your local markets need

Localization has always been a particularly tricky task – in content marketing, it is no different. Again, it is about the right feeling for different cultures and tastes. Even US companies do not have this theme under control, as shown in a survey among the visitors to the Content World Congress 2015 in Cleveland; about 60 percent confessed that they do not have a strategy for global content marketing.

In any case it makes sense to build up their own expertise in every major market. The content marketers can then decide on the spot what content suits them. In American content circles, it is estimated that around 20 percent of content is suitable for localization.

 

  1. Promote your content as a product

It doesn’t matter how good your content is – if it isn’t marketed, it won’t have an effect. You have to beat the drums for content as if it were a stand-alone product – in the social web, with paid media or with other PR activities.

How this works is shown by the German lawyer information service, which, in 2015, was awarded the German Prize for Online Communication. The mediation platform for lawyers appears as a magazine which informs readers, through top quality journalism, on different legal topics, and only as a second step, matches potential clients to appropriate lawyers.

In the Social Web, the site is strongly supported by a Facebook page (with more than 65,000 Likes). There memes are posted with legal sayings, infographics and Newsjacking on current topics. This quality pays off; 41 per cent of blog or website visitors (300,000 per month) go there via the social web.

Paid content presents situations in a humorous way in full-page ads.

PR activities – on Ebay future ex-husband Martin G. auctioned the couples joint possessions – but halved: half a car, a chair or a teddy bear. The auctions became a worldwide hype – on YouTube, in the press, on TV, and on the social web.

When the public was informed that the action was initiated by the lawyer information service to draw attention to the lack of legal protection before marriage, no one was annoyed – on the contrary: it was seen as valuable.

Good content alone is therefore not enough; you need to draw on your media potential and determine a media budget.

 

  1. Bring all your communicators to one table

One of the trickiest tasks is to bring the different skills of each department together as a meaningful whole, but it is indispensable. Establish units for content marketing.

There must be people in the company who are primarily concerned with the theme of content. For example, PR usually has the most experience in storytelling and agenda setting. Marketing and sales, in turn, is better in the management of touchpoints, where storytelling could take place.

So there is no way around it; these two skill areas need to be brought together. How this can work, for example, is demonstrated by Metro with its Genuss-Blog (pleasure-blog). It is full of good stories which, in other points of contact, such as in the typical metro mailings, are developed further. And a PR expert is responsible for storytelling on the marketing touchpoints.

 

  1. Search for your efficiency killer

Cooperation is essential, if only for cost and efficiency reasons. It is not uncommon for different departments to produce the same content – such as an app – for the lack of joint content management. A US study illustrates the scale of this problem. There, B-to-B companies annually produce deficient content to the tune of 958 billion US dollars, simply because their content management is inefficient. And in the UK, this lack of cooperation skills leads to 15 percent of companies never publishing a massive 50 percent of the content they have produced .

Motorola Solutions has learned from this. The telecommunications company now has a pool for all its content materials which communicators add to, research in and use. Thus, ridiculously expensive duplications are avoided and the expert abilities of other departments utilized.

The potential savings in content management seem considerable. If you weigh this off against the cost of content marketing, you will probably quickly come to the conclusion that content marketing can pay off.

 

  1. Get content-strategic expertise

If your company does not have any employees with content-strategic competence, you should change that quickly. Even if you plan to outsource content marketing tasks, you need at least one expert in the company who can assess the quality of the work done externally and manage it objectively.
It needs to be someone with editorial know-how, who knows the brand messages, and who can handle the service providers involved, because there could be many of them: from the online agency to PR, events and media agencies. Ideally, they should be experienced in dynamic newsroom management, because content tasks are always a “work in progress”. We are dealing with evolving processes that need highly flexible management.

Content-strategic preparations are the pre-conditions for successful content marketing. Nevertheless, this step is often skipped in the mistaken belief that it is an unnecessary burden. But the absence of a content strategy is virtually a guarantee of failure, as shown by the Content Marketing Institute. Of the companies that are disappointed in their content marketing, only 7 percent have one. And of the completely satisfied? 60 percent are in possession of a content strategy.

 

  1. Stay alert – the content landscape changes rapidly

One feature of good content marketing is that it works in the long run. It is not a campaign that can simply be stopped and replaced. Content marketing is a long-term companion, which must constantly be monitored and refreshed.

So remain vigilant, because customer needs and favoured touchpoints change rapidly. Who knows what will come after Snapchat, Instagram or Periscope? We currently should, for example, monitor content publishing platforms, Medium, LinkedIn and Facebook attentively and, if useful, integrate them in content marketing strategies.

We should indeed use the power of Google and Facebook, but not accept them as God-given at the same time. Through their filtering mechanisms, it has become difficult to approach people outside their “interests bubble”. For this reason, companies should consider additional tactics to attract the people’s interest.

So as you can see, content marketing is much more than an add-on. It enriches all communications because it changes the perspective in favour of high-quality content, which is essential for the design of a fascinating world of adventure.

 

  1. Do not forget technology!

In the content marketing process, technologies play a significant role. What does that mean? In all stages of the process, the market offers different tools – from individual solutions to the emerging full-service approach for the mass market of the Top 500 advertisers: content / social marketing cloud systems. These provide integrated solutions for the entire process, but are leaner and more agile than the big marketing cloud systems.

The top players here are called Sprinklr and Percolate. We at the Serviceplan Group use all the technologies for our customers . We need to as well, as increasingly customers themselves bring along their own proprietary technologies and solutions or we need to modify them at the customers’. This means we must be flexible.
In the content distribution process, we are currently strongly focused on the global rock star, Sprinklr. However, we are also investing heavily in our own developments to have the technological development capabilities to meet individual customer needs in our own hands.
For that we have developed two of our own technologies: one for asset and workflow management, the second for analysis and reporting.

Is content marketing just a passing trend? No way.

 

First published in German: Leserautor Gastbeitrag in W&V.