How to Make Video a Better Part of Your Content Strategy

Branded video

Note: this post has been originally published on MarTech Series online mag.

By all accounts, video is the future of content marketing. According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, it will account for 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2019. But just because video is popular doesn’t mean brands know how to do it well. Branded video can only be as great as the strategy behind it.

Video content is simply one tactic that has to be part of a wider marketing strategy. Regardless of what tactics you choose, a strong strategy starts with your audience. Do you want to reach people in a particular industry? A certain title? Does geography matter? Your team should also grapple with audience data including surfing habits, time spent on-site and preferred devices, long before anyone takes the lens cap off a camera. When brands reach that point, then video can be an effective way to engage people through emotion and narrative.

As a tool, video is optimal for specific objectives like brand awareness and lead generation. These goals translate well to quick explainer videos and short interviews or profiles. But the format does have several weaknesses. For example, it’s not an ideal tool for conveying a lot of complex or detailed information, especially in technical B2B fields.

As long as your strategy is balanced, that’s OK. It’s become commonplace for companies to “pivot” to video at the expense of all other content programs, but a valuable idea can live across different formats. A finance company can create a top-of-funnel video about people saving for retirement and then drill down on different retirement options in a more detailed e-book. That approach will also prevent Scope Creep from draining time and talent away from the rest of your marketing content.

Once an audience is defined and a strategy has been designed, marketers can turn to distribution. If you’re going to spend a considerable amount of money and dozens of hours on a creative video project, you can’t just post it on your blog and expect everyone to find it. Video has started to dominate social platforms and mobile engagement. Per comScore, the average user watches more than 40 minutes of YouTube videos a day on mobile devices. So, whether you’re using Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter or a combination, there’s a growing audience for your clips. The trick is that each platform draws different people with different desires and expectations. You have to study the algorithms to learn what kind of videos get prioritized.

Finally, if you want to stay one step ahead for the future of video, revisit that audience you outlined in your original strategy. The way we consume content is moving more and more toward video, GIFs, animation, motion graphics and audio. The growing sophistication of technologies like virtual reality, voice recognition, and artificial intelligence means we will soon interact with screens very differently than we once did. For marketers to keep being successful with video content, they must continue to adapt to the changing landscape.

Featured Image by Kushagra Kevat

The psychology behind content: how to trigger your users’ behaviour

Note: I’ve updated the original post with new studies; I’ve refreshed Fogg’s Behaviour Model with the latest researches and I’ve added a couple of missing Cialdini’s principles of persuasion. Also, I have included a new paragraph to clarify when (in which phase of the buyer journey) we should be using these principles. Finally, I’ve added a reference list at the end. This is the most complete article so far summarising my researches on Content/Digital Marketing and Psychology.

This may sound counterintuitive but success in marketing strategy does not start with strategy. Rather, it should start with the context, being the context a deep understanding of your business objectives and your audience. There is no tactics without strategy; and there is no strategy without a clear understanding of your audience. Here is where psychology – better, a comprehension of basic psychology principles – can help.

Psychology and Persuasion

Psychology is the study of mental processes that lead to human behavior. It affects everything we do. As a content marketer or designer, it’s helpful to understand psychological principles, whether you’re working to make an existing website more intuitive or building a digital experience aligned with how users make decisions.

Psychology can help us answer questions like: Why do users behave the way they do? Which elements of design will facilitate the behaviors I want users to engage in? Yet, psychological principles mostly reside in the realm of academic research and literature, which are often inaccessible for marketers.

Before we start, a note on persuasion. This post covers a few principles focused on persuading users. Although persuasion has a bad reputation – and I understand why – it isn’t an inherently negative action. It is just a way to influence, for better or worse. Victor S. Yocco, author of “Design for the Mind: Seven Psychological Principles of Persuasive Design,” put it well:

Utilising dark patterns or tricking a user into doing something they wouldn’t otherwise do is not persuasion. It’s being an asshole.”

That’s exactly the point. This post is not about that kind of persuasion. What I’ll present here is a collection of principles, examples, and best practices that will make your content and design more persuasive, in order to trigger behaviors users were already considering. In other words, you’ll learn how to increase conversions by understanding psychology, engaging readers in specific behaviors, and creating calls to action at the right time.

Utilising dark patterns or tricking a user into doing something they wouldn’t otherwise do is not persuasion. It’s being an asshole.

Victor S. Yocco

Applying the Elaboration Likelihood Model 

Persuasion is part of every aspect of our lives. Businesses want us to buy their products. Politicians desire our votes. And people want us to like them. The same ideas hold true for websites, apps, content destinations, and other digital properties. Good design persuades users to engage with your product or content in the way you intend, leading to your desired outcome. 

Persuasion involves more than words. Aesthetics and user experience can make a website or application more persuasive. They can reinforce your audience’s attitudes. A digital experience can also dissuade users. If someone encounters nine pop-ups, a long loading time, or three pages of disclaimers to get to your core message, there is a high probability they will leave your site before you get your point across. Distractions, whether physical, visual, or intangible, can temporarily halt the whole persuasion process.

Academics have attempted to explain how persuasion works on individuals for decades. The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), one of the most frequently cited models of persuasion, explains how shaping attitudes also shapes behaviors. Incorporating the principles of the ELM into your message and design will maximize your influence on user attitudes and, therefore, behaviors.

Central and peripheral routes

When someone is presented with information, some level of “elaboration” occurs. To elaborate on something means to take the time to really think about it. If you have to buy a car, for instance, you will spend a lot of time thinking about which car is best for you. You will search on Google, talk to friends, and visit car dealers. This is what the ELM is about: How likely are we to elaborate, and on what level? The level of elaboration determines which processing route the message takes: central or peripheral.

Central route processing (high level of attention) means your audience cares more about the message. They’ll pay more attention and scrutinize the quality and strength of the argument. Any attitudes formed or reinforced this way are thought to be more resistant to counter-arguments. Attitudes formed through central route tend to be hard to change – either they are positive or negative attitudes.

Peripheral route processing  (low level of attention) happens on a more superficial level. Your audience will pay less attention to the message itself while being influenced by secondary factors, such as source credibility, visual appeal, presentation, and enticements like food, sex, and humor. Attitudes formed or reinforced this way are thought to be less enduring, subject to change through counter-arguments, and in need of continual reinforcement.

A view of the two routes

To illustrate the difference between central and peripheral route processing – and how messaging and design can address each – let’s look at an example.

Imagine two potential customers, both in need of a new compact car. Abby is a car expert who often reads car magazines. Joe barely knows about cars; he’s interested in finding a quality car, with good design (he loves design products) at a good price. While both users will have some level of central route processing (i.e. pricing), it is more likely that Abby, with her interest in cars and mechanics, will be attentive to the messages. Abby searches for car details, specs, and comparison information. Her process will likely follow the central route.

Joe, instead, looks at different sites before deciding on a new Mini Cooper model. He’s not really interested in technical details. He likes the way the website presents the car. He loves the design, and he’s attracted by large images and customizable color combinations. Joe goes the peripheral route.

Promoting the Central Route

This example leads to our next area of exploration: what promotes central route processing and high elaboration? How can we push visitors to the central route? Researchers have found two main factors influencing a shift to the central route: motivation and ability.

Motivation (relevancy) is often influenced by relevance. A user who feels directly impacted by a topic is more likely to process a message through the central route.

Ability (capability) is a straightforward concept. For central route processing to occur, your message must align with your audience’s thinking capabilities. If people lack the mental ability to process your message, they will not be able to critically evaluate it, and are guaranteed to process it through the peripheral route.

In other words: If you want people to pay attention to your content, make it relevant and easy to understand. The Fogg’s Behavior Model can help you connect motivation and ability.

Fogg Behavior Model: motivation, ability, and prompts

Dr. BJ Fogg founded the Persuasive Technology Lab (now renamed Behavior Design Lab) at Stanford University, and has done some amazing research on behavior design. Behavior design is where psychology, design, and technology meet – a systematic way to influence a desired behavior. Fogg defines behaviour design as a way to “computerise behaviour change” and “computerise persuasion“.

Behavior design is where psychology, design, and technology meet – a systematic way to influence a desired behavior.

BJ Fogg

Fogg’s model explains that three elements must come together at the same time for a behavior to occur: motivation, ability, and prompts. If one of those elements is missing, then the action won’t happen. In short:

B = MAP

Fogg-Behavior-Model-updated
Fogg’s Behavior Model: Ability, Motivation, Prompts

Ability and motivation have a trade-off relationship when it comes to performing behaviors. That’s what the curved line on the Behavior Model represents. You can see the point when we should ask users to engage in a behavior (check our site, click this button) because they’ll be most likely to say “Yes!”. We must design our content to increase motivation and ability to the point where a prompt will be successful. If a design presents the prompt (trigger or call to action) before motivation and ability reach sufficiently high levels, the behavior won’t occur.

Here’s how you can account for each in your content and design.

Motivation

The most effective way to increase motivation is through strong messages that show why your product and content are relevant to your audience. Several factors can also boost motivation, like:

  • status
  • early access (remember Gmail?)
  • pleasure or pain
  • hope and fear
  • social acceptance and social rejection
  • power
  • and rewards

Take this example from Vitality insurance. Most people who visit the site already have strong motivation, and an Apple watch reward may further increase it.

Ability

Convey your message in a way that your audience understands. There are two paths to increasing ability. The hard way is to train people to understand your message. The easier (and best) path is simplicity. Make it easy for your audience to understand what you offer and how to receive it; make your design accessible.

This leads to an important rule: If you must choose what to optimize for, always choose ability over motivation. Simplicity changes behavior. Become a master of simplification, not motivation.

Become a master of simplification, not motivation.

Victor S. Yocco, Design for the Mind

Simplicity is the minimally satisfying solution at the lowest cost. Simplicity has a direct connection to persuasive technology. Technologies that make something easier to do are more likely to get people to do that thing. An obvious example is Amazon’s Buy now with 1 click.

Simplicity is the minimally satisfying solution at the lowest cost.

BJ Fogg, Persuasive Technology

Oscar’s website is a perfect example of simplicity. The health insurance company makes a complex topic accessible. The Oscar website enables ability and facilitates a central route.

The Prompt

Without a prompt, a target behavior will not happen. Prompts tell people to do it now. Sometimes a prompt can be external, like a message alert. Other times, the prompt can come from our daily routine: walking through the kitchen may trigger us to open the fridge. The concept of a prompt has different names, but content marketers generally refer to it as a call to action or CTA (Fogg once called this element the “Trigger”; he changed this term in late 2018. Now he uses “Prompt”).

The way to encourage desired user behavior is to “place hot prompts in the path of motivated users,” as BJ Fogg would say. The closer the timing of an external prompt with an internal prompt, the sooner an association forms. In general, an internal prompt is created when a user has a consistently great experience with content or an application. After continuously getting rewarded by the application, an association is made between the application and the need that prompted the opening of it. Since internal prompts take the form of internal drives and thoughts, they’re pretty much impossible to measure or rely on. That’s why external prompts are a product designer’s best friend. Examples of external prompts are:

  • Emails
  • Push notifications (eg. email subscriptions pop-ups)
  • Text messages

These prompts are most effective when actionable, personalized, and timely. If a user is presented with a CTA when they’re able and somewhat motivated to perform a behavior, it’s likely that they will.

Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion

We have seen how elaboration occurs and how it is facilitated by motivation, ability/simplicity, and prompts. Persuasion expert, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, adds one more element. Since we live in an age of information overload, we don’t always have the time to process all of the information and make informed decisions. This incapacity makes us look for signals that help us decide if we want to do something. Cialdini calls these signals “shortcuts.” Enabling these shortcuts through design and content will facilitate users to adopt the central processing route:

Status Quo: People generally prefer status quo, even if they say (or their actions suggest) they’re open to new ideas or ways of doing things. If your company’s products or services require customers to venture out of their comfort zone, explore risk-free mechanisms that allow customers to experience them. Meal box companies like Blue ApronPlated, and HelloFresh do this by offering free meals to new customers. This tactic is appealing to everyone, but especially those who are reluctant to try a new dinner routine.

Reciprocity: People generally feel indebted to those who do something for them without asking for anything in return. Simply put, the more you give to your customers, the more they’ll be willing to give back to you. Whether it’s bestowing customers with an unexpected discount or free gift, the idea is to go above and beyond without requesting anything in return. Some B2B software companies do this by automatically extending free trials or giving customers exclusive access to new product features. For example, Freshbooks has been known to send automated free trial extension emails to users who haven’t purchased after initial trials. This is also the concept behind the big rock content marketing model.

Social Proof and Acceptance: We generally value opinions and ideas from people like us, and we feel greater compulsion to act when we see others like us taking action. Social proof comes in a lot of forms: customer case studies, testimonials, reviews, and social engagement, to name a few. For example, MarketingProfs applies this principle on its new membership page by pointing out that more than 600,000 marketers have signed up, motivating the reader to become part of that group, as well.

Scarcity and Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO): When we fear that something is scarce, we feel compelled to act – buying, stockpiling, or experiencing that thing before it’s gone. This is an incredibly powerful psychological principle that marketers have used for years to drive action. By using limited time offers or showing consumers what their friends are purchasing, you can create a sense of urgency to buy. Amazon’s Deal of the Day is a perfect example. It hits on both scarcity (only so many deals are available) and FOMO (you only have so much time). Same with airline companies that show how many seats are left at specific price points.

Authority: influencer marketing’s principles are based on the authority shortcut – people will consume your content (and will buy your services/products) because you have some degree of knowledge and authority, enough credibility for people to want to read what you have to say. It works well in B2B and B2C, even if the kind of authority can be of very different nature. Kaya Skin Clinic, a beauty clinic that focuses on improving the looks of a person by delivering services that enhance beauty and skin, found that including the word “expert” in the opt-in form as a call to action was a powerful application of the law of authority. In fact, lead generation increased 137%, and as a consequence revenue increased 22%, when Kaya’s agency decided to change CTA, including now the expert term.

Kaya’s website
A new CTA, making advantage of the authority principle

Liking: finally, liking (or likeness), based on the straightforward principle that we are easily persuaded by people who are like us, or people we like. Similarity boosts liking. If we are members of the same group or have commonalities, it’s even easier to like you. Cialdini suggests using the About Us page to become more likable, by including individual information and personal interests. PetsRelocation.com represents a good example of well designed About Page, and a good application of Cialdini’s liking principle.

How (and when) we should use the principles

Let’s now translate what we’ve learned into a message clearly understandable by content marketers. The question we should ask ourselves is: when should we use the psychology principles? If we consider the simplified buyer journey we can summarise saying that:

  • Central Route Processing should drive the entire journey. In fact, we have seen how any attitudes formed or reinforced this way will be more resistant to counter-arguments; attitudes formed through central route will tend in fact to be hard to change. Which means we need to work to increase motivation and ability/simplicity through the full journey;
  • Fogg Behaviour Model: similar consideration here. Prompts (CTAs) will trigger behaviours in different phases of the journey;
  • Cialdini’s principles of influence: some principles could be more appropriate for a specific phase vs others. For example, the principle of scarcity can trigger consumer’s action in the purchase phase. Authority can be extremely useful in the very first phase of the journey, where enterprises (especially B2B) should be considered authoritative and gain trust because of their understanding of specific domains. Social Proof is extremely helpful in several phases of the journey and with specific audiences.

Visually:

Psychology principles and the simplified phases of a typical buyer journey

Conclusions

You should all pay close attention to these principles, learn what they’re all about, and apply them to your own content hubs, apps, and digital properties. If you incorporate them properly, you’ll notice an unmistakable boost in your conversions over time. Understanding your audience’s behaviour will be instrumental for the success of the overall content marketing strategy.

References

Global Content Marketing and Localisation: 3 Business Strategy Frameworks

Global Content Marketing Strategy

Original post has been published here by Maël Roth. Maël is a Global Content Marketing Strategist and this is his blog.

Going global with content marketing sounds easy (just translate it, right?) but it actually takes a lot more preparation than you might expect. In this post, we’ll have a look at three frameworks with which you’ll be better prepared if you want to conquer a foreign market with your content. Continue reading “Global Content Marketing and Localisation: 3 Business Strategy Frameworks”

How Editorial Boards empower Content Marketing Strategy

Content Editorial Boards

Editorial boards are an old tradition at media and newspapers. In today’s digital marketing world, brands’ content editorial boards aren’t quite as influential but still serve a critical role in content marketing strategy. This post will explain why and how to set up central and local editorial boards and is a subset of the Strategy Collection.

*****

It should not come as a surprise that the content marketing strategy has to stand side by side with an internal organizational transformation. In fact, today’s marketing organizations are barely designed to properly support a content marketing strategy. The content editorial board is the core of your transformation. The board has to handle all content-related requests and issues, has to define the distribution/amplification strategy and content measurement framework. In large organizations the editorial board has the key role of alignment and coordination between several division and content sources. Finally it has the task to finalize an internal content communication and distribution plan.

The board has to manage the so called content ecosystem: the combination of internal writers, internal and guest bloggers, agencies and freelances that will support your editorial efforts. External sources have to be educated and in some large firms certified, in order to be part of your ecosystem.

Without a plan, an editorial board and editorial calendar, nothing will happen.

The choice of content editorial board members depends on the central marketing organization, which can be complex or lean. In general, I suggest the following macro-areas of expertise:

  • content & persona owners: they are responsible for content and personas. Functionally, the domain could be represented by strategic marketing reps, product managers or technology leads;
  • channel/content distribution owners: they are expert of content and content distribution via different channels – email, social media, SEO, paid promotion, etc.
  • geographies: it’s always interesting to invite one of more geographies to the content meetings. Advantage is two fold: getting early inputs from geos and learning about new content created at local level which might be “elevated” at global level

The editorial calendar is the tool of the content editorial board. It is much more than just a calendar with content assigned to dates. A good editorial calendar maps content production to the audience persona and the phases of the buyer journey. Ultimately, the editorial calendar is your most powerful tool as a content marketer. Without a plan, an editorial board and editorial calendar, nothing will happen.

Fact is, there should be two calendars in place: the (content) production and the distribution calendar. Here is where software like Content Marketing Platforms (CMPs) can make the difference and increase the board’s effectiveness. In absence of a proper CMP, production and distribution could be unified under the same spreadsheet.

While the central editorial team will lead content strategy at a global level, a local editorial board should be in place in each major country or geography to manage proper local content planning and distribution. The choice of editorial board members depends one more time on the local marketing organization. In general, I suggest the following members:

  • A field marketer responsible for operations in that specific country;
  • A digital marketing lead (or individual channel distribution leads – social media, web, newsletter, SEO – in larger organizations);
  • A content lead (assuming that the country has a content lead);
  • A strategic marketing lead (or a local product marketer)
  • Members of the local content agency – if an agency is supporting local operations

The local editorial board will agree with the central team on target personas, lead the decision for adopting content created centrally, contract with local vendors, and engage members of the central team to secure a strong, continuous dialogue.

The Ultimate Guide to Global Content Marketing for Large Enterprises

Global Content Marketing

I wrote this post less than one year ago. It was November 2016, exactly twelve months after launching a global content marketing program for the IT Business Unit of Schneider Electric.

The same month I presented my experience at NewsCred’s ThinkContent 2016 Conference in London. Today, less than one year later, I have revised and updated the original post, with examples and experiences coming from other companies where I contributed to implement global content marketing programs. I added three paragraphs too (“Definitions”, “Localisation” and “Metrics”), to touch relevant topics that in my view were not properly covered on the original post. The original post was mainly focused on B2B best practices – which is natural if you come, as I did, from 15 years of experience in B2B enterprises. This time it includes B2C examples and considerations. Also, this post partially reflects what I presented at CMWorld 2017, the largest global Content Marketing Conference.

Since last year, my passion for traveling has not changed. In fact, I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not travelling. In a way, it has been a constant whether I was on the road for business or pleasure. My travels have given me a better understanding of the world. But I never knew how much I had to learn until I was tasked to launch a brand new global content marketing program for Schneider Electric. In short: I thought I knew the world, but when you have to develop content for different geographies, well, it feels like you never stepped outside your front door.

My first global content marketing journey started in three years ago, when my team and I began defining Schneider Electric IT Division’s content strategy and the processes that would sustain it. Our goals were twofold: increase leads and marketing opportunities, which were flat and stagnating at that time (marketing opportunities had to count at least for 20% of overall opportunities), and increase brand awareness. After defining our strategy, we spent one full year preparing for the global launch through multiple pilots. We learned an incredible amount from our successes and mistakes. One year later I replicated the same model with global clients once I moved to NewsCred at the beginning of 2017.

What follows is a series of valuable considerations from all these experiences, which should prove helpful to other marketers who are establishing and launching their own global content marketing strategy.

Continue reading “The Ultimate Guide to Global Content Marketing for Large Enterprises”

Big Rock content in a nutshell

It happens, more and more. When I write or talk about content marketing strategy, I am used to get the following question – among others: OK, but what exactly is “Big Rock’ content? And what is the difference between Big Rocks and eBooks?

Let me try to answer here, publicly. Big Rock is nothing more than highly valuable content.

The Big Rock content concept was popularized by Jason Miller when he ran social media strategy for Marketo. Jason defines a big rock content asset as a substantial piece of content such as “the definitive guide to a problem you solve”. Jason is quoted as saying, “A big rock content asset can be 20, 30 or more pages long. It should be visually compelling of course. It can be gated for lead capture. Then, you “slice” up the big rock content asset into blog posts, infographics, Slideshare decks, webinars, etc.”

In a nutshell: Big Rock is a substantial piece of content based on the idea of becoming the definitive guide to a conversation that you want to own.

The current trend in content marketing is to develop an all-encompassing guide to whatever our keywords or topics are which is written strategically instead of instructionally. This type of content is very top of funnel and can serve many purposes such as SEO, fuel for social and lead generation, sales enablement, and event collateral to name a few.

Big Rocks should be launched with the same emphasis of new products.

A great example of Big Rock content is Marketo’s definitive guide series. Guys at Marketo have created a series of eBooks clocking in at close to 100 pages each. This Big Rock piece of content is something that was repurposed using the turkey analogy mentioned in a previous post. Out of this one Big Rock piece of content Marketo had carved out 15 blogs, two infographics, two webinars, two videos, two SlideShare presentations, a number of cheat sheets and much more. Imagine the pieces and parts you can pull out of a Big Rock piece of content and remember that this is the foundation that is going to fuel your campaigns for quite some time.

A good example of Big Rock in the Data Center/Cloud space – which is where my company leads the way – is VMWare’s Virtualization 2.0 for Dummies. Same concept, same approach (not sure about VMWare’s launching capabilities, but the book/Big Rock is superb).

Before closing, let’s go with the second piece of the question: what’s the difference between Big Rocks and eBooks?

An eBook can be a Big Rock if it matches the definition given above: an all-encompassing guide to whatever your keywords or topics are which is written strategically instead of instructionally. Also, eBooks can be considered a Big Rock if sliced up into “turkey slices” and not just considered as a single piece of content. EBooks of course could also be just an individual repurposed pieces of a Big Rock.

Some super-useful resources:

Why Enterprises need a Content Marketing Platform to address content chaos

I have been designing content marketing strategy in large B2B enterprises for the last few years. If I have to list the top challenges I have had with its implementation there is no doubt that the first was a missing Content Marketing Software Platform. Other major challenges were, in order: 1) setting up proper analytic and 2) moving our content strategy from central pilots to global deployment (see my post on NewsCred Insights).

Our complex marketing technology stack, heritage of endless company acquisitions and integration, miss in fact this critical piece: we had to invest a relevant amount of time thinking at how to replace all processes and functions that a content marketing platform could offer: content creation, content curation, planning, editorial calendar, workflow management, publishing, internal and external content distribution, analytics, and last but not least, intelligence.

There has been a mind-numbing proliferation of technology vendors and solutions to address the needs of content and digital marketers in the last few years. For instance, Curata’s content marketing tools map has increased from 40 to over 130 vendors in its most recent version. NewsCred too has helped navigating across the ocean of marketing technologies with one of its latest posts. Mergers and acquisitions have contributed to make things even more complex.

Now, let’s go back to the basics for a moment, and let’s define what a content marketing platform is. The latest Forrester’s Wave report on Content Marketing Platforms (end of 2015) provides some clarity (note: the report has restricted access).

To address this challenge (the challenge of the enterprise’s content chaos), several technology vendors have developed a single software platform for all involved parties to collaborate on the strategy behind the content and its planning, creation, and distribution; these are called content marketing platforms (CMPs):
 
[Definition] Content marketing platforms are solutions that help marketing teams collaborate on a content strategy, orchestrate the numerous, concurrent streams of activity by content creators, curators, and distributors inside and outside of the company, and optimize downstream cross-channel distribution to key audiences.

Forrester Wave’s report further clarifies the need for a CMP: CMPs, the report affirms, are a “nascent category of marketing technology stack”, and are quickly growing to provide:

  • A single environment for teams to collaborate on content for all phases of customer life cycle
  • A replacement for Excel and email and facilitate collaboration across organizational silos
  • A place to aggregate data, content, and metrics from many sources

A Content Marketing Platform is this, and much more. CMPs act as a glue among several enterprise technologies managing content, distribution, analytics, pipeline (which is in general the primary goals of all B2B marketers) and insights, one of the new frontiers for such kind of software platforms. It is clear why CMPs have a central role and integrate several pieces of the marketing technology stack.

Where a CMP is supposed to be located within a full marketing stack? Curata introduces the “Emergence of the Content Marketing Platform”:

Sales Force Automation platforms fuel revenue by tracking and supplying sales opportunities and leads. Marketing Automation Platforms drive Sales Force Automation by supplying marketing qualified leads. But what drives the marketing activities and leads of Marketing Automation Platforms? Content. Like a car without gas, marketing automation can’t get very far without content. Content is needed for everything from a website (which is tracked by marketing automation), to email campaigns, to even pay-per-click landing page offers.

Many of today’s content marketers have little accountability and transparency in terms of how their content is performing. Their content is often warehoused and stored in multiple disparate systems and spreadsheets. That’s why a CMP is required.

Now, regardless the market studies you will look at and the marketing domain you belong to (business or consumer) content marketers have common evergreen challenges (source: Curata):

  • Limited budget for staff and program spend;
  • Creating enough quality content on a regular basis, whether in-house or externally sourced;
  • Distributing content across multiple channels, including publication and promotion;
  • Measuring the impact of content, i.e., what works and what doesn’t work to drive awareness, leads and sales enablement.

CMPs help marketers addressing all of them.

Back to my past experience and projects, as soon as we recognized the need for a CMP for our organization, we started to list all requirements for the “perfect CMP”. We segmented the requirements in six main categories, which I list here below. Using this simple and repeatable methodology, we evaluated several vendors.

(Download the CMP requirements in table format)

1) Content Development and Workflow Management

  • Workflow management capabilities
  • Ability to create different workflows based on content type and link those worklows to campaigns
  • Ability to view all assets & status of assets related to a specific campaign
  • Attach to asset and campaign name additional information such as persona, asset type, brand attribute
  • Ability to send emails to content owners, content requestor or project managers about changing status of developed asset
  • Ability to send emails to task owners informing them of task and work assigned
  • Ability to provide workflow capabilities for translation and associate workflow to master assets, campaigns etc.

2) Editorial Calendar

  • Editorial calendar management
  • Capability to view content development requests by content type, campaign and persona, where contributors can view tasks assigned
  • Ability to share internally the editorial calendar
  • Ability to view production and publication calendars

3) Content Management

  • WYSIWYG editor for direct publishing, meeting requirements to publish to blogs and major social media platforms
  • Ability to manage all content development requests: ebook, infographic, whitepapers, rich media content

4) Integration with existing stack and Distribution functionality

  • Ideally connect to company’s DAM to pick up imagery and post content
  • Ability to integrate with blog platforms (e.g. WordPress)
  • Ability to connect to existing email platforms for content to be emailed as part of newsletter
  • Ability to integrate with corporate web CMS
  • Ability to connect to Marketing Automation platforms (e.g. Marketo, Eloqua, etc.) for reporting information as well as to send content to be distributed via email or on landing page
  • Ability to connect to CRMs (e.g. SalesForce)
  • Ability to connect to social media publishing tools (e.g. Sprinklr)
  • Sales enablement: ability to provide shared content to sales

5) Analytics and Insights

  • Content Performance – Content Pipeline contribution
  • Top performing content list by persona, by campaign , by brand attribute
  • Amplification and engagement rate on content whether or not we use the CMP platform for distribution
  • Internal consumption: which content assets are most used by sales and in which part of the buying process
  • Localization rate: how many content assets have been internally consumed and localized
  • External consumption: which content are customers consuming in which part of the buying cycle
  • Insights and recommendations

6) Mobile app

  • Availability as app for Smartphones and Tablets

There is not a single way to evaluate the best fit for your organization. All starts with your company/division objectives. In our case support for our content marketing strategy and in addition integration with the existing stack, support to existing internal processes and analytics were the main goals and then main criteria for selection.

A few months ago I created a comprehensive post outlining an twelve-step Content Marketing strategy. That’s exactly what the implementation of a CMP will support.

Step 1: The Case for Change
Step 2: Finding the Optimal Balance Between Central and Local
Step 3: Editorial Process- the Content Editorial Board and the Content Ecosystem
Step 4: Global and local audience persona, buyer journey and content map
Step 5: Alignment with your company’s Brand story
Step 6: Selecting a Content Hub and Content Marketing Platform
Step 7: Distribution channel strategy – distribution and amplification
Step 8: The POEM Model -Paid drives Owned which drives Earned Media (aka: How to integrate Public Relations with your B2B Content Marketing Strategy)
Step 9: Launching an Internal Communications Strategy
Step 10: Piloting Your Content Marketing Strategy
Step 11: Measurement and Optimization
Step 12: Finally, Going Global

A CMP will definitely address and support most of the points above, and as a consequence, the overall content strategy.