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I’m a big fan of Robert Rose, the Chief Strategy Advisor of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and Chief Troublemaker of The Content Advisory.
He’s a content marketing pioneer and a thought leader in the field.
So, I was somewhat surprised to read his latest article, which is entitled, “B2C Marketers Treat Content Marketing as a Project; That’s a Mistake [New Research].”
I agree with his analysis of the strategic challenges facing B2C marketers because it’s based on the latest research from CMI and MarketingProfs.
According to the recently released “B2C Content Marketing Benchmark, Budgets, and Trends – Insights for 2023”:
- 57% of B2C marketers say creating content that appeals to different target audiences is their biggest challenge.
- 44% say it’s developing consistency with measurement.
- And 40% say it’s differentiating our products/services from those of the competition.
But I respectfully disagree with his solution:
“Solving all three of these challenges centers around strategic content operations – setting a consistent long-term strategy to differentiate, developing a measurement plan that stands the test of time, and scaling to meet the needs of different audiences.”
Adding the word “strategic” before “content operations” may make it sound less tactical. But far too many people in content operations are narrowly focused on making their People, Process, and Technology (PPT) more efficient, not more effective.
And Rose says in his article,
“Efficiency involves changes to a process to remove friction. The question often assumes a working, standard operation providing value already exists. But if there is no repeatable standard operation, efficiency ends up meaning producing the same or more content with the same resources.”
He adds, “That rarely works out to be better for the business.”
So, I don’t want to pick a fight with him. I agree with him most of the time.
Besides, any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a good carpenter to build one – especially one that can withstand the economic crosswinds that B2C marketers will be facing this year.
That’s why I’m going to share some strategic insights and constructive criticism that I hope will be helpful to professionals with experience in content marketing at mid and large B2C organizations.
Spoiler alert: On some topics, you must unlearn what you have learned.
Creating Content That Appeals To Different Target Audiences
I’ve been reading the CMI’s annual “Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budget and Trends” reports since the first one was published in September 2010.
And over the past 12 years, I’ve cited their latest findings in my content marketing webinars at Market Motive, digital marketing courses in the Rutgers Mini-MBA program, and content creation classes at the New Media Academy.
In October 2014, I learned from CMI’s research that the average number of audiences that B2C marketers target was four.
Now, market segmentation is one of the keys to success. But, I’ve often shared other research from “Why consumer intent is more powerful than demographics.”
Published in December 2015 by Think with Google, this research found 40% of baby product purchasers and 52% of baby product influencers lived in households without children.
That’s not the target demographic – or a secret society of cat ladies who dress like Miss Havisham. These people are often the baby’s grandparents, or sometimes the friends, cousins, and co-workers of the baby’s parents.
Then, I would tell students how to use Google Trends to explore consumer interest in a particular search term like “baby products.”
Next, I would ask them to scroll down to see the related queries.
Finally, I’d ask if they thought the people searching for “best baby products” were a different target audience than the people searching for “free baby products.”
Or if creating content that appealed to consumers interested in “baby hair products” would also appeal to consumers interested in “baby skin products.”
In January 2021, I learned from CMI’s research that 63% of B2C marketers had changed their messaging/targeting strategy in response to the pandemic, but only 18% had revisited their customer/buyer personas.
This meant many of them were probably putting the cart before the horse.
So, I showed my students how to use Find My Audience on YouTube to go beyond demographics to identify the in-market segments (i.e. the people actively researching or planning to purchase products or services in 20 categories) and affinity segments (i.e. the people whose interests and habits relate to what businesses in 12 categories offer) that mattered most to their businesses.
If 57% of B2C marketers now say creating content that appeals to different target audiences is their biggest challenge, then showing them different ways to segment their audiences and create consumer personas may be a better solution than telling them that making content operations more strategic will somehow help them with scaling to meet the needs of different audiences.
Why? As Rose himself says,
“Often the first sign of trouble in any content marketing approach is when you hear, ‘How do we get more efficient at content?’”
In other words, focus on doing the right things (effectiveness) before turning your attention to doing things right (efficiency).
Developing Consistency With Measurement
According to CMI’s latest research, 44% of B2C marketers say their biggest challenge is developing consistency with measurement.
Well, this is going to continue to be a challenge – particularly since Google’s Universal Analytics (UA) will stop processing data on July 1, 2023.
If their company hasn’t migrated to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) already, then it will take another 12 months before B2C marketers can compare this month’s results with the results for the same month last year.
Because UA, which Google introduced in October 2012, uses session-based data, while GA4 uses event-based data. And UA uses easily observable data from cookies, while GA4 uses cookieless measurement as well as behavioral and conversion modeling.
So, comparing data and metrics from UA with events and conversions in GA4 is like comparing little green apples with Sumo citrus oranges.
But this could be a blessing in disguise.
According to CMI’s latest research, 70% of B2C marketers say that content marketing has become more important to their organization over the last year.
But many of those same marketers say they are still fighting for more staff, more budget, and better access to subject matter experts.
So, it appears the metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that B2C marketers rely on most when evaluating content performance are not well aligned with the business goals and marketing objectives that their organization wants to achieve.
This means B2C marketers need to overcome the challenges they face with measuring content performance this year before they can focus on developing consistency with measurement next year.
Fortunately, they don’t need to wait until they’ve finished migrating from UA to GA4 before changing their metrics and adjusting their KPIs for the top four goals that content marketing is expected to achieve:
- Creating brand awareness.
- Building credibility/trust.
- Educating audience(s).
- Building/growing loyalty with existing clients/customers.
How Do B2C Marketers Measure KPIs Today?
Well, I hope they aren’t using “vanity metrics” like impressions, video views, page views, and bounce rate.
So, how should B2C marketers measure how they are doing against the top four goals and objectives?
Well, if your goal is to create brand awareness, then use a brand lift survey before and after your content marketing campaign.
The pre-campaign survey provides a baseline of your brand awareness, and the post-campaign survey accurately determines content marketing’s impact.
If your goal is to build credibility/trust, then periodically ask if people agree or disagree with a series of statements.
For example, on a scale of 1 (completely disagree) to 7 (completely agreeing), to what extent do you agree/disagree with the following statements:
- “This organization can be relied upon to keep its promises.”
- “I feel very confident about this organization’s skills.
- “This organization has the ability to accomplish what it says it will do.”
- “Sound principles seem to guide this organization’s behavior.”
- “This organization does not mislead people like me.”
- “This organization is known to be successful at the things it tries to do.”
If your goal is to educate audiences, then use online quizzes and exams – just like educators do.
And if your goal is to build or grow loyalty with existing clients or customers, then conduct customer loyalty surveys.
For example, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) asks customers: “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?”
It’s worth noting that none of these KPIs are included in the list of metrics that B2C marketers rely on the most when evaluating content performance.
So, it’s no wonder that only 11% of B2C marketers say, “We do not face challenges measuring content performance.”
On the other hand, if your goals and objectives include any of the following, then you should migrate to GA4 as soon as possible:
- Generate demand or leads.
- Nurture subscribers, audiences, or leads.
- Build or grow a subscribed audience.
- Drive attendance to one or more in-person or virtual events.
- Generate sales or revenue.
- Support the launch of a new product.
Next, insist on having an Editor role so you can configure events, mark conversions, compare attribution models, analyze life cycle reports, explore deeper insights, act on analytics intelligence, create audiences, and enable remarketing.
If you want to learn more, then watch “Getting started with the Google Analytics 4 Property” on YouTube.
And make sure the metrics and KPIs you rely on most this year are aligned with the business goals and marketing objectives that your organization wants to achieve.
That should help you win the battles next year for more staff, more budget, and better access to subject matter experts.
Differentiating Your Products/Services From The Competition
It seems odd that 40% of B2C marketers say differentiating their products/services from the competition is their biggest challenge.
That’s typically the responsibility of the brand or product managers, who probably had to cut their budgets for market research, competitive intelligence tools, and innovation consulting firms because their pointy-haired bosses told them to “do more with less.”
So, B2C marketers have two options: They can update their resumes and join the Great Resignation, or they can invite the poor brand and product managers at their company to a brown bag lunch.
Now, a lot of Americans quit their jobs in 2021 and 2022 because their pay was too low, there were no opportunities for advancement, and they felt disrespected at work.
With the global economy expected to slow this year, option one seems risky.
That’s why I’d strongly urge you to consider the second option. What would you talk about during an informal meeting with your brand and product managers?
Well, it could be beneficial for both parties to share strategic insights, critical data, and industry trends.
Heck, your brand and product managers may be just as interested as you are in:
- Exploring different ways to segment your audiences and create consumer personas.
- Aligning your metrics and KPIs with your CEO, CMO, and CFO’s goals and objectives.
- Launching a new product or service that gives your business a competitive advantage.
You might even convince your brand or product managers to become subject matter experts in your next campaign.
And communicating internally among teams or silos may even help you with making a better business case for content marketing.
But the subversive goal of this lunch and learn session is to ensure content marketing continues to be “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
I hope this has been helpful.
Although you must unlearn some of what you have learned about B2C content marketing, it should help you withstand the economic crosswinds that you’ll be facing this year.
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