On November 16th, we presented a workshop to the attendees of Pardot’s annual user conference, Elevate 2011. We were pleasurably surprised by the standing room only crowd of about 150 people who showed up to listen to us expound on Designing Content for your Marketing Machine.
It would seem that many of us find this a difficult aspect of designing and then implementing a marketing automation strategy. Certainly, from the questions and concerns raised during our presentation, and especially in talking with people both before and afterwards, we found that Content is the hardest part to get right.
Our presentation was enthusiastically received – so much so that we are going to run it as a quarterly webinar hosted by Pardot. So keep an eye on this space or our Twitter feed if you want to sign up. But for those who can’t wait, we’re going to highlight our approach to creating the right content for your website in this post. And if you would like to “attend” the presentation right now, you can listen to the recorded soundtrack from it, and watch the slideshow synched to it, here.
Given our Process bias, it should come as no surprise that we advocate you adopt a continuous process improvement approach to the design, creation and use of content within your automation system. So… Think, Plan, Do, Measure and Repeat your way through the following steps.
Start with Personas
Personas are profiles of your ideal prospects. Unless your target market contains organizations with one employee, the chances are today that your products and solutions will be purchased by a team of people. It’s common today to define at least 3 personas as the members of this team, but you may need more depending on the way your solution is evaluated, installed and operated.
Why 3 personas as an average rule of thumb? Teams often consist of a technical person who understands the solution and how it works, a financial person who approves the budget for it, and a person who runs or operates it.
While some organizations spend a great deal of money creating these persona definitions, we caution you against doing this formal exercise unless you really do need a detailed understanding of the person’s psychological makeup. What we do instead is to develop an understanding of each persona’s concerns. What issues do they face; and what are the questions they need answered as they move around their buying-cycle stages? We’ll get to the buying-cycle stages next, but the object here is to identify the content this person needs to address these concerns and answer these questions.
Decipher their Buying Cycles
The classic marketing-cycle concerns itself with the stages a person travels through while making a complex purchase decision. In the B2B setting, these stages go something like this: Awareness of a problem (a need to change, improve, reduce cost…); Research into available solutions (Google, Bing and Yahoo, Social Media conversations…); Analysis and Evaluation of found solutions; Purchasing Process, Post Sale Support.
We use our Persona Definitions to determine the concerns or questions likely to be in their minds, at this stage of the cycle. A technical evaluator of a solution will not worry too much about pricing at the awareness and research phases, for example, and is more likely to want to know what the solution is and how it works.
And so we move around the cycle for each persona, defining the concern and or question we need to answer with an item of content. Again, our presentation gives tips and suggestions on how to do this.
Inventory your existing content
This step may seem relatively easy, but here’s the thing: content takes many forms and if your company has been around for a while, it’s likely to have a great deal of content in various formats. We want to identify every asset – we may well be able to re-purpose or reuse much of what we already have on hand.
We compile a list of items and include a short description of each one. The more you note about each piece when you find it, the more you are likely to reuse it so do take the time to read, watch or listen to each item and then jot down which persona it applies to, and in which stage it will be effective.
Construct the Content Map
Now you pull all this hard work together and construct a content map.
The example shown at the top of the page gives the general idea, but please note it’s not a real one and thus it will need to be adapted it to suit your own organization and solution. We received many requests after our presentation to provide a pro-forma version of this spreadsheet, and to forestall any more requests we’ll simply say we don’t release it. We have to hold onto some of our crown jewels!
From the above example, however, you can see that by completing the rows and columns appropriately, you will in one single place record all you need to know about content in terms of your personas and buying-cycles. And if you transfer your content inventory onto the map as well, the document will allow you to analyze the gaps and come up with a definitive list of missing items. Perhaps more importantly, not just the name of what’s missing, but it’s intended usage: which concern or question it answers, for which persona, for which stage.
Create the Content
A subject to itself, of course. Again, our presentation provides some tips on how to go about creating content; who to involve and when the right time is to hire experts to help.
Measure its usage and effect
If you’re using a marketing automation system already, chances are it includes reporting facilities to allow you to see which items of content are being used, by whom, and when. If you tag each item appropriately, you can assign each piece or groups of assets to appropriate campaigns. If you do this, you can then track the ROI of each piece. So do keep track of your times and the cost of producing each item for use in these calculations.
It’s not rocket science, but it is a great deal of work to get it right and the work never stops because the need for more content is constant. We suggest you watch our presentation, or contact us for a Free Consultation on your own needs and approach. And when you have begun your process for defining the content, creating it and using it, remember this is just the start. The next step is to repeat the Think, Plan, Do, Measure and Repeat to ensure that your content gets better and better with each iteration.
Good luck with it all.
Bit-by-Bit #54, from Eric