When content marketing first arrived on the marketing scene, it was novel, innovative and pushed the norms of traditional marketing. The idea of inbound marketing seemed outrageous. Letting the customers come to us? Marketers with years of practice in cold calls and direct mail questioned if generating content and letting their audiences find it would even work.
With refinement and thoughtful strategy, inbound marketing generated more leads, conversions and increased brand reach. This, of course, was aided by the advancement of technology and the increase in the number of platforms for communicating with customers. With the huge increase in content marketing volume, it was much easier for customers to find new companies on their own terms.
This explosion of success drove all types of businesses to start creating content to inform customers, engage prospects and contribute to the overall industry conversation. The growth in popularity caused a huge surge in the amount of content flooding the Web. Brands started believing that the medium of delivering content was smart because now customers could consume it at such fast rates, allowing them to take in even more information than previously possible.
Why More Channels Doesn't Equal More Engagement
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As content marketing volume continued to rise, engagement rates stagnated. More options did not mean people would consume more. A recent TrackMaven study found that the amount of content produced last year rose 34%, but engagement decreased 17%. In their words, this engagement crisis is similar to the television offering phenomenon.
The number of channels the average viewer chooses from has dramatically increased over the years, but the amount they actually watch remains the same. This trend proves that people are only willing to consume as much content as they can handle and nothing more, even with more options available.
The amount of content marketing is not going to decrease any time soon, so brands hoping to become one of their customers’ chosen outlets for information need to have a strong strategy for their content, messaging and customer journey.
The better companies understand their customers’ needs, the better they can target content appropriately. There are a few ways to reach customers most effectively, but using the tactic of personalization is particularly successful.
Using Personalization for Good
Personalization is nearly ubiquitous within marketing, with 94% agreeing it is important and 85% of brands using at least the most basic form. The challenge is using it in a way that customers feel comfortable with and aggregating real-time results for instant application.
A survey of marketers using personalization found that 40% can’t gain insight quickly enough, 39% don’t have enough data and 38% worry about inaccurate data. Despite these challenges, marketers overcome the obstacles to implement real acumen into their content. The ones who do find they have on average a 19% lift in sales.
When customers feel the content they are consuming is both relevant and informative, they return for more. One sure-fire way to create relevant and informative content to your specific customers is to learn what else they consume, what they respond to and what they look for in their content.
It also helps to identify each touchpoint of the buyer's journey that can be tailored with specific information you’ve collected. For example, if your customers enjoy commenting on LinkedIn posts and sharing articles on Facebook, you can retarget them in these places based on what they are already interested in.
Start with consistent trends among your audience to avoid the challenge of keeping up with changing preferences. Once you have a handle on foundational personalization, you can adapt to the most current reality of your customers’ habits.
Control for Change
Personalization is knowing more than where your customers spend time and what topics they are likely to click on. It’s also being aware of what is related to their interests, so you can recommend additional content and lead them down the funnel. The most important aspect at any point of the content journey and the use of personalization is giving customers some amount of control.
While 60% of customers are aware personalization plays a role in the online content they consume, 29% prefer to have little control and 41% prefer to have a great deal of control over how brands use this tactic. The levels of control you can offer include privacy controls, voluntary information forms with options of what a customer can give you and choosing their own content journey. This requires you to tailor your content to different demographics if you are trying to reach a broad audience.
Control doesn’t sacrifice personalization for your purposes, but simply puts the power in your customers’ hands, which can be beneficial to you. Trustworthiness and an established relationship emerge from giving customers control, leading you to have a transparent personalization process for more effective results.
Content Types for Success
Before gracing the industry with your content or producing more ineffective blogs and social, you should determine the types of content worth generating and what is likely to promote engagement.
You want to avoid the dry, lifeless content that so many companies are guilty of throwing online. The following content formats should help stop the decreasing engagement rate right in its tracks:
- Short and sweet. Bounce rates are the kiss of death in online marketing. Most people only read about 50% of an online article before leaving the page. But if you limit your blog posts to half the length of a typical blog, you’ll see an increase in lingering visitors and potential conversions.
- Questions and answers. On social media, if you are asking questions that are probably going through your customers’ minds, make sure to give them an answer. Lead them to your site to discover an in-depth answer to any question, no matter how small.
- Community forums. People love to share their own opinions more than anything. It’s why companies with community forums see so much success in engagement. Cultivating and monitoring the community is also a great place for content inspiration.
- Anything with visuals or interactive elements is instantly going to grab your prospects. Use them thoughtfully and creatively to make a splash with your innovative content.
Infusing these formats with the insights gained from personalization creates a real connection between your brand and customers.
To escape the engagement crisis that is resulting from the surge in content marketing volume, you can collect information from your customers with their control and apply it to content better suited for interaction. This tactic is no task larger than adjusting your sails in the winds of change.
Then you will be prepared to navigate the marketing space with intelligence, wisdom and ingenuity.
Originally published Jun 30, 2016 6:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017