Vanity Metrics

“If you build your content and they don’t come, your content has no value. It is engagement that makes content so valuable today.”
– Barbara Thomas, President, Creative Tactics

In the age of content marketing – you know, that thing that everybody, everywhere, just can’t stop talking about – what if the content you create does not solicit engagement? In short, what if no one cares? It’s a pretty sobering thought.

Print. Social. Video. Audio. Blogs. Whichever medium you choose, you have to find a strategy that works. You have to find information that’s part creative and part metric building. You have to create content that can be optimized and personalized for each communication channel.

Enter intelligent content. What’s that? In her book, “Managing Enterprise Content,” Ann Rockley defined intelligent content as information that is “structurally rich and semantically aware, and is therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable.”

Intelligent content is the natural, organic content that consumers no longer have to seek out. “Consumers want to commune with their favorite brands, not be sold by them,” says Danica Kombol, CEO of the Everywhere Agency, a leading social media and content marketing firm that works with Fortune 500 companies crafting and executing successful campaigns.

Depending on which study you reference, the average American sees around 4,000 ads per day. That’s why the goal is to cut through the clutter – that “advertising noise” – and start a conversation with your customer.

“Your consumers want to be talked to, not talked at,” Kombo says. “Think of your consumer as an information junkie. They are so exposed to data, images, video and information that they expect to get lots of insight about your brand. If you’re selling shoes, they want to know about the fit, possible outfit pairings, material and what others think about them.”

One of the most powerful ways brands convey this type of information is through user-generated content. Having your customers tell your story avoids using brand-speak to convey your message. “What better advocate for your brand than someone who loves it so much that they want to share pictures, videos or testimonials?” Kombo says. “Trust in advertising is at an all-time low,” Kombo says. “Trust in what your friends or family tell you remains at an all-time high.”

OshKosh B’Gosh and Moe’s are examples of brands that use intelligent content to fortify their brand position. The children’s clothing brand OshKosh showcases its clothing using real customers on their social channels, while Moe’s uses an irreverent, clever, human and relatable voice to tell their story.

“It does not feel like advertising,” Kombo says. “It feels like you’re having a conversation with a guy named Moe who just so happens to be crazy about guacamole. Conversational, conversational, conversational. That’s what consumers want.”

The right content, the right time in the right way

Barbara Thomas loves to talk content. As the president of Creative Tactics and past winner of B2B Marketing Exchange’s “Killer Content Award,” Thomas understands the power that intelligent, strategic content has. And she knows what happens when it doesn’t.

“If you build your content and they don’t come, your content has no value,” Thomas says. “It is engagement that makes content so valuable today. Your content draws in prospects or partners.”

Valuable content can be provided in multiple formats – written, video, audio. It is set to target specific personas, regions, industries, and more. Its importance rests in the ability to tell your brand’s story without overselling it. “Your content must provide the validation needed to reduce risk or increase confidence of the buyer to make a purchasing decision,” Thomas says. “Knowing who’s visiting the content and modifying the messaging to that unique individual provides increased value to resonate more with visitors.”

This customization allows for Account Based Marketing (ABM) and enables better targeting of benefits to personas. Thomas says there are three stages to create content for: Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

Awareness: You must create content that solves a problem for the persona or company so that the researcher can educate themselves on what others are experiencing and put a name to the challenge. Case studies and how-to blogs are great examples.

Consideration: You must create content that gives details about your solutions or services. Demos, ROI tools, quotes and case studies are great examples.

Decision: You must create content that provides proof of value in order to whittle the purchasing decision down in your favor. Prospect-to-Customer calls, user group meetings and site visits are great examples.

“Using the right tool at the right time is common sense,” Thomas says. “You would not use a spoon to shred cabbage to make slaw. The same common sense applies to content. Why use a Prospect-to-Customer reference call in the Awareness stage? It can be considered disrespectful to your reference customers if they are being asked to educate a prospect in the Awareness stage.”

The type of content you use depends on which stage your prospect is in. Thomas says success stories and thought leadership content rule. Step-by-step explanations of how to resolve a challenge are also very powerful, as are infographics of what leading companies in your industry or region are doing.

Another powerful form of intelligent content is micro-content. Around for years, micro-content often appears in the form of quotes, metrics of success, tweets, cartoons, graphs, daily tips, and more. Using bits and pieces of (or repurposing) existing content saves money on your budget, provides website content, gets direct to the point and helps prospects zoom in on key information.

In the age of Smartphones, eBooks and tablets, the way you communicate with your community has forever been changed. Today, more than ever, providing thoughtful, engaging and intelligent content is critical.

Getting your head around how to effectively create and reuse content, and drive conversation is worth the value of every word you write.