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Conquering the Content Crisis

Marketing to an increasingly perceptive and informed audience

By ANDY ZIMMERMAN

Many companies today are finding themselves mired in a content crisis – one that stems, somewhat paradoxically, from both content overload and, at the same time, a lack of relevant, compelling content.

The glut of content is actually something your own prospects are likely facing – a veritable case of information overload, thanks to the 247 billion e-mails sent each day. According to some estimates, consumers also see and hear up to 3,000 marketing messages per day. Wow!

As a result, it’s critical for companies to create content that rises above the noise. It can be exceedingly difficult to do so, however. Marketers are searching for that elusive secret weapon to add to their arsenal: that is, more engaging, relevant content that can be easily repurposed and measured…and, of course, produced and distributed cost-effectively.

Marketers: Put on your thinking caps

Your marketing content must be tailored to an increasingly perceptive and informed audience. Thanks to the Internet and the exploding popularity of social media, today’s prospects are increasingly self-educated about a given company and its services. As a result, marketing needs to spark a conversation with truly captivating content that answers questions, informs and even entertains – and is convenient to consume.

MarketingProfs and Junta42 recently polled marketers on the top content-related challenges that keep them up at night. The chief concerns, as detailed in the “B2B Content Marketing: 2010 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends” report, were producing engaging content (36%) and producing enough content (21%) – both categories worthy of further discussion.

Producing engaging content

A logical goal for marketers is to produce timely content that captivates prospects’ attention – driving response rates and increasing buying behavior. But that, of course, is easier said than done. In order to stand out from the clutter and competition, marketers need to be strategic. The following tips can aid in your content creation and result in more effective communications:

  • Make content matter. Your content should be highly relevant to customers and prospects – addressing their unique pain points and needs, and tailored to their industry. By crafting content with the customer in mind – and not blasting prospects with marketing jargon centered solely on your company – you can make your communications more meaningful and effective.
  • Be the expert. It becomes infinitely easier to woo prospects when providing customized content that is important to them. To that end, offering helpful and relevant expertise on hot issues and sharing topics of likely interest can help you gain mindshare. Doing so in a manner that is not an overt advertisement can be effective, too. For example, companies have had success creating sites and portals that function as a news source, with timely, topical articles. Because the content is helpful and interesting, prospects often opt in to receive it – producing quality leads for your business.
  • Follow the customer. By uncovering where your customers and prospects spend their time – including blogs they’re reading and online communities they belong to – you can get a better understanding of topics that matter to them and spark ideas for new content. Doing so also provides an opportunity for you to guide and shape conversations and respond to prospects’ questions posed online before your competitors have the chance.
  • Incorporate video. Nothing says “yawn” more than an interminable text-based e-mail or 50-slide attachment. You can keep yourself out of the “trash” folder – boosting open and click-through rates – by leveraging compelling formats for content delivery. Stimulate customers and prospects with easily digestible messages designed to engage them. For example, including a video thumbnail within a brief e-mail and delivering content in multimedia formats can help drive response rates, improve information retention and make your company or offer more memorable.
  • Make communications convenient. With your audiences geographically dispersed and exceedingly pressed for time, scheduling live online events can be a challenge that often results in a disappointing turnout. To make your message more engaging and better received, consider employing communications that can be viewed on-demand – when and where your prospects want, and on their preferred devices – whether it be their computer, smartphone or tablet.
  • Track your content. By leveraging content tracking capabilities, you’ll know how your message is resonating. Investigate video solutions that offer these capabilities – you want to know who is engaging with your content and when, aiding in timely follow-up. You’ll also want to know where interest is trailing off, as a means to improve future content and outreach efforts.

Producing enough content

Once you’ve succeeded in creating and utilizing engaging content, you don’t want its use to be limited to a single campaign. One way to produce enough content is to keep in mind strategies for content revitalization – avoiding the need to constantly reinvent the wheel. In the end, finding ways to leverage and extend the life of existing content can save you time and money, while increasing ROI. Think of it as shopping your closet on an organization-wide scale – where can you breathe new life into content you already have?

Once you’ve identified this content – let’s say it’s a webinar you’ve conducted – then what? Maybe in the past, you would have recorded that webinar and made the archive available, but the content likely died there. Here are some strategies for reuse and resuscitation:

  • Create the Reader’s Digest version.Rarely do busy professionals voluntarily take the time to watch a one-hour recording of a webinar. Boil it down to the key slides, script out what you want to say and re-record a condensed, information-packed 10-minute version that your audience is more likely to consume (and appreciate).
  • Repurpose the content.Take that condensed “on-demand webinar” or break up the original one-hour webinar archive into easily digestible pieces aimed at specific audiences or verticals. You could use these multimedia assets in email marketing campaigns, on your website and as part of larger, multi-touch campaigns.
  • Tear it apart. Look at individual webinar components – slides, audio, video, documents and expertise – and turn them on their head. Consider turning your webinar archive into an audio podcast, pulling out salient pieces of content for blog posts, and sharing snippets on video sharing sites.
  • Distribute in multiple ways. For starters, you can distribute your repurposed content on social media sites, in newsletters and among communities you belong to. Try leveraging new technologies, including QR codes, to excite prospects and bring them to your content as well. Or consider incorporating it in Google Adwords campaigns – driving people to a landing page with your content.

As before, be sure to measure the impact and reach of your content to see – quantifiably – the new life your old content can take on.

It’s clear that today’s “content crisis” is by no means insurmountable. By applying creativity, foresight and the above tips to your marketing programs, you’ll improve the efficacy of your content, extend the reach of your message, and engage your prospects in a more meaningful and productive dialogue.

Andy Zimmerman is chief marketing officer at Brainshark, Inc. (www.brainshark.com). Brainshark’s cloud-based software enables users to create online and mobile video presentations using simple business tools like PowerPoint and the telephone – and then share and track their content.