Content marketing can be entertaining, helpful, or informative, or perhaps it can solve your audience’s problem. One good test of content marketing is whether it helps your audience even if they never buy your product or service. Here’s what content marketing needs to be to develop customer commitment.
Personas have been used for a number of years by B2B digital marketers to craft content that aligns with a visitor’s context. But we all know that personas are also so… 2015. The rise in personalization has revealed both the limits and challenges of persona-based content creation — creating and maintaining content for every persona is a lot of work and getting that content in front of the visitor at the right time is tricky.
Your content marketing is too valuable to waste
How findable is the content on your site? If the answer is that you aren’t sure — you may have a problem. And you aren’t alone. Many marketers spend great lengths of time on content marketing. But a lot of that content goes unread. The main problem is that the people you want to read it can’t find it.
Content marketing is informative, entertaining, and helpful. But great ideas for content aren’t enough. Who decides they are “great”? The customer decides. How do we know the decision of the customer? Data–the more the better.
As content marketing has been practiced today, it resembles custom publishing. Companies tell stories that romanticize their brand, distributing those stories through various channels and amplifying them through social media. Content marketing has come to be more akin to advertising.
Personalization: why do it? No, this isn’t a suggestion that you shouldn’t. It’s just important to think about why you are doing it in the first place. Personalization needs to benefit the customer experience and drive your business.
The new personalized approach to B2B content recommendation
Understanding customer behavior is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to professionals. The right data that provides you with a glimpse into their intent will allow you to effectively connect potential customers to the content that is going to help them achieve their goal. So where do you find intent data? It exists in the systems you use today. Behavior-based personalization is a strategy to offer intent-based content recommendation. If you know where to look and you have the ability to mobilize that data you can use it to progress journeys, convert more business and win more often.
Intent: Let your customers tell you
We often talk about website search as being the most common personalized experience. Website visitors identify their need, and if the search engine works well it delivers the content that answers their question. It’s the simplest, most direct method of personalizing the customer experience. Personalization isn’t the only thing that search does. It is also the first inklings of the data you need to drive effective content recommendation.
The search box on any website fulfills not only the search term input function, but also gathers meaningful data about customer intent. This is the real source of search’s power. There are lots of topics that a searcher can query. Many of those also give you insight into why they’re asking those questions. Successfully deciphering intent can not only lead to better search results, but more importantly can lead to more conversions.
Simple Intent: The Keywords
Let’s consider two searches.
“Product X Value”
It’s obvious that these searches will yield different results. If you deliver a results page with relevant content it will help the searcher move forward in their journey. But what’s more important than the topic they’re interested in is what the topic tells you about their intent.
That first term probably indicates someone who is in the interest phase of the process. They’ve gotten beyond the top of funnel messages and are going deeper. Not only are they going to need the right content to answer the question, they may be ready for messages that move them into consideration.
Nosing around pricing content is a clear indicator of someone who is considering a purchase. This is where journey progression becomes even more important. Answer the question effectively and they’re doing business with you.
Both these search terms give actional information about the intent of the visitor. They provide signals about what you should be serving them at this stage of the buying process.
Complex Intent: All that other data
Intentions that are apparent in search term data can also be found elsewhere. One of the most effective places to look for how intent manifests itself in your data is in your web analytics system.
The patterns in visitor journey data can illustrate intent very clearly. If someone is spending a lot of time with content that is in the consideration stage of your journey, that’s an obvious signal. But what if the signal is not readily apparent in the data?
This is where advanced data science tools can be brought to the challenge of understanding what the visitor is trying to achieve. For one of our clients, we’re beginning to use unsupervised machine learning techniques to interrogate tens of thousands of visitor journeys each month.
These methods help us construct models that show patterns of visitor behavior that are associated with intent. Once you can identify the snippets of behavior that are more closely associated with goals, you can understand what behavior signals intent for those goals. Knowing this you can recommend content at just the right moment to help drive visitors to those patterns.
The value of behavior-based content recommendation
The value of behavior-based content recommendation can be directly measured. Reduced exits and bounces that increase top of funnel progression are the first signals you’re onto something. You also likely have some conversions associated with specific tasks, such as downloads and contact forms, that can be directly measured.
Of course, what you really want to measure are the purchase conversions. In a B2B world making those connections can be difficult, especially if channel or field sales are a big part of your sales engine. However, you’ve been dealing with this challenge for long time. Instrument the tasks and activities that lead to contacts and monitor the activity. All things being equal, if you can reduce the top of funnel abandons (i.e. exits and bounces) you’re going to see more come out at the other end of the funnel.
Want to get started? We might be able to help. Connect with an expert right now.
This year has started off strong on my end, but we’re also looking ahead towards what’s next. I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking to digital marketing professionals about what’s important to them, sharing some of our product roadmap, and seeing where there’s alignment and where there may be market opportunity.
While I try to structure these conversations to touch on a few specific topics, things usually don’t go as planned. The diversity of industries, experience and job roles of the people means that each conversation takes a unique journey through the landscape.
During the discussions, three themes have emerged. I’m sure you’ll see some of your challenges and focus areas in these. We’ll be paying attention to these as we build solutions and go to market.
AI/Machine Learning gets tactical in 2019. Businesses will stop waiting for some magic bullet and start taking very specific shots at specific pain points, starting small, going fast and iterating to find value.
Getting started with ML can be difficult. But it’s necessary for marketers to keep your seat at the table. One executive I spoke to last week said that their way forward started with a domain where they had some expertise. They were in familiar territory. Familiar data, familiar business processes, and familiar business stakeholders made it easier to solve problems where they understand the value. The key learning point here is not to succumb to sales pitches for products that work on problems that you don’t fully understand. Find the familiar and start there.
For many of our customers that means their starting with visitor journeys. They have lots of data that can be explored and mobilized in interesting ways that reduce exits and improve the overall customer experience.
Mid-Funnel content gets the attention it deserves. When I speak to content authors one of the laments that I hear frequently is the fact that landing pages and top of funnel content get most of the attention from digital marketing. At the other end of the journey, conversions are instrumented and waiting to be counted. But the paths between the two anchor points aren’t well understood and thus don’t always get focus on their importance in the conversion process. Content owners also are discouraged that they’ve produced something that basically gets ignored both internally and by customers and prospects.
From a product perspective, this is a place where we’re looking at the data we have around what happens after those initial success, whether it’s campaign driven or search driven, and figuring out how to use mid-funnel journey data to get the right content in front of prospects to extend journeys. Early signal from the data should allow us to start some beta work with customers in 2Q/3Q to figure out if this mid-funnel problem is fixable.
Data-driven automation improves productivity. A lot of on-website marketing activity continues to be hand crafted. The placement of content on pages, whether that content is static or rules-driven, continues to be a big part of the workload of B2B marketing teams. A marketing executive at a large tech company spoke of the challenge of dealing with website pages that aren’t part of their current marketing cadence. Getting the right calls to action, content recommendations, etc. doesn’t scale beyond the team.
Content recommendation engines can help here. Enabled by algorithms that look at a lot of the data your already have about visitors, journeys and content allow them to suggest content allowing marketing professionals to continue to focus on top priorities while putting data to work to help improve visitors who are elsewhere on the site.
I’m sure I’ll find other common topics as I speak with digital marketing professionals but this seems like a good list to focus on during 1Q. What are you top predictions for 2019? What are you focused on improving? Where are you learning? If you think we can help, connect with us.
Originally posted on Biznology
Not enough marketers take advantage of the other kind of search — the one on your own website. Few companies budget for it, while budgeting for content without a second thought. We’ve talked about the cost of value before. But when they search, can visitors even find the content they need on your site?
Steve and I are excited to introduce a new podcast, exploring the topics we are fascinated by: AI, search, and content. Site search is part of a customer journey. When you optimize your site search with automation, visitors can find your content and continue on their journey.
Today we cover the Budget Season problems: proving why site search matters, what makes for good analytics, and how much budget you need to make your search better. And check out our technology solutions if you want to really generate revenue from your site search.
00m 00s – Intro and overview
01m 17s – Start of discussion with Steve
07m 04s – Do clicks mean success?
11m 44s – What do we mean by upstream/downstream traffic to/from search?
13m 12s – Why it matters that Google exited the site search market
14m 58s – How much budget is enough to make your site search better?
17m 27s – How can you get started on improving site search?
SearchChat is now on
Search Chat is SoloSegment’s podcast dedicated to all things search AI and content marketing related. Who is SoloSegment? We’re a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company.