In my daily work, I’ve found that there is a pervasive need amongst our clients to reexamine approaches to content creation and delivery. Last month, we released survey results that shed light on this situation – over half of digital marketing executive respondents noted a lack of MarTech competency as a barrier for delivering expected ROI from investments.
In today’s evolving marketing landscape, layering digital tools over traditional approaches is no longer going to suffice. Content creation and delivery must play a key role in boosting MarTech proficiency. Here are four strategies marketers can use to boost content ROI while building the skills they’ll need to succeed.
1) Plan for where content “lives”
Technology should enable marketers with tools that optimize content. When I say optimize, I’m not referring to changes in content layout and copy meant to affect user response and behaviors – I mean that companies need to start looking at the bigger picture and change the way they design content creation systems and processes.
Most companies engage a design agency to create a set of visual comps, wireframes, or clickable demos, but these artifacts seldom address the variety of content that should be enabled, or how the content should change over time. Typically, these input documents are sent to the development team as “system requirements” – so the measure of quality for the development organization is how well the implementation matches the final visual inputs. More technical considerations (like the authoring environment, author-enabled elements, and input validations) are usually completely left out of the initial user experience discussions, and are therefore not identified for the development teams.
2) Take a digital-first approach to content design
The root of the problem is that a classic design approach does not practically consider technical enablement, but instead employs technology to be more efficient in collecting traditional inputs from content owners, consumers, and curators. New technology allows an agency to have a new design reviewed by virtual focus groups or tested with lookalike target segments, but the results are still static design artifacts that establish final visuals. Usually, they will deliver a final site map with specific templates, specific layouts and a high-level style guide –but experiments seldom identify the acceptable variety of changes that a content creator should be empowered to do after the content goes live.
Often, those content adjustments require another trip through the design process. Even the event tracking of real-life behaviors of actual users is not optimally configured, developed, and designed to enable the proper level of flexibility – or it is sometimes missing altogether from the “system requirements” provided to the technical team. The content team is then left to question the efficacy of the content beyond simple open rates or page views.
3) Design for the entire content ecosystem
To enable content creation velocity and variety, the entire approach to content creation should be re-examined. The trend toward Content-as-a-Service will continue to have a profound impact on all design-related activities. Instead of designing individual digital assets, the focus will be on content management guidelines (input templates, validations, etc.). These will assure that content can be managed down to the smallest atomic level – such as topic, article, or product spec – but can be deployed responsively by a variety of delivery channels – such as webpage, email, or kiosk.
The further benefit to this approach is that well-structured element design can be updated to individual delivery channels while the base content remains unchanged. Design artifacts should be focused on channel-related layout variations, authoring/administrative dialogs, organization patterns, and usage guidelines. In addition, the design of each component or element should have a purpose and a measurement that would be implemented, so that marketers get the right feedback on their layout, design, and message. They are then empowered by the technology to rapidly iterate, making the appropriate content changes to solicit the desired user response.
4) Take a design thinking approach to content management
Design thinking should not only be applied to content as consumers experience it, but also to the entire process of content creation, curation, and delivery. Today’s MarTech can enable planning, adjusting, and measuring across all channels simultaneously. By enabling and implementing platforms to support building channel-agnostic content and messaging – instead of individual web pages, emails, mobile cards, and display ads – marketing leaders are well positioned to reap the benefits of any and all customer touchpoints as needed.
Customers – and the stories we tell them – are constantly evolving. To most effectively tell those stories, marketers must embrace content creation as an ongoing activity – and move past the legacy one-time “redesigns”.