TechBytes with Jeff Cheal, Director, Personalization, Campaign and Analytics Strategy, Episerver

Jeff Cheal

Jeff Cheal
Director,Personalization, Campaign and Analytics Strategy, Episerver

Content creation practices are under a constant pressure to perform and deliver to meet sales expectations. The biggest factor to achieve ROI is — Content Personalization. Earlier this year, Episerver had announced the launch of Episerver Advance to help organizations deliver individualized content to visitors everywhere they digitally engage. To better understand how marketers can align their ducks to create ‘content that turns head’, we spoke to Jeff Cheal, Director, Personalization, Campaign and Analytics Strategy, Episerver.

What is the state of Content Marketing in 2018?

Eighty-nine percent of the most successful B2B organizations are extremely/very committed to content marketing, and it is no surprise that 62 percent of those successful B2B companies have a documented content marketing strategy.

After all, there is little reason to create brand assets – whitepapers, articles, blogs, infographics, videos and the like – if audiences are not defined, goals are not mapped and topics are not based on demand. We think you’ll learn a lot to drive your content marketing to the next level based on generating actual results.

Why is content marketing so popular with businesses?

The decoupling of marketing from other parts of the typical organization has caused silos in business goals. While IT typically has the goal of managing and maintaining a stable online platform, marketing has the goal of creating sales pipeline or generating brand interest. This content is continually pushed to be cutting-edge, relevant and timely. I hear consistently in the market “my team puts out materials weekly because if we don’t we feel like we are falling behind.”

Marketers are fighting for their jobs, and their job is to create relevancy for their brand by creating demand. The problem here is that content groups often don’t have the time or structure to slow down and make sure their content strategy aligns with the rest of the organization.

Do you anticipate content creation by companies to slow down or keep increasing?

This process will continue to get faster and more frantic. The expectations of communication channels like social media and efficient content creation platforms is that our marketing teams can publish as fast as possible. Paired with expectations, marketers will continue to feel the burden of working at the speed of urgency.

What are some missteps that marketers make when creating content for their businesses?

The speed at which marketing organizations work is typically unsustainable. Marketers traditionally think and work in a vacuum because businesses do not have the infrastructure or place the importance on broad network thinking. This devalues the success of the content they create as it lacks the overall strategy component that is essential to organizational success.

More importantly, they are not given the tools to communicate and share insights properly to influence their content practice. Marketers often have their own disconnected set of tools they work with to create content. If my technology is not integrated with the rest of my technology stack, issues can easily arise. I spoke with a financial organization recently who talked about the pains of acquisition in their organization. They told me they use five different marketing automation platforms and CRMs between the 15 marketing teams under their umbrella, as many of the arms of business were brought in as part of mergers. They told horror stories of dead-end landing pages and failed outreach campaigns to unmanaged email lists as the tools have not been synced across the organization due to a lack of commitment to fix this. Their result? “Many pointless emails to our users without much success, and a steady stream of complaints about our strategy externally and internally.”

The traditional organization places the ownership of websites and digital content in the hands of IT. Marketers are tasked with creating stand-alone messaging through their own channels, and this separation creates confusion and misalignment. Imagine if we could centralize these technology decisions by using platforms that integrate the many digital tools into the same solution. The simple cohesion of a technology stack could bring marketing and IT/content publishing to the same table and help them to be on the same page. With so many companies coming out with cloud-based digital marketing hubs that combine CMS with marketing automation and data analytics (such as Episerver), there are no more excuses why these technologies need to be separate.

What is a real-world example of content marketing strategies done right?

A home décor retail company had just relaunched their website on Episerver. They spoke about the internal changes that came along with the rebranding, from empowering their separate divisions into the platform to help with content and marketing alignment. They talked about the simple act of business governance of assets and content publishing that allowed a more centralized flow of syndication through the marketing team from the different divisions. This saving of time allowed them to slow down and think about what they were creating rather than feeling the urgent need to simply “stay ahead.”

What specific elements can marketers look at to see if their content creation practice is effective?

Marketers can help their practice by:

1) Investing and connecting to their different departments through technology to align marketing goals with content publishing tactics.
2) Instituting proper data practices and feedback loops to make sure that learnings and insights from different teams can be shared and applied to messaging practices.

In what ways can marketers prove the ROI of their content practice?

A successful content strategy should focus on producing relevant content, not aiming for critical mass. By synthesizing cross-team communication with effective attributable data practices, teams can do less work and produce more successful results. The ROI here is more time for your team to think critically and make decisions that resonate rather than reacting to deadlines.

Additionally, by investing in technology that syncs your organization, you can eliminate redundant disconnected technologies that might only exist because of legacy decisions. While replatforming and integrations can cost money, this investment needs to be weighed against the value of continued business development and your end goals. How much is your technology costing you to be inefficient and ineffective?

What data can they use to inform their content ideas?

Content creation needs to be driven by smart data practices. Marketing teams and content creators are tasked with telling great stories, but often these stories don’t ask the right question – what does my audience want to hear? Data analytics and customer data platforms provide the tools to give a single source of your customer journey, from offline business steps all the way through in-store purchase. Your content team should be directly linked to these platforms to find key attributable data points to help drive future innovations. Technology organizations will continue to develop machine-learning based platforms (much like Episerver has) that can analyze customer journey trends and even go as far to suggest relevant content to publishers during the creation process based on business goals.

What content trends do you see emerging in 2018?

Technology will no longer be the deterrent to these business practices. Marketing teams will come to the table with IT departments to make investment decisions in platforms that can drive both team’s interests. This will mean the expectations of marketing and content publishers will rise – ease of connection to tools like personalization and access to data platforms will be an expectation rather than on the wish list.

Content expectations will not go away – organizations will continue to work at the speed of information and expect their messaging to fall in line. As teams get better at using data to drive these decisions, innovation and responsiveness will move upward since the tools will empower teams to work faster and smarter.

Thanks for chatting with us, Jeff.
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