Matthew Sweezey, principal of marketing insights at cloud computing company Salesforce, has a deep fascination with marketing. Here’s his take on the latest trends and why content marketing really matters.
Q: What sort of content marketing strategies are you seeing, how mature are they?
Sweezey: The best in class companies right now are using a stage based marketing models. This means know an individual and know what stage in the buying cycle the specific person is in by looking at the intent of the individual. Then providing relevant content to that person via what I would call an Omni Channel experience.
Not many people understand the concept of the staged model. They think a nurturing program sends seven whitepapers over seven days and that is how they distribute content. Best in class keep up with the questions a person asked and send relevant information around that question and try to guide them to the next question that they’re supposed to ask, not convert them into a closed one deal at the end of that. So it’s content should lead to more content, not should lead to a direct deal
Q: So what does the staged model look like?
Sweezey: First it begins with asking their consumers questions. Before they do content marketing if they don’t sit down and do users stories, it wont’ matter what they send, or what they think stages should look like. Companies should look to find out: What did they find helpful about our content? When they found your content what were you hoping to learn? What was the best piece of content that they downloaded? If it wasn’t from us who was it from and what did it look like? What key words did you search for? How many times did you go back to Google to do your research?
My research shows on the average, in the B to B journey there is two to three times when the person will go back to Google to ask questions which means there should be two to three stages inside marketing’s control before we pass that lead over to sales. And so marketers’ understanding they have a pipeline just like sales have a pipeline and being able to see what those different stages are is a new concept to them and then having content tailored to a stage not to a medium is then the next step with that, if that makes sense. This is what stage based marketing is in a nutshell.
Q: What do you think the biggest challenge is for companies to start doing content marketing effectively? What is stopping them?
Sweezey: Education, they have taken the first step and say we are going to do content marketing, then they just go ahead and start doing it rather than understanding how to do it best. They approach it like previous marketing efforts. All marketing before was just straight advertising, we make something, we push it out there, people then buy our product. Now because of the digital noise that we have to cut through, we have to build a relationship over a long period of time and we have to do that in a new method where we’re not in front of the person physically talking to them.
So that’s the concept of social media, it’s a communication method that allows us to build a different type of relationship but it’s still a relationship that has to be built and content is the fuel to build that relationship and that’s different because advertising doesn’t say relationship it says I am going to push things to you, you’re going to engage with it. Whereas content marketing says we are going to engage in a relationship, I’m going to provide you value because you find value in this, we’re then going to continue our relationship and then whenever you have a need that is a service that I provide then you’ll hopefully come and get that service from me. So it’s a different value we put on content marketing than just direct lead generation. Getting people educated on this simple aspect of content marketing is the biggest issue facing most people doing content marketing.
Q: Is it still content marketing if you are not mentioning your product or trying to generate some sort of lead or conversion?
Sweezey: YES! That is the idea of content. The whole purpose of content marketing really started by Seth Godin in 1999 in his book, ‘Permission based marketing’, where he said ‘I need to get someone’s email address and for me to do that I need them to give me permission to email them and for them to give me that I’m going to give them something in return, and that something in return is content. I am going to give them something of value’ and that was the idea where content marketing came from. So it’s an equation of value, and people do not find a lot of value in things which are self promotional.
So think about what you do in your daily life, you want to learn, you want to escape, you want to do research, you ask questions, a company can help do all of those things. It can also sell you a product, so if they help you do all of those things then you have a tight relationship with them and then when it comes to time of buying a product and doing business you will do business together. Versus the other model which is the only way someone finds out about you is if they spend a lot of money on advertising which is an unsustainable marketing model, in the new digital world.
Q: What impact is technology going to have on content marketing for brands in the future?
Sweezey: A massive impact. So essentially the problem with content is what do I write? Who do I talk to about it? And how do I distribute it? These are the main problems, all those things can be solved with technology. Who do I talk to? That’s an algorithm, all we need to figure out is exactly, put a bunch of data together and put in an algorithm and we say oh, this is going to be relevant to this person at this time and then an automated distribution model marketing automation has happened. This can then be automatically distributed which leads humans to then go and figure out exactly what should be created and that can even be done by computers. Computers can generate books by themselves. You know, so it’s essentially content marketing will be at a very highly automated place in the future, but you’re talking like 10, 15 years. The place humans will still be needed is in determining and directing the technology. A computer can only look at the possible outcomes you give it. So if you try to optimize a lead flow with bad content, it will optimized the lead from based on the current content you have. Humans will need to look at that and say we’ll we need better content, and now lets go create it, then feed that back into the computer model. The technology will not be able to do that part for a long time to come.
Q: Finally, why is content marketing so important?
Sweezey: If you look at the statistics, a human being has more power in the palm of their hand than they ever had in their entire lives, in the entire history of man, there is more power in a simple Google search on your desktop computer than was required to land a man on the moon. Fact number one. Fact number two, more people in the world have cell phones than have clean drinking water or have access to electricity. Those cell phones give humans the first time ever in the history of humanity the ability to do three things as an individual, to create content as an individual, to distribute content as an individual and consume content as an individual. Before you had to be an organisation or use an organisation in one of those three facets.
So you take all those into consideration and now what has that done? Well what that does is everyone now produces content, and so everyone is creating noise. We used to look noise as a by product of businesses, how many ads is a person exposed to judge the level of noise in the market place, but think about what we were measuring we were measuring ads which are produced by companies. But now who puts out most of the noise? It’s not companies that put out most of the noise it’s consumers who put out most of the noise. So now we’re having to compete with the noise that is at a level that we’ve never seen before. Like so how do we build a relationship among that noise in these environmental changes? So content marketing answers the question of how do we break thought that noise. it’s how can I provide value outside of just my product to somebody? And that’s the only way that you’ll be able to engage and build those relationships with those people in that environment.