Have Your Inbound Marketing Efforts Been Ruined by the Content Marketing Craze?

February 25, 2016 | by Jeff Mason

Have Your Inbound Marketing Efforts Been Ruined by the Content Marketing Craze?

It’s all about on-page SEO + social media. OR is it all about guest posting + link-building? OR is it all about growth hacking? OR is it all about content marketing?

Whatever flavor of digital marketing you’re most comfortable with, your inbound marketing efforts have become precipitously less visible in the content blizzard that continues to rain down and accumulate in every corner of the web (whether it’s as podcasts or native ads or twitter chats or traditional blogging or something else).

So how can you help your best potential leads plow through the storm to find your top notch content?

It’s not just about strategy. It requires you to establish trust and value, it requires you to assess and improve, and it requires you to engage your audience rather than merely grow that audience.

Why is Personalized Content the Answer to the Inbound Problem?

Robert Rose of CMI nailed it when he said: “Our job, as marketers, is not to create more content. It has never been about that. It’s about creating the minimum amount of content with the maximum amount of behavior change in our customers.”

The first step in that behavior change is engagement. And in order to improve engagement, you need some way to measure it.

Personalized content allows the user to tell you what matters to them, it tells you how much of that content they consumed, and when done well, it leaves the user feeling like you understand their needs. This establishes trust and value, this creates a conversation, and it allows you to measure and improve your content. More on that in a moment.

Inbound Marketing Content as Product

While strategy and process are important to making your marketing efforts efficient, it’s actually by building trust with and providing value to your relevant audience that you make your marketing effective. It’s important to note here that value is defined by your audience, not by you.

Two questions then arise: how can you periodically assess whether your marketing is valuable and makes you more credible with the right audience(s)? And how can you determine how to make your inbound marketing even more valuable and trust-building?

Surveying is one obvious answer. The challenge there is selection bias- you will be basing your decisions on only what the most engaged readers have to say, those who completed the survey. That’s great for providing better content for that segment of your audience, but what about the thousands of others you’re looking to bring in?

You could look at your audience’s growth – but unless the new audience members are being successfully engaged, that’s not useful either.

So how can you best measure audience engagement with your content?

Personalized Content – Interactive Content vs. Algorithms

There’s two ways you can personalize content to engage your audience and measure the effectiveness of that engagement.

Interactive content is a single piece of content that tailors itself to the user based on inputs intentionally provided by that user. To get a better sense for how interactive content personalizes marketing content, think about any personality quiz, price calculator, or online assessment you may have taken.

Algorithms also present content based on user behavior, however this content is more indirectly informed rather than directly responsive. To get a better sense for how algorithms personalize marketing content, think about Netflix or Amazon or any other service that offers recommendations based on things you’ve previously viewed.

In either case, the user is being guided to the content most likely to be most relevant to them, and the content provider is able to gather information about what that content is- at both the individual level and in the aggregate.

As noted above, this establishes trust and value, it creates a conversation, and it allows you to measure and improve your content.

(How) Can I Fix My Content Without Personalizing It?

If you don’t want to use personalized content, there’s a thought-exercise you can undertake to help you evaluate your content and theorize on how to improve it.

Joe Pullizi asked the key questions earlier this month in “One Thing Is Killing Content Marketing and Everyone Is Ignoring It”: “Is the content you are creating and distributing for your customers any different than anything else out there?” as well as, “Why should my customers care?” and if you stopped creating that content, “Would anyone miss it? Would you leave a gap in the marketplace?”

What makes your content both unique and necessary? Why should your audience look for your snowflake specifically amidst the content blizzard?

The answers to these questions can help make your content more compelling.