Content strategy, start to finish.

This week we take on content strategy in all it’s glory.

Always-on social content strategy is a core discipline that is squarely on both brand and agency agendas, and rightly so in our humble opinion. But most of the content marketing conversation we see focuses on the tactical delivery and technology surrounding content, so we thought we’d put forward how we develop a content strategy, or any other strategy for that matter. It’s always a vitally important step but is so often overlooked or fails to align with the wider brand marketing strategy and that’s very risky, whether you’re a start-up or seasoned brand.

We’re staunch advocates of a rigourous approach to everything we do, especially when developing strategy and we want you to be too. Why? Because you’re probably being bombarded everyday with the next tool or simple process that promises little effort and work for massive results and I’m here to tell you that this simply isn’t true. None of the really successful brands, new or old, got where they are by cutting every corner imaginable, that’s not how the world works.

In the post we’ll cover everything, including:

  • Setting objectives
  • Research
  • Uncovering insights to inform your strategy
  • Segmentation of data
  • Persona building
  • Customer journey mapping
  • Strategy
  • Creative and how to think about a long idea for content
  • Co-creation and UGC
  • How this is delivered and structuring a content calendar
  • Media planning to inform distribution
  • Activation, management and refinement

It’s a lot to get through so grab a cuppa and hold on to your hats!

Setting objectives

Before doing anything, it’s really important to have some goals in mind. Building a customer-centric marketing strategy with content at its heart is brilliant and highly effective. It’s going to give you the edge over your competition if they’re not, because connected consumers are more likely to buy things from you if you put the right content in front of them at the right time.

So well done you on reading this as you’re obviously looking to develop your content strategy. If you’re not then read on anyway, we might just convince you to take the plunge.

However, as with all marketing, you need to set aspirational but realistic goals. If you don’t, then how do you know if what you’re doing is working or, sometimes more importantly, not working, so you can fix it. So many times we see brands pumping large budgets into projects with no clear objectives or metrics in place.

Strategy, by definition, is “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.”

So start big, think increasing sales, changing perceptions, building awareness in new markets, increasing market share.

Once you’ve got these aims in mind, you can start to layer performance indicators underneath, that measure individual tactics in the context of the overall aim, commonly called KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). We can’t stress enough how hugely important it is to have these in place, without them you simply have no idea whether your content strategy is working. The KPIs you create will, to some extent, be influenced by what you decide to do within your strategy and could be a variety of things dependent on what you’re looking to achieve.

DO NOT CONFUSE GOALS WITH KPIs! THIS IS A TRAP MANY FALL INTO AND WONDER WHY THEIR FACEBOOK LIKES KPI DOESN’T DIRECTLY EQUATE TO MORE SALES.

 

Research

Everyone goes on about how important research is but I’m yet to read a good post that actually tells you anything constructive to help you get off the ground. There are basically two routes to go down, depending on how well structured your brand is. If you’re well on your way to having a good set of guidelines for how your brand communicates itself, including behaviours, values, personality, tone of voice, in some shape or form, awesome. If you’re not and you just have a logo, some colours and fonts, then it’s worth taking some time to build up your brand’s personality a little. Crystallising the essence of your brand will give you clear guidance on the style and tone of your content.

Our research methodology covers data and qualitative research in four areas:

  • Brand
  • Competitors
  • Landscape
  • Consumer

We dial up and down in each area how much data we have (limited by availability) and the qualitative research we undertake.

Data sources:

  • Internal customer and prospect database
  • Social listening
  • Geo demographic data
  • Website analytics

Qualitative research:

  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Good old desk based Internet trawling of research papers
  • Trend libraries, Mintel, Canvas8 for example
  • Our planning teams experience and internal ongoing research

We then scrutinise the research in granular detail. So whether that’s looking for relevant elements, segmenting data to find significance, overlaying datasets, buying behaviour or macro trends and future spotting, it’s all tightly analysed. Insights are then derived through the process. Importantly, we then scrutinise again, as we don’t take anything at face value and delving deeper and deeper often uncovers insights that others have failed to spot. This alone can give you a huge advantage.

Uncovering insights

I could wax lyrical for ages on this but I’ll try and keep it short. Insights are simply unexpected facts that seem to contradict actual assumed perceptions. This sort of thing is very well described in books like “Thinking, Fast and Slow” (Daniel Kahneman, Penguin). Generally, we form opinions on things simply because our brains are a bit lazy. So aim to uncover insights that challenge perceptions because they will reap big rewards.

A good example of this is playing out right now in financial services. Women account for a huge potential market with un-invested funds, control of family budgets and generally more say in family economics and purchasing decisions. This flies in the face of convention that suggests the man who goes out to work controls the money. Rubbish. You can see in loads of financial services advertising and content that it’s squarely aimed at women.

Hold onto these insights they’re important for the later stages and they will give your content strategy a competitive edge.

Data segmentation

It’s time to chop up your data into more manageable, useful chunks. Your aim is to group together people who have similar characteristics, whether you choose a simple path such as age gender, location or a more sophisticated route such as behaviours, product choices and lifetime value. Or a combination of both perhaps.

Customer personas

Once you’ve got some segments you can start to build some personas for each one. Don’t go mad, you only need a few.

A persona should look something like this example we created for work in the property sector:

This helps inform your creative, your timings and your distribution choices.

Consumer journey mapping

Once you’ve established personas that either look like your customer segments or the result of your research, if you haven’t got a large customer database, then it’s time to think about journeys. Mapping the consumer journey is one of the single most important things you will down creating a content strategy, or any marketing strategy for that matter. It puts the consumer at the heart of your organisation and allows you to build your entire experience around them.

Generally we take a 5 stage approach, covering:

Creation of customer stages

These are the behavioural stages a customer and potential customer go through to ultimately buy your product or service. Depending on your sector these can happen quickly or over a long period of time, regardless, they will go through different stages. Some of these include; discovery, research, consideration, purchase, advocate.

Understanding goals and needs

It’s important to keep in mind that the journey map is about the consumers goals not yours. We identify what it is that the consumer needs that’s going to help them achieve their goal at any given stage. This helps us identify the touch points where we can meet these needs. If we can achieve the consumers goal we can move them to the next stage of the journey.

Identifying the touch points

Through the process you should now be building a picture of where you can interact with your consumer. This could be online, offline, in person there are now many places to interact and in many different ways. What you’re looking to identify are the important ones, the places where you can interact that will have the desired affect.

Leveraging data

The basis for any good consumer journey map is data, whether that’s data explicitly derived from your own database, via third parties or through anecdotal research. The challenge faced by most brands however is that their channel ecosystem wasn’t created based on a specific journey, it’s just sprung up because the brand felt they should. We’ve met many brands operating across multiple channels with little actual understanding of their customer. Very often most of the data is from outside sources in this scenario and a certain amount of testing is required to find a balance across the customer journey before thinking about optimising it.

Identifying gaps

The customer journey map very quickly shows us how siloed organisations are, identifying where gaps exist and where needs aren’t being met. This is a great exercise that helps multiple teams align around the customer, but it’s not without it’s pain points.

The journey map should be viewed as a living document that can change as we learn more about our customers for this very reason. The gaps highlight where you are weak and where you should focus efforts.

Strategy

We always aim to craft a simple strategy into something you can articulate in one sentence. This sounds simple but is actually pretty difficult, but it is worth it. With the strategy in mind, you can shape all your activity in the same direction. Your strategy is designed to give you the tools to hit your goals and it will bring into line everything else you do.

There are all sorts of different frameworks you can use but the fundamentals are virtually always the same.

Some of the frameworks include:

SOSTAC, situation analysis, objectives, strategy, tactics, actions, control.

This is what we follow at DVO and we’ve laid this article out following the stages in SOSTAC.

You can read more about SOSTAC
here
and a host of models that have stood the test of time, here.

Creative and how to think about a long idea for content

You may already have your brand creative and a big idea that forms the basis of your communications. If so, awesome. Your job is going to be quite a bit easier as your task is now more about adapting that story and communicating it through always-on channels, such as your blog and social media.

If you don’t, it’s time to think about an idea or a story that you can tell.

At this stage it’s great discipline to think about developing a creative brief. This is where the fruits of your planning and strategy can guide the creative process, putting in place the boundaries and framework within which thoughtful ideas can flow. We wrote a post recently on the agency briefing process so we won’t go into that again here, but it’s worth reading.

Agency briefing process

This is where we as agencies should excel. The planning and strategic process is designed to ensure that the ideas, technology and activation have the best chance to succeed providing the insights that create a real competitive advantage when telling brand stories.

In traditional advertising the narrative is often the starting point to pick out key messages that then manifest as a visual or copy in adverts. With content marketing, it’s the other way around. What are the messages you want to communicate and how can these be turned into a narrative? How can that then form the themes and elements within your content to give you enough room to talk around the subject over the long term.

There are many ways to achieve this. We’re big advocates of the golden circle method, especially given the attitudes of connected consumers.

Rather that the what > how > why approach, the story is told the other way around why > how > what. This is a successful tactic that companies like Apple use as it builds a much stronger affinity with their target market. We know that people buy into businesses with a strong philosophy and sense of purpose and this tactic aligns brand and consumer much more closely.

The consumer journey map we created earlier is where we blend creative and data. Data helps us to understand where and when we should communicate but it’s the creative that makes the difference. Only the best creative will cut through the noise and give us the competitive edge. It’s this blend that is a real area of competitive advantage for brands willing to push themselves and their agency partners.

Co-creation and UGC

Something that is increasingly important for brands is how they co-create with both the influencers and their wider brand audience. Customers as advocates, UGC, whatever your preferred term one thing is for sure that bringing external voices into your story not only amplifies its reach but enhances its authenticity. Some of the most successful integrated content campaigns weave external content in from the start. Whether they use a simple device to get people to share pictures or stores such as a branded hashtag or employ more sophisticated tools such as Tint to source UGC content and repurpose this on websites, advertising and in social media. All work on the simple fact that people trust other people more than they trust your brand. It’s word of mouth at scale and thinking about how your concept and strategy can incorporate it can help a good campaign become a great campaign.

How this is delivered and structuring a content calendar

A content calendar is an essential and really useful tool. It needn’t be complicated and can help you shape the story and act to bring cohesion across all the elements. Building one is pretty easy and if you need help there are loads of free tools and examples online.

It’s worth thinking about a content framework that would look something like this example from work in the property space we have undertaken which prioritised video and media friendly content:

Media planning to inform distribution

Media planning is one of the most overlooked areas of content, so much so that it’s become a cliché to even say but here goes. Your content can be the most relevant, exciting and engaging content in the world, but if nobody reads it, it is entirely useless.

Depending on what channels you’ve selected, based around the research you’ve done regarding your customer’s journey, you should by this point be starting to categorise your content based on what it’s designed to achieve. For example, is it about awareness and getting people engaged with your brand, is it about consideration, driving home a message with longer more informative content, is it about conversion creating a compelling reason to buy?

Different types of content suit different channels. Putting the wrong content out through an inappropriate channel can render it dead in the water, no matter how brilliant the content actually is.

Activation, management and refinement

Time to put your money where your mouth is. You should now have all the elements in place to successfully implement your content strategy. You should have a clear picture of your consumer, where they are, and what their needs are. You should have content that is structured and a distribution plan to put the right content in the most effective place. Importantly, you should understand what data you want to capture, what you’re going to measure and how this can then be analysed to improve what you are doing.

We hear so many stories that talk about just diving in with a thin scraping of research, especially where start-ups are concerned (seriously, SO MANY TIMES IT’S SCARY). I think this is a huge and potential expensive risk. Unless you really understand what and why you are doing things, it’s the fastest way to see zero results and lose money. Good work and great results take a bit of effort. I’m writing this blog in the full knowledge that, hopefully, some readers will follow this and it will help, but in reality for many it’s not that easy and for good reasons. If it was, then we’d all have traffic, customers and sales coming out of our ears and wouldn’t need to worry.

Now it’s time to think about how you are going to test your content, track your KPIs and bench mark what does and doesn’t work. You can apply a simple a/b test philosophy to your content and also test across the customer journey to see whether your content is moving people to the next natural stage. Be mindful though consumers don’t observe a linear funnel so keep this in mind that people will likely come in and out of your channel ecosystem at points of their choosing. Be flexible and this won’t drive you mad.

If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you through the development of a content strategy we’d love to hear from you. It’s complicated and there aren’t any shortcuts. But get it right and you will foster loyal customers and hit the heights that have often seemed out of reach. Pick up the phone, give us a call, we’ve got nice biscuits and we can help.

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Achieving Content Marketing Nirvana: A Lesson From The Best In The Business

This week we discuss what a true content marketing leader is doing and how it’s strategy has evolved to embrace a content approach aligned to the reality of todays consumer

As a content marketing agency it’s our job to keep tabs on what the best in the business are doing. There are a host of brands doing great things but Coca-Cola can be considered a true content marketing leader. You may have read recently that Coca-Cola has suspended its brand advertising in the Philippines so that it can donate its entire ad budget to typhoon relief efforts. It’s a great cause and already the company has donated over $2.5 million in cash and in-kind contributions, but people have been quick to question whether suspending advertising is a marketing ploy in itself.

In my opinion and without detracting from any of the good Coca-Cola is clearly doing, this is undoubtedly a marketing win for the company. Why? Because the content created and awareness raised around generosity slots perfectly into the company’s content focused marketing strategy. Continue reading

Three trends for digital in 2015 (2017 update!)

This week we reflect back on the year in digital and look ahead to three trends for digital in 2015.

It’s that time of year again when us agency folk are speculating about what brands will be looking at next year. So, (not breaking with tradition) I thought I’d follow the trend and write my latest post on my predictions on trends for digital in 2015. I also thought I’d demystify why we do this every year.

Firstly, we want to tell you what we’ve got in mind for the next 12 months. Although, as DVO’s clients will know, forward thinking in digital should be a central part of any strategically-led full service digital agency proposition. In fact it’s crucial to be evaluating new developments, technology and platforms as they arise, and making smart decisions about how or even if they have relevance to the brand’s goals and customers. There is also a bit of shameful steering going on. These are uncertain times, and if I tell you that the three things you should be focusing on are X, Y and Z, then you may well believe me.

With that in mind, here are my top three things to concentrate on in 2015:Continue reading

Multi-channel marketing problems and opportunities

By popular demand from our recent Twitter poll, this week we dive into multi-channel marketing problems and opportunities.

Multi-channel marketing problems and opportunities seemingly exist in equal measure. We seem to be living through the conclusion of multi-channel with brands bursting at the seams under the weight of all the new channels that technology has created.

So, to help clarify things, in this post we’ll cover:

  • What multi-channel actually means and how it is different to omni-channel?
  • The downside of multi-channel
  • The solution
  • Conclusion

What is multi-channel and how is it different to omni-channel?

First off, let’s clear something up because these terms seem to be very similar but, as you’ll see, the strategies are very different and the terms seem to cause endless confusion. So, what is the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel?

Multi-channel marketing

The multi-channel approach aims to get the word out using as many channels as possible, usually more than 2. Rarely are the channels connected and working together in an integrated way. Organisations invariably find themselves operating a multi-channel model, having added new channels as and when they become available. Lots of work for lower quality output and poorer results.

Omni-channel marketing

The Omni-channel approach integrates every channel to engage with customers as a holistic whole, rather than treating the channels as discreet siloes. An omni-channel approach taps directly into the cornerstones of integrated marketing; coherence, consistency, continuity and complimentary. Omni-channel prioritises the overall experience as the sum of interactions with the brand through each and every channel aiming to ensure these are overwhelmingly positive. Omni-channel is a truly customer-first approach, building stronger relationships between consumers and brands by better meeting needs at every stage.

Check out our recent blog on integrated marketing here, discussing the fundamentals of an integrated campaign which would be delivered within an omni-channel strategy.

Brands with a defined omni-channel marketing strategy achieve on average a 91% higher year-on-year increase in acquisition and importantly, customer retention.

So, what’s wrong with multi-channel?

It’s not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with multi-channel it’s just not an approach that optimises either the activity or the individual channels themselves. As marketers, we should always be collectively striving to improve what we do and how we are doing it. As the consumer has matured with technology, we now understand more than ever the connected nature of marketing channels. The immediacy culture that technology has created and the huge change in customer behaviour resulted in many brands struggling to keep up. Multi-channel seems like a place we have arrived at at the end of a race to add as many channels as possible, testing, learning as we go (sometimes!). Smart brands in this place are now looking to see how they can connect the channels and offer a better, more connected, experience for the customer. Why? Because it results in improvements from awareness to acquisition through to retention.

I promised myself I wouldn’t bang on about siloes again so all I will say is that the pinacle of multi-channel is usually a whole host of siloes in marketing, at worst working against each other with arbitrarily assigned KPIs that bear little relation to the whole. Which is not a place anyone wants to be in. We see our role as a full service digital agency to integrate these around a holistic view of the customer, to get a better return on investment for our clients and a better experience for their customers.

The real danger of multi-channel is an unwillingness to connect the channels, that comes down to organisation and culture. But to be honest without the appetite to change innovation is unlikely.

barrier to innovation & change

Image Gartner financial services innovation survey.

So, what’s the solution?

Shift from multi-channel to omni-channel, simple eh?

Ok so perhaps not that simple. We’ve found the best way to connect all the dots requires some sort of catalyst, a simple way to shift tac from one strategy to another. It starts with the brand. Very often traditional brand strategies haven’t been updated to incorporate digital and very often don’t consider 2-way, always-on channels. This means starting from a bad place that will never get your where you need to be.

From a communications perspective, we’ve found that developing a content platform or digital experience, driven by an updated brand strategy, is a great place to start. It connects the traditional above-the-line channels with digital and it’s then reasonably straightforward to re-align the channels around this. Importantly, it gives the disparate teams something to rally around.

The components:

Research and data

We look at trends, qualitative research and data covering four areas; brand, customers, competitors and landscape. This gives a complete overview enabling us to understand what the challenge is, where the opportunities lie and a deeper understanding of the customer.

Segment to build personas

However you slice up your customer research and data, your aim is to segment, creating smaller affinity groups. Once you have these you can develop personas, defining a picture of the person beyond the data. Adding substance like media choices, needs, passions and goals helps build up a fuller picture.

Customer journeys

Mapping these is vital. Data is an essential component, aim to understand which channels are relevant to each given persona. Importantly, the goal is to understand where the barriers exist, blocking the customer’s movement towards purchase and removing these. You can’t do this unless you know firstly what they are and secondly at what stage of the customers journey they come into play.

If you do this, you can confidently market holistically to the customer with tailored activity at each channel to move the customer towards purchase.

Again, an integrated content marketing approach is the perfect solution as it prioritises putting the right content in the right place to make this happen.

Creativity and technology

It’s hard to separate these now so maybe let’s talk about the idea. In an omni-channel world the idea that drives what you produce and what the consumer sees is channel agnostic. In an omni-channel world the digital experience is at the heart, with consistent messaging adapted for the nuances of each channel and relevant to the journey stage. Consistency is key. Think of a story, a big one, where you tell only the most relevant bits at a given time and place to satisfy the audience, motivating them to move onto the next chunk.

For DVO, this kind of conceptual creative is found at the intersection of traditional communications, editorial and technology-led thinking.

Activation

Activation in an omni-channel world requires meticulous planning and organisation. We’ve experimented with various formats, arriving at a universal content plan as the most simple and effective, layering this above the channels to manage implementation. In practice, we’ve ended up doing some of the channel work where the brand in question doesn’t have resource, but we’ve always found a big picture view keeps everyone involved engaged.

Improvement

Assigning the right objectives and channel KPIs is vital when moving away from multi-channel to omni. Channel KPIs move from being arbitrary to laddering up directly to marketing and business objectives within the omni-channel strategy. It’s vital you do this so you can measure the effectiveness of the whole. This represents another great opportunity to align teams, it gives them purpose outside of their daily activity, demonstrating how their input impacts on the wider objectives. It’s important they know this of course.

Conclusion

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So 2017 has been tagged as the year that brands start to optimise multi-channel, better integrating individual experiences around the whole. So, omni-channel then? In our opinion this change needs a catalyst, something real, that demands an omni-channel approach and integrated content marketing fits the bill.

We’ve thought long and hard to create simple road maps for our clients to get them on a path to realigning their marketing around the customer expereince. If you’re looking to transition from multi- to omni-channel and want the gap between your brand and customer to stop widening then contact us here, or give us a call, 020 3771 2641. You can also sign-up for our newsletter at the top of this post on the right hand side.

Digital marketing trends for 2017.

This week we’re looking at emerging digital marketing trends for 2017 and how they will impact your brand.

Happy new year to everyone. 2016 was a good, if sometimes challenging, first year for DVO. The London based full-service digital agency landscape is a competitive one! So for our first post of the year I wanted to talk about emerging digital marketing trends for 2017. Wholly inspired by Gartner’s 5 key emerging digital marketing trends.

In this post, we’ll look at:

 

  • Where has the purchase funnel gone?
  • Advocacy and loyalty
  • Big data, (come on we couldn’t leave it out)
  • Content Marketing
  • The experience

Suffice to say 2017 will be another year of flux as marketers evaluate new technology and marketing approaches, integrating where they can to take advantage. What’s still apparent to DVO is that the customer is 2, sometimes 3 or 4, steps ahead of most. Many brands are still playing catch-up with real pressure from sector disruptors and a consumer empowered like never before to deal with.

Where has the purchase funnel gone?

The old-style discrete, linear purchase funnel simply doesn’t exist anymore. Customers move at their own pace. Interacting when, where and how they want to across multiple channels. “83% of consumers are more likely to do business with brands that allow them to control where, when and how they interact.” CFI Group.

What does it mean for my brand?

This puts more emphasis on understanding the customer, their journey and potential interaction points. This is where the power of big data comes into play, using it intelligently to understand where a customer is but more importantly using it to move the customer to the next stage. It also means key emphasis should be placed on customers as individuals as each journey can be very different, a macro view of the customer serves little purpose on this basis. Customers as individuals will be a key-theme for 2017.

Advocacy and loyalty, UGC.

The balance of power has shifted to the customer; smart brands understand this and are actively looking at ways to nurture their best customers. Using those customers to tell the brands story.

What does it mean for my brand?

Customers are twice as likely to trust content created by other customers as opposed to brands. igraph-ugc-trust Graphic curtesy of Adweek, It doesn’t mean stop doing content marketing at all. What it does mean though is that brands should be looking at how they can create a framework to encourage those stories, curating them if you will. The right framework will allow you to capture the content and then extend the reach of the story. Focus on how you identify and nurture your best customers, giving them a platform to tell your story to a wider network than they would otherwise have done on their own. This is a key mind-set change from creator to curator. For an in-depth look at UGC strategy take a moment to download our latest white paper, here.

Big data.

No trends blog would be complete without a mention of big data. It’s big and it’s data! However it’s important especially as the purchase funnel has become far more complicated. Focusing efforts on capturing data across the customer journey and analysing it to understand and then implement activity at the right point in the right way is a sure win.

What does it mean for my brand?

You’ve probably got data coming in from all sorts of places, the emphasis here is on combining it and then using it to better understand the customer journey. As marketers our job is simple, to put the right message in the right place to move the customer towards purchase, simple. Not so simple when you’ve got loads of channels and a customer who doesn’t play by the rules anymore. In the short term using personas to map out the stages a customer moves through gives you a grounding to start to think about what you do next.

Content marketing.

This is a biggy, not just because content marketing is central to what we do. But, because Gartner says so. Actually, content marketing integrated across a multi-channel communications strategy is the most effective thing you can do to align yourself more closely with the customer. “For DVO 2017 will be the year of integrated content marketing.”

What does it mean for my brand?

If you do one thing in 2017 we recommend that you don’t look at content marketing as a sub-set of SEO. SEO is mega important but content marketing is a broader brand marketing strategy. At its heart it’s about building customer trust by anticipating customer needs at specific points in the customer journey. Have a strategy in place for content marketing, this makes it much easier to plan the various tactical activities that come after. This could simply be owning a space in the customers mind as your sectors expert. Or something else, after all it’s your strategy. Focus your efforts in 2017 around how you can integrate your content across your communications. We’d advise you think about a digital experience or a content hub as the nucleus and build your channels around it. Start simple break your content down into three areas:

  • Awareness, inspire, entertain, educate
  • Consideration, help evaluate the decision, be honest, NO smarmy sales
  • Conversion, UGC works great here

For an in-depth look at UGC strategy take a moment to download our latest white paper, here.

 

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The experience.

This has been on everyone’s agenda for a while and it’s a key digital marketing trends for 2017. This is a direct result of the discrete linear funnel no-longer existing. The customers’ perception of you and ultimately their decision to purchase is based on the sum of their interactions with your brand. Understanding this is vitally important.

What does it mean for my brand?

Once you have a start on the customer journey you can think about how each action you take at a specific point knits together. This means you need to be thinking integrated. Siloed structures work against a uniform customer experience. Siloed Data Causes Disconnected Experiences Even if you’re still very siloed, get everyone in a room once a month and get them talking about their specific activity. It will be very apparent, if you understand your customer journey, what fits and what doesn’t. This is a bigger shift than perhaps you want to make, so start small. You can test content centric campaigns with earned distribution simply and cheaply, if nothing else it gets teams working together. We wrote a post recently talking about integrated marketing with tips, theory and a case study that gives you a strong insight into the bits that matter. Read it, here. So that’s our digital marketing trends for 2017, it’s a lot to deal with. That’s why we’ve thought long and hard to create simple road maps for our clients to get them on a path to realigning their marketing around the customer. If you want the gap between your brand and customer to stop widening then contact us here, or give us a call, 0203 771 2641.

Why you need to embrace User Generated Content.

This week we take a look at User Generated Content (UGC) and why it should be squarely on your agenda for 2017.

It’s hard to escape user generated content marketing right now. Ignoring whether Content Marketing should actually be a secular discipline or not, there’s no denying the importance content is playing in most people’s plans and strategies today and for the year ahead and user generated content is where the smart players are operating.

We love content and have been producing rich, emotive, engaging content for our clients years before we became a full service digital agency and someone decided to give it a label. We’ve loved embracing each new level technology has taken content to, getting to the heart of it and how it can benefit our clients’ businesses.

Download our user generated content white paper

There’s a lot of buzz around User Generated Content (UGC) at the moment and rightly so. But many brands and even marketers are fearful of UGC and quite frankly, we believe this fear is totally unfounded.

What is UGC

So, let’s start at the beginning, what is UGC. Quite simply, it is content about a brand, company or business that is generated by users, rather than by the brand itself. This can take many forms from opinions and reviews, posts on social media, shared experiences via video and imagery to blog posts, comments and activation experiences.

Why it’s important?

The reason that UGC is causing such stir is the immense power it holds in building brand trust. Word of mouth has always been the most effective marketing tool in the box. Consumers will always trust third party opinions and recommendations above communications directly from a brand, even if the message itself is exactly the same. We are social beings, and being part of a community means sharing experiences and telling stories. It’s in our nature.

With the explosion of technology influencing every aspect of our day to day lives, our communities and story sharing has expanded to match. We can access thoughts and opinions from other people all over the world at the touch of a button. And this is where UGC really comes into its own. UGC supports, encourages and promotes the transformation of consumer from the status of passive audience into active user. Combined with social media platforms, consumers are perfectly placed to express themselves and share information like never before.

Why should brands embrace UGC?

Because UGC is essentially a conversation and if you’re not part of that conversation, how can you influence or benefit from it? Many brands and even seasoned marketing professionals are fearful of UGC, because they see it as losing control over their messaging. But as long as brands create the correct framework for the conversation to take place in, deal openly and honestly with their customers on the public stage and use the correct tools to move users through the experience, then this fear is unjustified. This means UGC needs to feature very early on in setting your marketing strategy and this framework and the tools employed are factored into all your channels and customer touchpoints.

Used correctly, UGC can relieve pressures put on time and budget limited marketing departments, becoming an almost automated content generator and customer communication network all in one.

 

Great UGC examples

Don’t just take our word for it, here are some examples of great UGC.

Diesel cam

Heineken

If you’d like to learn more about User Generated Content, download out white paper here, co-authored with UGC marketing strategy expert Gerhard Malojer, @GerhardMalojer.

We’d love to speak to you about user generated content, give us a call to chat through you thoughts, concerns and ideas on 020 3771 2461, catch us on twitter @DVOagency, or go oldskool and use our contact form here.

 

Content marketing for 2017.

What’s in store for your content marketing strategy in 2017, what to look out for.

With 2017 just around the corner, we’ve been thinking about what’s in store for Content Marketing strategy? For us as a full service agency content marketing is the Ying to the campaign’s Yang. In any successful mix of activity they’re intrinsically linked. This week we’ll be highlighting where you should be looking for the year ahead and the areas you should be focussing.

Top 5 take homes

  • What’s your content marketing strategy and how does this link to your wider activity?
  • Factor in distribution and promotion early on in the process and don’t exclude paid channels
  • Think quality especially if your goals are to create awareness and drive consideration
  • Think about how your content activity can enhance and integrate with your wider campaigns
  • Is user generated content something you can leverage to extend your story?

Want to see more of these? Sign-up on the right, below for mobile users, for our insights newsletter.

So content marketing, what is it?

Hot on the heals of Mark Ritson’s article in marketing week that questions the validity of content marketing, arguing that it’s simply an unecessary name to describe activity that generalist marketers should already be doing, we thought we would give our definition for clarity.

“Content marketing is a marketing strategy that leverages connected consumer behaviour. A sub-set of communications it emphasises the creation and distribution of content that meets consumer needs, building trust, to attract and retain customers.”

Why is it effective?

It’s simple really technology has empowered the consumer. This has made it harder to win and build consumer trust. Strategies that leverage this get more cut through.

Should it be on my agenda?

If your objective is to sell more then a strategy that builds consumer trust and works to move consumers through the lifecycle, is a bit of a no brainer.

Where are we heading in 2017.

Strategy will be one of the key drivers in 2017, whether that is aligning content marketing strategy to a wider brand marketing strategy or as part of an integrated campaign, extending the lifecycle and its effectiveness. A concise strategy that can be easily articulated and understood and should be the cornerstone of good content marketing. A simple step is to start aligning content output to different stages in the customer journey.

Distribution and promotion should be factored in from the start. Much like all campaigns content needs to be seen by consumers to do what it is intended to do. Spending time creating content that meets consumer needs and then not putting it in front of those consumers is simply a waste of time and money. You wouldn’t build a campaign and then not promote it?

Quality over quantity will be driven by promotion. As brands wake up to the realisation that there’s huge noise online the focus will be on cut through. The shift will be when brands recognise that users’ needs trump those of search engines. When this happens the focus will be on quality content that excites and engages the consumer. This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for content that is SEO led, brands should be looking to structure their content around the customer journey; awareness, consideration and conversion.

Integration will be key in 2017. The ability to tell a connected story across numerous channels should be a key area of focus. The consumer is channel agnostic these days, our recent post on integrated marketing covers this in more depth (read more here). How you use content will influence how you extend the lifecycle of your integrated campaigns.

User generated content is and should be high on your agenda. Stories are best told when they are retold and sometimes your consumer has a better story than your brand. We’ve seen this happen on a small scale and brands like Coca Cola have implemented this effectively on a large scale.

Content marketing strategy case study

Here’s a case study for a DVO content marketing project we undertook for a private bank. Click to read.

kb-onsite-content

Get in touch to discuss how we can help

If you are trapped in a tactical silo and want to get more strategic with content marketing to achieve real results we can help. We’ve got some simple techniques we can use to get you on the right path and get your content working harder. Contact us, or give us a call, 020 3771 2641.

Can Native Ads Offer Newspapers a Lifeline?

This week we’re discussing native ads, is this the lifeline the press needs to arrest the ongoing decline in revenue?

The native ad market is growing at an exponential pace, blurring the lines between editorial and advertising. As a full service digital agency we use native ads to promote content, driving the reach we need to engage the right audiences.

Newspapers online

Santa’s big day is looming large and to marketers (and social media) that means Christmas promotions and the launch of the big retailers’ Christmas ads. Whether you’re a fan of Buster the Boxer, Kevin the Carrot or Waitrose’s Robin, there’s plenty of multi-million pound Christmas cheer to enjoy this year.

Buster the Boxer

Buster was not happy with socks AGAIN!

But spend any time on social media at the moment, and it’s hard to miss another side of the Christmas advertising coin. Without going into the politics of 2016, I think we can all agree it’s been a tumultuous year and certain aspects of society, both positive and negative, have seen substantially more light of day than before.  Who or what is responsible for the shift that’s happening is not for discussion here, but the Stop Funding Hate campaign provides an interesting perspective on the responsibility (or lack of?) that big money advertisers have for supporting allegedly divisive newspapers by providing them with advertising funds. Add to this the rise in usage of adblocking technologies and the nose dive in revenue from more traditional digital advertising streams and you’ve got an industry looking at a high level of disruption and probably feeling rather shell-shocked.

So what, if anything, is the answer?

While it may not be a panacea, the emergence of native advertising in recent years has provided significant revenue streams, calming the nerves of executives and journalists anxious about the future. But is it enough?Continue reading

Optimising webspace; the benefits of brand blogging

This week we’re discussing the benefits of brand blogging.

Here at full service digital agency DVO we’re big supporters of clients optimising webspace. Sounds straight forward, of course as a business you want to optimise all your resources and channels and brand blogging can be a great way to achieve this. But in today’s New Normal, as marketers and business owners, it can be challenging.

So what exactly do we mean when we say optimising webspace? Well, it’s the practice of looking beyond a brand’s site or blog to create an overarching online marketing presence. Any approach that doesn’t encompass every element, from e-commerce to social media to blogger outreach, will create an incomplete, confused or broken machine that isn’t ready to take on a well-rounded marketing strategy. We’ve seen this time and time again with clients, where responsibility for different digital resources can sit with different departments and silos are a very real problem still. So having a strategy that sits above this and pulls all the elements together effectively is vital and will actually make each channel work harder and produce better results.

We’ve written a series of articles, breaking down the different areas of webspace, explaining what they mean, why they are important and how you make them work harder for you.

Why have a blog?

Owned media has many different aspects and may seem daunting. But it’s also the most accessible and easiest means by which connect to your audience. At the centre of this should be your brand’s blog. Why? Well, for many reasons but here are some key stats that you should be aware of, especially if you’re not convinced of the value a blog can bring to your business.

  • A blog produces 97% more inbound links to a company’s site compared to one without a blog.
  • Companies that blog receive a massive 434% more indexed pages on average than those that don’t. Seriously, you don’t have a blog!!!
  • Small businesses that blog will see 126% more lead growth compared to those that don’t.
  • 23% of total Internet usage is on social media networks and blogs.

Webspace

Every client is different. They have different brands, different products, different attitudes and different approaches but most want the same thing: to get their brand known. When they ask if they really need a blog, the answer varies depending on what they are hoping to achieve. We hope the stats above have helped convince you of the benefits of brand blogging if you were sitting on the fence.

A blog should be the heart of a brand’s owned media. Brand blogging is the motor that keeps it running. It provides the content that drives individuals back to your website. How can you get involved with social networks, your email databases and other channels without having something to say? For most companies, your website and blog exist to tell the world what you’re about and why they should care. Your site does it on a basic level, but your blog lets you go off on tangents. 60% of people feel more positive about a company that has custom content on its website than those that don’t. It shows a confidence and a level of expertise that consumers want from the companies they are buying from or interacting with. And if it’s content that evokes an emotional response and encourages further action like commenting or sharing, then that’s an added bonus.

What do I blog about?

Working with clients who are starting out on their social media/blogging journey, we hear the same thing time and time again. What should I say, what should I talk about? Why would people be interested in what I’ve got to say? While understandable, this anxiety is often misplaced – you’re already an expert in your field so talk about what you do. Using brand blogging to explain your decisions, your journey, your beliefs, your successes and even your mistakes. After all, that’s what your customers are most likely to be interested in.

Nothing to say - Blog about it

McDonalds Canada is a great example of this, as can be seen in the fast food giant’s behind-the-scenes feature showing how burgers are photographed, hosted on YouTube. By being completely transparent about the dark art of food styling, the brand has taken something it knows intimately and created positive, engaging content that keeps its consumers interested and informed. The video has earned more than 11.3 million views.

Whilst developing content marketing for Expedia, we knew we needed to put a fresh spin on what could have otherwise just been more of the same old travel blogging, creating content that would stand out in a cluttered space. We did that by flipping the narrative into the future, focusing on what you could do, not what we had done collectively as the writing team. Making it about the travellers and the experience they could have allowed us to position the content we created away from the rest of the market. We built a network of writers across 8 global cities who were our correspondents and formed the basis of our content marketing approach. Having this solid digital experience meant we could build in tactical campaigns highlighting new destinations, seasonal holidays such as Halloween and tie-ins with wider campaign initiatives.

This is just one example of how we’ve used a brand’s existing know-how and worked with others to create useful content. Updating your blog at least once a week may seem daunting, but you already have the knowledge and expertise to share with your customers. And trust us, if you’ve got your offering and your branding right, people WILL want to listen. We’re here help bring it out. Talk to DVO about brand blogging on 020 3771 2641 or email us at iminterested@w-ptheme.club.

 

The social media storm that is Movember

Movembers a lot of fun for most of us. This week we analyse what you can learn from Movember to make you’re social media more effective.

A quick look at social media will tell you we’re staring down the face of Movember (already!) and the question of whether to ‘tache or not to ‘tache raises its head. Yes, that’s right, it’s nearly Movember and men (and women) the world over are considering ways that they can support this very worthwhile charity. As a full service digital agency we want to look deeper, analysing why initiatives like November are so good at engaging large audiences and how you can apply the same thinking to your campaigns.

Every year, in November, Movember turns moustaches into a symbol of support for its cause. But what was once a very simple premise with an equally simple fundraising journey has become somewhat of a behemoth. Ask most people what they think Movember means and what the movement supports and they’ll say, “growing a moustache in November, get some sponsorship and raise money for testicular cancer”.

But Movember has become so, so much more than that. Let’s explore.Continue reading