February 23, 2023 | Glenn McManus
Struggling to create content that moves the needle — and people? Head of Content at WordPress VIP and Aprimo partner, Tess Needham, shares the tactics you need to create content that matters. Most notable: Choosing ‘Best for Me’ tools over ‘Best in Breed.’ That’s right, she touches on composable content stacks. Read on for more digital content strategy cheat codes and insights from WordPress VIP’s ‘Content Matters 2022’ report, featuring responses from 800+ content marketers.
10:57 – Cheat Code #1 – Ask this key question
Feel like you’re making content just for the sake of it? Get off the hamster wheel (as Tess puts it), and ask yourself: ‘How can I figure out what’s working versus not working?’
The last thing the market needs is more content to add to all of the noise. It’s hard enough as a consumer to even catch up with my list of unlistened podcasts. It’s an interesting dichotomy where we’re all on this hamster wheel of creating more content and also budgets are higher, teams are bigger — there’s just more, more, more, more.
And to what end? I don’t think it’s bad to create more content. But there was another stat in our report that talks about how half of people don’t know how it’s performing. So, you’re on this hamster wheel, putting out more content, and that’s more for your customers to wade through. I just want everyone to take 5 minutes and go take a breath.
Ask yourself, ‘What am I doing this for? Am I making content because everybody else is? What do I think I have to say to reach customers? It also comes back to the strategy piece. How are you going to know what’s working and what’s not, so that you can invest in the things that are?
15:42 – Cheat Code #2 – Surface your SMEs
When it comes to sourcing content, consider your internal folks. Figure out who your SMEs are, highlight their knowledge, and you’ll grow your base of thought leadership content.
I’ve had better results with internal folks creating content than external agencies. There’s something really interesting about surfacing the experts in our company. It gives you that voice of expertise. We have the best WordPress developers in the world, working on large-scale enterprise sites, with a ton of knowledge to share.
You’re also showing that these are the kinds of people you’ll interact with if you become a customer. You’re highlighting your team, which can exponentially grow your base of thought leadership content — in a way that’s authentic.
The approach for us needs to be: What do we have to say that’s unique? How can we feature our team? In this world of increasing AI tools, how do we still give that human touch? And so, I’m really passionate about showcasing the subject matter experts on our team.
19:34 – Cheat Code #3 – Focus on your customer
If you really want to stand out in a crowded market, laser-focus on your customers. Get to know and tailor content to them, so that your team doesn’t waste effort — and dollars.
One of the questions we asked was: What is your main pain point with content marketing? Overwhelmingly, a lot of people said, ‘Finding people to create content,’ but also, ‘Standing out in a crowded market.’ That’s a real challenge for people.
The last thing we need to do is keep adding more content into the crowded market, making it even harder to see the signal for noise. It’s all about being smarter about your content than ever before, laser-focusing on the customer, knowing them deeply, and making sure your content is tailored to them.
It takes a lot of effort to create content, and you’ll waste that effort if you’re not measuring it. If you have a good sense of who you’re targeting, what the needs are — those things are really going to amplify the content you’re creating.
22:02 – Cheat Code #4 – Choose ‘Best for me’ tools
Opt for tools that enable your people, processes, and deliver interoperability, aka, play nicely with each other — like Aprimo. With 90+ integrations, it’s built for endless configurations.
Optimizing the customer experience means something different for each company. You have freedom to piece together the parts of your MarTech stack that are going to work the best for you. ‘Best in breed’ is probably best for most companies, but it doesn’t mean you should be locked into that, when it’s not the thing you want.
It’s hard to know what your needs are, to take time to sit down, because we’re all moving so fast. Businesses have to think strategically about what they’re trying to achieve. You need to lean into the idea of a composable ecosystem of tools. Interoperability is key. The tools need to be easy to adopt, and faster, to prove value.
They need to be able to operate together, to ‘play nicely.’ Businesses are looking for integration and choosing the tools that are best for them. You can experiment with something, and it’s easier to move on than ever before. But if you’re locked into this monolith, it’s not.
Those tools need to be simple and intuitive because you need more people to be able to use them. How do we empower more people across the organization to be content creators? Your technology needs to enable the people and process.
31:46 – Cheat Code #5 – Don’t be afraid to experiment
Try new strategies and technologies, and have a way to measure results, so you can figure out what is versus isn’t working. Tess shares her experience with AI writing tools below.
You need to be able to experiment and figure out what is working, have a way of measuring that, and then be able to iterate because it is going to be different for every person. The only way you can know exactly what’s going to work for you is by trying. Again, the tech tools have to be agile and quick to pick up, to enable experimentation.
One of the things we’re experimenting with is AI. It’s most useful as a brainstorming or writing partner. It’s not like you can just throw in some words, it spits out a blog post, and you publish it. It still needs a lot of human intervention. The team can dip in there and see if it’s speeding us up or not. We’re looking into giving our more repetitive tasks to AI.
41:39 – Cheat Code #6 – Democratize the data
Want to optimize outcomes? Make it easy for everyone to see and understand the data. Read on for how Tess’ team is using Parse.ly, a content analytics platform, to do just that.
We acquired a company called Parse.ly, a content analytics platform. It’s now part of our platform. We’re trying to use Parse.ly regularly, to make our own content better. We recently set up a flow in Geekbot, a stand-up tool for Slack.
It pings our team on Mondays, prompting them to open the Parse.ly dash, and answer ‘What’s one thing that’s going well, one thing that you’ve learned, and something that needs improvement?’ The most successful businesses are going to be the ones that democratize that data analysis, and unlock those tools for more people to use.
You don’t have to have one person on your team who’s the data analyst. Everyone on your team can be that person. Even I, a creative, have embraced the data. But you need to be able to read the analytics and know whether that equals success. We’re building this muscle of analytics where it’s part of our content lifecycle.
When you’re in WordPress, you’ll be able to see Parse.ly stats right there, in the WordPress backend. When you’re writing a post, you’ll have a content helper to help you craft that content based on what’s performed well before, for your specific case.
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