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We’re so often presented with the mantra “content is king”. It can be tempting to focus only on the need to create a pipeline of content that can be hosted and regularly pushed out across your owned channels. Audiences today, however, are presented with a vast amount of information instantly available across multiple touchpoints.The biggest challenge is cutting through the noise.

All content must be created with clear objectives in mind. Make sure there is purpose, understand how you want to use it and use relevant calls to action to position it within the wider audience journey. Your content is only as good as how you use it. If it’s not seen by the right people, it won’t deliver on your objectives.

This means knowing who and where your audiences are, and how to target them. More than ever before, technology and digital insights can help us do that; targeting, personalization and automation can help put your content in front of the people that matter.

Machine learning will increasingly play a part in how clever we can be. Automated and programmatic communications are being used with increasing sophistication and success, particularly in e-commerce and retail marketing. We can learn from this.

At Cognito, we work with clients from concept to distribution, making sure their content has purpose and making sure it gets in front of the right audience.

Focus on the conversations that really matter

Whether your prospect list is 50 or 50,000, getting to know these people is time-intensive. And not all these conversations are of equal value. Align with your sales team’s priorities and automate 80% of your outbound activity using technology. 

Then give your salespeople the information they need to talk to the top 20% of that prospect list, making those conversations targeted and relevant. Use campaign and website analytics to identify which pages and content those people are engaging with, give that information to your sales team in real-time, and then let them conduct high-value conversations.

Talk to people, not at people

Once you’ve identified the themes and formats your audiences are interested in, simply pushing information out isn’t enough. Consumers are smart, busy and bombarded with information; to engage with them you need to personalize their experience and give them a conversation.

By 2020 smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase profits by up to 15% (Gartner)

Personalizing emails with subject lines and names is a start, but you need to go further and embed personalization at a micro-level to target every touchpoint.

The traditional concept of the linear sales funnel has changed. Whether it’s business or consumer sales – ultimately in both cases our aim is to talk to people and, in a digital-first world, people aren’t linear. We need to be there with content that is useful to people, whenever and wherever they are. Use web data to target advertising messages, leverage tools such as LinkedIn’s ‘matched audiences’ to retarget sponsored posts, and automate email and social messages.

Think about your marketing and communications activity as an extension of your customer services; everything you do should be focused on your audiences and how you can help them.

Test, test, and test again to find your audiences online

Even in niche sectors, there is now so much choice for audiences that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to outreach. Trial low budget campaigns and analyze performance to determine where your results are coming from, then optimize activity and focus spend on the elements that work for you.

74% of people use Facebook for professional purposes (HubSpot, 2017)

Don’t discount channels before you begin: start broad and use testing to narrow your focus. We work in a digital world where people are ‘always on’, meaning the barriers between home and work life are increasingly blurred and brand content transcends the working day and traditionally divided channels. You may not consider Facebook and Instagram top platforms to target, but we’re increasingly seeing them perform well in driving low-cost, relevant traffic.

Invest in your data now

One of the biggest challenges to seamless machine marketing is data. Take the time now to invest in cleansing, segmenting, and structuring your data in a CRM system.

62% of executives still rely more on experience and advice than data to make decisions (PwC survey, May 2016)

Get your marketing and sales teams aligned and on board. Marketing insights and analytics are always useful, but become truly valuable to a business when that information is aligned with sales activity. The future of highly effective, resource-efficient content marketing is in machines – and for now at least, the targeted outputs will only be as good as the data you put in.

What you want to say vs what your audience want to hear

With so much content instantly available, making sure yours is relevant and memorable is challenging,but crucial.

80% of consumers forget the majority of information in branded content after just 3 days (Prezi research, April 2017)

One of the biggest reasons audiences forget branded content is irrelevancy. The information about what your audiences care about, and are engaging with, is out there. Use technology to find it. There are various tools to help do this; we suggest starting with social listening and keyword research. Understand the themes and topics your audiences are talking about and what they are searching for, then use that insight to inform your content strategy and ongoing optimization.