“My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” — Forrest Gump
It wasn’t until I started working as a content marketer that I fully appreciated the wisdom of Mrs. Gump’s words.
You may never know what you will get in our industry, but that doesn’t stop Albert Qian, Oracle Senior Content Marketing Manager, HCM, from creating compelling content that allows him to connect with his audience no matter what changes occur.
At Managing Editor Live 2021, Albert showed us how to create a content strategy that reaches your target audiences where they are.
Life Is Like a Content Strategy
Little did Mrs. Gump know how much her words relate to the malleable world of content marketing. You truly never know what you will get when executing a new content strategy.
Today, there are so many channels putting your content in only one place and hoping that someone finds it is not nearly enough. A content strategy requires throwing the kitchen sink because that’s what it takes to reach your entire audience.
“If your audience likes to read emails, you write emails. If your audience likes to read long-form content, that’s what you create,” Albert explains. “And if your audience enjoys the visual representation of the concepts that you put forth out there, you create infographics.”
How does Albert relate this to Forrest Gump? Remember when Forrest’s friendBubba listed all the different ways to cook shrimp? Just as there is no single approach to shrimp that is everyone’s favorite, it’s essential to remember that your audience consumes content in many different ways. You need to figure out how to best give them what they want, taking into consideration their attention spans and whatever other insights you can gain from research.
“We all know that more than three-quarters of business to business executives do their research before they have a touchpoint with a salesperson,” Albert says. “So in order to have that effective and optimal interaction, you need to be able to create the content and slice and dice and bake your content in a way that accommodates them.”
Take a Data-Driven Approach
If the methods you’ve used in the past for your strategy haven’t worked, try something else. Albert says Oracle takes a “data-driven approach” for their content strategy. (He admits it’s the hot buzzword these days,” but notes “it’s a buzzword that makes sense.”)
He and his team use tools such as Adobe Analytics to collaborate with various people, creating content across the company. They also use Adobe Analytics and other bottom-funnel tools, such as Pathfactory, to analyze what their audience consumes and where they consume it. It enables them to better understand the Oracle buyer’s journey, so they can create content that will match that experience and support it all the way through.
Implementing these tactics allows them to use the data to see their audience’s reactions during their content experience. Albert notes that being able to “slice, dice, bake, boil, saute, etc. our content marketing strategy” has helped them with “creating strategies that circle around what we do on our social media pages, our websites, video, blogging channels, newsletters, and so much more.”
Create the Right Content With Content Collaboration
It’s essential to ask yourself, How do I create content that will stand out from the competition? One way to approach this is to imagine your content as real estate.
Here Albert shifts his focus from Forrest Gump to House of Cards.. He remembers a quote from the show: “Politics is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value.”
Albert relates this to content strategy by noting that the channels you create are important, as is the creativity displayed by your blog posts, whitepapers, and websites, but it’s also essential to know your priorities. Just as real estate declines in value as you drift from that prime location, even the most innovative content is of limited value if it is only distantly related to your underlying goals.
Location is important in another sense: You need to be accessible to others. “We all know that as marketing professionals, we are tasked with the challenge of having to prove ourselves every single day and that when it comes to organization changes, marketing is what a lot of companies look at first,” says Albert. Creating the optimal marketing organization must be broken down into silos with other marketing teams, sales teams, product strategy teams, and so on. Success comes from finding ways to work together.
Albert notes that, in years past, Oracle was creating a great deal of content, but there was a lack of cross-collaboration. This led to confusing conversations with the sales teams and duplicated content. Albert says this is now avoided because “we’ve definitely aligned our priorities closer to what the top leadership wants.” When combined with flexibility, aligned priorities and a proximity to power allows for a unified content strategy that reflects underlying priorities and can adapt as those evolve, with a minimum of duplicated or wasted effort.
When You Work As a Team, Everything Is Awesome
Another major question you must carefully consider: Are your teams aligned as you go to market, and where is content marketing in the conversation? As The LEGO Movie theme song famously noted, it’s great when everyone works together towards that one common goal.
To succeed, content marketers must reach their audience. Not just reach them, but offer a message to which they’re receptive. Albert says it is crucial to “understand their pain points and be able to deliver the right solutions and communicate those solutions, so that they end up buying what you have and end up getting the results that they want.”
As content marketers, we often think of ourselves as a silo rather than a part of the bigger picture. We write that asset, create the webpage, write the email. We tend to stop there. But if you create the content and do nothing else, it’s not a strategy: It’s a project. Teams need to work together.
What can companies do to ensure collaboration? Companies with larger teams, like Oracle, delegate to specialists who work with video, imagery, social media, and graphics. This way, those needed to be involved in making the content successful are. For smaller teams, it’s important to employ people who can do a little of everything, while still delegating tasks to outside contractors to help create the content you need.
Develop a Comprehensive Strategy Through Collaboration
Whatever the size of your team, it’s crucial to understand who you can network with and collaborate with to ensure that everyone gets what they need. By taking those steps, you can create a strategy that works across the organization, which will then be sent into the marketplace for customers and prospects to discover.
To ensure success in creating a comprehensive strategy, Albert says you should ask yourself and your team:
- Is our marketing team aligned with the rest of the organization?
- Do we know how consumers engage with us?
- How does our marketing team work together?
- What types of content can we create?
- What channels can we be present upon?
- What is our ability to shift as needed?
Albert also provides three final pieces of advice:
First, remember content marketing is intertwined with the rest of your organization. It’s necessary to know how you are reaching your audiences and what your audience enjoys consuming.
Second, data tells a story. Your organizational priorities must support what you are trying to accomplish.
Third, differentiate your content marketing by taking care of various channels and content types. Albert notes that you want to be able to make sure your teams can specialize, because it allows you to create a content marketing strategy that harnesses their strengths and gives you the best chance to “reach your audience where they are.”
And remember, if you’re not actively reaching out to your audience where they are (or you don’t even know their location), it’s a safe bet you’re missing.”