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How content plays a key role in customer acquisition journeys

Sergio Liscia ()

In the last five years content marketing has developed from being an experimental tactic used by a small number of innovative brands, to a must have tool for everyone from the biggest FMCG brands to the smallest B2B startups.

And while on one level Red Bull and GoPro continue to wow consumers with ever more imaginative video content, it could be that it is in the B2B arena that content is best placed to deliver ROI. 

In particular placing content marketing at the heart of the sales process to attract new prospects, keep them engaged and move them onto a sale, has become an industry staple. However using content marketing as key customer acquisition tool can often present many challenges to the brand.

Here Sergio Liscia, business development director of Wolters Kluwer Italy (who will speak at Digital Innovators’ Summit 2017) offers his take on content marketing, stressing the need for companies to find their own voice and to optimise the content they produce so it fits the varied points of the sales process. 

About DIS

DIS 2017 takes place from 19-21 March (main Summit on 20 and 21 March) in Berlin, Germany. With digital in a continuous state of innovation and change, In addition to the speaker programme, DIS2017 provides opportunity to meet, discuss trends, challenges and opportunities, and/or simply catch up and have fun through a number of formal and informal networking events. DIS is organised by FIPP, the network for global media, and VDZ, the German Publishers Association. See more at innovators-summit.com. Register on or before 1 February to save €400 on the final delegate rate.

How are you using content marketing at Wolters Kluwer? What type of results have you seen?

Content marketing and contextual advertising are the means to feed the funnel in order to engage an audience, and subsequently a community, in a conversation that results in a long lasting relationship.  

Wolters Kluwer Italy has established Freemium online communities, centered on our targets’ needs (lawyers, tax advisors, in-company professionals). The WKI content marketing sales funnel aims at creating an online ecosystem to engage users, attract suspects and prospects, convert users into customers and explore new concepts and business models.

This funnel brings traffic to our web destinations through free content such as breaking news. The path to deploy the Freemium Ecosystem started some years ago and has consisted in a combination of ‘Make, Buy and Partnership.’

Today the WK Freemium Ecosystem is a network of vertical websites serving the core target (professionals), and the secondary target, relevant consumers. So, for example, in Italy the sites attract four million unique visitors per month and boasts 600,000 registered users.

What do you believe are the key metrics for measuring content marketing, and how do you do this at Wolters Kluwer?

Key metrics must take into the consideration all the stages of the content marketing journey. For example, you don’t celebrate if someone enjoys your content but dislikes your services. So our metrics for measuring success include awareness, engagement and then nurture until conversion.

We specifically monitor the performance of our content marketing programme in two ways. Firstly, how much the single channels continuously sustain the funnel, and secondly how the conversion rate of specific campaigns lead to direct sales.

We also use specific metrics that are relevant to the acquisition channel. For example in social Facebook and Twitter have their own metrics. We also have metrics for website referrals, paid search; organic search and direct traffic. The crucial point is bearing in mind the dual nature of our target, in other words feeding communities and increasing sales.

Media owners need to be kept up to date about the state of their audience and community. In other words how many people have read the content that they have produced and how many of them have subscribed to newsletters to be kept updated. Furthermore, media owners need to bear in mind the key topic of ‘relevance’, for example their positioning on the keywords around which the content has been created. Finally they need to know how many people have moved from the free content to the paid for offer and how many have ultimately subscribed. Also what are the number of visits to the landing/product page and the subsequent conversion rate.

How central has content marketing now become to lead generation in both the B2B and B2C arenas? Will it usurp paid for advertising for lead generation?

Traditional advertising, in which you engage in a direct manner, is changing and becoming more focused. Yet on the other side, the path to purchasing is getting longer and longer. In this context, content marketing is the ideal instrument to take the user on their journey. From the awareness of the need, to the discovery of the options and the explanation and the exploration of the product and then finally on to the purchase. The content must be adapted to suit the different phases of the customer journey.

Paid advertising is also defining its own role in this process. It is evolving more towards performance marketing and programmatic executions. The algorithms that power it are key in focusing the messages where they have the highest likelihood to succeed.

In the digital landscape content marketing and paid advertising cross paths in different ways. Content marketing brings the user to the offering, paid advertising proposes the offering to the user around the web; Content marketing feeds the customer journey, paid advertising brings the users into the customer journey.

What tips would you give to companies to make content marketing work more effectively for them? 

First of all, users are “dangerous” people: they smell your intentions! So it is important to be transparent and set goals that the user can see and understand. Even in a multi step campaign composed of several touch points, where you progressively take the user to your offering, everything has to be fluid and well-tuned.

Companies must also find their own tone of voice and adapt it to the specific media. The key to achieving this is by mixing competences. In other words pairing people that know the topics very well with those who have copywriting and creative skills for digital.

Do you see social platforms as an important part of the content marketing mix? Or are the issues around adding content on someone else’s property now becoming an issue?

Social platforms are a contact channel that are mandatory for media planning in the digital environment. Even if there is a partial loss of control on the content published, the benefits of exploiting an engine of such huge capacity more than offsets any disadvantage. Social media calls for specific capabilities and dedicated focus, but the return is definitely worth the effort.

In Italy many publishers run excellent social media channels. Take the Italian site Fanpage, a generalist online newspaper, which aggregates more readers on its own Facebook page than it does on its own website. The reading path and the user experience are in this case centered around Facebook.

Where in the customer journey do you think that brands and media companies can improve most?

Envision the customer journey as a funnel where you have to go from attracting the suspect, engaging them, transforming them into a prospect, nurturing that prospect and at the end converting them into a customer. In every one of these steps the prospect could leave the journey. The optimisation of the results in the funnel is an ongoing activity that is the job of the digital marketer.

Typically, company’s pain points along the funnel are relative to their maturity level in the digital environment. For example, companies that are still heavily relying on traditional means, generating an audience and achieving the critical mass necessary to build a funnel can be an issue.

One pitfall that must be avoided is not properly defining the target that needs to be addressed. Setting the target, and then understanding the distinctive behaviour that characterise the segments belonging to the target, is crucial to design the customer journey and the assets for the content marketing.

What good examples of content marketing use for customer engagement have you seen?

I think that Hubspot is a good example of how to create the marketing and sales funnel starting from the early stage, where you have to educate the audience on the potential benefits of new practices. In their instance marketing automation as a concept wasn’t clear and evident to the entire market. Hubspot has since created a lot of information, whitepapers, ebooks, videos, explaining the advantages of inbound marketing.

In the consumer arena, the best example of a company that has become a media producer is Red Bull. It is doing a brilliant job in engaging its customers with a multiplatform approach to creating amazing content.

In the publishing world The Economist has in my view abandoned its traditional image of being very serious and has managed to attract people on Facebook with smart jokes and funny polls. Most of the time this approach is applied to the same news stories that are very seriously analysed in the journal.

What other key innovations do you recognise in lead generation?

2017 will witness the continued explosion of video production from almost every major brand. Videos are emerging as the key means for engaging customers. Innovation in this area will be very important: for example the ability to include a call to action directly on the videos.

Another interesting innovation will be applied to messaging. The increasing use of messaging by customers has stimulated marketers to create new ways of engagement. Chatbots are programs, in the shape of contacts added to messaging apps, that exploit machine learning to simulate a human interaction. Brands will increasingly use chatbots in the customer journey.

Do you think publishers/media companies are effective at their own content marketing? How could they improve this?

Interestingly, the publishers/media companies that should enjoy a competitive advantage in creating content marketing, are often lagging behind compared to other sectors.

To close the loop, the key move is to bring the marketing team close to the content department creating common goals and a common ground, through change management, where experimenting with content marketing concepts are a regular activity

Sergio will share more on this topic at DIS 2017 in Berlin. Early bird tickets are available until 1 February. See the list of speakers so far confirmed, here.

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