Marketing departments now spend more on technology than on advertising. This idea would be shocking just ten years ago, but, today, it’s our new reality with 33% of marketing budgets spent on critical technology tools.
Forrester has declared that marketing is operating in “the Age of the Customer” where the customer is now in charge of the purchase process. Digital has empowered the customer, and as marketers, we must invest in and leverage technology to provide the right content to the right customer at the right time. If we do so, we will improve the buying experience, improve conversion, and accelerate revenue. If we fail to do so, however, we will fall behind our digital competition and suffer revenue contraction.
So much of the abundant technology investment marketing has made over the last decade has sought to achieve the delivery of that right content to the right customer at the right time. Technology enables marketers to understand so much more about each individual buyer and thus target appropriate content to a specific buyer and where they are on their journey.
Thus rather than provide a generic message to all customers, marketers have mapped out customer journeys designed for a targeted approach. A typical map for personas and buying stages would look something like this:
Such maps are not only limited to buying stages and personas but can also include many market dimensions, including segment, geography, product/division, channel, etc. Generically any cell in such matrixes or maps is considered a “context” within which to “deliver the right content for the right context.”
Starting with the rise of intelligent email ten years ago, marketers have invested billions of dollars at an accelerating pace in technology to enable delivery of the right content for the right context. Wave after wave of technology investment has given marketers greater and greater delivery capabilities.
B2B Marketing Technology Waves
Wave 1: Intelligent Email, 2007
Beyond the baseline of digital channels, companies started to spring up with the idea of intelligent emails. Instead of sending out what amounted to cold-call emails, with the help of software like Eloqua and Marketo, marketers could send emails based on specific known attributes (persona, region, job title, etc.) of the buyer. Emails could then contain the specific content that would resonate with the main pain points or interests of that target persona. This shift allowed more targeted messaging about a solution or service, all sent automatically based on web activity and behaviors.
So marketing got a little bit smarter and you could target your audience a little bit more.
Wave 2: Intelligent Digital Channels, 2010
Next, there was a push to bring informed automation to all channels, not just email. Intelligent email vendors became sources of robust customer data. Accordingly, they evolved their platforms so that other systems and channels could leverage that data to provide further targeted delivery. From advertising to videos, and when social came around, to Facebook, Twitter, etc. marketers could use data to reach their customers where they lived and breathed in the web.
Wave 3: Intelligent Sales Distribution, 2012
At this point, technology allowed marketers to team up with sales in sales account management (SAM). Vendors like Seismic and Savo brought a wave of sales enablement solutions with the goal of serving curated and organized content directly to sales teams, empowering them with effective, accessible resources, so they could deliver the right content to the right customer at the right time.
Wave 4: Predictive Technology, 2014
Then, marketers began to work with technology that was capable of analyzing data patterns using past and current behavior to help predict future behavior. Predictive analytics became tools for determining what customers would want to see, and thus, move them further down the funnel. Perfect for delivering the right content at the right time, right?
Huge amounts of investment poured into this kind of technology to produce massive amounts of data. With predictive lead scoring from companies like 6sense and Infer, marketing systems became even more granular and targeted about the customers they were going after.
Wave 5: Account Based Marketing, 2016
Companies like Engagio and Demandbase made the process even more granular with technology and analytics to identify key buying behaviors within a specific list of targeted accounts. When organizations approach marketing from this account based marketing (ABM) perspective, they start from the most targeted, most focused set of contexts to, again, deliver the right content to exactly the right customer at the right time.
So, we see a systematic progression over the last ten years or so of investing in and improving the “right customer at the right time” portion of Right3. Contexts continually become more focused and detailed as information pours in from dozens of channels and tools creating a powerful ability to minutely target the customer to entice them down the funnel.
Sadly, all the investment and potential of perfectly targeted delivery is wasted if you’re not addressing the first part of Right3: the right content.
The challenge is that these tools are run by small teams with a few people per tool, which, when you implement it, shows very little lift in your conversion metrics. There’s a clear ROI, but not a lot of shift. You might implement a new video hosting platform and instantly see a lift in your video conversion rate, but it is limited to the conversion rates of just your video marketing content. For a marketing funnel to be effective, teams, tools, and technology all must be both integrated and congruent. Siloed technologies are not only inefficient, they are also ineffective at driving what marketing ultimately should be measured on—revenue.
When you have siloed teams running each of these tools without the quality content to fuel the tools, then the value of the tech plateaus.
The advent of an empowered customer in our digital world makes it imperative that marketers step up to address bringing production into balance with the prevalence of technology. Any additional spending in delivery is squandered unless production is strengthened.
And thus rather than continuing to invest billions in content delivery technology, marketing must develop its content production capability. Only in this way can the potential of its massive marketing technology investments be realized and the ambition of “the right content for the right context” finally be achieved.
The investment pendulum must swing back to content production.
And unlike the delivery side of the house, marketing’s content production capability remains largely chaotic and ineffective.
Why Is It So Hard to Invest in Content Production?
The biggest barrier to investing in content production isn’t dollars—it’s a lack of what investment in content production truly means, which isn’t just more content. Instead, marketers must create integrated content operations to transform their chaotic process to a streamlined strategy.
But the problem is two-fold: when organizations decide to make an investment in improving content production, they face the typical challenges of change management.
Think of all of the people involved in both the production of various content assets as well as the implementation of any new technology. Sometimes there are hundreds or more marketers involved in each process. Any amount of change requires an enormous effort and buy-in from all parties to challenge their status quo, even if it is an inefficient and painful status quo. Analysts and consultants have focused their efforts on managing this change in organizations large and small for decades; the conclusion: change requires commitment.
Regardless, the benefits of an organized content operation far outweigh the short-term challenges of change management. In fact, a content operation can help mitigate this pain; it can make the process of improving the means of content production seamless and straightforward. And you will certainly enjoy the cathartic process of seeing your chaotic process transform into high-performing content.
We begin to see this change when companies like SiriusDecisions and Kapost make it clear to marketers that what’s really needed is more attention on the production side of Right3. So, we see more and more organizations step up and work to improve how they produce the right content, then deliver it to the right customer at the right time.
And by investing in content production, all the previous investment in the delivery side will actually see results.
Thus, the original goal that we’ve all set out to accomplish—the right content for the right customer at the right time—will finally be realized for all of us.