Within Product Plans, Content Marketing Often Overlooked

calendarI have been a long-time user of the Integrated Marketing Plan and the resulting Integrated Marketing Calendar.  I came across this blog post written by Jacob Warwick in May, 2015, on Percolate.com.  I am sharing this post on Content Marketing and am thinking in terms of how content marketing planning and expertise is often overlooked by product managers and new product development professionals (NPDP certified).

Even the Product Development and Management Association’s (PDMA) NPDP certification doesn’t focus much on the importance of using content marketing as a way to engage with users to gather insights that can be translated into new or improved product development and the total product experience.

While the post is promoting Percolate’s SaaS solution (and there are many others to check out), the overall value proposition of content marketing, as a critical function, role, and vehicle in today’s marketing plans is made, and wise product marking managers will work to improve their understanding and expertise of this often overlooked part of the product experience.

product managers“wise product marking managers will work to improve their understanding and expertise of Content marketing, this often overlooked part of the product experience.”

HOW TO BUILD A CONTENT MARKETING EDITORIAL CALENDAR

https://blog.percolate.com/2015/05/how-to-build-an-editorial-calendar/

 Jacob Warwick – May 27th, 2015

We’ve all seen spreadsheets and templates of content calendars. These calendars tend to focus solely on creation due date and the day a story is published onto the brand’s blog, microsite or elsewhere. What’s often missing is how each piece of content should be produced and distributed, how each individual content piece connects to marketing’s broader branding objectives, which channels are most optimal for the specific content, any supporting media plan, and the best publishing cadence moving forward.

Without these elements, the typical content calendar tends to focus on filling gaps rather than the bigger picture, creating effective, consistent content at scale to drive customer actions. To build a more effective content calendar, make sure you address the brand, creation and distribution aspects of your marketing, all powerful capabilities we’ve built into our own integrated marketing calendar.

UNDERSTAND YOUR DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS

Distributing content and campaign creative can appear to be pretty straight forward at first—but when we take a deeper look at the tactics behind effective content distribution, the process starts to look much more complicated. Each of your distribution channels are home to unique features, evolving audience expectations, design format considerations, and other factors that can affect the cadence and strategy behind your content. Media planning and paid amplification adds an additional layer of complexity and collaboration, often with an external agency partner or team that’s separate from the content creation process.

With so many variables to keep in mind, it can be difficult to structure the best content scheduling process for your business. By analyzing how your audience interacts with your content on each channel and adapting your editorial calendar accordingly, you can build stronger messaging that aligns with your marketing and business goals.

Start by evaluating your current content on each of your distribution channels and take note of any data that indicates an important trend or insight into your content’s performance. Look for content and creative variations that drive the most interactions, conversions, or ranked highest on other guiding marketing metrics. Then work to identify common, recurring factors that might have led to the outperformance.

For example, Entrepreneur recently published a tweet that received over 150 retweets, well above their average tweet performance range of 70-80 retweets. The challenge for many marketers is understanding why certain content like this performs so much better.

Was it just a coincidence? Was it because the content was published on Saturday at 11:10am? Did Entrepreneur run it as a targeted Twitter Ads campaign? Or perhaps because it includes an inspirational quote, includes an image, a link, or a combination of all three? Was it because another Entrepreneur Twitter account retweeted the tweet? These are the types of questions you need to ask about your content, and should actively look to develop your own hypotheses around.

CREATE AN INTEGRATED TOPICS SYSTEM

Every good editorial system is built on an organized, thoughtful foundation of categories and topics. Newspapers (or the more modern digital publising organization or e-zine) divide their editorial across sections like Business, Sports and Entertainment, and brand publishers should approach their work in a similar way. At the brand level, what are the values, ideas and topics marketing should be talking about? Establish and formally document these topics, then use them as anchors to segment your content development.

For example, MasterCard organizes its brand publishing across 5 core topics:

  1. innovation and the future of payments,
  2. financial inclusion,
  3. safety and security,
  4. travel, and
  5. small business.

By committing to make Global Engagement Bureau a thought leadership engine across these five topics, MasterCard’s leadership ensured that its editorial focus was transparent and consistent across the organization, and relevant to its audience.

Once you’ve established and encoded high-level brand topics, you can start to develop and track sub-topics, which can act as links to specific products, seasons, campaign themes, SEO keywords, geographic markets, or creative approaches. Ultimately, the right topics system will be specific to your organizational structure, needs and marketing objectives, but it’s critically important to make sure your content calendar has a clear organization system that maps back to your brand and goals. Additionally, if your marketing planning relies on multiple calendars for different regions and/or agency relationships, standardize and centralize your calendar system into as few files, editorial rules and systems as possible.

ADAPT YOUR APPROACH BASED ON CLOSED-LOOP TESTING

To better understand how different factors and variables can affect your content’s performance, you should vary the days, topics and types of content you publish within your editorial calendar, then carefully track the results of your testing across channels. As you begin to gather and evaluate this data, you’ll be in a position to better identify how each content type, distribution channel, and communications or media strategy affects the performance of your campaigns.

Adjust your content and find formats that work well for your target audience, start to incorporate these notes into your content distribution guidelines within your editorial calendar.

Your editorial calendar should give you a view of both content creation and distribution aspects:

creative view in planner

By having this data documented in your editorial calendar, you can better maximize the efficiency and performance of your content. Evaluate each of your distribution channels until you have an editorial calendar that clearly details the type of content that should be created, the time your content should be published, the distribution networks where audience demographics are most relevant to your creative, and any paid amplification, targeting audiences or press syndication that will extend its reach.

In addition, plan to adapt your strategies as your company grows and learns from past content performance. Marketing trends and distribution networks are constantly evolving, particularly ones that are transitioning from web to mobile-first consumer usage. You should schedule time to analyze and review campaign performance at least once per month to account for these changes, as well as plan ahead for innovation with your next activations.

This type of organized, portfolio approach will help you continue to optimize your content creation and distribution tactics, as well as help your broader integrated marketing efforts stay ahead of industry trends. Although each brand and agency will have slightly different editorial calendar needs, by planning for both content creation and distribution in one central place, your team(s) can make more informed, collaborative decisions that achieve your objectives.

To summarize:

  1. Analyze how your content performs on each of your distribution channels; think about how comms and/or media strategies, content types, channel-specific audience demographics, and other unique characteristics affect your content’s performance.
  2. Design an informed editorial calendar by around a system of brand topics and sub-topics.
  3. Measure and reference your content’s performance data to optimize production or distribution steps and tactics. Remember that distribution channels will change over time, and your editorial calendar should proactively plan for these changes, not react to them.

Together, thoughtful use of these strategies and tactics will help you successfully define, develop, and deploy a marketing editorial system that effectively represents the brand, encourages creativity, scales across teams and geographies, and achieves your marketing objectives.

Picture credits: Green Life Designs, LinkedIn, Percolate

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Are You Using Channel Marketing For Greater Sales Results?

This is timely Greg,
I was just in a discussion about Channel Marketing yesterday. From my product marketing perspective, and at a very high level, I explain product marketing as ‘where we play and how we win with our consumers’ and channel marketing as ‘where we play and how we win with our customers.’ Thanks for putting some meat around the topic.

Channel Instincts - A Marketing Blog By Greg Bonsib

Be CuriousChannel marketing is one of the least understood roles in marketing.

Channel marketers walk a fine line between sales and marketing. But that also allows channel marketers to have a unique perspective in the organization by:

  • Intimately understanding the distribution channel and knowing the needs and priorities of their customers – and their customers’ customers.
  • Being able to build a compelling story as to why their new products and programs will help build their customer’s sales and profits

What are channel marketing’s key roles and activities with Sales?

Channel Marketing Drives Sales SuccessChannel marketing goes by many other names: customer marketing, trade marketing even sales support or admin are other names for the same role. Regardless of what it’s called, the goals for channel marketing are designed to minimize the conflicts with sales.

  • Making the flow of information work for sales, not against them
  • Removing repetitive information requests
  • Building a faster process between questions…

View original post 359 more words

How to make your CEO a believer in NPD and Innovation!

whizard-1My friend Mark Mitchell, of Whizard Strategy recently wrote a blog post on

‘How to make your CEO a fan of marketing’

and shed light on the number of CEO’s who mistrust their CMOs.  He quoted John Wanamaker who famously said, “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.”  … and added “this pretty much sums up how CEO’s and CFO’s think about marketing”.  

Mark Mitchell called out an article on that supports how 70% of CEO’s don’t trust their Chief Marketing Officers.  Read the article Mark cites at Marketing Week Article.

maureen-carlson

This reminded me of another article I recently read on new product development and innovation, based on a recently released benchmark survey, that points to some significant improvements needed in the area of NPD and innovation processes for the majority of companies.   The executive management in charge of these companies must feel exactly the same about the quality and maturity of their new product development and innovation people, process, tools and investment.


Read this article by 
 at InnovationManagement.se for yourself and register for the full report.

Findings from the Fourth Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Survey

NPD and innovation managers, who are we kidding?  We have to get faster, more efficient and have more strategic impact to gain the needed resources.

office-fightMy own recent blog discussed the portfolio team feeling like a fight club.  Everyone is fighting for resources.  The CEO or executive one level up has to become the referee and has to choose how to best invest the company’s money to achieve the portfolio growth goals.  Teams want more resources, people, time, tools, capital and expenses.   Yet we deal in a economy where there are constraints on most or all of these.  As Mark states:

The IT person wants new software that he is sure will improve the bottom line.  The operations people want to invest in the plants to improve efficiency.  Sales management wants to add more salesmen.  HR wants to invest in training.  And then there is marketing…

I am an NPDP certified new product development professional so I have one more to add…

…and then there is new product development and innovation.  These NPD requests for resources go deep and are cross organizational.  Whose budget is it anyway?  Many departments make convincing cases for their departmental needs however when it is cross organizational and a strategic initiative, the stakes, risks and rewards are higher and more complex.  How do decisions get made?  Your CEO needs your help here.

Here’s how to make your CEO a believer in spending on people, processes and tools for new product development and innovation.

1.   Stop using meaningless terms, like innovation!  This seems contradictory.  The reason to stop using the term innovation is that it is an overused buzzword, means something different to everyone in the room, creates debate and discourse and has little discrete value without a lot more information that is rarely provided at the time the term is being tossed about the room.  Stay crystallized in your message to the CEO.  Talk about business results and how to get there.  Innovation is not the end game.  Innovation happens by the use of a group of sub-processes that produce business results.

The benchmark study, that Ms. Carlson cites, reports that a major pain point to these processes is speed (56%).  Other to pain points include resource allocation to the wrong products through missing VOC data or not cutting low impact projects in favor of supporting those with higher impact (52%), and product portfolios that are not aligned well enough with company strategies and objectives resulting in ineffective decision-making (53%).

2. Get rid of the silos and align around product line strategies.  Create a cross organizational team to define product line strategies.  Listen to all the functional roles involved, internal and external to confirm strategic thinking.   Ask customers and consumers what their biggest challenges are.  Be specific.  Get your organization outside of the building to see the problems customer and consumers face directly, including the CEO.  Learn what the competition is doing.

3.  risk fail roadmapCreate product line roadmaps.  Once you have this knowledge embedded in the team, you are in a position to create product line road maps that provide targets for your product development.   You have a way to show the CEO where you are going, why, and how it will achieve the business strategy and growth plans.  You can demonstrate the problem and the solution.  

4.  Involve the executive management in the process. When you involve the CEO and executive management in the process at the right place and time you will find yourself doing more than asking for more money.  You become an advisor and informed expert who can recommend the optimal path to achieve the strategic goal.

5. Make everything measurable and simple.  The benchmark study indicated the lack of hard data provided to CEOs to make smart strategic decisions.   Ms. Carlson reported on data:

…more than 80% of companies are supporting decision making with poor and/or hard to access data. This makes it difficult for leaders to make the tough decisions, such as what new initiatives to fund and which ones to kill.

Mr Mitchell stated that smart CEOs know that the data is poor and expect some bullshit when functions try to gain resources for their projects.  Gone are the days..

“We have to do it” or “We’ve always done it.”  Everything should have a measurable outcome.

6. Don’t underestimate cultural inertia and short term focus.  Ms. Carlson reports..

More than 70% reported that their leadership is averse to risk and equates killing products with failure. In fact, overall risk aversion is growing steadily. Too few are rewarded for taking calculated risks, which is the bedrock of innovation.

Convert your CEO to be a believer in product development not a referee of squabbling siblings. Take some of these steps today and behave your way into a leadership position by  improving your organization’s cross organizational performance instead of an attitude of fighting for an undeserved entitlement from a suspicious parent.

For more on the subject of product line strategies and roadmaps, see http://www.adept-plm.com.