By Paul Roetzer published December 11, 2013

Mapping the Next Frontier in Brand Storytelling

beyond storytellingWhat happens when we are all artists, all storytellers, all flooding the ever-expanding array of digital and traditional channels with our brand content and calls to action?

Does content marketing — which promised to level the marketing playing field — regress into the inevitable battle of budgets?

Will success come down to who can hire the best writers, outsource to the top agencies, and buy the most sponsored content to generate the greatest number of impressions? 

Or has marketing technology changed the game, giving organizations of all sizes access to the tools and knowledge needed to compete; using technology, can marketers succeed by outthinking, rather than outspending, their peers?

The reality is that we are still too early in content marketing’s rise and evolution to know. While organizations continue to pour resources into content marketing, there are tremendous gaps in talent, technology, and strategy holding back the industry — and possibly your organization.

According to Accenture’s Turbulence for the CMO report, 39 percent of CMOs say they do not have the right people, tools, and resources to meet their marketing objectives. These gaps present obstacles for many, but tremendous opportunities for the few who seize the chance to differentiate their brands, take a more scientific approach to marketing, and drive business results through content.

The art of brand storytelling

We know consumers crave content.

In what Google calls the Zero Moment of Truth, B2C consumers increasingly tap into the wealth of data and information available to them, researching products in advance of purchasing. Gone are the days when a stimulus leads directly to a sale. On average, Google found that shoppers reference 10.4 sources before making a purchasing decision.

On the B2B side, the Marketing Leadership Council shared in its Digital Evolution in B2B Marketers report that customers progress nearly 60 percent of the way through the purchase decision-making process before engaging a sales rep.

So, as marketers, all we have to do is become publishers, produce great brand storytelling, and give consumers the content they seek. Right?

Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

Connecting content to metrics that matter

Marketers face increasing pressure to measure the ROI of their campaigns and connect every dollar spent to bottom-line results.

In the 2011 IBM Global Chief Marketing Officer Study, 63 percent of respondents cited marketing ROI as the most important metric to measure marketing success, followed by customer experience (58 percent) and conversion rate/new customers (48 percent).

The job of every marketer, from the copywriter to the CMO, is to connect actions to outcomes.

However, according to the 2012 Marketing Skills Gap survey conducted by Focus and the Marketing Automation Institute, 75 percent of marketers say their lack of skills is impacting revenue in some way, and 74 percent say it’s contributing to misalignment between the marketing and sales teams.

So while content marketing gives us the ability to consistently produce meaningful results — website visitors, subscribers, registrations, downloads, leads, sales, retention — marketers often lack the fundamental skills, marketing technology utilization, and integrated strategies to go beyond brand storytelling.

Next-generation marketers must have a clear understanding of how their actions impact organization goals. Closed-loop sales monitoring ensures marketers can tie activities to metrics that matter, easily identify bottlenecks in marketing campaigns and sales processes, and continually improve over time.

Top content marketers develop and activate assets at all phases of the marketing funnel. They build reach and brand at the top of the funnel, generate leads and convert sales in the middle, and retain customers and increase loyalty at the bottom.

When the art and science of content marketing collide

We are entering the era of the marketing technologist. Gartner predicts that by 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO.

In his blog post, 50 Percent of All New Marketing Hires Will be Technical, Scott Brinker, President and CTO of ion interactive, states, “There’s a real scarcity of technical professionals, even more so for those with passion and aptitude for marketing.” He also says, “There will be enormous competition for those unicorns, not just from other marketing departments, but from marketing software vendors, consulting firms, agencies, and a whole new bumper crop of startups — all of whom need this talent in pursuit of their missions.”

And Brinker is not alone in his assessment. In the 2011 New York Times article, Advertising Companies Fret Over a Digital Talent Gap, John Ebbert, Executive Editor and Publisher of AdExchanger.com, says, “The marketers, the publishers, the ad tech companies, the agencies, data management companies — they’re all going for the same type of employee.”

The marketing industry needs skilled brand storytelling, but content creation and distribution are not enough. The marketers who will redefine the industry in the coming years take a technical, scientific approach — and we’ll all be fighting to hire them.

They devise content calendar strategies to match historical and predictive search patterns.

They use contextual content on their websites to adapt copy and calls to action at an individual visitor level.

They develop interactive tools and algorithms to customize the consumer experience in real time.

They analyze data to turn information into intelligence, and intelligence into action.

They personalize emails to speak to specific needs, pain points, and behavioral triggers.

They use marketing-automation tools, fully integrated with sales and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, to deliver maximum value at every consumer touch point.

They design strategies around content consumption patterns in a multi-screen world.

They push the limits of what is possible with today’s project and content management systems to connect content efforts to outcomes.

And they never stop seeking better talent, enhanced technology, and more intelligent and integrated content strategies.

Content marketing is now, as it has always been, an art form. But, the next generation of content marketers understands it can be so much more. These innovators are moving beyond brand storytelling, and rewriting what is possible when the art and science of content marketing collide.

Score your content marketing team

Consider your content marketing team and ask yourself whether it has the capabilities to:

  • Devise content calendar strategies to match historical and predictive search patterns
  • Use contextual content on websites to adapt copy and calls to action at an individual visitor level
  • Develop interactive tools and algorithms to customize the consumer experience in real time
  • Analyze data to turn information into intelligence, and intelligence into action
  • Personalize emails to speak to specific needs, pain points, and behavioral triggers
  • Use marketing automation tools, fully integrated with sales and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, to deliver maximum value at every consumer touch point
  • Design strategies around content consumption patterns in a multi-screen world

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of “Chief Content Officer.” Sign up to receive your free subscription to our quarterly magazine.

Author: Paul Roetzer

Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer) is founder and CEO of PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency; author of The Marketing Performance Blueprint (Wiley, 2014) and The Marketing Agency Blueprint (Wiley, 2012); and creator of Marketing Score, a free marketing assessment app. Roetzer frequently speaks on the topics of agency management, content marketing, inbound marketing, marketing measurement and performance, public relations, social media, and strategy.

Other posts by Paul Roetzer

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  • http://bulanetwork.com/ Randy Cantrell

    The popular thesis is to accept the Jim Collins’ metaphor of putting the right people on the bus. However, we’ve not yet built the “brand storytelling” bus (even if you accept the Collins’ metaphor). I’m not one to hide behind the excuse of “we need better people.” I’d prefer to focus on constructing better systems and processes so we can give more people a fighting chance to succeed. I agree with you…the technology and the craft (as its associated with technology) is still very new. This flux is likely to continue, but increasingly, more people are going to be figuring it out.

  • Gary Survis

    Where can you sign up for the webinar?

  • Diana Swan

    Great article thank you so much, what a wonderfully bright future when artists and scientists work together to produce explosive results..

  • Terry palmer

    How about the originators of content. That writer who also doesn’t have complete understanding of design metrics, of content marketing, of closing the sale with dynamic style and delivery? I also predict that the new writer of tomorrow will be aware of these changes, will be able to offer a script that will be multi-media sensitive so that the sales and marketing teams will have more to work with. Just like color TV overcame black and white, use of color, light, and symphony will overcome plain black and white writing… We’ll see… what do you think?

  • Sean Lynch

    Great article! One of the skills that great marketers have is the ability to change the culture within an organization to create a content sharing environment. Marketers will always force distribution through paid channels and corporate handles but the fact remains that many people will not follow brands, but rather people connected to brands. In an age where 92% of consumers trust recommendations from personal connections over any other form of advertising, it is the culture within an organization that can have the largest effect. Even though the paid forms of distribution will always play a role, I predict that in 2014, the truly successful brands will be the best at engaging their own people to truly harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing. That is why we created PostBeyond.
    Thoughts?

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    The success of your content marketing will depend on your team. it’s very important to know that they are capable of doing things that will reach your goals.