I attended a webinar this morning, What Marketers Need To Know To Achieve Content Marketing Success, with Robert Rose and Steve Walker. It was a good session focused on the technology needed to empower content marketing. You should go listen to it.
At the end of the session, this question was asked:
If I'm mostly focused on content writing, why do I need to know about technology?
If I'd been sipping my coffee at that moment, I've no doubt that it would have hit my screen.
Robert answered the question with the notion of awareness. He used a car analogy; Although he doesn't know enough about cars to change the oil in his own vehicle, he does understand the landscape and the difference between a VW and a BMW.
I agree that a general awareness of the technology landscape is definitely something all marketers should have, but I'd push it a bit farther than this.
Marketers need to understand how specific technology works, its purpose and ultimate objective. Why is it in use? How does it fit into the overall marketing plan? What will the marketing team achieve by using it? And, if applicable, what should content used in the technology accomplish? What are the options?
An easy example - email vs. PPC. Arguably both need content, but the content that's effective will be different. The parameters are different. The expectation of the people who experience it will be different. The functionality for each works differently. Best outcomes will be achieved differently.
Related to the above points, how content renders in different technology platforms varies based on channel. Easy example is mobile vs. PC based on screen size.
It's always important to realize that the way content looks in a Word doc is not the way it will look on a website or blog - or anywhere else for that matter. It won't look the same based on production format, either. How does the text wrap? Are there orphaned words? Is the main point lost in a paragraph that runs too long given less width on the web page template than in the Word doc? Is the scrolling required to read the piece too much for the attention span you're able to capture from an audience?
The points above all roll up into the experience for your audience. What I find interesting is that when I ask marketers how many of them have experienced their content marketing just as their audience will, most haven't. They've only seen the word docs or the preview before publish or the after-the-fact metrics. This is crazy.
Given that most marketing today is digitally executed, marketers need to be present from the outside, as well as the inside. I can't figure out how they hope to improve engagement if they don't have the same experience as their target audiences. How would you know what to change or if you should change anything?
Easy example here is your Twitter profile. How many of us use an app to manage our Twitter streams? Probably most of us. When's the last time you looked at your timeline? Is it interesting? Or is it a repetitious list of title + link posts to your own stuff repeated over and over every few hours?
On your blog, do you hyperlink to product pages every chance you get? When you're constructing the post in a Word doc, it may feel appropriate, but when you review the last five blog posts and see the same links trying to push product information on your audience, your perspective may change.
Analytics that Lead to Insights
While analytics applications don't present content, they report on its use. If you don't understand what to look for or how to interpret the success or failure of your content, how will you continue to improve? How will you know that what you're writing is doing its job?
Extracting numbers is one thing. Interpreting them is quite another. Marketers need to know how to do both. And I'm not just talking about clicks and views. What can you learn about your prospects and customers? What interests is their behavior validating? How is this interest helping them make progress toward sales conversations? What copy is Sales using to further the conversation? What combination of the content you created is most successfully contributing to customer acquisition and revenue growth?
Technology is the Backbone
Steve made the point that CRM, the website, or web content management platforms, marketing automation and eCommerce platforms make up the core for marketing technology. This graphic of nearly 1,000 marketing technologies produced by Scott Brinker was used by both Robert and Steve. It's enough to make your eyes roll back.
But the point is that if you don't have a working understanding of the technology, what it's meant to accomplish and how your audience experiences what you put into it, then using the tools to build engagement that results in profitable customer relationships is going to be a tough road to travel.
I'd also argue that you need to understand the integration of point solutions into the core stack. What they enable, why you're using them and what they contribute to the overall customer and prospect experience.
And lets not put all the strain on marketers about understanding the technololgy. Let's also place it on the IT team. It's just as important that they understand what you're trying to accomplish in order to get the technology working well in support of those goals.
As a final point in this post - as channel evolution pushes marketers closer to real-time execution, I'd argue that they're going to need to be able to evolve understanding their technology into using at least some of it competently. Have you thought about what will change when waiting in the queue is no longer good enough?
Better get started now...