Sylvia Jensen is director of EMEA marketing at Oracle Marketing Cloud, who will be speaking at at our Festival of Marketing event this Thursday. 

I’ve been asking Sylvia about her forthcoming presentation, and her views on automation in content marketing

Can you tell us a little about your presentation at the Festival of Marketing?

Every marketer’s goal is to have the right message at the right time for the right person – and when you take into account all the different topics your organisation could talk about, and all the different personas you are talking to and the fact that they are all at different stages of the buying cycle – this equates to a lot of content.

My presentation explores the effectiveness of high, medium and low effort content and how to incorporate all of these in your content marketing strategy.

What’s your take on quality vs quantity in content marketing? How much does volume matter?

‘Quality’ is a really subjective term. What every company should want to do is provide highly relevant content to their customers. 

What’s relevant really depends on who the customer is, where they tend to get their information (the buyer ‘persona’) and where they are in the buying cycle. 

There are a number of different ways to measure the relevance of your content, including the number of downloads or web page views, tracking how many people are willing to give information such as their email address, name, job title and company name via an online form, as well as keeping tabs on how widely content is shared on social media. 

These indicators all help you get a feel for what content is working or not.

I’d say quality (relevance) is much more important than volume of content, but they aren’t mutually exclusive terms. Volume of content is normally regarded as expensive because companies still think that expensive ‘thought leadership’ or ‘amazing’ content will go viral and bring in lots of leads.  

Having a content management platform means that you can actually curate content from internal sources that is highly relevant for your buyers at different stages of the buying cycle so high volume doesn’t need to mean expensive.

At the end of the day, highly relevant content, even at low volumes, is what drives brand awareness, conversation and ultimately, loyalty.

Do you view content marketing for clients in terms of shorter term campaigns or more of a long term change in strategy? 

The answer is “yes” to both. It depends on the piece of content. We create meaty pieces of content around best practices that are full of research stats and real-life examples.

These longer publications are meant to be searchable and downloadable via the website months past an outbound campaign promoting them. On the other hand, there are prime opportunities for pithy, pointed content to be created for specific short-term themes such as the holidays or some popular concern or topic.

Those pieces can drive many engagements in just a few weeks.

Where do you look for inspiration when creating content?

Anywhere and everywhere. We have the unique advantage of being a part of the target we market to, so we can conduct ad hoc, informal polls among our fellow workers for what their greatest changing challenges are.

We also scan multiple blogs and industry discussion outlets for inspiration. We follow many thought leaders on social sites and visit with them regularly. And, finally, our customers provide amazing suggestions and hints as to what topics would resonate the most with them. 

How do you make the most of / recycle existing content?

First, we school ourselves not to assume everyone is at the same level of understanding about Modern Marketing as we feel we are. There are always new faces in the arena eager to learn from scratch. So, “old” content is always “new” to someone.

The trick is to review content from time to time to ensure that research and assumptions presented are still up-to-date. You should try not to have research that is older than two years in any of your papers.  

We also make sure that we use the content we create across all our marketing channels, in the right format of course.  

For instance, we might use stats from a survey in an infographic at the top of our funnel, then use the same stats in a deeper ebook and also in a press release. Reuse the content as much as possible but think about the format for the channel.

Where does automation fit into content marketing? Are there risks?

Automation allows you to automatically serve up content that is of the most relevance to a reader, based on their past actions and online behaviour (we call it “digital body language”).

Automation lets you have a tremendous range of offerings that would be nearly impossible to manually manage. Specific content for specific buyers at the right time in their buying journey can be served up dynamically if the content is tagged with data parameters like persona or stage of the buying cycle.

This does take some thought and planning while curating the content on an ongoing basis.  

Should budget be prioritised for content generation or distribution. What’s the best way to split this?

Content creation doesn’t have to be expensive. For example as well as enabling store managers to create content – something they can do during working hours so there is no additional cost – you can also tap into your customer services.

From these teams you can gather together the information they are giving to customers every day in the form of typical questions they receive and answers they give to feed a blog or email campaigns. 

You really need a mix of high effort content, which might require professional writers and graphic design, and user-generated content that doesn’t require as many resources but is specific and highly relevant.

The channels you use also don’t have to be expensive. Rather than paid advertising alone you should use a mix of social media and email as well as search engine optimisation to ensure your content is found across many channels. 

I don’t think there is a magic number on what the split should be between creation and distribution. It’s more complex than that and it really depends on where you are starting.  Take inventory of what you have now in terms of content and distribution.  

Plan where you want to be and prioritise for the short and medium term.  If you have no content then you’ll need to spend a bit more in the beginning if but if you have no social media channels then you may need to hire someone to manage that, or maybe you are finding your paid advertising isn’t working very well and you need to get your content house in order. It really depends.

There has been an inevitable backlash against content marketing. What’s your take on this?

This is a “be careful what you wish for” question. We have been promoting the power of content marketing so much now everyone feels a desperate need to do it.

The issue is the quantity and quality. There is so much low-value “junk” out there, readers are more and more hesitant to provide information to download. But, this can be viewed as an opportunity.

We must ensure that any piece of content produced has clear and present value from the start. It can’t simply be a regurgitation of wishy-washy stats everyone else has cited. We must also stop mass-promoting content. Personalisation that goes beyond the salutation and into the actual stats and suggestions is where the most successful content is headed.

What are the most effective ways to measure content?

Quick answer:  associate it with an inbound and/or outbound campaign and measure form submissions. You can only associate “engagements” with content.

No one closes a deal based on an ebook (if they have, give me their name, I’d like to hire them). Less tangible is social monitoring around the content.Did it create a buzz? How often was it shared?  

It’s often useful to benchmark your new content against what you’ve been doing for a while to see if the needle is moving in the right direction. Did you get more downloads than your last X pieces of content? Did they stay on a microsite longer than average? 

What are some of your favourite pieces of B2B content marketing? 

One of my favourite approaches is when large pieces of content are broken down into chapters or a series. I don’t have a lot of time and being able to dive into a topic one and a time is appealing to me.  

As for topics, I love content around the latest and greatest marketing practices. Sometimes it means learning about a new technology and sometimes it’s a best practice of a type of marketing activity you’ve been doing forever but now there is a new way to do it.  

You never stop learning in marketing so anything any company sends around is very welcome! 

See here for more on our Festival of Marketing event, which begins tomorrow. It’s a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring the speakers described here and more from brands including LEGO, Tesco, and FT.com.