Rethinking content curation’s ROI

Marketers need to view content curation as a mechanism to generate leads and sales in its own right, not just a tool for creating brand awareness. But to do so, the content curator must strike a fine balance between hard conversion metrics and a structured, dynamic approach to storytelling. That’s because content curation only reaches its full potential when it evolves alongside the audience member – it’s a process, rather than the static collection which marketers sometimes assume it to be.

How can marketers ensure their content curation delivers its full return on investment? First, they need to abide by the commandment of know thy user – not just from a general perspective, but through in-depth analysis that identifies who the target audience is, and what they’re seeking. Rather than just providing a static repository for content, the most effective approaches to curation will engage these audiences by taking them on a journey, using regular updates and a directorial approach to build up stories over time.  And to ensure maximal ROI from their curated content, marketers must ensure it keeps up with the audience, using analytics and user profiles to deliver tailored content which takes into account the growing knowledge and changing interests of potential leads.

Know thy user

Curated content is most engaging when it responds directly to the needs and experiences of its audiences.  That’s something every marketer knows, but we often base our content creation on assumptions about our audiences – rather than actual insights and feedback from the people we’re trying to reach. Gaining an extremely fine level of audience understanding is essential for content curation to work as a lead-generation tool: unless the content demonstrates a real understanding of what the potential lead’s situation is, any recommendations or solutions it offers won’t be taken seriously.

When Lenovo began developing its ThinkFWD content curation program, one of our very first tasks was to analyse the personas of the SMB decision-makers we were targeting. We already knew we were targeting two broad groups – IT Managers on the one hand, Business Owners on the other – but only through a series of detailed surveys and interviews were we able to divine their pain points and expectations with the necessary granular detail.

Marketers also need to take into account their own delineations between existing clients, known prospects, and those who the organisation might not have identified as potential customers yet. By mapping these different stages of the buyer lifecycle to the relevant audience personas, marketers can develop profiles which identify not only where a given target is in terms of purchasing likelihood, but also the responses and solutions which will resonate most with them. Doing so sets up the foundations for high-ROI content curation which goes beyond plain “thought leadership” to actually drive customers to act.

Take them on a journey

It’s easy to forget that content curation is about more than simply aggregating media and information in the one place. The real – and often overlooked – power of content curation is how it can build up a story over time, by establishing a central location which audiences willingly turn to for new ideas and solutions. When used in this way, content curation becomes a powerful storytelling tool – and one which is especially suited to lead generation.

Marketers should use the curation process to map out two separate journeys for their audiences. On one hand, they should be using regular updates to slowly bring prospects closer to conversion; on the other, they need to be developing the audience’s understanding of the subject at hand, building on earlier topics to add more complexity and specific detail to their knowledge over time. And while the former is the source of content curation’s ultimate ROI, it’s the latter which ensures that audience members keep returning to the marketer’s content as a source of trusted expertise.

To do this within the ThinkFWD program, we developed multiple content streams to address what different personas would be interested in learning more about. Each stream corresponds to a storyline about a particular subject area, with different forms of content (such as eDMs and blog posts) being delivered to any user over time once they subscribe to a particular stream. Marketers should structure their content delivery ahead of time to ensure it develops in a logical order that’s always aware of potential sales goals: doing so is an especially effective way to nurture leads since it rewards them with knowledge value the longer they stay on the journey.

Keep up with your audience

Marketers then need to realise that the profile of an audience member is going to change as they progress along this curated journey. And to maintain relevance with these audiences, they need to have enough variety and flexibility of content to adapt it along the way. Within the ThinkFWD online portal, we use a variety of engagement analytics tools to measure and track the efficacy of each piece of content which audiences receive – everything from click-through or download rates to measures of usability and ease-of-access. This in turn informs what content we subsequently focus on for particular streams or stages in the buying funnel.

Content curation’s unique value stems from its twofold nature: as both am educative storytelling tool and a way to track and convert leads, it offers a powerful win-win proposition to both marketers and their targets. By approaching content curation as a process rather than a static creation, and ensuring that high-quality content maps to what audience members actually want to know, marketers can build the most valuable form of brand awareness possible – the sort which builds trust and generates sales at the same time.

 

Sara Palmieri
BY Sara Palmieri ON 15 August 2013
Sara Palmieri has over 12 years’ marketing experience in the IT industry and is currently Senior Marketing Manager for Lenovo A/NZ, the world’s number one PC manufacturer.