Personalizing Content Strategy: A Q&A with Our Meetup Speakers

The speakers presenting at iAcquire’s “Human After All” Meetup give their insights into their respective areas of expertise: time management through automation, content strategy, and effective communication.

What sets great marketers apart from average marketers? The ability to define and target key audience personas. We interviewed the speaking panel of tomorrow’s NYC-based “Human After All: An iAcquire Meetup” so you can get the scoop on tomorrow’s chat (and if you can’t attend, gain access to the best tidbits on audience analysis). Remember: no tools are stronger than those which allow marketers to personalize content and to understand the people behind the brands they represent.

The complexity of data-driven content strategy can bring brands get closer to their audiences. Tomorrow’s speakers will explore methods and technologies to connect your business with the right people. Read on to gain insight from David Minchala, Fajr Muhammad, Devin Asaro, and Brittan Bright.

David Minchala, Senior SEO Manager at Yodle:

Minchala Grey ScaleHow do you automate complex processes yet maintain a human touch?

First, I think it’s important to acknowledge what our industry is most known (and reviled) for: automating *tactics*. An automated tactic is designed to produce human-facing work that has been templated and presumed to be effective more often than not in the absence of human intervention. Some examples are automated follow bots, scraping then blasting blogger emails for outreach, automated link submissions – the list goes on. A business aspiring to be a brand can’t afford to rely on this kind of clumsy and potentially high-risk automation; it doesn’t lend itself to supporting a long-term vision. It certainly doesn’t help build a worthwhile brand – just ask anyone who’s been called a spammer after identifying themselves as an SEO.

For me, automation is one of the best ways to take as much mundane, brainless work as possible out of your team’s day-to-day so it can be filled instead with taking on brainy, challenging work. A team that has mostly interesting and difficult problems to solve all day will spend more time innovating and differentiating than a stable of email drones or scraper-bot herders. The output of automation in this context is never meant to produce “finished” work. Rather, a good automated process is designed to create an ecosystem that supports consistent delivery of fantastic end-user experiences while enabling the humans who maintain it to keep improving that process in order to delight more end-users. This type of mechanism works better for brands and lends itself well to supporting, say, a content creation process.

So let’s get specific about the “how” with an example:

I have an eCommerce site selling products that are sold in lots of other places. I already determined I can differentiate on my category and product pages – my competitors are cookie cutting these pieces and i think i can help customers make better buying choices and add lots of value by being creative and thoughtful here. Thing is, I sell a wide range (thousands) of products with different types of consumers and I’m not sure what they all would find useful or what would make them visit often.

  1. Where do I want to spend the most brainpower?  – Strategizing, creating the assets (wireframes, images, copy, etc), coding
  2. Where could I wind up spending more brainpower than I’d like? – Data collection, data analysis, project management (including managing internal communication & collaboration)

The first problem to solve is making all the time-sucks in #2 standard, reliable processes with as much automation built in to:

  • Collect data you know matters and is going to be useful
  • Traffic information to the right people based on predictable triggers
  • Organize information in a way that makes it more useful, faster to all collaborators/stakeholders

If I’m successful in standardizing and automating as much of #2 as possible, it winds up supporting, not taking away from, what needs to happen in #1 in terms of value and time.

Devin Asaro, SEO Content Strategist at iAcquire:

devin-asaroHow do you aim to create content that both entertains your readers and accomplishes business objectives?

I would be wary of the verb “entertain,” especially when thinking about universal goals for content. Not all content should be entertaining, nor should it always be a business goal to entertain your user. To engage and satisfy the user is a wiser universal objective. While this is often accomplished by entertaining your user, it is just as often accomplished by simply getting out of the way. For instance, I use Dashlocker.com for all of my laundry services, and I love how little time I have to spend on their site. ‘Time spent on page’ isn’t always a very good measure of success.

When it makes sense to entertain our users — for instance, in branding initiatives or in those campaigns that rely heavily on shareable content, entertainment should drive action. The principle that you should “leave them wanting more” applies as much to web content as it does to show business. And the “more” you leave your user wanting should lie on the other side of a click.

I do not like to create content that is meant to be passively enjoyed. That works for content which is supported by an advertising model. I like content that allows the user to entertain themselves.

What are some ways that you can target multiple personas with one piece of content?

You can utilize a social login that collects your users’ basic demographic information, or just a standard login that defines a particular user type, both of which you could map to specific persona types that are shown a particular version of a page. This is especially effective when you have a piece of content — say, a calendar for a tutoring center — with three separate event signup functions for volunteers, students, and parents that display a different set of relevant information to each user. This is easier to manage than three separate calendars.

You can also place a number of different content types on a single page. You see news sites doing this all the time, presenting video content along with a written version of a particular news story. You can also tailor your various headers to appeal to different user types, as most users will scan the page before they decide if they want to read your content.

Fajr Muhammad, Senior SEO Content Analyst at Razorfish:

fajr-muhammadHow do you aim to create content that both entertains your readers and accomplishes business objectives?

Creating content that meets business objectives and is equally entertaining to readers are the two sides to the content coin. I believe it starts at the research phase by aligning business goals with what readers are looking for. If you set the foundation that what is important to your customers/readers is important to the business than the two easily align. By performing extensive keyword research, social mining and trend data we can see what readers are interested in (as it pertains to the business) and create content that ties directly to these interests and informs readers but also gets them to take a desired action. It’s also key to know what that action is so that it can be structured into how the content is formatted, tone of voice and call to actions.

What are some ways that you can target multiple personas with one piece of content?

I think personalization is key. Establish a brand voice by creating a style guide and use that voice throughout all content/copy online and offline. Appoint an internal brand ambassador (face/voice) that customers/readers can personally relate to. If you’re a baby food company those ambassadors may be actual moms who use your product to write about recipes and tips. Have their content link to their Google + plus author profiles. Reach out to real people using your products/services and incorporate them into your content. It’s doesn’t get any more personal than reaching out to actual customers/readers and involving them in your content.

Brittan Bright, Director of Client Solutions at iAcquire:

brittan-brightSometimes market research reveals that a client’s audience is very different than what they think it is. How do you convince a client to market to the audience they actually have, rather than the one they want to have?

Telling a client, or telling anyone for that matter, that they have been approaching something very important wrong is a tough conversation. It is also a great opportunity to build a better relationship and set the tone for future hard truths.

One of the reasons a client chooses to work with us, or any agency, is to leverage experience and expertise they do not have. When discovering that there is an untapped audience for the client it must be presented as an important and exciting new opportunity instead of an attack on their previous, or current, approach.

Situations like this emphasize the importance of establishing goals and KPI’s in the beginning of working with a client so that you can tie the data you uncover in your research back to the goals you set. Goal setting should be an unemotional process but often recommending change, sometimes to the people responsible for the current work, can get very personal. Make sure that although you should be direct and firm, you are also empathetic in your delivery of any recommendation of a sensitive nature.

How do you convince clients to buy into content as an investment for their business? What is the biggest challenge for businesses to embrace content strategy?

Typically when a business is seeking to work with an agency, they have a business problem they need help with. An agency’s job is to be forward thinking, innovative and experts in their field. This should be established early on in the relationship with the client as a way to prepare for recommendations that may be outside of the current comfort zone of the client.

If content makes sense for a client to invest in, then we should be able to tie it to some unbiased data. Often the biggest challenge for businesses to embrace content center around internal obstacles like legal and creative departments or the risk of not being able to immediately quantifying the results for senior leadership.

The best way to overcome this is to become an advocate for your point of contact. To figure out how you can help the person you work most closely with succeed in his or her role. Supply this person with the information he/she needs to sell your work internally.

How do you create buy-in around those elements of content strategy that are unquantifiable, such as developing brand voice and tone?

I like the approach of using examples of the client’s competitors doing it right, or doing it really wrong, to help spur the competitive drive of client. Most companies are competitive, especially marketers. Seeing where they are being beaten can often encourage openness to change. Also seeing how terrible a brand missing the mark looks can help light a fire for change.

Learn More At Our Meetup

If you want more in-depth knowledge on the above topics and so much more, come meet the speakers at Human After All – Tools For Personalizing Content Strategy.

A special thanks to the speaking panel. For those of you who will be in attendance at tomorrow’s event, make sure to come with a pen and paper. For those of you who can’t make it, stay tuned for more on content strategy, market research, and the behavioral psychology of inbound marketing on our iAcquire blog!

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