In previous posts, we discussed essential metrics that help you measure your marketing operation’s content production (efficiency) and content performance (effectiveness). Collecting this data is only a first step; the real challenge is determining how to use the information to drive future business decisions.
The ongoing quest for content marketers is to find ways to continually improve user experience. One way to achieve that improvement is by adopting optimization as a core strategy—it can be the secret sauce that delivers the competitive difference you need. Establishing a marketing optimization program will empower your team to identify and create experiments that help drive informed decisions; leverage proven change management tracking and impact plans; and establish a clear methodology and steps for how to improve content.
An optimization strategy encourages companies to adopt lean content marketing techniques into the organization as a whole. With this type of strategy in place, you can avoid two common types of marketing quicksand:
- “Big bang,” monolithic launch approach. It’s tempting to pour a lot of resources into a big reveal, under the if-we-build-it-they-will-come idea. But what if they don’t? Then you’ve over-produced, lost time, and possibly squandered part of your budget. In an optimized approach, you instead take small steps, learn as you go, and make adjustments based on results.
- Endless internal debates. You’ve been there: where internal business teams share their opinions (guesses, really) on creative details until timelines and budgets are exhausted. The optimized approach gives your audience the power to decide for you. Your opinion—or that of your boss or your agency account director—may be very different from those of your users. They may react to tone, messaging, and imagery in ways you didn’t anticipate. Don’t be afraid of change—expect it, and embrace it.
Here’s a summary of some high-level steps you can take to kick-start your optimization program.
1. Create a list of hypotheses.
Using baseline metrics and analysis of your marketing tactics, select one or more areas with clear opportunity for improvement. Generate one or more hypotheses that might translate into improved performance in that specific area. Try to align your tests with your core metrics, and make them measurable so you can quickly analyze the results and incorporate what you learned in the next test cycle.
For example, assume analytics data for your corporate website reveals significant drops in conversion rates for “request a demo” form submissions when the site is accessed from mobile devices. Your hypothesis might be: If we reduce the “request a demo” form size from 5 fields to 2 fields on the mobile version of the site, conversion rates will increase by 25% because we will reduce data entry frustration and reduce time to submit.
2. Prioritize your list and create a plan.
Next it’s time to decide which hypotheses to test first. Many factors will influence the prioritization, including dependencies, budget, resource allocation, etc. Don’t get too bogged down here—the list is not finite, and it will be influenced by your marketing goals. You’ll need to weigh the investment to develop and execute the tests against the maximum impact you hope to gain.
We often recommend using a tool like Optimizely, which allows you to assess different hypotheses by using A/B testing to optimize visuals, content, features, and more. Optimizely also offers a helpful idea prioritization framework and roadmap template to get you started.
3. Develop and deploy.
When it comes to digital activities, marketers can use A/B testing software to develop and launch tests quickly. Tests can be targeted to run on specific pages and specific audience segments, with specific goals and time durations. Depending on your goals, this type of testing can also be done offline through traditional market research (e.g., focus groups or in-depth interviews). Many market research firms now have cost-effective and timely online approaches to accomplish what used to require weeks/months and extensive travel budgets.
Analyze, interpret, and take action.
What results did the testing yield? You will have clear winning variations, losing variations, and inconclusive experiments. How you interpret and take action based on those results will depend on your organization, but now you’re armed with the ammo you need to drive next steps.
Bringing it full circle
We admit—starting this type of program is neither quick nor easy. But it is worth it.
Yes, embarking on an optimization strategy requires an investment of time and money. But with that initial pain comes significant gain. Once your program is running efficiently, it will more than pay for itself.
Yes, prioritization requires tough decisions. Your content volume is huge, so you have to make biggest-bang-for-the-buck choices that are in sync with your business objectives.
Yes, the testing that comes with optimization may require you to go through the med/reg funnel more times. But this approach is worth the time and effort because you know you’re creating the best possible marketing materials, based on vetting and proper testing. No more guessing.
When you integrate your insights and goals into the content optimization process, you’re building an informed roadmap that justifies future investment. You have two vital things that point in the right direction: proof and an informed view.
If you’d like to take a closer look at how content optimization can pave the way to smarter business decisions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.