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As a 13-year veteran of content marketing, I’m biased, but I think it’s fair to say that content marketing is a powerful way to:
Demonstrate that your company is composed of experts in their field
Start, shape, and contribute to valuable and important industry conversations
Help your customers maximize their positive outcomes and avoid negative ones
Attract and engage prospects and familiarize them with your brand
Email marketing helps get your content in front of more people—specifically, your most loyal customers and most interested prospects. But email is about so much more than just content amplification. Here are some ways that email marketing makes your content marketing work harder for you:
Identify the Consumers of Your Content
So many of the people that consume brand content are anonymous. You can see the traffic and the views, but you don’t know who they are, which means you can’t connect them to other activities and really start to understand them. Email gives you a way to identify these people.
“Consider podcast listeners,” says Otilia Antipa, Principal B2B Consultant at Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting. “These subscribers can be die-hard fans, but they still fall in that bucket of ‘unknown’ contacts. Driving them to sign up for newsletters and engage through email allows you to get to know them and build a higher level of trust and personalized experiences.”
But email is not just about identifying people. It’s about what that allows you to do next.
Get the Right Content in Front of the Right People…
Chances are that your company produces or has created a lot of content. Not everyone is going to be interested in every piece of content that you create. That’s a problem that email is well suited to fix in three ways:
First, preference-driven dynamic content. When people subscribe, consider giving them the opportunity to tell you the content topics they’re most interested in. Then you can dynamically populate the emails sent to them with that content.
Second, AI-driven dynamic content. A more adaptive solution, using AI allows your dynamic content strategy to adjust to your individual subscribers’ changing interests.
And third—and probably most common approach—creating different newsletters or email streams that cater to particular interests. For example, The New York Times offers 67 newsletters on everything from parenting to breaking news, and book reviews to news about California.
“Themed or targeted newsletters is big right now,” says Kim Roman, Senior Principal B2B Consultant at Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting. “Sending a generic newsletter about company updates to your entire email list is not going to provide the best results. Categorize your content—whether that be by product or service, industry or market—and offer your subscribers the opportunity to pick and choose what they receive.”
In talking about the Times’ newsletter strategy, Contently’s Jordan Teicher said in a blog post, “When it comes to newsletters, email has essentially become the new homepage.” That’s a great way to think about what a tailored or focused newsletter can do for your audience. Email helps your content find the ideal audience rather than forcing your audience to search for the right content for themselves.
But content marketing can do more than engage. It can inform and educate at the moments when it’s needed most.
…At the Right Time in the Journey
“Our clients who are finding the most success with content marketing and email are taking a holistic approach,” says Roman, who adds that these brands are trying to answer the following three questions:
What are my various customer personas?
What is the journey I want each persona to take?
What content should I be providing along each journey for each persona?
“They are looking at email marketing not just from a messaging/timing perspective and throwing in content where it fits,” she says, “but they’re driving a content strategy to ensure that they have content at every possible point. Content mapping and journey mapping are both part of the process and these best-in-class clients are focusing on aligning the two.”
“To accomplish this, brands are taking a cross-channel, cross-departmental approach,” says Otilia Antipa, Principal B2B Consultant at Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting. “The clients that are the most successful bring everyone to the table and break down internal silos so they can provide a seamless experience across web, mobile, social, and email.”
Mack Trucks is a great example of a client that aligns cross-channel marketing strategies with consumer behaviour, says Antipa. “They plan a strategy around the user journey,” she says, “and optimize the various customer touchpoints based on behavioral data. This means taking a cue from the data you already have and the data you acquire in real time.”
For example, for the awareness stage of their Electric LR campaign, Mack Trucks created a video about how their Electric LR truck is helping New York City achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. They have that video on YouTube and on the MackTrucks.com landing page for the Electric LR, and they used social media and email drive traffic to that video. Visitors who sign up for email updates about the Electric LR and subscribers who click through content about it are then advanced to the consideration stage and presented with that content.
“Executing on this alignment is much easier if you have content marketing tools that integrate with your marketing automation platform,” says Cristal Foster, Senior Cloud Consultant at Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting.
“For example, Oracle Content Marketing is a collaborative content marketing tool that empowers content marketers to build content by persona,” she says. “It not only empowers the content marketer to push content across multiple channels, but Oracle Content Marketing also allows users to push their content directly into Oracle Eloqua or Oracle Responsys, seamlessly giving them the ability to have consistent content across channels.
Current Trends in Email-Powered Content Marketing
In addition to those ways to get the most of this powerful combo, we’re seeing a few trends in how brands are leveraging content marketing and email marketing:
1. Clearer email permissions on content download pages.
Because of hidden, obscured, and vague email opt-in consents and requests on report download form and webinar registration pages, subscribers who join email lists through these sources have traditionally been surprisingly high risk. That’s because they just wanted the content, not the emails.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has changed this dynamic in Europe, causing brands to at least modify their content gating strategies.
“While we always recommend consulting with your legal team on how to best approach your GDPR processes,” says Roman, “I have seen clients starting to enact very clear and succinct opt-in language on content downloads and invoking strict double opt-in processes to ensure compliance.”
While for most brands this will mean slower list growth, it also means more engaged subscribers and therefore better deliverability. “Some of my clients have noticed higher engagement since implementing GDPR practices,” says Foster. “This should not come as a surprise since GDPR ensures that those that opted-in to hear from you, really want to hear from you.”
2. More ungated content.
Instead of modifying their gating strategies, some brands have abandoned them altogether. For instance, instead of doing traditional webinars, Oracle’s European operations now record many of them as videos and post them ungated.
Many global brands have started adopting a GDPR approach to get ahead of the changes in privacy and permission laws in the US that have been churning since GDPR passed, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act. For instance, Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting is following the lead of our European business units in adopting an on-demand video format for our webinars.
When doing content marketing in this manner, it’s paramount that the content be aligned with your brand and its offerings. It’s also important to provide next steps for your content consumers, including letting them know how to contact you, sign up for your newsletter, or to purchase your products or services.
3. More interactive email content.
Content on the web is often dynamic, animated, and interactive. More brands are bringing those same elements to their emails that contain or are promoting their content marketing.
“We’re seeing newsletters becoming more interactive and even gamified to elicit customer engagement,” says Antipa. “Newsletters are primarily informative or awareness-building content pieces, so adding elements to be more functional and customer-driven translates into a better experience. We’ve seen clients embed countdown timers, gifs, and even real-time content pieces to further drive a primary call-to-action.”
Content marketing is powerful, and email marketing makes it even more powerful. Use email to get your content in front of the right prospects and customers at the right time. And leverage these latest trends to keep your edge.
Need help with your content marketing and B2B email marketing strategy? Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including B2B strategists within our Expert Services Group.