Recently, I re-watched Moneyball with Brad Pitt on Netflix and it got me thinking about how marketers gauge success. Can you call your content strategy a victory if you don’t really know how your content is working to engage buyers?
If you haven't seen the movie, Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane (played by Pitt) must build a competitive team and a winning strategy with very little budget. Sound familiar? Doing more with less is something B2B marketers are really good at!
The movie’s premise is that conventional wisdom is subjective and often flawed. For almost a century, MLB managers, coaches and scouts had put stock in the same stats – batting average, stolen bases and runs batted in (RBIs). But then along came modern statistical analysis that showed that on-base percentage and slugging percentage were far better indicators of success on the field – and the Moneyball era was born.
Digital marketing is currently experiencing a similar shift: marketers are re-evaluating the relevance of traditional metrics like clickthoughs, page visits, form completes and social shares. Why? Because these proxies for engagement are no substitute for actually knowing what pieces of content your prospects are actually reading and watching and how long. These conventional metrics force marketers to make assumptions about how people are interacting with their content – and like common wisdom, assumptions are often wrong.
Here are 5 ways engagement data is changing the game for marketers.
1. Measure what matters
Since the dawn of the digital era, marketers have tracked clickthroughs and form completes as a measure of success. More recently, they’ve looked at social shares as a signal that their audience is engaged. But none of these data points tell you if someone actually read or watched your content. They only show you someone’s intent to engage.
Time-based engagement metrics provide a much truer picture of how people are interacting with your content – that’s why digital publishers pay more attention to how long people spend reading or watching various pieces of content.
If you know that Sally engaged with your white paper for 20 seconds while Sam engaged with it for 5 minutes, which lead would you score higher? To play Moneyball marketing, you need new and better analytics that track actual engagement with your content.
2. Focus on winning one game at a time
The big goal of every major leaguer is to get to the playoffs. But to do that, you have to win games – a lot of them. At the individual game level, the goals are determined in the moment: What’s the goal of everyone at bat? Hit the friggin’ ball.
For B2B marketers, the end game might be to generate more leads, create more sales opps, and contribute to more deals. To do this, you create different types of content that you want your prospects to read or watch. You’re trying to compel your busy audience to take some kind of action: Complete this form, register for this webinar, read your awesome new eBook and ultimately raise their hand and ask you to call.
Looking at content engagement, the result you want is to educate and inform your prospective buyer and guide their progress though your funnel. But how can you reverse-engineer that big victory if you don’t have visibility into how your content is working day in and day out?
You can’t just claim the win because the content got distributed across your various channels. If you’re staying true to your end goal, you will want to understand and react to how people actually read and watch. To do this, you need actionable, time-based engagement data – as opposed to traditional metrics that fall off the cliff after someone’s clicked on something.
Consistency in your marketing activities and content is what culminates in a strong marketing funnel and sales pipeline – and it’s pretty tough to get this consistency without knowing what works and what doesn’t.
3. Study the replays
Going into a series, hitters pore over scouting reports and video footage of every pitcher they will face in order to understand their strengths and weaknesses. And they don’t just watch, they act by tailoring their approach at the plate.
Hitters know that taking the same approach with a knuckleball pitcher who throws the ball in at 75 mph as you would a heater who throws at 95 mph is a bad idea. So with that in mind: If you know Sally is a CFO and Chris is a sales executive, does it make sense to approach them both with the exact same content offer? Marketers need to take a lesson from the big leagues and start tailoring the content experiences they deliver based on behavior-driven logic.
Sally didn’t respond to content offer A? No problem. Next time we’ll serve her content offer B. It’s about knowing your audience (by analyzing their engagement data) and leveraging the power of personalization to deliver relevant and compelling content experiences. Continuing to send out “one-size-fits-all” emails and generic content offers won’t get you to the playoffs.
4. Take as many bases as you can
Even if you’ve got your buyer personas figured out perfectly, you don’t want to fumble the ball when it comes to holding on to Sally and Chris’s precious attention. We know that engaged prospects want to consume a lot of content in a short period of time and that they don’t want to wait.
It’s a tough slog to win games if you’re only moving players around the bases one at a time (by serving up single pieces of content per click). If you can give your engaged prospect the opportunity to take two bases, three, or even run all the way home, then obviously you should. To capitalize on intent, you need to think about delivering content journeys (doubles and triples) rather than “one-off” content events.
5. Don't be afraid to fail
Here’s a stat every marketer should take to heart: There are only 30 ballplayers in the history of the game to bat .330 or higher, the benchmark for true greatness. Think about that for a sec: Even the greatest players fail at bat more than half the time. And guess what? They still get paid millions a year to play ball.
Marketing is by its very nature a game of failure. The greats embrace this fact and view failure as an opportunity. No one’s watching your latest explainer video? Good to know! By analyzing the engagement data, you can fine-tune your next one – shake up the format, retool your script or go back to basics with your storytelling.
You can learn as much (or more) from what doesn’t work as from what does. Like ballplayers, top marketers study the replays and look at the engagement data to continuously iterate and improve their strategy – not only the content assets themselves but how they’re packaged and the cadence of their content offers.
Ready for the Bigs?
By re-evaluating their metrics and changing up their strategy, the A’s were able to beat the odds and make it to the playoffs in 2002 and 2003. Similarly, smart digital marketers are using actionable engagement data to compete for attention with organizations with much larger marketing budgets. Digital marketing is a tough game, and that’s not likely to change, but by capturing the right metrics and acting on them to refine your content strategy, soon you'll officially be one of the greats.
Bill Hutzul is Senior Account Executive at LookBookHQ. As a former college baseball player and huge fan of the game since age five, Bill’s focus is on helping B2B marketers change the game by “failing faster,” learning and iterating with better engagement data. Get in touch at Bill@lookbookhq.com or @BillHutzul.