Why Context Is More Important Than Content In Marketing


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Workspace by Universal Icons

The transformation to a digital economy has shifted behaviors considerably in the past decade.  Meaning marketers today must account for how to adapt to behavioral shifts caused by the omnipresence of digital and online information.

As a for instance, people today have no more than a 7 to 10-second span of attention when online.  Even more compelling is the greater influence of mobile and digital social platforms on reducing attention span and creating filtering behaviors in purchases.  The digital transformation is causing many CMOs today to reevaluate exactly what content marketing may mean to their overall marketing strategy.

Marketing Campaigns: A Thing Of The Past

The mindset of marketing, likely due to operational structures in place for decades, continues to be that of “marketing campaign” effectiveness.  Or of late – content marketing campaign effectiveness.  Although there has been an outgrowth of content marketing as a result of the shift to online, the “campaign” mentality still is prevalent.

The hype surrounding content marketing is starting to be a case of diminishing returns.  There has been a bewildering outgrowth of technology and consulting related to content marketing.   Interestingly enough, the majority of these have also fallen through the marketing campaign trap door.  It is not surprising that, despite mega-content marketing conferences, introductions of new technologies, and agencies claiming one process is better than another, the needle on content marketing effectiveness has not climbed.  In fact, it has regressed according to recent surveys.

The marketing campaign mentality has also contributed to a paralyzing fixation on analytics.  The struggle for many organizations is having the ability to gain functional insights from an overwhelming cascade of numbers.  Numbers that are devoted to measuring campaign effectiveness but yet are not connected to a larger overarching purpose.  In essence, creating an ironic “numbers” game by creating multiple campaigns in hopes of being successful on a few.

One area CMOs need to be on guard for is the latest hype of connecting the buyer’s journey to content marketing campaigns.  Resulting in an ever increasing avalanche of content overflowing the cups of potential buyers.  This is especially true for companies organized by product lines with overlapping customer segments.  And, not enough communications occurring between product marketing for each.  The same potential buyers can be subjected to confusing multiple streams of “campaign” content.

Context Connects

A downside of “campaign mentality” in today’s digital environment is both marketing and potential buyers suffer from a fragmented view of the world.  Buyers, in particular, are often given the burden of trying to piece together the different fragments of content directed at them.  Trying to gain a sense of what fits for them and how does a product or set of solutions help them.

What marketers are lacking today is understanding the contextual nature of problems they can help solve.  What they are left with are fragmented bits and pieces of information.  Much of it factual that do not lend itself to understanding contextually, the connected stories taking place.

This is true even with efforts being performed in buyer profiling and buyer personas.  Where misinformation about buyer personas is rampant.  And, buyer profiles and buyer personas are being tied to specific “campaigns” with emphasis on factual information.  Factual information related to roles, priorities, initiatives, criteria, pain points, and the likes that have little to do contextually with what is really happening with buyers.

To be truly effective, marketers need to first understand the connected series of stories that give light to the goals and goal-directed behaviors and activities buyers are engaged in.

Connected Stories And Scenarios

Where organizations need to transition to is understanding the contextual situations and scenarios buyers are experiencing.  Gaining insights into multiple goals people are attempting to accomplish and how multiple efforts are taking place concurrently to get goals accomplished.  This means marketers must be aware of all touch points buyers are using at certain times.  Yet, avoid the common pitfall of delivering the same voice and content across all interactions.

And, timing is critical.  Without understanding context, marketers will fail to understand why critical timing is relevant to buyers.  For instance, if we look at what can appear to be a simple procedure of refreshing servers every 2 years in hospital environments, we may find this to be extremely complex contextually.  Contextually, there may be high urgency goals in play related to cardiac care and always-on emergency care.

Additionally, the concept of time changes when organizations adopt a contextual approach to understanding buyers.  As opposed to a specific trigger or event tied to a campaign, understanding comes from what buyers are experiencing contextually – over time.  Doing so allows marketers to find ways to shift operationally from fragmented shotgun campaigns to being present with buyers as they are experiencing, over time, efforts to accomplish goals.

If we go back to the for instance of refreshing servers, HP conducted exhaustive buyer persona research in a number of areas in health care.  What they found was hospital environments placed more emphasis on how refresh played an important role in transforming to new healthcare information technology.  As opposed to a standard model of swapping out servers every two years as a preventative measure.  And over time, healthcare networks were involved in 5 year plus strategic transformation plans.  Such contextual buyer insights allowed for new marketing approaches mapped to healthcare information technology transformation.

Make Context A Cornerstone Of Marketing

Gaining context through understanding, over time, the goals buyers are attempting to accomplish enables marketing to be driven by more than a campaign mentality.  Rather than developing specific content, piece by piece, contextual insights can become the cornerstone of what drives marketing.

Going forward, the diminishing returns of content marketing are a good indication that buyers are still looking for more.  Which, makes it all the more important for marketing to make context essential to what drives their marketing in the future.  Not doing so can mean being added to the pile of failed content marketing campaigns that fail to fit, contextually, to the buyer’s world.

(In this video, actor Kahlil Ashanti offers a compelling perspective on why content is not king no longer.  And, why context in marketing is truly king.  Enjoy.)

If you will like some help on how to gain context about your buyers, go to my So Helpful page and schedule time to talk!


Article by Tony Zambito

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


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