The evolution of digital maturity
Insight is everything
The digitisation of content marketing has seen the discipline boom, but not evolve. Until now.
Content marketing began in the world of print. Much of the print mindset has been carried across to digital practices, in particular a reliance on instinct and qualitative feedback to assess performance.
As the technologies for tracking audiences and understanding impact evolve, those who keep this mindset will find their successes – and their careers – washed away by agile, results-driven marketers.
How is your team responding to change?
- Sinking - we're stuck in the past
- Swimming - we're getting there
- Surfing - we're nailing it
The anticipated evolution of content marketing
Intuitive content marketing
- Intuition steers activity
- No/minimal insight on performance
Insight-driven content marketing
- Past performance insight steers activity
- Content performance measurement tied to revenue
Predictive content marketing
- Forecasted performance steers activity
- AI delivers performance predictions for marketers to leverage
Autonomous content marketing
- Predictive analytics and hyper personalisation steer activity
- AI delivers content based on the inputs and criteria of marketers e.g. core idea, budget, results
Moving from a intuitive-driven (stage 1) to an insights-driven (stage 2) content strategy
Many are slow off the mark when it comes to embracing the current opportunity of insights-driven content marketing. This approach is rooted in what you can learn about your readers.
- What do they exchange their attention for?
- What keeps them coming back for more?
- What is making the right impact?
- Who is primed and ready to buy your solution (or be handed over to sales)?
To answer these questions, you need to be tracking their behaviour and reactions to your messages and activity and from this deduce both their thinking and their sentiments.
Expectations are rising
Here are four standards you'll be judged against
People's expectations have evolved
Businesses need to embrace new standards to remain relevant
People expect friction-free online experiences that work well across devices and channels and increasingly judge providers by their ability to provide them.
We expect experiences designed for our interests and our needs. If it's not relevant to me, you're wasting my time. There are no John Smiths or Jane Does here.
We want easy access to the latest products and services we subscribe to, wherever, whenever and whoever we may be.
We want to be in control of our journeys and outcomes, at our own convenience. A force of hand gets people's backs up.
How does PDF hold up against these?
why the PDF must die
Sorry, not sorry
PDF is still the go-to format for the online distribution of white-papers, reports, case studies and much more in many industries.
But is a format from the Jurassic Park era really the way to go to meet the expectations and opportunities of 2020 and beyond?
1. PDF is print-first
If you want to print that 36 page report and kill another tree, PDF is great, but how many of us are actually doing that? We're way more likely to search for and spend time reading content on our smartphones, tablets or desktops. The PDF doesn't fit these dimensions and affords none of the perks of digital we're growing accustomed to.
A digital-first format makes the most of the opportunities presented by these devices. This includes accessibility for visually impaired readers, flexible navigation (empowering users to go their own way), nifty interactivity, use of video, detailed data capture and much more. Using a static, print format is a wasted opportunity.
2. Pinch, pinch, pinch
One of the most aggravating limitations of the format online is the shockingly poor mobile experience. Reading across a page requires you to pinch and prod the screen to achieve a legible font size.
Reading charts often involves not only pinching but then turning of the device to get the full figure into view. Is a smooth, responsive reading experience too much to ask?
3. Sweet FA reader analytics
Congratulations, someone downloaded the global report you spent 5 months creating. But they didn't actually read it. Or did they? You don't know, because it's a PDF.
The juiciest insight comes from knowing how people interact with the documents you create. Like how long they spent reading each chapter, and which charts they spent the most time exploring. Or whether they read any of your other reports on a given topic.
PDF delivers none of this insight. Without it, you won't be able to evolve your strategy or personalise how you nurture a reader.
PDF is great for one thing and one thing only: printing documents… For online reading, however, PDF is the monster from the Black Lagoon.
PDF: Unfit for Human Consumption,
Jakob Nielsen, UX guru
4. Out of date in 5, 4, 3 , 2...
Once a PDF has been downloaded, you lose all control of it. Imagine you spot a heinous inaccuracy in the file and upload a new version to your website; the old one is still out there, in circulation, ready to come back and haunt you.
Say you release a new sales enablement pack for your partners, only to discover six months later that two-thirds of them are still using the one from 2016.
If you want complete control over your content (and your brand) to give the best and most accurate experience at every turn, you can't put your trust in PDF.
Any changes need to be made to all the versions, meaning more work and more opportunities for error
Why GOV.UK content should be published in HTML and not PDF
Gov.uk (that's right, even the UK gov know better)
5. High costs, tight bottlenecks
Design can make or break the success of your communications. Studies show that arguments presented in a visually rich format are 43% more persuasive than text only. But a professionally designed PDF is a costly beast.
Either you can expect to fork out a hefty sum in agency fees or your project ends up stuck in the bottleneck of in-house design queues. Every tweak, amend or update requires an additional round of back and forth, potentially another fee, and a whole lot of wasted time.
The PDF production process is a weak link in the agility of content strategies. In a world where customers expect access to accurate, up-to-date information, anytime, anywhere, this matters.
Bonus reason: 173,000 new variants of PDF fraud were detected in Q1 of 2019 – more than double the figure detected in the entirety of 2018.