hungry monster

Content marketing has a problem, but it’s not the one people think it is. When asked, most will tell you it’s “feeding the beast”. They can’t create enough content to keep up with the scheduled demands across all their channels.

But in our quest to build more content, we marketers sometime lose focus of the real goal of our content marketing: to engage viewers so you can build your sales pipeline. The key problem, then, is to focus on optimizing for content engagement.

What is the perfect recipe for content engagement? At its heart, engagement is being able to reach out to any individual who saw your content in a way that feels relevant to that person.

To do this, you need to follow this recipe:

Key Ingredient 1: Meet Prospects Where They Already Are

TIP: A single piece of content, leveraged effectively across your channels, is more valuable for acquiring leads than lots of content spread out everywhere.

Web surfing habits online have changed dramatically. People are aimlessly browsing less, and are more often consuming content shared by friends and peers in places they already frequent. It’s important that your content is reachable wherever those customers happen to be. Obviously social networks are a big one, but 3rd party websites and blogs are also important. If your company sells indirect through partners, keeping their sites full of content the instant it’s available is also paramount. Even advertising is starting to shift towards being content-based, rather than simple “messages.” You can’t expect to bring customers to where you are. You have to be where they are. And by serving your buyers content where they spend time, you are showing that you understand what is relevant to them.

Key Ingredient 2: Know Who Consumes Your Content

TIP: A well-rounded lead includes name, contact information, social network information and content history.

Many marketers will tell you that “engagement” is measured by number of views on YouTube, Likes on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, or downloads of a whitepaper. Those metrics are easy statistics to calculate, but none of them are true signals of buying intent. Instead, these metrics are mostly just data about activity on each of your channels. You don’t even really know that the person who downloaded your whitepaper actually engaged with it.

On the other hand, knowing that someone engaged with your content through peer-to-peer sharing on social channels or commenting–and who they are–is a signal of real intent: they were interested enough in your product or solution to take the time to read and interact with your content. And if they share your content with their peers, that indicates that they trusted it enough to show it to their network–and that is one of the signals of real engagement that you should be looking for.

But to really know someone, you need to build a profile of that person and the content they’ve read across all of their identities online. It’s incredibly valuable to know where someone is in their buying cycle by seeing that they’ve consumed eight pieces of content all on the same subject, but you need to be able to track that even when they’re doing it on different social networks. You also need to know if they’re interested in that content enough to share it with others.

Preparation: Engage with Prospects in a Relevant Way

TIP: When someone consumes your content in a channel, follow-up with them where they found that content with more of the same.

Knowing who viewed and shared your content is the foundation for content engagement, but it is just the start. You should be able to look at any given prospect and discern exactly what they’ve seen, when they viewed it, and also where they found it. Social selling isn’t a fad, it’s signaling a shift in how people expect to engage with companies.

For example, when you know a potential customer has been consuming mostly video content on a specific subject, and that they found this content on Twitter, it would be natural to start engaging with them on Twitter and offer to share additional video content.

In sum, knowing who a prospect really is and meeting them where they are with quality content is the meat and potatoes of realizing a content engagement strategy. It’s a fairly easy recipe, and when prepared just right, by engaging customers in a way that’s relevant to them, you’ll soon be able to fill the belly of the beast that really needs your attention: your sales pipeline.