Marketers may invest in tools, but there are other revenue-producing assets that we often overlook, specifically: content, brand and data.
What three long-term assets will make your future marketing investments more effective and why is it important to focus on long-term assets?
- Content, brand and data
- These assets will drive revenue for a longer period of time than tools and other things we use in marketing.
What makes content a long-term asset?
- We are referencing evergreen content that generates revenue, either directly or indirectly.
- Evergreen content is often “how to” content or similar references and tools.
- Direct revenue-generating content has a call to action, while indirect revenue-generating content helps to build a brand, or build and/or segment an audience.
- You can measure content as an asset through volume of content, or the ability to drive KPIs such as engagement time, new (right-fit) visitors or revenue.
Why is brand one of an organization’s most powerful assets?
- It goes beyond a logo or name, but is an emotional connection between your company and your prospect. The brand is the personality your prospects perceive.
- Having a strong brand gives you a competitive advantage and long-term profitability going forward.
- When you shift our brand from tactical execution to strategic thinking, you can see a monumental change in long-term financial performance.
- You can measure brand through awareness or alignment.
- Awareness can be measured through formal market research firms, or AdWords can be used in a roundabout way.
- How well your brand aligns internally and externally can be measured using our brand vector process.
- Resource: Podcast 11 – Using Brand Vectors to Measure & Align Your Brand
How is data a long-term asset?
- We are talking about audience data.
- Data helps us do one of two things: Connect with our audience via targeting and permission, or segment our audience so we can get the right message to the right person at the right time.
- We are either going to put that in a CRM database or a marketing automation database, or stored in third-party databases.
- Data stored in CRM databases and marketing automation allows for segmentation along psychographic/persona lines, interest/need or buyers’ journey. A well-segmented database gives us create the right message at the right time but does not help us deliver the message because we need permission through opt-in lists.
- Data opens up access to your prospects email inboxes and various media social media networks.
- Measure and report on data through the size of your database and the size of first-party audiences.
How do these three assets work together?
- Content, brand and data are a three-legged stool, with each leg supporting the others. If any of these three “legs” are missing, your marketing isn’t viable or stable long-term.
- Content provides you with the ability to segment your audience and build your first-party audience, and gives you a way to present your brand to your audience in a helpful way.
- Brand makes your content trustworthy and appealing before it’s even consumed by your audience.
- Data informs us and tells us what content we should create to cater to our segments and personalize that experience. It also allows distribution of that content.
What are the key takeaways?
- Investing in content, brand and data is an investment in the future success of your marketing. You must invest in all three.
- Measure and report on these assets to demonstrate where their marketing investment is going.
- Resource: Blog – How Iterative Marketing Helps Your Reports Accomplish What You Need
Charity of the Week:
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The Iterative Marketing Podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste.
Onward and upward!
Steve Robinson: Hello, Iterative Marketers! Welcome to the Iterative Marketing Podcast, where each week, we give marketers and entrepreneurs actionable ideas, techniques and examples to improve your marketing results. If you want notes and links to the resources discussed on the show, sign up to get them emailed to you each week at iterativemarketing.net. There, you’ll also find the Iterative Marketing blog and our community LinkedIn group, where you can share ideas and ask questions of your fellow Iterative Marketers. Now let’s dive into the show.
Hello everyone, and welcome to the Iterative Marketing podcast. I’m your host, Steve Robinson, and with me as always is the intellectual and interesting Elizabeth Earin. How are you doing today, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Earin: I am doing well. How are you?
Steve Robinson: I’m doing great, coming off a poker win last night.
Elizabeth Earin: Nice, nice. Now this is a weekly poker game, right?
Steve Robinson: No, no, monthly. I don’t think I’d be allowed to go off and play weekly with the guys, but no, it’s just a monthly guys poker night, very friendly tournament style and yeah, it’s just more or less an excuse to get the guys together, right?
Elizabeth Earin: Yes, it seems that when we become adults and have families that we need those excuses to get out of the house and stay in contact with those people in our lives.
Steve Robinson: That’s very, very true and a friendly game is a good excuse.
Elizabeth Earin: Even better when you win.
Steve Robinson: Absolutely, absolutely. So what are we talking about today?
Elizabeth Earin: Today, we are talking about assets, specifically long-term assets.
Steve Robinson: And this is important because we as marketers have a tendency to really be focused on the money in and what are the short-term gains that we are getting out of it rather than what are we building up long-term, right?
Elizabeth Earin: Um-hmm. It’s sad that we avoid that because when we take a look at those long-term gains, when we take a look at those long-term assets, we really are adding some additional value to the organization. And we are going to talk a little bit about that at the end of the podcast, but it’s really an opportunity for us to elevate our marketing game.
Steve Robinson: And specifically, we are going to go through three different types of long-term assets and we are going to outline exactly what these are and how they do impact our long-term marketing success.
Elizabeth Earin: Um-hmm. So we are going to dive into each one individually, content, brand, and data and then talk about how they impact, like you said, the marketing efficiency and also how we can measure it because that’s a very important part that I want to make sure that we cover today.
Steve Robinson: And the best part is these three things do not just work independently. They best work together. And so we will explain the relationships between content, data and brand and how they really, to use the overused term, present some synergies as they — as they work together and enhance each other.
Elizabeth Earin: That’s a really great point. I think before we dive in, can you talk a little bit – can you put this into context for us? Because some of our listeners might have a hard time understanding why it’s important to build long-term assets.
Steve Robinson: So we as marketers have a tendency to focus on the short-term gains that our marketing dollars are going to appreciate for us. So we invest in media. We invest in content. The idea is that that media and that content is going to draw in a certain audience and that that audience will monetize themselves in the form of sales. And we can – there might be a delay in when we put that money to work versus when the sales come in but we expect that. So there’s a ratio here. The more money we put in, the more sales we are going to get out. And that’s true of some of our investments, but there’s another class of investment that, in the business world, is called a capital expenditure or capital investment that we as marketers generally overlook, and that’s what we want to talk about today. If we relate this back to the rest of the business or another type of business, you can think about like a factory floor. And if you were to build a factory, you have to spend money on machinery and equipment. And the more money you spend in that machinery and equipment and automation and infrastructure, the more efficient your factory can become. So it’s not like the raw materials that you are buying, which if you relate back to marketing, would be like the media and the content that has short-term return. It is a long-term investment that’s going to improve your profitability in converting those raw materials that is coming into your factory into the finished goods that come out the other side. When we relate this back to marketing, we are going to talk about three key classes of these long-term assets, these capital investments or capital expenditures that we as marketers invest in. We put money into this pot so that we can improve our efficiency later and those three areas are our brand, the content that we produce, specifically the evergreen content that we produce as well as the data that we use to access our audiences to segment and target and reach the audiences that we want to get our content in front of.
Elizabeth Earin: So let’s start with content because that’s something that — it’s a hot topic. We are all producing content. And I think it’s important to note, and you sort of alluded to this, is that not all content is created equal. We have got that the content that has the sort of the short-term gains but that’s not what we are talking about when we are talking about this as a long-term asset. Instead, we are talking about evergreen content, content that is going to be able to stand the test of time, is going to have a shelf life that extends beyond a very defined and short period.
Steve Robinson: And when we think about evergreen content, there’s a lot of different things that come to mind, but for me, what comes to mind first is like that how-to content, the stuff that people are continuously referencing that’s going to do well in search, that’s going to come up in search results for people searching today as well as people searching six months from now or a year from now, right?
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah, and I think giving an example of this, if you are a playing card company, you can offer an illustrated guide to poker hands or statistics on poker hands. And so this is something that not only are people going to be looking for now and five years from now, but even the same person could be coming back and accessing this reference material. And so again. it’s evergreen. It’s ongoing. It doesn’t have a short defined life that it lives. You can keep using it over and over and over and so that investment becomes spread over time.
Steve Robinson: I said I won poker last night. I don’t need a reference card for that, but yeah, that’s exactly right and it’s not just reference material that can be evergreen. There’s other things that can be evergreen, certainly tools and utilities, even some entertainment pieces can end up being evergreen. I think back like that — the Dollar Shave Club video that they have been running for how many years now and is still on their homepage, still works for them because, well, it’s that entertaining and it still defines their brand and it still draws people in and works.
Elizabeth Earin: So to be considered a long-term asset, content needs to be evergreen but it also needs to generate revenue, whether that’s directly or indirectly.
Steve Robinson: And by direct, we mean that it’s the type of content that in and of itself will convert into a sale. So this could be persuasive content that has calls to action on it right there that can drive revenue immediately but also it can be content that is indirectly driving revenue and that it’s helping you build or segment your audience. We will talk more about that on the data side, but content really is a huge driver in helping you identify who your audience is and establish a relationship with them whether it’s via email or paid media as well as understand them and what they like and what they want. And those are indirect revenue drivers that still impact the bottom-line, and they just don’t do it in that quick hit call-to-action, convert into a sale right now sort of way.
Elizabeth Earin: So I think as we sort of wrap this up, I want to talk about how we measure content and content as an asset because it’s one thing to say that we have it. And I can sit here and tell you that I have got 56 pieces sitting out there that I can use in different things but is that really telling the whole story? Is volume of content the only thing that I have to measure this as a long-term asset?
Steve Robinson: Ideally, you are tracking these assets both for your own knowledge but also to report up because somebody’s holding the purse strings to your marketing budget. And maybe it’s you but more likely it’s somebody else, right? And so they want to know how you are spending your money. And so if you are spending your money on content and it’s evergreen content that maybe is producing some marginal returns today but will be a long-term asset for you, will continue to generate revenue long into the future, that’s something you need to be able to communicate. And I think there’s two metrics that help you do that in concert. I don’t think one alone does the job and the first one is volume of content. How much stuff are you making? And volume alone doesn’t mean anything. I can spit out thousands of 200-word snippets of gibberish and it’s not going to do a thing for our brand but it will be quick and dirty to produce. It’s also the quality, and the quality can be measured in a couple of different ways, but the ones that we like to look at are the things like engagement time or whether or not it’s driving new traffic to the site. And ultimately, if it is more of a direct revenue type piece, is it converting into revenue right there on the spot? You need to tie back to some KPI that leads to revenue down the line in addition to talking about how many pieces you have produced.
Elizabeth Earin: So I think that about wraps it up on the on the content side. So let’s jump into the second long-term asset and this is also a hot topic and it’s brand.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. So how would you – can you remind our listeners, Elizabeth, how we define brand here? Because I know that a lot of different people define brand a lot of different ways.
Elizabeth Earin: Um-hmm. So when we talk about brand, we are talking about something that goes beyond logos and brand names. And instead, it becomes that emotional connection between you and – or between your company and your prospects. And this kind of ties back to the fact that we as individuals are not hardwired to make decisions about intangible things like companies. We want that emotional connection. We want to feel like we know you, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. It was your going down and your making that connection with the local sales guy, kind of given the advent of the internet and how businesses have changed and how we buy things now that’s not necessarily the case and so our brand gives our prospects the chance to have that emotional connection with our company.
Steve Robinson: Yeah, to do business with those that we know, like and trust, right? I mean, it’s — to use the clichéd term there — we are going to throw as many clichés into this podcast episode as we can. But that brand becomes an asset to you because it’s a competitive advantage. It allows you to do things in more powerful ways in the future because you have established that threshold of trust. My favorite example of this is recently Tesla released the Model 3. And this was a long-awaited thing but there’s a lot of people who are in love with the Tesla brand even though they don’t own a Tesla and aren’t able to be in the market for a Tesla. But when Tesla released the Model 3, because they had such a strong brand and they developed such goodwill with their audiences before they had even shown what this car looked like or released specs or anything else, they had 100,000 people who would put a down payment on the car. That’s amazing. Could a no-name car company do that? Absolutely not. It is only through the Tesla brand that they were able to sell 100,000 of something that nobody had ever seen.
Elizabeth Earin: And that right there is the power of the brand and that’s why having a strong brand is not only a competitive advantage but it helps to translate into long-term profitability.
Steve Robinson: There was a great study that was done a few years back, I think was in 2010. Credit Suisse had taken a look at the companies that were on — I forget, it was the Fortune 500 or one of the major lists of companies — and had taken a look at performance of which companies did well and which companies did poorly and they had correlated that back to which companies had invested in their brand as one of their top line items of marketing and advertising expense. And what they came up with was that there was a very, very strong correlation and the companies that put a strong investment in brand outperformed the companies that didn’t by a factor of three. And that’s a pretty impressive statistic right there. And it just goes to show that it’s an investment. That it’s hard to track immediate ROI on but that has a long-term impact on your success in market.
Elizabeth Earin: You said something interesting there, it’s hard to track. It is hard to track because we are talking again about something that’s intangible but that doesn’t mean that you can’t track. It just means you have to be a little bit creative in what we use to measure that. So when we are talking about measuring our brand, one sort of easy way to do that is through brand awareness, specifically how many people are aware that your brand exists. And there’s a couple of different ways that that can be done. From sort of a big budget perspective, you can go out and do formal market research where you have got a third party vendor going out and asking about your brand, both unaided and then also with some prompts and kind of finding out what people think and feel and how aware they are of what it is that your brand, who your brand is and what it represents. But for those companies out there that don’t necessarily have that budget, which – it’s a lot of us — there’s sort of this hack that we use in AdWords that lets us find out what brand awareness is. Do you want to talk a little bit about what we do?
Steve Robinson: Sure. And it doesn’t work for every company because you have to have a unique brand name. But if you have a unique brand name that you can plug into Google AdWords, you can bid on that keyword. And then by bidding, you get access to the raw data. Exactly how many people have searched for your brand name? And if you think about it, nobody’s going to search for a brand they don’t know exists. So it can be an indicator of brand awareness although probably more accurately an indicator of brand interest but a great little proxy to know. Hey, am I letting people know that we exist and do people care that we exist based on our brand name?
Elizabeth Earin: And I just want to make a little note. You said a unique brand name. Obviously, a lot of us have a unique brand name because we wouldn’t have a company that necessarily shares a name with someone else, although that does happen occasionally across industries. But we are not just talking about other companies that you are competing with. And we have a client that we work with now, unfortunately that has a very unique name within their industry but it happens to share the name with a prophet in I believe South Africa who’s up to no good right now and so we have a little bit of trouble measuring their brand awareness and brand interest because this prophet who is, again, up to no good is wreaking havoc with our brand awareness measurements.
Steve Robinson: And then we have another client who their brand has a number of brand extensions associated with it. It’s global. It’s applied to a lot of different products in areas outside of the group that we are working with. And so again, there — it’s not really a good proxy to their brand awareness within their audience because the brand is applicable well outside of their audience and the majority of the traffic that we would be measuring would be coming from there. So it’s not perfect for every organization but for a lot of smaller groups it can be a very great little hack to get a finger on that pulse and a great way to report that up as you make an impact there.
Elizabeth Earin: And then another measurement that we can use with brand is brand alignment. And this is, I think, really important. Not saying that brand awareness isn’t important, but specifically we are looking at how well your brand is aligned internally and externally, meaning I know what my brand stands for but what did my prospects and my customers think about my brand? And if the two come together, then we are in a good spot, but if the two are separate, then I have got some work to do. And so we use something called the brand vector process which measures alignment between our customers and prospects, our senior management team and then employees, and it sort of plots that all out. We have talked about this and I believe it was Podcast 11, Using Brand Vectors to Measure & Align Your Brand. So I think that’s a great one to go back and listen to because this really is a really great tool to see where you have alignment and where you have some opportunities to really focusing and help to try and change that message.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. The danger is if you invest a bunch of money in promoting a brand that’s not in alignment, all you are going to end up doing is creating some bad experiences or some dissonance that will end up hurting you more than it will end up helping you in the long run. So it’s a very important measurement along the same lines. I think this is a great point for us to take a quick break. When we get back, we will talk about data as a component to your assets and in the meantime let’s go talk about how we can help some people.
Elizabeth Earin: Before we continue, I would like to take a quick moment to ask you Iterative Marketers a small but meaningful favor, and ask that you give a few dollars to a charity that’s important to one of our own. This week’s charitable cause was sent in by Michael Kowarski. Michael asks that you make a contribution to HeartLove Place, a non-profit providing programming and services that empower, develop spiritual growth and motivate to build a stronger community in the inner city of Milwaukee. Learn more at heartloveplace.org or visit the link in the show notes. If you would like to submit your cause for consideration for our next podcast, please visit iterativemarketing.net/podcast and click the “Share a Cause” button. We love sharing causes that are important to you.
Steve Robinson: And we are back. So before the break, we talked about two of our three different types of assets that we want to be growing and measuring the growth of as we continue to get better at marketing, right? The first two were content and brand, and now we are going to talk about data. So what do we mean when we say data in the context of a marketing asset, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Earin: Well, what we are talking about here is specifically audience data and when we are taking a look at our audience data, it helps us do one of two things: Either connect with our audience through targeting and permission marketing, or segmenting our audience so that we can get the right message to the right person at the right time which is one of I think our favorite things to say here.
Steve Robinson: And the data that we are building, we are putting that in one of two places. We are either going to put that in a database like a CRM database or marketing automation database which helps us pull lists and direct email and do other segmentation and directing of marketing that way, or we are going to store that data in third-party data audiences and those are going to be usually housed on the marketing platform, the advertising platform that we are using to put them to work. So that could be Facebook custom audiences. It could be Twitter tailored audiences. It could be cookie pools or floodlight audiences or whatever in your display advertising, regardless of where you are putting them, their third party data. And if you are a bigger brand, you might have a DMP that you can put that data into that’s even better because then you can do some really fancy slicing and dicing of it. Either way, the data is what we can put to work to get the message out to the right person at the right time.
Elizabeth Earin: Before we go much further, let’s dive into each of those when we are talking about databases vs first-party data. So in terms of the data that’s in our database, this could be data that’s living either in our CRM or in our marketing automation system and the key here is that either one of these based on what it is that we are tracking allows for some really robust segmentation along a number of different vectors. And this can be psychographics, persona targeting – I am sorry, persona segmentation. We could be segmenting based on interests or based on need. Or if you have done the customer journey work, we can segment on buyer’s journey and what state they are – what consideration state that they are in that specific journey as they move through their interactions with your brand.
Steve Robinson: And by having this database, by understanding where our prospects are in different segments and different needs and different states in the buyer’s journey, we are now able to use that and put that to work in creating content that is personalized to those audience members and then delivering that content, whether that’s via email or via advertising by targeting data from that CRM system.
Elizabeth Earin: And this is where it gets – I think it gets really, really fun. We can do some really cool stuff with this, but before we do that, we need to have permission or access to market them – market to them, and that typically comes in the forms of opt-in lists, newsletter signups, whether that’s through email or in some cases even text messaging.
Steve Robinson: And it’s having these opt-ins that is really one of your most valuable assets. If you aren’t currently working to build an opt-in email or SMS database, it’s something that you should probably look at building. Again, you are not going to get immediate returns on that investment. So if you are advertising, saying sign up for our newsletter or opt-in to receive our text messages or whatever that message may be, that doesn’t immediately translate to revenue. But if you build that over time, it means you now have permission to get very intimately into that user’s inbox or message stream in ways that not every marketer is allowed and that one-to-one relationship can be monetized in the future over and over and over again through clever use of content and offers and other content that’s going to put that to work.
Elizabeth Earin: Again, these are people that have opted-in and these are people that have actively taken a step to sign up to receive your content and to let you talk to them and to market to them and so it’s a really great opportunity. But I think we also want to be respectful of that and keep in mind that we have been given permission and so we want to make sure that we are adding value as we do this. But again, they want our content so this is a fantastic time to be in front of someone that you know is interested in what it is that you have to say.
Steve Robinson: Now slightly less powerful from an intimacy standpoint but certainly more powerful from a reach standpoint is your first party data. And this is where you have the ability to take your paid media and really personalize it, segment it, and get the right message to that right person. And so here you want to be measuring how many – measuring and focused on growing how many individual Facebook IDs or Twitter IDs or how many cookies you have inside of these different audience pools that you can reach out and touch on demand whenever you have a message appropriate for that particular audience. And the key is to grow them with quality data and continue to grow them and nurture them over time which means keeping some messaging in front of them over time as well. Because if you aren’t doing anything to add people to these pools, then they will start to decay over time as cookies expire or as the lifespan of these audiences hits their end.
Elizabeth Earin: So that’s on the first party audience side. When we are talking about our database, the way that we measure and report on that is the size of our opt-in lists, our ability to segment either the different segments we have available, the size of those segments, what percentage of our database is segmented, pretty much any way that we can slice that data and use that to send targeted messaging out. That’s where we have interest. That’s what we want to report on.
Steve Robinson: How does this stuff all tie together? What really aids the other as far as when you start mixing the benefits of these long-term assets together?
Elizabeth Earin: Well, here’s the really cool thing is that they all work together to build each other up. And so when you are looking at content and brand and data, you have compared it before to sort of a three-legged stool. At any point, if you pull one of those legs out, the whole thing kind of falls apart. You really can’t do one without the other and so all three of them, content, brand, and data are necessary when you are talking about building and sustaining these long-term assets.
Steve Robinson: Now let’s go through each one individually starting with content. When you look at content, content really holds up your data by giving you the information you need to segment your audience and by giving the content that’s going to bring people in to build up those cookie pools and those Facebook custom audiences and Twitter tailored audiences, right?
Elizabeth Earin: Um-hmm. When we talk about brand, the power of our brand and the awareness of our brand makes our content trustworthy and appealing before it’s even been put out. It’s the type of thing that, when you see something that comes from one of your favorite brands, you are interested because you know what to expect from them and you know what it is that they are going to be delivering and so it increases that readability or that chance of it being read.
Steve Robinson: Talk about data, it informs us and tells us exactly what content we need to be creating to really cater to our segments and personalize that content and then it can also give us the means to distribute it through those opt-in lists, and through those cookie pools, we now have the ability to get that content into those people’s hands. So without data content becomes sort of neutered, for lack of a better term.
Elizabeth Earin: So when we look back on this episode and kind of talk about what we hope that you take away, I think the big thing is that all three are important, content, brand, and data are all important assets that we need to invest in if we want to have future growth.
Steve Robinson: And each one supports the other. So if you drop one, you are hurting the other two areas. And I think finally the most important component here is make sure that you are measuring this and reporting it back up because senior leadership often looks at marketing through the lens of the more money I put in, immediately, the more sales I am going to get out. It ignores the capital investment component to it. So if you are not reporting that back up, they are going to forget about the fact that some of your plays aren’t short-term revenue grabbing plays. Some of your plays are long-term investment into assets that are going to continue to provide returns long into the future.
Elizabeth Earin: That’s a great point. We actually have a blog post that we wrote a few months ago about this that talks specifically about how your reports can help you accomplish what you need and it addresses the long-term asset portion. So definitely check that out if you haven’t had a chance to read it, and we will link to the show notes.
Steve Robinson: I think that’s a wrap. I want to thank everybody for their time today, and as always, until next time, onward and upward.
Elizabeth Earin: If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on YouTube on your favorite podcast directory. If you want notes and links to resources discussed on the show, sign up to get them emailed to you each week at iterativemarketing.net. There, you’ll also find the Iterative Marketing blog and our community LinkedIn group where you can share ideas and ask questions of your fellow Iterative Marketers. You can also follow us on Twitter. Our username is @iter8ive or email us at [email protected].
The Iterative Marketing Podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste. Our producer is Heather Ohlman with transcription assistance from Emily Bechtel. Our music is by SeaStock Audio, Music Production and Sound Design. You can check them out at seastockaudio.com. We will see you next week. Until then, onward and upward!