The content journey is the customer journey - assessing NewsCred's vision

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher May 18, 2016
What if the customer journey tied directly into the content journey, supporting relevant content for each customer? Barb Mosher Zinck examines NewsCred’s approach, and how their newly-announced integration with Marketo fits in.

If you have trouble mapping the customer journey maybe you need to sit back and think about your process from a different perspective.

In a past column, I described customer journey maps as “... important descriptions of how a potential buyer moves from the identification of a need to ultimately purchasing your product.” It’s about mapping touch points and the interactions that happen at each of those touch points. Just as importantly, it’s about the content you provide at each touch point - and you do provide content at each touch point.

Do you need content marketing software to support the customer journey and the related content required? Not necessarily. But for large-scale enterprises challenged with creating, scheduling, publishing and measuring content at scale, it would certainly be helpful. These enterprises deal with a lot of channels and platforms; it’s probably a good idea to consider investing in one.

Which leads me to NewsCred

NewsCred is a content marketing software platform and marketplace. Probably one of the first content marketing platforms in the industry (it’s eight years old), NewsCred has grown quickly, raising over $88 million in funding to build out both its software platform and content marketplace.

I spoke with Alicianne  Rand, VP Marketing for NewsCred about the company itself and its recent integration with marketing automation platform, Marketo. It was Rand who introduced the idea that the content journey is the customer journey. But before I tell you that story, I need to tell you this story (note: If you have kids, and you let them read Captain Underpants, you’ll get that reference!).

The content marketing platform

On the technology side, NewsCred provides a pretty sophisticated content marketing platform. In one place you can create and manage your content, as well as publish it to any number of channels and platforms. This includes landing pages, blogs, and websites residing within the NewsCred Platform, websites outside of the platform, social media sites, and even paid distribution sites for sponsored content such as OutBrain, Facebook, LinkedIn and others.

You can organize content around campaigns, set up collaboration and workflow, editorial calendars and manage your brand from this one place. All the content you create and manage within NewsCred is tracked, so you have extensive analytics to measure how your content is performing and why.

Content creation and licensing services

But there’s more to NewsCred. It also provides content creation and curation services. NewsCred has a network of over 200 content creators that are subject-matter experts providing a range of content creation, editorial, and curation services.

You can license content from over 5000 different publishers across the Internet. Some examples of licensed content come from NYT, TechCrunch, Vanity Fair, Reuters, Bloomberg and more. NewsCred also has a network of partners who specialize in vertical content or different content formats, such as UGC and social content.

The licensing aspect interests me greatly. NewsCred has set up all these licensing agreements with publishers that feed content through NewsCred’s APIs, providing NewsCred clients with a wide range of content. Rand explained that within the software, clients can search for the type of content they want, or the platform will provide recommendations based on topical or social preferences. The client doesn’t have to pick a particular publishing source; they search across all sources.

Even nicer, NewsCred will recommend content to use based on trending topics. So, for example, the platform might alert me that a big story is happening today related to my market, that I might want to take advantage of.

This is good, as Rand pointed out, because it gives brands access to a wide range of content without having to deal with setting up individual publisher licensing agreements. NewsCred handles all the details of the licensing. Of course, they do mark the licensing costs up a bit, but it’s probably worth it not to have to manage separate agreements. You also only pay for the content that you use. It’s likely that many brands don’t even realize they can license content from publishers such as those listed above.

When you license a piece of content, you can use it on any marketing channel you own. And here’s the cool part. When you use this licensed content, you drive the traffic back to your website, not to the original source of the content, which is what typically happens if you license the content from other sources.

The other question I had with licensed content was the Google content penalty. I thought that Google penalized websites for using duplicate content. So if Diginomica published an article that was already published on another website, they would get penalized and drop in search rankings. Rand said this penalty doesn’t exist. She’s right, even Google’s Matt Cutts said over 25% of the web is duplicated, so unless you’re duplicating for spammy reasons, you’re probably safe.

Let’s talk Marketo integration

NewsCred recently announced integration with Marketo that enables NewsCred clients to publish content directly to the marketing automation platform. “When it comes to B2B customers particularly, content is absolutely essential to drive in leads, to conversions, and to revenue.”

Rand said there’s a direct correlation to the amount and consistency of content that you publish as it relates to leads and traffic you drive in. So there’s a need to create a fair amount of content on a regular basis. This is a big struggle for many brands because the processes in place to create this content and get it to the demand generation team are slow and often work across silos.

Think about the process to create a newsletter or an email. It can take up to 4-5 hours, Rand said, to create the newsletter and get the content and others assets together. This integration is design to cut that time down by leveraging NewsCred to create the content, and sending that content directly to Marketo.

Now think about how you might create nurture programs in Marketo that segment customers and prospects. You need to personalize the content to those segments, and that requires a significant amount of content creation. NewsCred provides the vehicle to either create that content or source it from NewsCred content creators or licensed content.

This is only the first part of planned integration with Marketo. NewsCred’s big focus going forward is on improving analytics and measuring content performance. To help do that, it needs to get data back from Marketo on how content used within Marketo campaigns is performing, what lead it’s touching, how it’s segmenting against different audiences and so on.

Marketo is only the first marketing automation platform NewsCred wants to integrate with. It’s also planning integration with Eloqua later this year. Ultimately, Rand says NewsCred wants to help marketers prove the ROI of their content marketing.

Which brings me back to the original story

All the work NewsCred is doing ties back to the bigger picture I first mentioned - the content journey is the customer journey. This is NewsCred’s perspective on the future of the content marketing industry.

All these pieces of content spread across channels and platforms help customers decide what they are going to buy and who they are going to buy from. How do you, the brand, step back and look at the bigger content picture to understand how the content affects the customer journey? Right now, Rand says, there is no single view of the content journey.

This lack of a single view is the challenge NewsCred wants to tackle - “help brands understand what that content journey looks like from the eyes of the customer as it relates to content.”

Step back into your customer journey map for a minute and think about this. You spend a great deal of effort mapping the customer journey. You document touchpoints, what the interaction is for, who is talked to, what information is provided; it’s all there.

Now think about how you put a plan of action in place that works with that customer journey. You create marketing campaigns and strategies. You create them in your marketing automation platform, you create or update websites, social media sites, you create lots of content maybe using a content marketing platform like NewsCred, maybe using a swath of other tools (spreadsheets, Word, etc.). You have for each different platform or channel a set of marketing metrics you track.

You can look at any individual campaign within your customer journey and see how it’s performing, but most of the time you can’t pull all the different elements of a campaign into a single reporting structure (manually you can). If you can’t see all the elements of a single campaign in one place, then you certainly can’t see all different campaigns that make up a customer journey in one place.

What if you could? What if you could get that full picture in a single place? What if the customer journey is the content journey and you had a tool that could pull together all the content you use across all channels and platforms for every campaign you create for a specific customer journey?

I’m not saying NewsCred can make that vision a reality. The logistics of making it happen are huge. But if they could...

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