Redefining 'guerrilla marketing' in the age of content - part 2


In the second of a mini-series on content marketing, Rob Davies and James Whiteman from Aviva Investors share the remaining six guiding principles on content marketing that have helped shaped their successful strategy.

Investment marketers know better than most that differentiation is regularly cited as one of asset management marketers' biggest challenges, especially when it comes to the content marketing jungle.

In the first article on this concept, we shared three of the ten rules we have created to ensure our content efforts have maximum impact and don't go to waste. The first six relate to production; seven to nine focus on distribution; and the last spans across both. They are by no means exhaustive, but you may find at least some of them helpful.


Rule four: Ruthless efficiency, processes and smart technology

This can be summed up by thinking of an air traffic control centre. If an airport can manage the complexity of thousands of flights a day (at least until recently), the challenge of managing a few (relatively) slow moving documents should not cause an industry as sophisticated as ours much of a headache.

Unfortunately, for far too long it has. Managing compliance, press embargos, social media distribution, translations, third-party distribution relationships and so on, while making sure accuracy and timeliness don't slip, requires industrial-level organisation. Regular cross-departmental meetings, transparent pipelines, effective technology and clear lines of responsibility are key.

Having the right processes makes it far easier to ensure the right messages get to the right people and the right time. A layer of local- and channel-specific relevance can also be easily added to the centralised always-on global drumbeat of content.


Five: Tagging discipline

Tagging underpins efficiency and data. AI, robots and machine learning can help, but computers won't understand your business and unique internal language well enough to be left unattended. For effective management information (MI) to be produced - i.e. volume of activity in asset classes and geographies, as well as content types - a well-considered tagging structure and culture must be implemented and embedded.

Though painful upfront, the ongoing tagging maintenance across both front- and back-end technology solutions should not be overly burdensome and will pay for itself many times over in the speed, efficiency and effectiveness that reports and insights can be pulled off. A tagging oversight group spanning sales, product management and marketing is advisable. Aside from the departmental reporting and accountability benefits, tagging the right variables helps conversations across the business as it makes for more informed budget and resource allocation decisions.


Six: Learn from the 'faster horses' principle

This is all about creativity, curiosity and imagination - and making enough space for them to thrive. Google famously did this with its 20 per cent rule, allowing employees to spend a portion of their time on projects of their own choosing. Many other leading innovators have instigated similar initiatives. In Google's case, it led to Google News, Gmail, and AdSense.

Henry Ford's version, which we have invoked here, recognised the limitations of focus groups and client surveys as customers are unlikely to be able to tell you what they want in advance. In a similar spirit, advertising expert Rory Sutherland once said: "The fatal issue with logic is that it gets you to exactly the same place as your competitors."[1]

Our version of this was to create The Little Book of Data, an annual coffee table book that we send out to clients and prospects. No feedback or survey data suggested this was what was missing from their professional lives, yet the overwhelming feedback we have had since suggests that it was.


Seven: Create journey maps

If no plan survives first contact with enemy contact, why bother? Likewise, why bother with a client journey map? With so much user-journey fragmentation, how can a clear thread line be retraced to understand an individual's, or typical user's, interaction with you? Isn't the data too messy to make sense out of all the touchpoints?

The answer lies in preparation and the power of doing it anyway. Firstly, even understanding a fraction of the ideal or typical journey can help gain an edge - allowing for better optimisation of results. But a clear plan, or map, also creates focus for the mini content campaign, resulting in more purposeful activity and KPIs. Regular reviews and a flexible mindset can drive a better understanding of initial results, with any necessary tweaks being made in real time.

Mapping all the distribution channels, from social media and email, to search engine and third-party distribution (both media and industry partners), and supplying unique URLs, therefore carries significant value.

As data management platforms (or warehouses, or lakes) become increasingly useful and sophisticated, the dream of a genuine single customer view also comes closer and closer to reality. Having built the foundations for effective user tracing, replete with journey maps and tags, will make this reality far easier implement and capitalise from when it arrives.


Eight: Use both precision snipers and scatter targeting

In investment parlance, this represents a barbell approach to the distribution of content. It also recognises there is some value in marketing wastage.

Slightly counterintuitively, but in acknowledgement of increasingly complex user journeys, aiming for unrealistic precision with content marketing spend is not optimal. Increasingly, it seems sensible to view the budget through two lenses: one focused on generating leads; the other focused higher up the funnel on creating general awareness and brand preference.

Mixing owned, earned and paid media channels, and assigning clear primary objectives for them, accepts each has its place and they can and do overlap and complement each other. While some social media platforms (like LinkedIn) and third-party distribution channels allow for lead capture, other mediums don't but offer far greater reach - or, as some wrongly argue, wastage. Second-guessing where all your prospects are in today's complex digital jungle is a fool's game.


Nine: Data-aware, not data-driven

Active management professionals will be all too familiar with benchmark equivalent of this. This rule also hinges on the belief that it is "better to be roughly right, than precisely wrong" as John Maynard Keynes is reported to have said.

Following the data will get you so far, but it has to be overlaid with human insight and context. A healthy data culture is one that respects its cold, hard impartiality, but also recognises its Spock-like fallibilities too. Data should be used to challenge our intuitions and assumptions. Used wisely, it can help us become more efficient and effective. But, just like a benchmark, it doesn't contain all the answers - particularly given that what counts cannot always be counted.

It can also lead to a false sense of precision and accuracy with marketing strategies, offering up black and white solutions to what are almost always grey and muddy corporate, industry and market conditions. Instead of thinking about data as a ballistic missile, with the target identified and then released to follow its predetermined course, think of it more as helping us construct a guided missile capable of shifting course as new information comes in.


Ten: Culture of jointmanship

Building on the point of culture, its importance extends well beyond data.  Sir General Walter Walker, one of guerrilla warfare's most celebrated exponents, coined the term 'jointmanship'. It is really just a fancy, arguably awkward, way of espousing the virtues of teamwork. In the jungle, certain decisions simply must be delegated and decentralised, demanding strong, two-way communication and accountability.

Similarly, total command-and-control is not effective in a marketing context. Local channel or digital experts must be empowered to make decisions that best suit the market and the situation. This requires trust, talent and a willingness to constantly learn and stay abreast of market developments.


Guerrillas out of the content mist

Military intelligence, far from being an oxymoron as some like to joke, is useful because the sharpness of thinking and the extent to which one's life depends on it tends to be highly correlated. We can, and should, learn the strategic insights gleaned from those who have dared to venture outside the cushiness of the office.

Escaping the content jungle requires you to up your game. You have to have ambition, you have to value your craft as a communicator, and you have to - above all else - value quality. There are no shortcuts. Few clients want to have products rammed down their throats these days. Instead, they want solutions to their problems, slick client experience, and insightful content that will make them sit up and take note of you. This, in turn, fuels healthy long-term relationships.

One part of guerrilla warfare is about convincing your opponent that you have more resources than you do, which sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it? It is about finding an edge and approaching things differently - no doubt why shock and awe tactics have been grossly over-emphasised. But, like marketing, it is about far more. Next time you hear the phrase guerrilla marketing, consider it in its completeness; doing so certainly helped us sharpen our content marketing thinking.

[1] Alchemy: The surprising power of ideas that don't make sense (P.34)