Jake Sorofman Presents: Move Over Big Data, Here Comes Big Content
Big data is big conversation these days, with everything from first party data, to targeted marketing, to personal privacy up for discussion. But what the heck is big content?
Well, for all its value, says Jake Sorofman, data is useless unless it tells a story. But leveraged wisely, big data creates the platform for Big Content.
Sorofman is a former CMO and a research director for Gartner, a large technology research and advisory company. He specializes in digital marketing, with a specific focus on content marketing, customer experience and digital CMO.
He’s also a dad, a “landlocked boater,” and an evangelist for authentic, scalable brand storytelling. I had the pleasure of attending his Big Content break-out session at the Inbound 2014 conference on September 17. He kept my fingers busy with an endless stream of Tweetable quotes and hard-hitting information on why and how to achieve Big Content in your organization. Here’s the lowdown.
The research behind: Why stories
“Stories create indelible memories,” says Sorofman. “In a way that data never can.” He explains:
- Stories engage. Audiences are drawn to narrative tension.
- Stories help us learn. Complex information is put into context.
- Stories help us remember. “Storylines stick, data fragments bounce.”
So how do you tell stories that engage, teach, and stick? “In marketing, the best stories start with customer outcomes,” says Sorofman.
So, for instance, instead of “We sell the world’s most advanced slide projectors,” the story becomes, “We preserve memories.” Likewise, “We are the leading provider of e-commerce solutions” becomes, “We help you double your online revenue.” In other words, great marketing storytelling puts people–specifically buyers–at the center.
“When you start with what’s at stake for the buyer, you earn the right to their attention.”
The structure of stories that stick
“Your success as a marketer is dependent on your ability to create content that people actually want to consume,” says Sorofman. “And time is the enemy. You must be efficient. You have 7 seconds or less to capture your audience’s attention.”
Again, he emphasizes, the trick to this feat is putting the buyer first. With the buyer in the starring role (not products!), you buy yourself more time.
“Don’t rush the customer story,” says Sorofman. “Spend 90% on the buyer’s situation and its impact… and only the last few moments on the resolution. The final part is about you, but be patient. You will have the opportunity to tell your story—your resolution—when audience attention is at its highest.”
To get to that point of highest attention:
- Start with outcomes,
- Starring people,
- Who are caught in situations,
- That are having an impact,
- That begs resolution.
Then, once you’ve earned their attention, you can provide your resolution–finally, you have Sorofman’s permission to talk about your product.
How to tell stories at scale
“Had we but world enough and time…” we could all create massive quantities of quality, buyer-centered content and spread it to all our relevant markets. But in the real world, time is the great limiter and scaling content supply chain is one of the biggest challenges faced by marketers.
“Content marketing is based on an iron triangle of search, social, and multi-channel,” says Sorofman. “All of which is centered around content. Social engagement doesn’t happen if you don’t have something interesting to say.”
Sorofman discusses the content problem in terms of a three-pronged content supply chain approach:
- Talent communities/aggregators (contently, scripted, etc.)
- Ambient (curation-centered to fill gaps in calendar-driven content)
- Responsive (social listing and real-time engagement)
He emphasizes that curation and cultivation are important tools for scaling up, as are outsourced solutions such as agencies (like ours) and aggregators who can help you develop high quality content quickly.
Closing the loop for continuous engagement
Here is where Sorofman’s role as an industry analyst comes to play. By closing the loop between data-driven feedback and content production, companies can continuously improve the effectiveness of their content.
“Automation and orchestration work together to reach the right audiences at the right moments,” he says.
To make the leap from big data to big content, companies must “develop a rich understanding of their audience, based on first- and third-party data.” Use the data to understand your audience’s “experience architecture”:
Define Who: Buyer personas
Define When: Buying stage/ key moments along the buying journey
Define What: Inventory the stories you tell and the experiences you create
Define How: What data does this require/What systems and processes does it impact and implicate?
When that’s done, “suddenly there’s the basis for a cross-functional conversation,” says Sorofman. “Marketing and IT can have a conversation about specific experiences they’re trying to deliver. It becomes a more tractable problem than discussing customer experience as a broad, amorphous idea.”
Finally, automate with a digital marketing hub:
- Audience profile data
- Content supply chain
- Intelligent orchestration
- Unified analytics (trace the thread between investment and outcome—where’s the engagement happening, where’s the conversion happening, what’s effective and what’s not)
Finally, how to rise above the noise
Sorofman offered these final five points for rising above the content marketing noise:
- Think like a journalist. It’s not all about you.
- Do it every day. Act like a publisher.
- Seek to delight. Create like an artist.
- Think big content. Don’t think of each piece as isolated–it needs to be paired up with scale.
- Measure and amplify—don’t set it and forget it.
- Hope is not a strategy. Shine a light on your content efforts to see what’s working.
“All the data in the world, as important as it is, is not useful if you don’t have something meaningful to say.”
To me, the most exciting thing about Sorofman’s presentation is the process for closing the loop between audience engagement and content production, then leveraging that efficiency to continuously scale content effectiveness without continuously increasing investment. For organizations facing marketing investment decisions for 2015, this is powerfully heady stuff.
What was your biggest take-away from Sorofman’s presentation? Tell us in the comments, , or get in touch for a deeper conversation about your content needs.
Heather Head is an author, as well as the founder of Scopcity. When she is not writing, running the business, or chasing down bad guys on Twitter, she enjoys hiking, snuggling with her husband and three boys, and avoiding the kitchen.