Performance driven content: the key to successful content

by , Author and Executive Director, Experience at AvenueCX

Kevin is presenting at Confab Intensive in Portland, Oregon this fall.

This year, Forbes Insights released a report indicating that 69% of top company executives plan to increase their marketing data-driven approaches. Performance-driven content is a data-driven approach to content that can ensure your content ecosystem evolves the way it should, meeting the needs of your content consumers. For content marketers, Chief Content Officers and content strategists, performance-driven content provides the fuel for effective and successful content solutions. Why? Because this method positions an organization to continuously assess how its content is performing, and from that perspective, make decisions on what to do with the content in the future.

Companies such as Kellogg use data-driven approaches to redefine which content they create and how they do so. A recent article in CMO magazine points out that Kellogg increased the ‘viewability’ (how often the ad is viewed) of an ad campaign from 30% to 70% through its data-driven methodology and successfully uses the model to make content decisions around marketing messaging and advertising.

So let’s explore further what performance driven content looks like, why it is important, and how to set it up successfully.

Understanding the Basics

Earlier this year, I published Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide, outlining a content strategy framework based on a performance-driven model.  Performance-driven content looks like this:


Diagram 1-1: A performance-driven content strategy framework

This diagram conveys a series of phases for a performance-driven framework, with governance at the center. “Putting these phases together creates a cyclical process. Within this closed-loop process, an experience never exists in a complete state; measurements and continual evolution inform future priorities.” (Enterprise Content Strategy, Page 9). The types of activities for a performance driven model include:

Performance Table

Let’s look at how such a model can function. I use the following diagram in my book to show how a performance-driven approach can work within an organization:

iagram 1-2: Performance-driven content in action

Diagram 1-2: Performance-driven content in action

Diagram 1-2 shows three columns: inputs, meeting and outputs, with the inputs column containing a series of inputs required for a performance-driven model. With this model, you should ask yourself: how is content performing against its initial objectives and what can we learn from all these inputs (trends, user data and content metrics) to recommend future content priorities? You should review each of the areas identified in the inputs column on an ongoing basis after content is published. A meeting or series of meetings should review the data gleaned from the inputs, assess and analyze it, and then make recommendations for future content investments. Outputs of the process include:

By using this approach, an organization can understand what content is successful, why it is successful and glean areas of opportunity for the future. In general, this approach can create more relevant, useful and compelling content for the consumer. Done well, performance-driven content assesses consumer’s needs, behaviors, attitudes and creates a user-centric approach to content creation.

Setting Up A Model

Performance-driven content starts by setting up content lifecycles so that each can be measured, evaluated and then acted upon. To do so, you should build the following approach into your content publishing model. For each of these areas, I paraphrase Chapter’s 7 and 8 of my book.

1. Identify each content type (articles, product details, news) or format type (video, image, etc.) that will contain its own unique lifecycle. Use what you see in diagram 1-3 as a starting point. (You will notice a similar, closed-loop model to the first diagram.)

iagram 1-3 High-level content lifecycle

Diagram 1-3 High-level content lifecycle

2. You will likely have content lifecycles already if you publish content, so the steps you should focus on are steps 6 – 7 and ‘Govern.’ Detail out the sub-steps for these areas. Also ensure you have strong governance to support it (Paula Land discusses governance and tools required for performance driven content in her upcoming article on this blog).

3. For step 6, “Evaluate through metrics and user feedback,” ensure the following:

Metrics by touchpoint

4. For step 7, “Optimize or leave as-is”:

5. If the consumers do view the content but you don’t get the desired outcome, such as a conversion or the completion of a step within the user journey, then determine whether you need to reassess your user and consumer journeys.

6. If all else fails, review your objectives. Perhaps the content is fine but your organization has set unrealistic objectives for it.

7. Also, look at competitive sites to see how they use similar content. You may need user testing to finalize your assessment.

8. When finished, assess where to make improvements in your existing content, investments in new content and archival of unnecessary content.

Making A Model Successful – Key Considerations

So, having understood a bit more about the model, let’s turn to five key points to stand up a performance-driven model for success. The first three hail from Tom Redman, author of the book, Data Driven: Profiting from Your Most Important Business Asset and focus on data-driven approaches:

Converging Consumer Inputs and Technology to Realize Success

Technology plays a significant role in performance-driven solutions, but as a tool, not the solution. Let’s look at a few areas where technology and consumer inputs converge:

Achieving Results

Performance-driven content is not without its challenges and requires a significant commitment within marketing and content departments. A comprehensive approach is necessary and involves the entire enterprise. But do it well, and you will create user-centric content. In the process, you will achieve or even surpass your business’s goals and objectives.

Any and every type of content strategy framework should include a performance-driven model as a fundamental aspect to the content ecosystem design. Doing so means that the experience is scalable and able to evolve from a series of ongoing inputs and measurements. Done right, this approach future-proofs a content ecosystem, allowing the decisions that seed and feed the ecosystem to be based upon data, insights and consumer research.

Helpful Resources

Check out these additional resources to help you think about performance-driven content.

Kevin P Nichols’ Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guides (XML Press, January, 2015) Everything in this article is detailed much more in by book.

Paula Land’s Content Audits and Inventories (XML Press, October, 2014)

Note: Paula Land and I position our books together, because we feel strongly that mine sets up a framework, and hers informs how to use ongoing audits and governance to successful enable the framework.

Forbes Insights: The Rise of the New Marketing Organization (January 2015).

Content Strategy Alliance Handbook: This new repository contains nearly 40 free templates and leverages a closed-loop structure to position the effort.

Kevin is presenting at Confab Intensive in Portland, Oregon this fall.

About the Author

Author and Executive Director, Experience at AvenueCX

Kevin P. Nichols is an award-winning thought leader, digital industry enthusiast, and author with more than 20 years of professional experience. In 2014, he coauthored (with Donald Chesnut) UX For Dummies and in 2015, Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide. Recently, Kevin left his position of Global Head of Content Strategy at SapientNitro, where Kevin grew that team to become one of the largest and most successful in the world. Currently, Kevin is devoting his time to promoting and developing his personal brand. Kevin has been a forerunner and major contributor to user experience and content strategy. He has authored numerous articles on content strategy, user experience, personalization, omnichannel and digital strategy. You can learn more about him at His Twitter handle is @kpnichols.

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