It’s not just content that benefits from editorial expertise

How thinking like a journalist can transform the impact of a direct call to action

February 4, 2020

It’s not just content that benefits from editorial expertise

What do content marketers and content marketing agencies do? The answer seems obvious: they create and distribute content. However, if you think that their expertise only applies to eBooks, white papers, videos or thought leadership blog posts, then you could be missing out on one of the most valuable applications of editorial thinking. It’s amazing what a difference a content perspective can make when it’s applied to more direct, action-oriented marketing messages and calls to action.

As LinkedIn’s Content Partner Manager for EMEA and LATAM, my role involves helping our advertising clients develop content to fit the expectations of the LinkedIn audience and perform strongly in the LinkedIn feed. As you’d expect, a lot of my time is spent advising on content strategy and recommending agencies that can help clients optimise content assets as part of a campaign booking. I’ve discovered though, that editorial expertise can also make a far more direct contribution to clients’ demand generation strategies. Taking a content-led approach to writing an InMail campaign, for example, can have a dramatic impact on open rate, click-through rate (CTR) and cost per lead (CPL).

The hidden content opportunity in direct messaging

Marketers don’t always think of an InMail as content. It’s a personalised message that talks directly to your audience, explains what you have to offer and prompts them to take action. It might well introduce a piece of content (many highly effective demand generation campaigns do exactly that). However, the InMail itself tends to be treated as a piece of direct marketing rather than part of a content agency’s remit. We all know that InMail is at its most effective when it’s succinct and gets straight to the point with a clear and concise call to action. There doesn’t seem room to fit content into that formula.

When you hand an InMail brief to a content agency though, spectacular things can happen. I recently advised on a lead generation campaign for the energy company Uniper, and its Enerlytics software solution for monitoring and managing power plants. The campaign needed to reach and engage senior energy industry decision-makers like C-suite executives and senior managers, who would make the call on whether to trial a new platform for capturing and analysing data. It had to be compelling with a clear reason to act – but it also had to communicate credibility. Senior energy industry decision-makers need to know they’re dealing with a business that understands the challenges they face.

How Uniper generated benchmark-beating CTR and CPL

Hitting this sweet spot of being concise, credible and compelling is what content agencies do all the time. It’s been a part of the editorial skillset ever since newspapers first started printing headlines – and in Uniper’s case, that skillset produced dramatic results. The business used our content partner Story Jungle to help optimise the InMail campaign. As a result it generated an average engagement rate of 74%, with an open rate that was 133% higher than LinkedIn benchmarks, a click-through rate (CTR) 40% higher, and a per lead (CPL) 75% lower.

What made the difference for this campaign? The execution featured key elements of best practice: InMail copy was tailored to the primary concerns of different geographical markets. Different versions of InMails were prepared for each type of stakeholder, using A/B testing to optimise around the most effective approaches. The InMails came directly from Uniper executives as well, for a more personalised approach. However, the secret ingredient that made all of this possible was content-led thinking.

The power of content-led thinking for a personalised campaign

The campaign didn’t just personalise with references to somebody’s name or country; it didn’t stick to A/B testing which style of greeting worked best. Instead, it pitched the messages for each group around the headline issues that they cared most about at that moment. As any newspaper or magazine editor will tell you, that’s the key to capturing people’s attention – and signalling to them that you understand the world the same way that they do. Being able to do so unlocks the full potential of personalisation.

Scroll down for two examples of InMails from the campaign that show what I mean. The first is, in many ways, the most straightforward. It focuses on an upcoming industry event and the headline of the InMail reflects this, getting straight to the point of what Uniper is offering. However, the first two short paragraphs quickly establish why spending time with the business would make sense to the target audience. It talks about the data challenge that the industry faces, empathises with the position this puts the recipient in, and anticipates what they are looking for – all within just a couple of sentences.

The second InMail takes this insight-led empathy to the next level, by leading with a local observation about the changing energy mix in the Middle East. This brings a real sense of urgency in the message, which is reflected in the choice of teaser headline. After the opening sentence of this InMail, you’re confident that the executive reaching out to you understands your agenda – and has a perspective you’d benefit from, and need to hear soon. That’s the essence of effective lead generation marketing. It’s no surprise to me that this particular InMail generated one of the highest CTRs of the campaign.

If you’re planning a lead generation campaign, and looking to personalise your approach to different audiences, don’t settle for simply dropping personal details into your introduction. Even if your campaign doesn’t feature a central content asset, working with content experts can still help to tailor your approach to the issues that an audience member cares about – and dramatically increase your response rates as a result. Our content partners are available to help optimise lead generation campaigns on LinkedIn – and their services can be included as part of your campaign booking. Talk to your account manager or reach out to me directly on LinkedIn to get the ball rolling.