The value of content marketing

In the third of a series of four articles on marketing effectiveness, Marketing and Canon talk to leading global marketers about the value of engaging, well-curated content.

Mat Finch, marketing director, Warner Leisure Hotels

Location Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

Finch became marketing director of Warner Leisure Hotels in 2014, after holding positions in sales, marketing and commercial management at the company since December 2010. In 2012, the Warner marketing team won DMA awards for best direct response print advertising and best direct response television and also best use of search at the UK Search Awards.

Warner also picked up silver for best leisure hotel chain at the 2012 British Travel Awards and was voted Which? recommended provider of UK hotels. Bourne Leisure was also judged the fifth-best large company to work for in the 2014 Sunday Times annual survey.

Prior to this, Finch worked for Dell, initially as head of marketing for UK and Ireland, and subsequently head of retail marketing for EMEA. Other positions have included senior account director at Google.

Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

Passionate direct marketer with background in digital helping guests enjoy their perfect short break at Warner.

What do you understand by content marketing?

Content marketing is about showcasing our hotels and villages, via useful or entertaining information, videos and photographs, to help inspire new guests to visit us. Warner is blessed with a loyal following. More than 75% of bookings are from repeat guests who share their reviews, photos and videos from their stay. We also have a live music offering, which inspires excellent content. Our only challenge is finding the most effective way to collate and present this content to potential new guests.

How valuable is content to your marketing and how do you measure its value?

Creative and engaging content plays an integral role in our marketing strategy and we rate the quality of the content and our offering through feedback from guests. Ratings and reviews are a channel we rely on to measure the success of our content marketing.

How do you ensure high-quality and relevant content is produced in a cost-effective way?

Warner's in-house studio works with all relevant departments to ensure that high-quality, engaging and creative brand content is produced in a holistic and cost-effective manner. We listen to guest feedback on our content and product offering to ensure that it is of value to our guests and to the business. We also endeavour to seek out guest stories, as they often make for the most interesting and well-received content material.

What's the best measurement tool or technique in your armoury to measure content value?

We haven't invested much focus in measuring the value of our content, as we see it as an essential, an expectation from our guests.

What's the best way to produce content? Should it always be produced in-house or in an agency?

It depends on the brand. For us, having 13 hotels and villages means an in-house team can capture more content more regularly than an agency ever could.

How is your content produced cost-effectively across all platforms, including mobile?

We've taken the brave step of relinquishing control from the marketing team, enabling our 3000 team members and 500,000 guests to create their own content. We have a very cost-effective model of collating high volumes of content from across our 13 hotels and villages. The marketing team's role is to filter the best bits and showcase it to new guests across all platforms.

How do you assign content budgets and ensure production and distribution are resourced?

Our content budgets are generally distributed evenly between departments. We treat content as part of our PR and social-media team, as we feel the most effective way of sharing content is by engaging guests. We are still testing platforms to gauge the most effective way of sharing our content, but we have an ever-increasing emphasis on social media. Many of our guests, although retired, are increasingly technologically savvy, being big users of Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

What is the content marketing ideal?

Where guests can create the content themselves with marketing just collating and distributing the information.

If you ruled the world, what one thing would you change to help you achieve maximum effectiveness and engagement?

I would increase the ease of connecting and communicating across multiple channels by removing barriers such as different profiles, logins, passwords and switching between devices. It would create a much better guest experience and help us better understand their preferences and behaviours.

What is the most effective channel for distributing content to consumers and why?

Social media is clearly the most cost-effective, but don't discount traditional media - our guests still love to receive their Warner newsletter in the post.

Brian Streich, chief marketing officer, StubHub International

Location London

Streich joined StubHub, the world's largest secondary ticketing marketplace, in 2004, prior to its acquisition by eBay in 2007.

He has worked across almost every marketing discipline, helping to increase traffic, conversion and Net Promoter Scores. Most recently, he was the lead director across the customer buy flow.

He has broadened his marketing leadership role to become international marketing director and is now in charge of StubHub's business outside North America.

Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

Sports-obsessive oenophile and marketeer.

What do you understand by content marketing?

It is about engaging with fans, through video content, interactive outdoor advertising, our new UK blog or our new app, Stubhub Music, providing unique experiences.

How valuable is content to your marketing and how do you measure its value?

It's critical. We measure value through brand awareness, consideration and preference, and also focus on Net Promoter Scores.

What's the best way to measure content value?

It is about measuring engagement with customers through brand awareness and understanding as well as measures such as content views. It depends on the goal.

What's the best way to produce content?

Draw on expertise from the best partners combined with an internal team with an intimate understanding of the brand and how content can be maximised.

How can you ensure content is produced cost-effectively across platforms, including mobile?

Thinking from the original brief that content needs to be stretched and tailored for every platform.

How do you assign content budgets and ensure production and distribution are resourced?

We assign budgets according to business priorities. I evaluate according to performance, but we want to try new things and sometimes be prepared to fail!

What would you change to help ensure maximum effectiveness and engagement?

Accept that marketing is about long-term engagement and building trust with your customer.

What is the most effective channel for distributing content and why?

There is no one channel. It is about understanding your customer and where they are getting information, through social, advertising or internet search.