Feedback: Jimi Hendrix and Content Marketing

Ever wonder how Hendrix got those mean noises from that upside down Stratocaster? The science behind feedback isn’t very complicated.  As the gain on the pickup is increased it becomes more receptive and begins to receive the vibrations and frequencies coming out of the amplifier. As the video proves, the result can be startling, harmonious, or just godawful.  Hendrix was a master at controlling the effects of feedback.

Feedback from a content marketing program works in a similar way.  The notion is to pick up the vibrations and measure the frequencies from the audience then use them to adapt and refine the program. When the harmonics reinforce, the end result is something kind of cool – the audience finds the information they’re looking for and starts to interact with you and your business, a conversation is established, and this results in relationships with buying customers.

This article continues a series about Why Content Marketing Makes Sense for printing companies. Past posts have provided some detail about the parts and assembly of an inbound/content marketing strategy, including Where the Ideas Come From, Managing the Process, where Social Media fits in, and why Print and Email are good tactics. We’re building a content marketing machine, but there’s no use cranking it up if we can’t measure what it does. Today, the discussion is about feedback, how to listen and measure to adapt the program.

Can You See Me?

It’s an ongoing conversation that makes a content marketing program tick. You have to be in the conversation to be a part of it. This seems self-evident, but there’s a little more to it. You can create excellent quality original content and post it to your website or blog on a regular basis and the result will be completely predictable. Nothing will happen. No one will know that the information is there and no one will read it. After all of the preaching about inbound marketing and  attracting an audience, the following statement may seem to conflict. Nonetheless, it’s necessary to promote the material you publish. And yes, for those of you with Luddite tendencies, social media is probably the best channel for this kind of promotion.

Promotion is necessary to let the audience know that the material is there. You’ll need some help getting the message out, and that’s where the conversation comes in. There are other people who are talking about the same topics on the social media channels and they will help.  But wait, aren’t these competitors? They’re trying to establish their credibility and I’m trying to establish mine, so shouldn’t I attempt to “outcredible” these other providers of information? After all, we can’t have multiple authorities on the same subject, can we?

The short answer is “yes.” There is a strange collaborative symbiosis that develops with content marketing efforts. You’ll find that there are both potential customers and potential competitors in the conversation, and when more are involved, it’s better. You will find that you’ll actually share some information developed by others in the printing industry as curated content, and mention them in social media posts. Let them know when you do this, because they’ll appreciate it and (as long as you’re saying something worthwhile) they’ll be happy to reciprocate.

No Castles Made of Sand

It’s important to pay attention to the conversation and to the patterns that are established when visitors come to your website for information. Without some attention to feedback, it’s possible to become a victim of your own imagination. To paraphrase Hendrix, there’s a risk of constructing great castles made of sand (that drift into the sea, eventually). There are two kinds of feedback that are both important:

  1. Qualitative feedback – collected from individuals involved in the conversation.
  2. Quantitative feedback – numbers that can be programmatically collected from multiple sources for analysis.

More than anything else, the collection of qualitative feedback really just  involves listening.  Listening can provide new questions and ideas for new content development.  It also helps to identify trending topics of conversation, letting you know what interests your audience.  (Note: Your team members can help out a lot here.  If you encourage them to get involved with the content marketing effort, they can both listen and contribute to the conversations.  If you provide a few parameters and a little coaching, they’ll begin generating new ideas and developing relationships for the company.)

The Purple Haze of Analytics

Quantitative feedback or analytics is a massive subject that has been the topic of almost exactly 77,600,000 articles and posts (according to Google).  Here’s the point: There’s so much information available about analytics and from analytics that it’s easy to get lost in the (purple) haze. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to keep it very simple.

Printer Presence/Firespring Analytics

Printer Presence/Firespring Analytics

Most of the data or metrics that you’ll use for analysis will be collected from your website, but there are also lots of other good sources. If you have the resources to afford a marketing automation platform like Hubspot or Marketo, you’ll be able to collect and track a lot of data in one place.  Both of these applications integrate website, emails, forms and social networking under one roof and the analytics are built in. For the rest of us with more limited budgets, the numbers will be acquired from multiple sources.

Google Analytics coupled with WordPress as a content management platform is another powerful combination and enables a lot of possibilities, including tracking of landing pages and form conversions. Many of the packaged printer websites come with some pretty good analytics built in. For instance, Firespring/PrinterPresence includes most of the basic features of Google Analytics and some fairly sophisticated ways to integrate and measure campaigns that lead back to website landing pages.

For social networking, Buffer is a social media management platform that seemingly integrates with every social media channel in existence and provides some helpful statistics on posts and shares.  ShareThis is code that can be integrated into your site to enable social sharing and to collect data about the content that is shared by visitors. Finally, Email platforms like MailChimp provide good valuable statistics on newsletter opens and links. Backlinks to your website from MailChimp newsletters can also be tracked with Google Analytics.

Crosstown Traffic – Don’t Get Stuck

Lots of data is available, but not all of it is meaningful. Don’t get too tripped out in the details. It’s probably best to avoid the inclination to over-analyze the minutia and just get a sense of what the basic data is telling you.  Here are a couple of observations:

  1. You’re in the printing business. You’re not Large online retailers are able to literally track data from the first contact on a website through to a sale. Most of their customer contacts occur in a closed-loop system where actions can be tracked and analyzed. Brick and mortar printers don’t have this capability. Even if you take an order online, you won’t be able to gather enough online information to provide direct correlations between actions and purchases.
  2. Because of this, most of the data that you will collect will be conjectural rather than correlative. It’s important to keep this in mind and look for patterns, but also to remember that there are limitations to the conclusions you can make.

There are some times that you will want to track specifics with the intent of acquiring some correlative data.  For example, when a visitor to your website completes a form requesting information, this is generally a good signal of interest. It is valuable to track the progress of the conversation from this point in a CRM to make sure that there is adequate followup and that all needed information is provided to convert this lead into a prospect and then a customer.  In current marketing jargon, this is called lead nurturing, and we’ll write more about the process in a future post.  For today, it’s important only to note that the percentage of conversions from leads to prospects to customers is a key indicator of the success of your content marketing efforts.

Are You Experienced?

It takes a bit of experience to learn what data to look at and what conclusions to draw.  Again, we won’t delve too deeply into this subject today, but here are a few measures that you might want to track:

  • Acquisition – where do visitors to your website come from? A high percentage of visitors from social media may indicate that your efforts are working, and low numbers from organic search may steer you to work harder on SEO.
  • Landing pages  – which pages are visited most frequently? This can tell what content is of most interest to your audience and also provide an indicator of the success of efforts that direct the audience to a specific landing page. This data can also be correlated with form responses from the specific page.
  • Bounce Rates, Behavior Flow and Average Time on Page – Are people sticking on your site or bouncing off? It’s not unusual to see a high bounce rate from a blog post. If the time on page figure is measured in minutes, they’re reading the post, then leaving.  Is there something that could be added to the page that would encourage the visitor to stay on the site?  If they’re only staying seconds, then they’re not reading the post. Is there a problem with the quality of content?
  • Open Rates – the key indicator for emails. You may also be able to draw some inferences by comparing the lists of who opens your email newsletters. A recipient who opens, reads, and clicks through on newsletter links might be receptive to a personal email or a phone call.

There’s much, much more.  It’s possible to set up relevant measures for almost anything on your website, but even basic data can provide you with valuable insights about how your content marketing program is running.  Look for the patterns and listen to the feedback. Tweak your website and the content to improve results. Soon you’ll be managing feedback like Jimi Hendrix.

Putting It All Together

The next post will wind up the series, putting all of the pieces together and cranking the engine. We’ll discuss the best method for keeping the engine running  to produce a continuing stream of content, measuring and adapting to improve as we move along.  We’re looking for new customers, increased revenues and profits. How do we integrate content marketing with other sales and marketing efforts to optimize the results?

Want More Info?

If you have a little time, take a look at the latest episode of the 21/20 Marketing webcast.  Spencer Powell and I continued the content marketing discussion over a broad range of topics, including website necessities, kinds of content that printers and direct mailers might want to produce, and good idea sources. Please feel free to get in touch if I can help with your company’s marketing efforts. There’s no charge for the first discussions and I’m sure we’ll come up with at least a couple of good ideas.



  1. Richard this is one of the most creative angles I’ve seen. Well played!

    • Richard Dannenberg

      Thanks Katherine . . . really wanted to include Electric Ladyland too, but couldn’t find a fit.