[Editor's note: Michael took our marketing assessment and got Marketing Explorer. He’s one of only a handful of marketers who scored top marks in all five categories: Strategy and Scalability, Organizational Efficiency, Content Experiences, Sales and Marketing Alignment, and Measurement and ROI.]
As the Senior Director of Marketing Strategy and Content Marketing Lead for R2integrated, Michael Tirone has more than 10 years of experience in content marketing, social media, and digital strategy. He describes himself as an experience-seeking optimist who loves travel, photography, effective marketing strategies, and consuming content just as much as creating it.
Uberflip: In your day-to-day work, what’s your primary focus?
Michael Tirone: The beauty of my job—aside from our Baltimore office overlooking the historic Inner Harbor being filled with candy walls, bobbleheads, scooters, and a pool table—is that every day my primary focus can change.
As a senior strategist, I work on both ongoing accounts and digital marketing strategy projects, so my focus will always vary. But I also work on business development and continuing to build out R2integrated’s content marketing service offering. Personally, my primary focus is to achieve successful partnerships with my clients. I am the lead strategist on various accounts where I am responsible for fulfilling the business goals of my clients. Additionally, I build comprehensive, holistic content strategies for clients that need a more effective, results-driven approach to content marketing.
UF: What’s a campaign, project, or piece of content you’re working on now?
MT: Right now I’m testing a personalized engagement funnel to help one of my clients strategically influence one of their target audience segments. After realizing that their website visitors were converting on the site after reading at least two blog posts, we began to tag these content pieces based on the stage of the user’s engagement—awareness, consideration, or acquisition. From there we built out a funnel to nurture these users with content that moved them through their conversion journey faster and we’ve seen a 152% growth in direct leads in just six months for that one audience, so I’d say the test was a success!
UF: What are you currently struggling with?
MT: A major challenge for me is convincing clients to ‘buy in’ on content. We have a great library of case studies, data, use cases, and solid proof on how effective content marketing can be for both B2B and B2C brands, but there’s still some hesitation from clients. Whether it is budget, time, value, or being too new of a marketing technique, we continue to find that clients are tentative to invest in content, even though we know that it costs about 62% less than outbound marketing and generates more than three times as many leads. It’s an uphill battle, but the content industry continues to expand and prove its worth, so more brands will adopt the practices, even if it’s a little later than I’d like.
UF: What tools or resources do you rely on to do your job?
MT: There are so many tools I use on a daily basis, it’s hard to choose. I love ScreamingFrog for content audits, BuiltWith and SimilarWeb for researching competitors, Google Trends for content ideation, Jira for managing workflow and operations, Adobe Muse for cool interactive infographics, and Sharethrough for dynamic content targeting and distribution. Finally, for reporting, we use our own tool R2iQ. I could go on and on. While there are so many great tools out there, tools are just tools. Without the people behind them to recognize which one is best for which tactic, business, industry, key performance indicator, or success metric, they're useless.
UF: What’s the one thing you want to improve on in 2018?
MT: For the past three years, my ‘Future of Content Marketing’ list has revolved around personalization. But this year I can confidently say that I feel personalization will be more prevalent than ever. The reason I know this is because I continue to see more and more brands tapping into personalized content—whereas a few years ago there were only a handful that did it moderately well—and the technology to deliver it has improved.
Most of what hinders brands from executing strong personalization is having a foundational understanding of their target audience during each stage of their decision-making process and then having the appropriate technology to serve them content that helps them move through the buyer’s journey. I’m confident that the content being created for my clients is targeted, effective, and resonating with the audience, but now I want to narrow it in even more by personalizing it. We plan to do it with strong data, capable technology, and great content.
UF: What are you eager to try in the future?
MT: I’m always eager to continue to attribute accurate content. Marketing attribution is incredibly complex, with last non-direct touch or linear or even time decay attribution, the ways to attribute credit for digital marketing success is not easy to follow. Layer on the fact that content marketing can exist throughout an entire marketing ecosystem, it muddies the reporting waters even more.
My goal is to identify a simple attribution model for the content marketing I’m doing to help companies justify their investment in the strategy and execution. CMOs, CTOs, and VPs of marketing are worried about their bottom line and when you don’t have proven data that shows positive ROI for your marketing efforts, you’re less likely to keep their business. There is nothing more satisfying for a marketer than to see a positive ROI for your programs because it solidifies your value while building a better relationship—and that’s what motivates me day-after-day… and I suppose the candy walls help too.