Behind the Award: An Interview with Ben Young

POSTED BY INPOWERED

Friday, October 15, 2021 4:46 PM

At inPowered we’re big proponents of “teamwork makes the dream work,” and that adage couldn’t ring truer than after we recently learned that for the second year in a row, we placed of as finalists for the Digiday Technology Awards in the “Best Content Marketing Platform” category. Our submission was done in partnership with two of our top partners, AAA Club Alliance + 160over90, both of whom were integral to the success of our collaborative campaign.

We couldn’t be more thrilled or grateful for this industry recognition and will be waiting on the edge of our seats for the winners to be announced next month. In the interim, we’re kicking off a new inPowered interview series with some of the esteemed members of our Content Marketing Advisory Board. First up we had the privilege of chatting with Ben Young, the Manager of AAA Club Alliance’s Content + Publications, to learn more about what it takes to produce award-winning content and spearhead marketing for one of the biggest travel brands on the planet:

  1. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started in marketing?

I started my career in our Auto Travel business line and quickly moved to the Marketing team. As a AAA Associate for more than 15 years, I get energized about coming to work every day to help our Members on their journeys. I’ve managed business line marketing strategies for each of our business lines and our Creative Services team during my tenure. As of today, I lead a team of brand and content experts that create and publish our print and digital content. This includes our two award-winning print publications, AAA World and AAA Traveler Worldwide, and our digital content hub, The Extra Mile. I also manage our Club’s brand creative.

 

  1. What are your organization’s main goals when it comes to content marketing?

The primary goal of content marketing at AAA Club Alliance is to create additional value for our Members since they’re at the heart of everything we do. This means providing authentic, relevant, and engaging content, and storytelling from real people having real experiences that encourage our Members to discover, live, and learn out on the open road and beyond. This Member value is ultimately measured by Membership renewal, the number of new Members acquired, and the increased penetration of our product and service offerings.

In addition, we want to make sure that our content marketing strategy directly connects with our corporate strategy to effectively tell our company story and impact the health of our brand in the marketplace. This means creating a robust framework that allows for the seamless integration of our business lines, products, and services into our content marketing efforts while remaining true to the spirit of our membership base.

 

  1. What advice would you give to other marketers who are struggling to see ROI with their content marketing efforts or digital strategy?

Consumers are savvier than they’ve ever been, so the first step in elevating ROI with content marketing is looking at the content itself to see if it’s resonating with consumers. Younger consumers are getting better and better at sniffing out anything that seems like direct or disingenuous marketing.  Creating authentic and relevant content that tries to genuinely help consumers will go a long way in making that meaningful connection with the audience.  

Additionally, driving the right, qualified traffic and creating the proper content marketing funnel is imperative. Measuring the path to a conversion or endpoint in the funnel can help guide your organization to a greater return on investment. By using inPowered’s Next Action Units (NAUs) and Content Intelligence platform, we can guide our users to the next step in the marketing funnel to a destination that makes contextual sense to the content in which they’re engaging. We can see what messaging most efficiently drives users toward conversion by trying different combinations, and we optimize our user journeys accordingly.

 

  1. How has AI changed the way content marketing impacts AAA Club Alliance’s bigger business objectives?

Attention is the scarcest resource in the economy, and at AAA Club Alliance, we want to make the most of every user’s experience with our content. According to a recent Enabler Space study, 70% of internet users want to learn about products and services through content instead of traditional advertising. As a result, we strive to use creative and engaging storytelling and information to capture users’ attention and build trust with our wide variety of content. We use our content efforts to create awareness of our brand’s story and product and service offerings so that our traditional advertising works more effectively with a pre-warmed audience. Because we’re able to efficiently track our digital funnel from the moment a user enters our content hub to when they leave or convert, we’re able to understand the best journeys to get someone from A to B by using our trusted content as the appetizer to our products and services.

 

5. Has COVID changed the way your content is developed, created, distributed, and measured?

Because a fair amount of ACA’s business portfolio was based on the travel industry, much of our content development was modified during the pandemic. We shifted from inspirational and aspirational travel content to material focused on how we could help our Members through a challenging time in their life. We used predictive search statistics, user surveys, website data, and trends to determine what our Members really cared about and needed help with, most of which was saving money, taking care of their homes, and staying safe. Our Member-first approach to content allowed us to lift our content hub unique visits by more than 260% Y/Y in 2020, and we’re on track for even stronger results in 2022.

Our content distribution strategy also shifted during the pandemic. Our original media plan relied on owned channels, paid social media, and earned media. While these tactics are still a valuable part of our distribution mix, our media plan now includes paid native to drive consumers to our award-winning content hub, using AI to determine the best combination of images and text to drive users to our valuable content. We’re also better tracking our marketing funnel from start to finish and spend more time looking at what drives users to our content hub. This includes learning where users are coming from, what they’re connecting with, and what next steps they’re taking on our website.

We continue to track many success measurements, including basics like unique visits, time on site, scroll depth, video views, and more. This year we’ve also incorporated the measurement of our Content Intelligence Next Action Units. This latest measurement helps us understand what natural next steps a user is most likely to take due to engaging with our content and helps us optimize their experience accordingly.

 

6. From a content strategy position, what are you focusing on for the rest of 2021 and 2022?

Our mission continues to be focusing on helping our Members through our content strategy efforts. Gone are the days where content could be published tying a specific age to a particular life stage. Instead, consumers are entering life stages at different ages, and as a result, users are turning to trusted brands like AAA for advice. Users are searching for information on topics ranging from “Where can I travel?” to “How long do I need to keep my tax documents?”. Our goal is to continue delivering engaging content that provides users with the help they’re looking for and trusted solutions and vetted partners if they need additional assistance. We’ve been providing our Members with help for more than 100 years. Our content efforts are just one more way we can continue to provide the daily guidance that Members turn to us for.

 

  1. What do you predict as the future of content marketing?

I believe that content marketing will only become more integral to a company’s holistic marketing strategies. Statistics show that you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than click on a banner ad. Recent Enabler Space research showed that 84% of users expect brands to provide content that tells stories, entertains, and provides solutions. Creating meaningful, personalized, multimedia content that creates optimized pathways to contextual information is the way of the future. I’m excited to find more innovative and customized ways to pair the right content with the right consumer to create meaningful connections and tangible business results.

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