Content Marketing in the Age of Customer Experience

Customer SuccessDigital Marketing

Brands are begin­ning to wake up to some­thing that con­sumers have always known: a brand is the sum of our expe­ri­ences with it. In the ear­ly days of brand­ing, what a brand said about itself was the biggest fac­tor in how peo­ple felt about it. Today, how a brand behaves, how its prod­ucts per­form and how we feel when we inter­act with the com­pa­ny behind the brand – these are the biggest dri­vers of brand health. It’s no coin­ci­dence that the rise of cus­tomer expe­ri­ence as the pri­ma­ry brand imper­a­tive has coin­cid­ed with the rise of anoth­er major dis­ci­pline: con­tent mar­ket­ing.

The content marketing spirit

Done prop­er­ly, con­tent mar­ket­ing is the per­fect exam­ple of the new cus­tomer expe­ri­ence ethos. The prin­ci­ples of great con­tent mar­ket­ing are the prin­ci­ples of great cus­tomer expe­ri­ence:

  • Put cus­tomers at the cen­tre
  • Work hard at under­stand­ing their needs
  • Cre­ate con­tent (expe­ri­ences) that serve those needs
  • Lis­ten to the respons­es
  • Adjust accord­ing­ly

That’s how the brands with the best cus­tomer expe­ri­ences behave – and that’s how the best con­tent mar­keters cre­ate use­ful, com­pelling con­tent.

These days, “putting cus­tomers at the cen­tre” sounds almost too obvi­ous to even men­tion. But if most com­pa­nies actu­al­ly look at their cus­tomer expe­ri­ences – and the process­es behind them – with fresh eyes, they’d see just how com­pa­ny-cen­tric they real­ly are.

The same is true of con­tent mar­ket­ing. Many prac­ti­tion­ers are actu­al­ly pro­duc­ing old-school ‘brochure-ware’ in the guise of con­tent that serves the prospect or cus­tomer. It takes a fresh look and a clean start to actu­al­ly put the cus­tomer and their infor­ma­tion needs first, ahead of the com­pa­ny agen­da.

Content as experience

Of course, con­tent mar­ket­ing doesn’t just reflect cus­tomer expe­ri­ence man­age­ment – con­tent is in itself a cus­tomer expe­ri­ence.

The ques­tion is: what kind of expe­ri­ence do you want to cre­ate in your con­tent?

  • Con­tent that actu­al­ly serves the consumer’s needs and inter­ests or con­tent that push­es the com­pa­ny agen­da?
  • Con­tent that’s easy to expe­ri­ence – clear, sim­ple, well-writ­ten and maybe even enter­tain­ing or dense, bland con­tent that assumes (and depends on) a high­ly moti­vat­ed read­er?
  • Con­tent that peo­ple want to share and that they’ll thank you for or con­tent that feels like mar­ket­ing?

In short, think­ing about con­tent as an expe­ri­ence is a great way to keep your con­tent mar­ket­ing on track.

The role of content in the experience mix

Of course, con­tent is only one of many, many kinds of cus­tomer expe­ri­ence – includ­ing the web­site, the sales process, cus­tomer ser­vice, in-store and actu­al expe­ri­ence with the prod­uct.

Con­tent mar­keters are start­ing to con­sid­er where con­tent can play a role through­out the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence cycle – and the answer if often ‘every­where’.

For instance, con­tent can work at the very top of the fun­nel, bring­ing new peo­ple into the prospect uni­verse. But it can also be huge­ly use­ful in get­ting exist­ing cus­tomers to use your prod­ucts and ser­vices bet­ter – or to buy new things.

Con­tent can also work to sup­port the peo­ple on the front line of cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. Sales peo­ple can use con­tent to open doors, keep rela­tion­ships alive or revive ‘dead’ prospects. And cus­tomer ser­vice peo­ple can use con­tent to help cus­tomers solve prob­lems.

All these are ways that con­tent can add val­ue through­out the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence.

Driving the experience drivers

Giv­en its audi­ence-first approach, it’s not sur­pris­ing that con­tent has moved to the cen­tre of the new dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing ecosys­tem.

Social media – a major new forum for cus­tomer expe­ri­ences – has come to depend on con­tent as the thing a brand can bring to the con­ver­sa­tion.

Search engine opti­mi­sa­tion has become a con­tent mar­ket­ing dis­ci­pline as SEO experts realise that what Google wants to see is rel­e­vant con­tent.

Email mar­ket­ing depends on con­tent too. Emails that offer a use­ful piece of con­tent tend to out-per­form those that push prod­uct.

The same is true of ban­ner ads and retar­get­ing: ads that offer rel­e­vant con­tent can see dou­ble or triple the click-through rates of prod­uct-led ads.

And mar­ket­ing automa­tion, the lat­est jug­ger­naut to hit B2B, entire­ly depends on a well-struc­tured con­tent pro­gram to nur­ture prospects until they’re sales-ready.

All these cus­tomer expe­ri­ences – or prospect expe­ri­ences – have come to depend on con­tent.

The content-free experience

There are brands that pro­fess to be all about the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence but are still scep­ti­cal about con­tent mar­ket­ing.

I always won­der how that can work – what a ‘con­tent-free’ cus­tomer expe­ri­ence can pos­si­bly be like.

If con­tent mar­ket­ing is sim­ply using your company’s expe­ri­ence and exper­tise to help your cus­tomers do their jobs (or enjoy their lives), what brand would not want to do that?

Clear­ly, if you care about your cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, you care about con­tent.

Action points

  • Make your con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy start with the audi­ence, not with your prod­ucts and your agen­da. What do your audi­ences need to know?
  • Think about using con­tent through­out the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence – not just at the top of the fun­nel.
  • Expose your con­tent to your cus­tomer-fac­ing peo­ple – make sure your sales and cus­tomer ser­vice teams know about new pieces and how they might use them.
  • Make sure con­tent is dri­ving your social, SEO and lead nur­tur­ing strate­gies – try­ing to do these things with­out con­tent is mar­ket­ing with a seri­ous hand­i­cap.

(This arti­cle orig­i­nally fea­tured as part of an Upload Mag­a­zine “Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence” spe­cial pow­ered by Adobe)

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Customer Success, Digital Marketing
Doug Kessler

Posted on 18-01-2016


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