From networking equipment to retail goods, the purchasing process across products and industries has changed — consumers have taken control. Now, when a young family goes to pick out their first vehicle, they don’t head to the showroom floor. Instead, they connect with brands online and build their dream digital vehicle, choosing every detail from engine model to seat fabric. Only then do they head to a local dealership with their custom product specifications already in hand.
In response, nearly every company today practices content marketing as a core strategy. Because brands from every industry are catching on to the importance of their content as part of a valuable customer experience, they are dedicating more resources to finding their secret sauce for standing out in this crowded space.
As a result, they are discovering that creating truly useful content to meet customers where and when they will find it most valuable is an organization-wide endeavor. To meet the demand, many brands are shifting their strategies to create a culture of content that permeates every internal department and team.
These Eight Changes Can Help You Build a Culture of Content in Your Company.
Here are eight changes we’re seeing in content marketing and how brands can — and are — taking advantage of those changes to effectively create an internal culture of content.
1. Customer Experience Is NOW a Part of Company Culture.
The writing’s on the wall: in the next 10 years, Business Insider projects that 40 percent of companies will cease to exist after failing to meet changing customer needs. Yet, while brands know the need is there, making the shift from a product-focused business to a customer-first company can be challenging and takes time. Rely on data to obtain leadership buy-in and make it a strategic imperative. Strive to include the entire organization — a company-wide commitment to being customer obsessed. And remember, a company transformation takes time, so expect at least a five-year commitment to the process. To keep commitment high along the way, celebrate even the smallest wins.
2. Brands Are Getting Serious About Defining Their Content Strategies.
In 2017, according to Curata, 51 percent of companies will have an appointed executive — a chief content officer or VP of content, for example — whose work is dedicated solely to the brand’s content marketing strategy. In addition, 75 percent of brands are increasing their content marketing investments. This means that, to stand out, brands are treating their content as a strategic asset.
Defining your content marketing strategy can help you better understand where you need to go with your content, what you need to get there, and how to measure success once you arrive. A written, documented strategy justifies the budget, helping you meet the needs of your target audience while adding value to your organization. Begin with outlining the need for content marketing by creating a business case. Define audience personas and develop your brand’s story. Finally, create a channel plan to determine the best placement for your content.
3. Companies Are Shifting Audience Preferences to a Front-and-Center Position.
At this point, buyers expect you to deliver relevant, meaningful content whenever and however they want it. And, they won’t take “no” for an answer. A full 43 percent of consumers say they ignore companies that deliver irrelevant content, and according to a survey by Gigya, 32 percent will go as far as to boycott brands’ sites and apps for the same reason. So, brands are taking time to understand the interests, goals, and aspirations of the people whom they want to motivate to interact with their brand and are extending their reach to be where their customers are.
When millennial Trevor Noah took over the host position for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, viewers began searching for Noah’s marital and relationship status online. The brand saw an opportunity to engage and created hidden videos of the host responding to these and other popular fan queries. The videos, which could only be found when searching promoted terms on Google, were a hit with fans and demonstrated Comedy Central’s reach beyond the television screen.
To respond to customers’ demands for relevancy, begin by gathering all customer data under one umbrella — regardless of device or channel — to create a single view of your customers. Then, take inventory of audience behaviors and learn how your audience members react with your brand so you can offer personalized messaging wherever they are.
4. Following the Customer Journey Is Now an Official Job — Complete With a Title.
As much as 78 percent of consumers will not engage with brand offers if they’re irrelevant to them based on their previous engagements with the brand. For content to drive results, it’s critical to optimize it according to its position along the customer journey. And, while 65 percent of companies have not appointed a central authority responsible for overseeing the customer journey, some brands are catching on to the need and are dedicating whole teams to the endeavor.
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) created an exclusive team of superstars — called “Superstar DJs” — whose sole purpose is to manage the customer journey and their content’s place in it. Take a page from their playbook and assemble a team to look at your brand’s customer journey holistically rather than focusing only on individual touchpoints. Look at how your customers interact with your content at each stage of the journey. Test and troubleshoot to deliver highly relevant content exactly when the customer needs it. Then, empower your team to deliver streamlined customer experiences by enabling them to create, test, publish, and analyze content without having to rely on other business units. Lastly, don’t forget to make it a fun experience for the team. As a result of these efforts, RBS’s Superstar DJs cut the rollout of streamlined customer experiences from months down to weeks.
5. Marketing Collaboration Is Taking on New Meaning. Collaboration Is Cross-Functional.
RBS’s Superstar DJs use a real-time dashboard to track sudden changes and collaborate to act in the interest of their customers. In addition, they share this dashboard across all areas of the company and even bring in “Guest DJs” from other departments — their call-centers, HR, and legal departments — to share relevant insights and perspectives they’ve gleaned about customers’ needs and wants. These insights are all used in strategies that shape the brands’ winning customer experience.
For content strategy to make a difference in the customer experience, all parts of your organization need to work together, efficiently exchanging information and sharing insights to create a complete strategy. Knock down organizational silos by providing a real-time environment for coordinating project schedules and details. Give teams access to a shared dashboard with metrics and goals and ensure everyone knows which part of the journey they are accountable for.
6. Content Is Being Delivered at Lightning Speed.
With so many choices, enticing people to consume and engage with brand content is more difficult than ever before. Seventy-one percent of marketers say they have to create 10 times as many assets to support their different channels, and 85 percent say they’re under pressure to create assets more quickly. As a result, brands are putting processes and systems in place that allow creative teams to produce high volumes of assets quickly and empower marketers to publish and update without having to wait for approvals.
Essilor of America struggled to keep up with the content demand of their four distinct brands — all requiring television and digital campaigns and all with unique identities. They used standardized templates and digital assets that they could quickly customize to align with each brand identity. In only six months, they launched their new site and had three new sites poised to launch within 10 weeks.
You can see these types of results, too. Create powerful content by developing a process that’s agile, ensuring brand consistency across channels and leaning on data to deliver relevance at scale.
7. Brands Are Aligning Business Goals With Customer Experiences.
By 2020, customer experience will surpass both price and product as differentiators. And brands are preparing for this shift. One-third of companies are going the extra mile to ensure great customer experiences by tying employee incentives to customer-experience metrics. To do so, they’re updating their metrics to measure the customer experience. For example, interaction metrics measure how deeply content is resonating with consumers, and engagement metrics — percentage of content consumed, for example — measure the quality of brand content.
Translate your vision for customer centricity by identifying which areas are most relevant to teams and developing appropriate metrics for employees to work toward. Then, use refined reporting to allow your team to see what’s working and what’s not at every customer touchpoint — not just the last click — so they can optimize for best results every step of the way.
8. Employees Organization-Wide Are Being Rewarded for Customer-First Performances.
To ensure their employees go above and beyond to create exceptional customer experiences, RBS induced internal competition with a billboard that displays how each of their DJs are performing around their customer-centric metrics on a weekly basis. Then, they extended this recognition to guest DJs — executive board members and managers from across the organization. Lastly, they rewarded qualifying DJs with a shiny new pair of Diamante headphones. In doing so, they sent a message across the organization that customer-centric employees will be noticed, appreciated, and rewarded.
Find innovative ways to show employees that what they do contributes to the overall goals of the company to create engaged, motivated, and productive teams. A happy workforce leads to higher profits, increased productivity, and greater customer engagement — the path to happy customers and better experiences. Encourage customer-centric behaviors in your employees by empowering them to do whatever is needed to improve the customer experience and arming them with the training and tools to do the job well.
Final Thoughts: How Brands Can Stay on Track for the Long Haul.
Without strong content processes in place, your content marketing efforts — and, by extension, customer experiences — will never be more than mediocre. Becoming a customer-centric organization that delivers the experiences your customers demand in 2017 is challenging — but not impossible. Once you’re on your way to a culture of content, make it worth your while by keeping the momentum going and on track with these final tips:
- Let strategy be your guide in developing processes around content that moves your brand forward in the most efficient and agile way.
- Identify your contributors for fresh perspectives and unique ideas.
- Establish controls and be clear about who can do what with channel and brand guidelines.
- Know the ‘why?’ behind every piece of content, ensuring customers move smoothly through the journey.
- Plan your calendar with content scheduled in advance.
- Test, optimize, analyze, and repeat.
For a more comprehensive overview of creating a culture of content, download our whitepaper, “The Culture of Content — Nine Steps to Content Marketing Excellence.”