Content Strategy for the Customer Journey: Marketing that Makes Business Sense
First, I’d like to offer some definition: a content strategy is the systematic approach for an organization to deliver the most relevant and appropriate content to the person seeking it at the time of need.
It takes into consideration how content is experienced – for example, items like screen size, and considerations like mobility – how it is delivered – the technology managing it, and considerations about it becoming a pathway for collaboration – and its governance, or the processes and corporate policies that determine the why, what, where, when, and who of content creation.
As for the how, a content marketing strategy looks to support business goals across owned, earned, and paid media, and to reflect audience or buyer’s information wants and needs to support each stage of their process, which we have come to refer to as the customer journey.
How content leads to discovery, drives engagement, and inspires action
Relevance is delivered at the center of an intersection of what we call the 3 Cs of content. Boiled down to three essential ingredients, the 3 Cs include: customers, content, and channels.
The action verbs or behaviors to keep in mind when designing a content marketing program are how people search for information, how they share it based upon where they are physically and virtually on the tech adoption curve, and their level of involvement in the use of tools and technologies as well as their intention.
Orchestrating the plan to deliver an experience that supports relevance through these three action pillars helps organizations arrange a mechanism that builds the traffic engine and allows companies a direct path to customers and prospective customers – including the ability for customers to interact with the business and its brands should they choose to do so.
This last part is one often forgotten – while many companies address a reactive stance in social networks, for example having presences to monitor for and respond to emergencies or issues, they still stop short at a most powerful aspect of Word of Mouth: delivering an experience worth coming back for and for customers and advocates to share.
Sending out links or messages and reposting positive comments is the tip of the iceberg. After so many early adopters and experimenters, it has now become a mere baseline – in some industries a need to have, like answering the phone, dial tone.
In addition to delivering an increase in web traffic and direct sales, content marketing improves sales lead quality and qualitative feedback. Companies have also seen an increase in lead quantity – and we are not just talking about brands like innovators Red Bull and early adopter Procter & Gamble – the two companies are now becoming media and reinventing R&D and brand development respectively through content.
What creates the most interest and what delivers the most value in building a following are one and the same: the ability to be relevant in real time and over time.
Retail brands are getting on board and finding enormous financial success – both early innovators like Burberry, as well as contemporary ones like Net-a-Porter, which recently released a glossy print magazine, Porter to rival the world’s best fashion magazines in quality and star-power. Gilt Groupe’s DuJour and Saturdays Magazine have also entered the publishing game with surprising success.
The opportunity is available to smaller brands as well. Zingerman’s Deli publishes Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating a cookbook that teaches everyday people how to become foodies. The cookbook is aligned with Zingerman’s own vision for being a source of great food and great experiences.
Other brands build value and premium by telling – and selling – their story.
For example, Brunello Cucinelli created a humanistic enterprise in Solomeo, a medieval village in Italy. Shinola# , a brand also coming from the analog world is baking the story into its product. Shinola is a manufacturer operating in Detroit, with its primary product a wristwatch, something no one needs in the era of smartphones. The brand’s product and its behaviors are the story, and the story in turn forms the baseline for its marketing.
From the first catalog on, successful retail brands have demonstrated an understanding of what moves product – content consumption drives behavior. Ecommerce brought about the evolution of that understanding online and then into social – where participation drives behavior and savvy marketers know where and how to time promotions. For example, Pinterest tripled revenue for some online retailers on Cyber Monday while Facebook converted sales at nearly four times the rate of Pinterest.
Over time, Renting Attention can Become more Expensive
The currency of the web may be content – the currency of modern times is attention. Each person has only 1,440 minutes per day and chooses how to spend them and with whom.
In a day and age when there are enough products to go around, even product companies are in the business of delivering service and experience as differentiating factor.
Why choose this brand vs. another – quality content and insights derived from how people respond to it can go a long way over winning hearts, and minds (or wallets) every day, and not just during a media campaign. Making a story that resonates easier to justify as an extra expense line item to create. Thanks to digital, it can then be delivered and re-imagined in a multitude of ways.
Some of the most prominent brands and the organizations that get talked about today treat content as an asset, one that helps them build a relationship with customers and advocates and an investment that accrues over time.
Compared to many forms of marketing, where businesses pay each time their messages are communicated, among the benefits of content marketing is the up-front expense continues to bring value long after it’s been paid for.
A study by Kapost and Eloqua found that content marketing ROI outweighed the ROI of paid search (a temporary investment that is widely believed to be the most cost-effective marketing tactic) by more than three times. That is 31 leads generated with content marketing over 9 leads generated by paid search.
Of course, it is rarely an “either/or” situation and increasingly a “both/and” proposition.
A content marketing strategy does help organizations rationalize where to spend on media better, because it helps deliver qualitative data to illuminate the nature of constantly shifting relationships, especially in social. It also more than doubles the opportunity by flipping the funnel to enroll alumni, advocates, evangelists, loyal subscribers, and fans on behalf of the brand.
While technology is disrupting many business models and enabling connectedness at a supercharged pace, it is not changing the very nature of volition, or the fact that we are social animals and will and do behave in ways that are consistent both with our declared beliefs and what others say and do.
We are marketers and many of us have held corporate roles; we do understand the challenges brands face with content.
To learn more about how we can help you connect the dots on content to support your marketing needs, or for a business review delivered with confidence, drop us a note.