By now, everyone knows all the mantras about content:
· Content is the new “social.”
· Content is the core asset of social marketing.
· Brands are publishers.
· Content is today’s marketing “rock star.”
· Brands need content at the right place at the right time along the decision journey.
To that end, CMOs are ratcheting up their content marketing budgets, and digital doyennes are rethinking their content roadmaps with the buyer’s journey in mind. As a result, many brands have commissioned “journey work” to understand how to optimize the experience for people landing on their digital assets looking for information and enlightenment. While the classic user journey may provide lots of valuable information for designing a website’s flow and content needs, it will only go so far in mapping the actual content experience of the intended persona or customer. For that, brands need to conduct a true content journey.
It’s important to distinguish a content journey from the actual user experience, which is where most journey work focuses. In the user journey, the brand concentrates on how a visitor interacts on their owned properties, particularly web sites and content hubs. Further, many journeys begin and end with a specific part of the buyer’s journey, and often do not differentiate between the experience for a person in the early stages of discovery vs. a valued customer who is looking for specific product-in-use information.
Because digital content is dynamic by nature, a content journey is broader in scope than the user journey. A content journey may start with the user’s experience on the brand’s owned websites or digital assets, but soon jumps to other destinations including influencer’s blogs, analyst’s content, social sites, third party review sites or wherever Google takes them. It’s important to remember that the brand’s content has the most authority in the discovery or awareness stage of the journey and then again at the point of purchase. In between, the user seeks third party influencer POV or peer ratification and insights, and goes to other places to find this type of content.
Another important distinction is the interplay between decision makers that happens along the buyer’s journey. A lot of journey work shows the path of a single decision maker and ignores the dynamics between multiple ones. Each person in this chain has different content needs, most likely in varying degrees of detail and formats. Some of the people involved in the decision cycle need one type of content for themselves and yet another when they communicate either up or down the chain. These intersections are just as important to understand as are the separate but linked journeys of each level of decision maker.
When first confronted with this expanded view of its users, many digital marketers respond, “I’m just focused on website content; I’m not concerned with third party sites or ‘PR’ content.” In reality, brands should know exactly where else their customers are going for content and figure out a way to deliver it to them in a credible way. Here are a few ways to bridge the gap:
· Stream reviews from third party sites on your website. You may not be able to “control” this content but it shows confidence and an understanding of what your visitors are actually looking for. In some organizations, cultural barriers may prevent this approach, but other ways to convey voice of the customer abound.
· Create a series of infographics that highlight voice of the customer content. Update it regularly. This becomes highly shareable as well as a great piece of content for the website.
· Provide links to third party influencer content. If you’re highly rated in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, for example, make sure these reports are front and center at the right point in the journey.
· Rev up your customer advocate program so they become your voice across the cloud. This doesn’t happen by accident and it takes more than an “influencer content platform.” While these tools are great for sharing specific pieces of brand-generated content, they do not replace genuine voice of the customer. For that, brands need to work to activate a community of advocates and engage with them continuously.
· Bubble-up your community content on your other digital destinations.
The starting point is understanding the interplay between your personas and then going on the content journey with each of them. This gives visibility into the full ecosystem that each uses to get answers and information. It results in a fully integrated content strategy that keeps the user as the central player in the entire content journey and lessens the focus on any single asset such as the website.
Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.
Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.
Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.
Following on the first article on defining customer experience , this second installment looks at the first essential step of improving the experience you deliver, which is mapping out your customer journey.