Today’s business climate expects an organization to accomplish more online that ever before, while controlling costs and driving revenue. At the same time our website visitors demand a rich, immersive and personalized experience with relevant and compelling content. How can we build a content marketing strategy to solve this?
Let’s be honest, the internet is a really cheap vehicle for delivering information at scale. All companies have turned to the web as their primary means of communication with customers. Sadly, many companies are using the same one size fits all model and mentality for their websites.
Unfortunately, this means there are some really bad experiences and content available today. Because it’s cheap to distribute information on the web, it’s often been considered ok to reduce the overall quality. Many times companies lack the understanding to even assess that their content is simply not helping.
This was all good when the Internet was still relatively new, but this just isn’t the case anymore. Today’s Internet is fast, ubiquitous and accessible. This means site visitors are demanding an engaging and personal web experience with helpful and insightful content.
Understand Your Customer Lifecycle
Terms like customer centric, customer focused or customer experience are standard parts of our business vocabulary. Marketing textbooks often define customer experience as the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier over the duration of their relationship. We’ve often heard of this as the customer lifecycle. I guarantee that everyone has some type of associated metric or concept within their organization.
Well executed content marketing is one of the most reliable ways to increase customer experience. A company’s ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its customers increases their lifetime spending, and optimally inspires brand loyalty. Understanding your customer lifecycle process means you are starting to understand your customers. A traditional lifecycle model is broken into steps that include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use and advocacy. Within this model, it’s essential to deliver the right content to the right place in the lifecycle.
Build Your Content Map
After defining your customer lifecycle, the next step in building your content marketing strategy is content mapping. Within each step of the completed lifecycle you would next define the key customer roles and then decide what topics are of the most interest to them. This isn’t about developing sales collateral and should include a broad selection of educational and informative topics for the specified customer.
Content mapping is the process of understanding and organizing the flow of content on your website, so it can be presented to your personas or audience based on their needs and buying cycle stage. A content map in the context of buyer personas will help you organize content to answer questions at various stages of the buying cycle, and create a clear blueprint for content distribution in multiple channels. Basically, enabling the delivery of the right content, at the right time, in the right channel. For example, product discovery questions may be better suited for a company blog, while general awareness questions may be more oriented for a nurturing campaign.
Content mapping is closely related to Information Architecture and User Interface (UI) design. This is a method of defining the structure, organization, navigation and indexing of a website based on best practices, business goals and strategy.
A content map is essential when developing a long-term content strategy for your website, blog, direct marketing, nurturing campaign, sales materials or other communications and content. Content maps make it easier to walk through the user experiences for personas and lifecycle stages. It’s the foundation you need to optimize relevance and the flow of content for consumption at various stages of the lifecycle.
Also content maps can serve as the primary content inventory so you always have a place to reference and even rework content into different formats to keep your content development efforts efficient.
Build Your Message Map
Never forget that effective marketing is emotional.
Another tool that can help pinpoint the emotional aspect of your site is the message map or messaging framework. Message frameworks can be built at any time and are a standard public relations tool used at the start of a strategic campaign, like a product or services launch or by sales teams.
When there isn’t a message map, you can’t be assured there is a single unified voice. Customer messages become a tangled web and everyone can become confused on the best way to portray the company or product. For social media marketing this is definitely an important exercise. The outcome provides a foundation to build upon as your company grows. It is a critical component to the success of your positioning and the strength of your brand.
When you develop a message map, key messages are drilled down to a set of sound bites. Sales people often refer to this as the elevator pitch, but it’s so much more. A well-developed message map encapsulates the entire story about a product, services, value proposition and industry. When questions are asked of an executive, the message map provides all the prompts for the answer. I’ve even known executives to keep the message map on their phones for easy reference.
Manage the Content Lifecycle
Now that you understand your customer lifecycle and key messages, it’s time to think about the specific content. Content, like any product, has its own lifecycle. I tend to think of the content lifecycle as shown below. The content lifecycle requires a consistent focus on marketing strategies that scale and optimize the right content to the right channel, and on measuring impact.
- Planning -- Defining topics and target audience
- Creation -- Creating target content
- Approval -- Approving content
- Publishing -- Making the content available to key customer channels
- Measurement -- Measuring the success of the published content
- Optimization -- Measuring and optimizing published content against defined goals and feeding that back into the next wave of content.
Content marketing is actually good business practice! But to be truly successful it requires other things like conversion marketing, lead nurturing, split testing and a message framework to name just a few. Isn’t it time for your web engagement to evolve?
Title image courtesy of Lukiyanova Natalia / frenta (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: To read more from July's Content Marketing focus: