Customer Experience, Content Marketing, If Brands are Publishers, Consumers are SubscribersIt’s inescapable these days -- every company must deal with the extraordinarily rapid developments of using content to facilitate better consumer engagement. Because if they don't, consumers are two clicks away from researching a better price and / or finding a competitive experience that’s more personal and relevant to their lives.

Every business must treat every consumer of content as a publishing brand treats a subscriber. Every visit is a chance to make sure that person either buys something, stays engaged enough to want to come back and buy another day, or shares the experience with someone in their network who will do the same.

Why Businesses Struggle with Content Marketing Process

In many organizations, marketing is now being tasked as the best place to orchestrate these engagement strategies across every touch point of the organization.  We’ve seen a wide range of enterprises -- from government, non-profit, e-commerce, B2C, B2B and even publishing -- attempt to try different ways to create engagement strategies. Many of them struggle with creating a process. Why? There are a couple of reasons.

The first is because content channels (social, web, print, email) are usually managed by separate teams. The managers on these teams have to make a “land grab” for responsibility over various content strategies to make their channels perform individually. The end result is that teams within the company end up competing for the audience across those channels.

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The second is because organizations often set goals for the team and the channel, instead of the content that flows through them. It’s not uncommon to see managers bicker with each other over what kind of content to put through their channels, because it will affect their overall KPI’s -- and therefore their perceived success.

Imagine a magazine for a moment. This situation is like the “news” section of the publication competing with the “features” team over which part of the magazine the audience will be most attracted to. And then, the magazine measures the news team against the features team over who got the most people to subscribe to the magazine.

Instead, where we see success is where content, holistically, is the focus across teams and the organization. And we believe the fundamental starting place lies in the audience of the content.

Competition For Subscribers Is Tough

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The competition for consumer attention has never been so high. It’s now simply not enough to “be found” through a Google Search. Today’s audiences demand engagement at every single transaction that they have with a business.

And, with the explosive growth of different channels of content access -- from mobile smart-phones, social media and even wearable devices like Google Glass -- businesses must deliver contextually relevant and personalized content to their audiences.

So -- what are the key foundations to building a process that creates content as a centerpiece to a strategy? How does a business change its Web experience strategy into a dynamic content platform that is equipped to engage its users more deeply? Here are three basic concepts from which a business can start to develop a strategy:

1. Focus On The Personas - And Not The Content Product

Delivering content that engages is about delivering a relevant experience for what the audience wants at that particular time -- and across that particular channel. It's about looking at the user and their goal first, and content and marketing goal, second.

2. Focus On Using A Multi-Channel Strategy To Deepen Engagement Rather Than Driving More Transactions

A personalized and contextual delivery of content means that the organization is focused on delivering the BEST experience at the right time and through the right channel. This means that the goal of each channel, while it may support the overall “traffic” goal -- is to engage that user for that particular purpose. Don’t just repurpose content and publish it across multiple channels to deliver more “eyeballs.” That’s not a personalized, or contextualized strategy.

3. Usage Defines The Audience - Not the Other Way Around

Many companies start out by assuming they are already reaching the personas they want to serve and that they know what their personas want out of each channel. Marketers will do better by watching the natural patterns that start to develop as you roll out different web content platforms -- and then use that insight to develop different content strategies.

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For example, with more than a dozen different ministries and offices within those ministries, The Dutch Government understands that there are many many different reasons that citizens will come to their Website. Instead of forcing users into an assumed hierarchy of content, they use faceted navigation to have their content dynamically assume a hierarchy as the content is consumed. In this way each user determines his or her own journey and there are innumerable ways that they can provide a customized journey to an “end point.”

It’s About More Than Just “Acting” Like A Publisher

Any business that is providing an experience for its customers has the opportunity to drive deeper engagement with that audience. A good set of tools and processes won’t help drive deeper engagement with content quality. Nothing but excellent writing and creative thinking will solve that. However, a good WEM system -- that drives a contextual experience for users will not only deliver better experiences no matter how good or bad the quality is -- it will foster insight to help the business get better at quality and deepening those relationships.

Successful brands that are developing true digital content experiential strategies have to start with the persona, then look to those persona goals as prominent first steps. Treating consumers as valuable subscribers is about delivering a contextualized content experience. And that’s what is driving the future of engagement.

Title image courtesy of ALMAGAMI (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more of Tjeerd's thoughts on the customer experience, see his Ignoring the X in CXM is Ignoring the Future