For many years it’s been said that publishing is every organization's second business, and that has never been truer than it is today, as the need for content to drive consumer transactions has moved from limited print advertising to the insatiable needs of the web-empowered consumer.
The Content Explosion
If you follow the latest thinking on customer experience management or contemporary marketing best practice, the key to providing that differentiated, compelling content for the attention-constrained consumer has been boiled down to relevance -- providing the right information, targeted for them, on their device, at the right stage in their customer journey.
The challenge for organizations in providing relevance is that it means creating content variants -- and possibly lots of them. It means having the same content in their language, not just the spoken language of where they live, but the language of their segment, community, demographic -- whoever they are.
This content is no longer limited to just the pictures and text from the marketing brochure on the web, as consumers look to review product documentation, how-to videos, support sites, manuals, case studies, or to see the un-boxing experience on YouTube before they commit to buy a product.
We commissioned a study last year that revealed that:
79 percent of U.S. consumers believe high-quality product content improves their impression of a product or brand."
In addition organizations need to be omnipresent, available to the consumer on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, through email and on the device of the consumer's choosing. Each channel requiring its own little tweak of language, style or content.
All this adds up to a content explosion.
How Does this Affect Me, I’m B2B?
Every organization is feeling the content explosion, regardless of whether they are a B2B or B2C, as consumers have the same experience expectations whether we are at home or work. Just take a look at ABB Robotics, manufacturers of car assembly line robots that post YouTube movies of their robots at work to see how social is impacting even the most “B” of B2B companies.
The difference is the complexity of a B2B sale -- these are global organizations, with often complex products that are not normally bought by one person, but by a group of people, with a matrix buying process, that has an extended customer journey -- all meaning that the content explosion is just as real for B2B as for B2C companies -- but the variants of content needed are driven by slightly different factors, in persona, task and customer journey.
For example, if you are a B2B software vendor, “they” could be an IT professional looking at functionality, or an executive looking for ROI, maybe they are just doing some initial research into who is in the market that can solve their problem or maybe they are looking for the detail to make a final decision. Each of these personas in these different stages of the customer journey is looking for your story, but told slightly differently for them or the task they want to complete. I touched on this in a previous article on CMSWire, where I discussed customer journeys and their role in content marketing: Four Reasons Why You Should be Thinking About Customer Journeys.
What’s Old is New Again
One impact on organizations is not just what has changed, which drives this need to turn themselves into content factories churning out the content to meet these new consumer needs, but what has not changed as organizations are still held to account on the quality of this content.
This accountability is even more keenly felt in the age of the social media powered consumer, where a message needs to be flawless or your brand becomes that next trend on Twitter for all the wrong reasons.
It’s not as sexy as talking about content marketing, but there is a need to maintain compliance to the same quality content standards, that could be legal, industry or brand standards that content management professionals have been banging on about for years. But now it’s across way more channels, including the social web, mobile apps and devices.
In fact, while we are rooting around in the unsexy, one other reason to unlock your inner content management professional is metadata.
We've established that there is an explosion of content, that you are cranking the handle on a sausage machine that is pumping out link after link of great content, the very thing to drive customer sales --engagement and advocacy.
You've done your persona work, you know your customers journey, the task they want to complete -- but how do you connect the insight you have into who this visitor is to the content you’d like to serve them? Or more specifically, how does a machine make that connection?
Whatever you think your tools can do -- you will not want to be building rules for every page, persona, at every stage of their customer journey -- the machine (or as Stephen Powers of Forrester refers to it, the “Experience Tier”) will need to do the work, will need to understand your content. So your content needs to be smart, and this is metadata.
You’re a Publisher Now
In discussing this article, CMSWire asked me what has changed as brands move to become publishers as they embrace the discipline of content marketing and to contrast it’s impact on B2B and B2C companies. I've focused on one thing that has changed – the volume of content, a challenge that at the simplest level is felt by most organizations. This volume of content is driven by different things in B2B and B2C content marketing scenarios -- but it’s definitely there for both.
This content explosion is driving a need for something that’s not so new: solid content management practices, to ensure that your audience gets the right needle in this haystack of content. It’s the business case for the disciplines of publishing.
So brace yourself, the content explosion is here -- and whether you call your tin helmet content marketing or content management, you’d better make sure it’s strapped on.
Title image courtesy of Olemac (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: Read more of Ian's thoughts on content in his Navigating the 3 C's of Customer Experience - Step 2: Content