A man researching a product that he plans on purchasing.
PHOTO: Adobe

If marketers could find a silver lining from the challenges we’ve faced since March, it would be that we’ve slowed down to focus on customer engagement. Brands recognize the need to listen to what matters most with their audience and connect emotionally like never before. In the first half of 2020, only 28.6% of respondents from the PAN Communications Content Fitness Report (registration required) planned to prioritize a customer advocacy program. Plans, strategies and programs have gone awry since the pandemic, and that number has now increased to 40.8%.

What caused this change in behavior?

Marketers are realizing their customers’ true value in a time when they need them the most. Today’s economic climate has forced some brands to re-think their addressable market and others to trim resources and cut costs. But the ones who will make it out of the pandemic stronger are brands that have doubled down on customer experience and refined their strategies with a robust Voice of the Customer (VoC) program.

Previously, I shared the necessary steps to building a VoC program. In this article, we’ll take your program one step further by outlining how to develop impactful content that will connect you with your most valued asset: your customer.

Understanding the Types of Customers That Matter at Every Moment

To create the right content, you must first sync up with your sales team and your target market. Take a pulse on why you win, why you lose and what the process looks like at each stage of the deal.

From there, spend time establishing (or tweaking) your ideal customer profile (ICP) and make sure it is driven by data and authentic field analysis. This will ensure tight collaboration between marketing and sales. The challenges that we’ve experienced over the past few quarters probably forced you to evaluate new markets or target a variety of decision-makers, and working closely with your sales team will make this transition more seamless.

Outlining general characteristics such as age or job title is not enough. Dig deeper and find patterns in the overall buyer experience, the content they consume, the peers they lean on, the channels they frequent or the technology they’re using. Go even further with specific pain points they’re having (hint: sales will be your best friend for this) and finding ways that your product or service alleviates those situations.

Related Article: 5 Steps For Building a Voice of the Customer Program

Be Intentional About Content Styles & Channels

How can you address those concerns in your content strategy? Surface-level data won’t help you tailor your narrative to a specific audience. And in today’s customer-centric market, personalization remains a top priority! Here are a few examples of ways to personalize:

  • Know which channels your customers are on: This will impact the style of content you’re creating. External factors may also change where and how content is consumed. Social media consumption has increased by 29% since the start of COVID-19, signaling that marketers should consider utilizing those channels even more strategically across their marketing playbook.
  • Switch up the format of your content: If your customer is always on the go, then consider shorter, more digestible content that they can easily read on a mobile device. However, if your target customer is a chief security officer that sits on video conferences all day, they may prefer longer-form content behind their desktop at specific times of the day or week.
  • Adjust tone based on emotions and current events: There isn’t one style that is appropriate for marketers across the board. However, the emphasis on making an emotional connection with customers has doubled since the start of 2020 and will only continue to shape content programs. Why? Brand purpose, values and your stance on important social issues will remain a top priority as customers look to better align with their vendors.

Choosing the style of your content is just as important as determining the tone and channel. They all go hand in hand and are dependent on your customer’s stage in the buyer’s journey. Here are a few examples of styles of content:

  • Q&As: Spotlight your customer in a Q&A style blog. Driven by thought leadership, these are typically suited for the more senior-level customer.
  • Case Studies: A middle-of-the-funnel initiative, these act as proof points to validate your product or service. Case studies are relevant content for a wide variety of ICPs and can be aligned to all stages of the customer experience — from consideration to close to long-term loyalty activities.
  • Social Content: Test out a paid social campaign. Go live on Facebook or LinkedIn. See how your audience responds to Instagram Carousels or Reels. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box.
  • Webinars & Virtual Events: A demand-gen activity focused on informing an audience and driving knowledge sharing experiences. This is a great way to connect with customers (and prospects) through informational sessions that fill the void of face-to-face interactions.

Note: Demand-gen content can require larger teams, bigger budgets and extensive resources. The size of your brand and stage of your VoC program may impact your ability to create this type of content.

As you consider the right style for your brand and your ideal customer, keep your company size, your team’s skillsets and your budget in mind to ensure feasible goals. Communicate with your creative team throughout the process to help bring your story to life. After all, posts with images produce 650% higher engagement than text-only content.

Let Your Employees Be Your Content Co-Pilot

Don’t overlook getting employee buy-in for your customer advocacy program. You’ll need all hands on deck to stay on track and bridge the gap between the brand and its customers to be successful. Not to mention — your employees will become proud advocates of the company they work for and the purpose they deliver through the partnership.

Employee involvement looks different depending on your stage of growth:

  • Early Stage: Your employees share your VoC content across social and other platforms that drive awareness. This is especially true in today’s socially driven climate where news and content spread quickly.
  • Mid Stage: Your employees start to support the development of content, such as customer Q&As, blogs and case studies.
  • Late Stage: A more advanced VoC program may eventually include shared speaking opportunities between your employees and your customers.

Employee advocacy brings important elements to your brand: authenticity, trust and credibility. This is more important when you consider that only 33% of buyers trust messages from a brand, and 90% of customers trust product or service recommendations from people they know.

Creating Content That Educates and Connects

As your brand enters new growth stages or external factors like COVID-19 come into play, your marketing strategy and VoC program will need constant adjustments. You’re just getting comfortable with targeting one type of audience or ideal customer profile (ICP), and it’s time to make a change.

Take the year 2020, for example. Remote work and education trends made static marketing plans a thing of the past. Important social movements required teams to pause and reflect on their role in making the industry truly diverse, equitable and inclusive. Many of these initiatives brought organizations back to square one, but the rebound is an opportunity to come back even stronger.

As you make these adjustments, develop content that will inform new audiences about who your brand is and what your key differentiators are. This is also where you can take risks. Entering a new market means you have a clean slate. Do you want to be remembered as the brand that contributed to the content overload that customers across the globe are experiencing? Or will you create provocative campaigns that customers will remember?

Next Steps: A Pillar Strategy as the Focus of Your Content

By now, you have a better idea of the style and format of your content, who you’re targeting and what channels to be present on. But that’s only the beginning.

Have you thought about the topics, experiences and personalized approaches that should be the focus of your content? How will you successfully place your brand at the center of the right conversations? Enter: The content pillar strategy.

A pillar strategy will bring a new level of organization and purpose to the content you’re creating, so stay tuned for the next article in this VoC series to learn more.