Content isn’t the king, instead, now, it is the basic DNA that drives any organization existence.
To understand content marketing, let’s first look at the basic definition of the customer journey. Then I will get into the issues with the traditional mindset of thinking about customer journey, and how it has changed now. Finally, you will get to know about the actual content building strategies to address the new challenges.
Customer Journey outlines the stages that a customer goes through from the initial awareness to purchase and eventual sharing of the experience. The stages can be divided into different phases like the initial touch point, discovery, consideration, purchase, and finally sharing the experience with the network.
What is the Utility of Customer Journey Mapping?
Mapping a certain customer persona through a customer journey will help you to target effectively. This helps you in mapping out the customer needs at that particular stage and then building content strategies for that particular stage. With this mapping, you can chalk out the best and most effective channels, creatives, timing, and so on.
Issues with Traditional Linear Customer Journey Maps
Traditionally marketers will map customers in a linear progressive manner from the initial awareness to final purchase. Yet, this approach doesn’t seem to work now.
Now, as per the most experts, customers would appear and disappear at different stages. There will be many cases where a customer popping up at the awareness stage might pop up for purchase – a totally different stage than anticipated.
Also traditionally companies would educate the customers and move them along the journey. Now, the customer is already educated and will approach your company, later in the purchase process. In most of the cases, a B2B customer is 60% in the purchase decision before learning about your company.
Now, its a lot more cumbersome to map everything in a progressive format. So, you need to stop thinking in terms of a linear customer experience model.
Content Marketing Strategies
With this context, let’s look at content marketing strategies that can help you win your customers.
Value and Ask
For content marketing to work, think in terms of Value you can provide, against your Ask.
The premise is that with enough value delivery, you can establish a strong connection that will give you the opportunity for asking for the right price your product and service.
Earlier I talked about the non-linear customer pipeline and to move away from the linear thinking model. Now, let’s try to understand the importance of Content Planning and Distribution, given this context.
One way to think about Content Planning is to become a Guide where you are answering and coaching your customers. With this approach, you might want to build content that will focus on themes like Subject Matter Expertise, Presentation, Guides and so on.
Building trust requires building a connection and providing value much greater than your Ask.
All above efforts are being pursued with the inherent desire to add as much value for your customers as you can. This relationship of value and ask is hinged on building enough trust for the transaction to happen.
Remember, the customers buy from the companies they trust. With this context, you should be focusing on value delivery with each and every piece that you create and share.
We also talked about the fact that most of the customers that do come to your portal, might already be 60% in the process of buying. So, instead someone else teaches your customer, you should be the one educating and coaching.
Type of Content
Think about your customer first and then towards actual material and channel.
The actual content material can take many forms like white papers, videos, audio, podcasts, social media posts, company updates, industry related news. You can have bigger content pieces that can be broken down into mini chunks and repurposed for a specific channel. All such possibilities exist.
Also, you can look for the lifeline of whatever you are creating. Some pieces will be relevant for a few weeks and others can have forever lifetime utility.
The production of any content piece can take a day or two to months and years. So, come up with a matrix which helps you define the content production timeline and its utility timeline. This will help you to focus on efforts that work for you.
Let’s look at some of the Content Strategies that you can deploy. All the following strategies should work. Your holistic online marketing strategy should include all or parts from all to be effective.
With this strategy, you can focus on creating or curating content that helps you lead the awareness of your product or services. You can choose tactics like SEO or Social Media posting and couple that with paid SEM and paid SMM to get to as many potential customers as possible.
An awareness campaign can be tailored around trends and keywords that are of interest to your potential customers. With social media, targeted pushes can increase your reach.
You need to align your creatives, channels, timing, and placement to increase the awareness.
Once you have earned a good customer base, now you have the option of converting customers via retargeting or nurturing.
To be effective with conversions, you need to continue to educate or provide value to establish trust. Once enough effort has been established, then you can push for specific asks.
Such a strategy can get the most by customizing your land pages to the individual customer personas that you come up with. you can also determine the best performing keywords, landing pages, or creative using A/B testing.
Engagement should be about value delivery to your customer base. So, your nurturing or retargeting efforts should focus on content that promotes readership and sharing. You can work with how-tos, reviews, testimonials, inspirations, contests and so on.
All such push should be to enrich the lives of customers. You can use tactics like email marketing to retargeting.
You are not the expert on each subject.
There are many, who might be your competitors, but still, hold a lot of value of your customers. So, you shouldn’t worry to share and talk about them. This will only establish more credibility to whatever you are preaching.
Also, it might be a good way to get a share of some of their organic traffic.
Create content that can be consumed in bits or bytes.
What does this mean? Each channel will have a different customer base and different attention span. Not everyone will be tempted to download an ebook and might be just looking for a bit-sized helpful chunk. Such chunks properly planned and distributed using proper channels, will add a lot of value to your content marketing efforts.
So, repurpose, chop, slice, redistribute, see what works and what doesn’t.
Since we are talking to about channels. Let’s look at the building an effective channel plan.
To start off the channel planning, measure the existing ones. This will help you set a benchmark to improve upon.
Once such internal benchmarks are in place, look for industry benchmarks to determine which tactics and tools are working or not? There might be a case where your channel is profitable, but once compared against the industry, it might not be doing well. So, a part of the strategy could be to bring your channels up to the industry benchmark first and then trying to improve it.
Remember not all channels are equal. And also the medium is the message. This means that how and on which channel you receive the message, that’s how you will perceive the message (and company)
A quantitative way to determine the value of the channel is going back to the basic of Profitability as the major KPI. By determining the profitability of customers acquired from different channels, you can determine the effectiveness of that particular channel.
To organize all above efforts, you would want to come up with a centralized content calendar to chart the plans, assign deadlines, and resource requirements.
Be agile with such efforts and start off with a shared gDoc, till you progress to advanced tools.
Key for any strategy to work is to measure against right KPIs and having the flexibility to change, customize, and adapt.
For your content marketing efforts to succeed, be Agile – try and test as many efforts as you can. Once you find the one that can scale, push; otherwise keep iterating.