What is the purpose of creating content? Content marketing can serve many company goals, but there is no doubt that customer engagement is always one of the most important. Also, one of the most difficult to get.
Memorable contents promote engagement, and that is the tipping point to build a digital customer experience that stands out from the crowd. As 2016 is approaching, let’s focus on the content marketing guidelines that will help you improve engagement, online and offline.
The idea of content marketing is not something totally unprecedented. In the United States, entrepreneurs have been employing content strategies since the end of the 1800s. There is no doubt, though, that the use of content in marketing initiatives has become more prevalent - and relevant - with the advent of the Internet.
In the last few years, we have witnessed an absolute blast in the use of digital contents: a recent research by Nielsen estimated that roughly 27 million pieces of content are shared on the web every single day. By 2020, the digital universe will grow to 40 thousand exabytes, mostly made of digital and social contents.
It was with the emergence of social networks (before) and connected smartphones (after) that the delivery became as important as the creation. What makes content relevant - for a specific customer - is where and how to deliver it, in terms of channels and communities.
Now even the most traditional and closed-minded companies have noticed the power of content. They are betting their marketing odds on it, and all they want from it is engagement. Everyone wants engagement; the problem is none is quite sure how to get it.
The increasing interest brings new opportunities to share your story and let the entire world know how incredible you are (and your customer experience is). The downsides of this enthusiasm, however, are the saturation of the digital world and the skyrocketing budgets. How can you overcome both hurdles?
Start with four basic premises:
- If you think that content only adapts to the awareness stage, you will likely miss the unified vision of the new customer journey map.
- If you create content that does not promote engagement, you will likely just waste your time and budget;
- If you send out contents, but you do not know and understand your digital customers, you will likely speak to an uninterested audience;
- If you think that one single content is good for all contexts, you will likely miss the power of personalized and contextual contents.
- If you think that content marketing is once and for all, you will likely become an ‘old’ brand, sidelined as static and boring.
Great content always moves at the same pace with society. In fact, we can represent content marketing like a jigsaw with many shuffled pieces (and it is your duty to put everything in place):
- The brand identity - the history and legacy that brought you here;
- The inner reason - why you do what you do;
- The business vision - what makes you different;
- The story you narrate - between tradition and evolution;
- The technology you use - to evolve and involve your customers in your story;
- The channels you deploy - and the innovative tools you use to spread your word;
- The context - that makes content relevant. To be found is more important than broadcasting.
- The audience you talk to - and how they feel you are adding value and making their life easier.
Easy, isn’t it? New tools and technologies give you incredible opportunities to connect with your customers in more meaningful ways. However, it is not enough to simply be creating content because too many brands consistently share great stuff. Success is not a matter of luck; it is the result of brilliant strategies.
You need to rock your strategy and take content for what it is (in the mobile era): a key element of the digital customer experience. This is the only way to empower your customers and avoid spamming them across your digital properties. As we prepare to enter a busy 2016, here are few guidelines to be sure you are walking the way to engagement.
A purpose is what gives sense and direction to your marketing strategy. Content without purpose is probably useless and worthless. Establish a long-term goal for your global strategy and a short term-goal for any action you take. And adapt them constantly.
Purpose and value are strictly connected. The first one is about your brand identity, but the value is related to your customers. Where does it come from? To add value to your content, start with customer’s needs and questions, not your product or brand.
When connecting with empowered customers, one-way communication is outdated and ineffective. Digital customers expect to be part of your content: if you claim attention, start by giving back attention (especially on social media). The only way to customer’s heart.
Just throwing contents on your site, on social media or around the web will not get you anywhere, if you don’t have a plan. You need to plan to build a strategy that is truly competitive and compelling. Otherwise, search engines and customers will never notice you.
MIND THE MOMENT
In content marketing, there are leaders and followers. It is not the budget you spend that will decide who you are. Innovative strategies are not a matter of money; they come from brilliant ideas. Do not follow what others are doing (in terms of new tools, channels); try to create your own trend instead.
MIND THE CONTEXT
In our times, shaped by mobile devices, content is nothing without context. As confirmed by tons of researches, brand differentiating experiences originate from the ability to engage customers where and when it matters most, across all steps of the customer journey.
BLUR ONLINE & OFFLINE
The necessity to create context-aware content, together with the pervasiveness of connected devices, create an interesting corollary. The distance that separates the offline and online worlds is blurring, and you need to adapt content accordingly, connecting both experiences in one, comprehensive, omni-channel customer experience.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
Value mostly descend from the context, and the context is represented by the union of where (you share your content) and who (you are talking to). The Age of the Customer could be also called the era of personalization, the refusal of one-fits-all solutions. Customers demand personal experiences and tailor-cut contents, and this trend will only accelerate in the next years.
Distribution is what makes content relevant. You can have the best piece of content in the whole Internet, but if you don’t know how (and where) to share it, it will lose all its power. Be sure to push shearable contents. How? Be trustworthy, helpful, current, and finally make customers’ life easier.
While companies focus their efforts on producing content, they are not always measuring it (less than a quarter, according to a recent research). What is the point of spending resources and money if you do not measure results? Data is what gives a perspective to your activities. To stand out, invest your time in measuring valuable content metrics (i.e. social and search engines).
Of course, genuine engagement is nourished with high-quality contents (What you say) and rooted in your brand identity (Who you are). But you should always remember that it is the digital customer experience that you deliver (What you do) what will ultimately make you memorable.
If you look for more insights and statistics about content marketing strategy, check out the 5 Content Marketing Facts You Need To Know (To Be Truly Epic).
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