An integral part of creating a strategy for content marketing initiatives is to identify which of your customers are the targets of your content: what are their roles in their companies, what part do they play in the buying process, what are their preferred channels for different kinds of content. Then decisions must be made for the types of content that will be created, based on the preferences of target customers and different phases of the customer or buying journey. Just as companies should be segmenting target markets and target customer roles to better connect their products to customer needs, the same segmentation should be used for content.
Software solutions are important tools for learning more about customers and their buying behaviors, to provide the continuous intelligence needed for effective content marketing. Advanced analytics can process data from many disparate sources, such as social media, master data and CRM systems, and provide customer insight that helps with customer segmentation, mapping customer journeys, and relating customer content preferences to specific channels for publication. Content management and marketing automation solutions enable dynamic management of the customer / content matrix as it relates to buying processes and customer desires. Various software solutions also nurture consistent customer experiences across channels, to enhance positive perceptions. Most of the above technologies provide capabilities for tracking activities and outcomes, to be able to repeatedly measure effectiveness, and fine tune approaches and processes.
What Kind of Content Should You Create?
Forcontent to provide superior customer engagement, the focus is no longer on vendor offerings and product features. It's about content that helps prospects and customers solve their problems and improve the performance of their organizations. The kind of content that attracts your customers will change on a regular basis, as media options evolve along with customer interests and needs. Companies must keep on top of these changes through different industry reports, analytics on the effectiveness of current content marketing activities, direct feedback from customers, and continuously tracking changes to buying / customer journeys.
Content categories that currently catch the attention of different kinds of customers include:
à Content Optimized for Mobile Consumption
Mobile is rapidly becoming a top channel for connecting to customers. To engage customers, content must be specifically optimized for the device, particularly smartphones where display real estate is at a premium. Content has to make sense for how customers use mobile devices and generally should be simple, very interesting and to the point.
Customers like video content when it covers topics relevant to their needs. High quality, sophisticated video is greatly preferred over amateurish efforts. Customer expectations for engagement look for entertainment combined with information.
à White papers and Product Information Sheets
These types of content are primarily of interest for B2B customers. White papers will only be useful if they cover topics and issues that matter to customers. Customers are strongly turned off by marketing "brochureware" masquerading as a white paper, and may well reject the vendor that created it.
à Customer Stories and Case Studies
Customers still find great value in customer stories with useful details around the customer problem and how it was solved. Include the value and benefits that were gained by the customer after solving the problem – and keep the focus on the customer, not your company.
à Interactive Elements
Engaging customers with interactive elements, such as embedded video or hyperlinks, frequently builds customer interest in your content, and can take customers further into the buying process. Be sure to overtly identify what each interactive element will do. For example, you may be losing customer follow-through on links if it's not clear what will happen when the link is clicked.
Content Marketing Doesn't Stop at Purchases
The bonus value of content marketing is to nurture and build positive customer experiences beyond the purchase, throughout the lifecycle of a customer. Customers and markets can change very quickly; agile and sophisticated software technologies, processes and creative practices are needed to grow and sustain positive customer relationships. Content marketing is an integral part of what it takes to positively engage customers on any channel at any time.
Image source: ironpaper.com
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About the author: Julie Hunt understands the overlap and convergence of business processes and software solutions that once were thought of as "separate" – and how this impacts software Vendors and Buyers, as well as the strategies that enterprises implement for how technology supports the business and its customers. Julie shares her takes on the software industry via her blog Highly Competitiveand on Twitter: @juliebhunt For more information: Julie Hunt Consulting – Strategies for B2B Software Solutions: Working from the Customer Perspective