By Chuck Leddy
Savvy B2B Marketers are more likely to focus on customer experience than a single customer interaction or channel. The concept of “experience” is holistic and multichannel (even multi-device), representing the aggregation of interactions and perceptions that shape how customers perceive a brand. Delivering great customer experiences across channels and throughout the B2B buying journey drives marketing ROI, but is more complex for marketers to implement than single campaigns.
Creating memorable experiences that turn prospects into loyal, repeat customers requires understanding your customers, going to where they go (i.e., across multiple channels and devices), offering them the messages that address their individual needs (i.e., with relevant, timely content), and making their buying process as frictionless as possible. Content has always been a key component of customer experience.
ConEx: Content Experience
Content experiences are how customers interact with your content throughout their buying journey and how they feel about your brand as a result of consuming your content. ConEx is evolving rapidly alongside an explosion of new interfaces, content formats, digital platforms and multiple touchpoints. The big content question is this: are your customers finding, accessing and consuming your content in a way that helps them achieve their goals, so you can achieve yours? It isn’t simply about having a store of great content (although that helps), but knowing (1) when to deploy that content and (2) what particular customers get what particular content in order to facilitate their buyer’s journey.
Content must meet buyers where they are and address their evolving needs from awareness to purchase (and beyond). Sometimes content educates or nurtures, sometimes it closes and converts. Aligning your content to your customer journey might sound like an insurmountable challenge, but it’s a key driver of marketing ROI. You need a framework to create that content + customer alignment, to make the content experience feel like a purposeful and seamless one that addresses customer expectations. Let’s explore what that framework might look like in practice.
A 5-Part ConEx Framework
Nearly 9 out of 10 (89%) business buyers expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations, according to Salesforce. As Gregg Shupe, Digital Experience Thought Leader at Progress, explains: “B2B customers, just like B2C customers, want unique experiences and expect brands to engage them where they are.” That said, “only 22% of B2B customers think brands are delivering exceptional experiences,” according to a Harris poll Shupe cites. His presentation at the Martech Conference 2020, called How to Align Your Content Experience with the Customer Journey (free registration to watch on-demand video), outlines a 5-part framework for B2B organizations for delivering memorable, aligned content experiences that convert. Here’s that ConEx framework:
1: Architecture: You can’t create great content experiences without having the right martech in place and deploying it optimally. As in all things marketing related, maturity in marketing ops and data management matters. All great designs and plans begin with having the right capacities to implement your ideas. You’ll need a marketing automation platform to deliver and measure content, a CRM and business intelligence applications to gain actionable, data-driven insights about your customers in real-time, and a content management system (CMS) to create and manage content efforts across multiple channels.
As Shupe explains, “you need a martech stack that allows you to seamlessly engage your customers to deliver content experiences, and you’ll need to work across devices and channels to unify the buying journey pre- and post-conversion.” That requires a fully-integrated martech infrastructure, as well as marketing ops maturity.
2: Content Creation: You’ll need to leverage customer insights gained from data and data analytics to define and design the content you need. Data can help you define the right content formats and channels, as well as inform the timing and targets for your content. One size or content type definitely does not fit all, so you’ll need to understand where your customers are in their journey, figure out what content they need every step of that journey, and then deliver targeted, engaging content that addresses those needs.
Increasingly, business intelligence and customer insight tools like Oracle DataFox and Infinity are helping B2B marketers deliver personalized, relevant, and timely content at the account and individual level. As Shupe explains, “successful content is relevant, timely, personalized, consistent, and convenient.”
3: Content Management: You’ll need a solid CMS in order to enhance workflow and collaboration around content. You may need writers and designers working on an eBook, or videographers working on a how-to video, or podcasters, graphic designers, and more. The more efficient your platforms and workflows in developing content, the faster you can deploy it to drive customers along their journey. And needless to say, all your systems need to work well with each other, since they depend upon each other for success.
4: Content Distribution and Amplification: You’ll need to map out an eco-system of internal and external influencers to help you distribute and share content to your target customers. Just because you have a social media account, for instance, doesn’t mean your target customers are consuming your posts. How will you get people to share your content via multiple channels? Creating high quality content that people want to share is an essential first step, but you may need to reach out and ask people (i.e., influencers in your industry) to engage with and potentially share your content. When it comes to content, network effects are powerful.
5: Measurement: It’s not enough to build a fully-integrated infrastructure for content, create the stuff, and then simply send it out into the world. “You need to understand content performance and use tools like analytics and AI to get predictive with content,” says Shupe. When you’ve built a marketing and content infrastructure that can track customer behavior and customer interactions with your content, you can also track and improve content effectiveness in order to close the loop.
Measurement shows you what’s working and what isn’t, so you can drive key marketing outcomes throughout the buyer’s journey. Use measurement like a compass as you continuously engage your customers with content and navigate towards your goals/KPIs.
Shupe closed his Martech Conference 2020 presentation by explaining that the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated pre-existing shifts towards digital-first customer engagement. Customers are now doing almost everything online, from working to shopping to consuming streaming entertainment. “The pandemic has accelerated the need for great content experiences,” says Shupe, and B2B marketers, now more than ever, need to put an infrastructure and mature workflows in place to support content experiences.
To learn more about how your B2B organization can improve its infrastructure and workflows to support great content experiences (and drive ROI), reach out to us here.