Influencing Your Customer’s Journey – Content Strategy
Customer Journey #3 – Content Strategy
In our previous articles, we demonstrated the importance of having a deep understanding of your prospective customer’s pain points. We then discussed the steps that a customer takes to resolve their pain points by describing and documenting the Customer Journey . Both steps are crucial to being able to build predictable revenue growth for your business.
We will also provide some guidance on identifying your ideal customer and defining personas for your targeting audience. By detailing who you are selling to, what they buy, their constraints and concerns; your organisation will be better placed to create powerful and compelling content to persuade your customers to buy from you.
In this article, we look at Content Strategy. This involves identifying and creating compelling content that will influence your potential customer to eventually select your product or service. All too many marketers create content to highlight the features or benefits of their product – without considering whether or not it will to relevant or timely to their potential customer. The most compelling content helps a customer through their journey and must reflect their questions and concerns.
Strategy, Tactics & Planning
Many companies simply don’t spend enough time or commit sufficient resources to their content, and then are surprised when they fail to generate the sales they need. To be successful, engage senior management, create a team from sales, marketing, customer success and product and spend time executing the right steps to create compelling content.
Define your objectives, build the strategy, and set the tactical steps needed to achieve the numbers to drive your revenue growth. Your objectives will often be driven by revenue or sales goals. Usually, it makes sense to drill this down to how many product demonstrations or trials you need, and in turn how many website visitors, or sales calls are required to achieve the goals set. These objectives should be measurable and easily reported to the team and management. However, it should be recognised that it may take time to achieve the numbers, and lots of trial and error usually delivers results eventually.
The strategy is the way that you intend to deliver the objectives and so could include who you intend to target, why you believe these are likely to result in an increase in income and how you plan to reach these audiences.
A tactical plan is more detailed. It should state what communication channels will be used for each audience, what messages are going to be sent and when. Often a content calendar will ensure your team deliver the tactical messaging needed to achieve the objectives set. We will discuss more about content calendar’s later in this article.
Create a Value Proposition
Defining a company’s value proposition deserves an article in its own right. It is the single message that defines the value conveyed to a customer and differentiates your offer to that of your competitors. It is not intended to be used as a headline on a landing page – more of an over-arching statement that all subsequent messages should align to.
By defining a value proposition, all communication and subsequent content should align and reflect value communicated. So, for example, if you’re a local pizza company that uniquely delivers within 15 minutes, that message has to flow through all communication in some way or another. For business to business, the value proposition is often more challenging to define, but no less important. We will publish more on this subject.
Producing a simple brand guideline is essential for consistent communications. We strongly recommend engaging a designer to specify how and when your logo should be used, exactly what your brand colours are, what fonts should be used in your marketing communications and how the branding should be applied across different media. This simple step is often overlooked but will help your business to establish a consistent and professional proposition to your customers.
Whilst the value proposition defines the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of your offering, positioning is more about communicating the style or tone of voice of your business. It is vital that this is defined early on and consistently communicated across every type of message and every channel that you use. It can be challenging to ensure consistency of positioning, especially when using different copy writers and agencies to communicate with customers.
Do you customers engage with aggressive sales copy or a prefer a more measured tone? Are your buyers highly technical and need facts, figures, and technical drawings in order to appreciate the value that you provide or is your product or service more emotive and needs to resonate with more intangible feelings.
Whichever route you chose, make sure your marketing communications stands out from your competitors and is consistent. Consistency is critical to your content strategy and will encourage customers to buy from you and not your competitors.
With your value proposition defined, it is time to consider what messages will positively influence your prospective customers, at the different stages of their buying journey.
Think about your own steps when purchasing a similar product or service. When buying a high value item such as a car, you may take many months to make the right decision for you and your family. A car salesman who offers you a discount on his specific make or model of vehicle before you have considered your options is unlikely to make a sale. Whereas communicating why your product is better than a competitor is simply irrelevant to a customer who has already decided to buy from you.
Take another look at the Customer Journey. When buyers, especially B2B purchasers, are at the early stage of their process, they are investigating a broad range of potential solutions. They may consider whether the ‘do nothing’ option is preferable to buying a new product from a new supplier. They will probably consider a range of potential alternative products and services, before narrowing the range of options down to comparable vendors. Hence, at this early stage of the buyer’s journey, suppliers can often create more influence by not being overtly ‘sales’ oriented. Many buyers, prefer an independent view of the potential solutions for their pain points and hence rely on analysts, consultants, and review sites. They may also explore a range of alternatives with their peers.
Similarly, later stage buying decisions will inevitably be influenced by addressing specific questions such as when my order will be delivered, when do I need to pay, are warranties available. Once you have a deep understanding of your customer’s journey, creating the right content becomes so much easier.
Go for quality over quantity of content. Once you have an accurate map of your customer journey, often just one or two core pieces of powerful content are sufficient to influence your customer to make the positive step you want them to take. For established businesses, it is often prudent to perform a content audit.
Collect marketing communications that has been published and ideally find insights as to how effective it has been. Keep what works well, re-invent what performs reasonably well and ditch the rest. Plan what new content you need to produce for each stage of the customer journey.
Keep original files in a central document repository such as Google Drive or SharePoint. Only provide ‘edit’ access to content creators, otherwise you’ll lose control of messaging.
Creating relevant, compelling, and consistent content takes time and time must be seen as an investment. Few people possess the skills to originate ideas, produce a first draft, refine to final content, whilst including relevant keywords and remaining consistent one of voice and alignment to the value proposition.
Effective content creation takes a team and takes time. We recommend, setting up a series of workshops to create the ideas and outline first drafts. These workshops, if held regularly should involve the senior team, product, marketing, and brand owners – to ensure alignment across everything you produce.
If you need to originate new content but don’t have inhouse skills, there are a large number of professional copy writers available on sites like Fiverr, PeoplePerHour and OneDesk. Be sure to check their portfolios of work or ask for samples to ensure it matches with your overall positioning and guidelines. If you do brief a copy writer, make sure they fully understand your keywords, optimal word and article length and any terms needed to promote your content.
This process then allows for better planning and scheduling into the content calendar. For example, a new feature being released into the product, may require content for sales, but also more technical updates within support materials. Both need to be scheduled in and may require completely different copy styles to be effective.
Including the right key words and phrases, does need specialist input. Add too few relevant words and your copy won’t be found. Add to many and it will become cumbersome and unreadable. However, with a core set of keywords identified, content can be created that will be easily found and read by your audience.
Once you have identified keywords and topics for your new content, you need to take the time to plan these pieces properly. It is often the case that content is prepared and written by different people. A solid plan is an effective way of communicating the needs of a piece to a copywriter that they can reference during production.
In our next article we will outline ideas and provide useful insights to distribute and promote your content. We’ll also provide free ways of measuring the effectiveness of your content, so that you’ll be able to continually improve performance.
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