Creating content for a better customer experience journey
Content marketing is nothing new. In fact, some of our fellow marketers claim it to be as much as 300 years old. In 1739, Benjamin Franklin first published his annual ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack’; a popular pamphlet in the American Colonies which was packed full of practical and witty proverbs.
The purpose of the Almanack was not only to enlighten its readers (and enrich their souls), but also to promote Franklin's growing print business - and thus, content marketing was born.
Fast forward to 2021 and the creation of good content rests on much the same principles: make it relevant, timely, useful and interesting. The creation of a good content marketing strategy however, has become a little more complex. Unlike Franklin, who knew his audience as well as he knew himself - and had paper and print as his only real option for promoting his paper and print business - today’s marketers must promote a broad array of products and services, often to several different audiences and via multiple channels.
Today, content marketing is no longer simply about telling a story: it’s also about telling the right story, in the right format, on the right platform. Much of this will depend on which stage of the customer journey it’s designed for and what its specific purpose is. Your content needs to be capable of moving prospects and customers along their journey - taking them from awareness through to purchase, before bolstering brand loyalty and then creating opportunities for referral.
Mapping out the customer journey
With so much to consider, it can be difficult to know where to begin. But isn’t every complicated journey easier with a map? Mapping out the customer journey for each of your primary audience personas is a brilliant way to see each possible touchpoint and understand how it can be an opportunity to build awareness, engage a new prospect, convert a lead, enhance a customer’s experience, and eventually turn a loyal customer into a brand advocate. It will also show you how different pathways interconnect and where roads might end: the best content strategy will be one that considers how relationships that might otherwise turn cold can be nurtured, to keep you front of mind until a buyer is ready to commit.
At each stage of the journey, the main question you need to keep in mind is ‘what action do you want the audience to take?’. Consider these actions the signposts on your roadmap and get it all clearly laid out in a way that makes sense to you (and that you can keep referring back to). This roadmap will be invaluable to you later down the line. Now you’re ready to start creating content.
Content types for every touchpoint
There are no hard and fast rules about which type of content to use at each stage of the customer journey but you do need to think about how different formats might perform; depending on what your audience already knows about you and what you already know about them. To make this a little clearer, it can be helpful to consider how four of the core types of content might perform at different stages of the customer journey:
Long form content/whitepapers
Long form content is generally considered to be anything over around 1000 words. It’s a brilliant way to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of a specific subject and is ideal for building awareness of your specialisms. It’s also great for lead capture, as it offers enough value to the audience that they should be willing to trade a few details for it. This type of content is quite resource intensive, but if you create something that’s really relevant to your audience, genuinely useful and packed full of key search terms, it will be worth the work.
A good piece of long-form content can also provide the foundation for your website’s pillar content. Draw out the key themes of this longer piece and focus in on how you can use it to answer your target audience’s most searched questions. Then create multiple blog, video or infographic pieces and stack short, long, visual and text-based content in a way that aligns with your customer journey. Done right, pillar content is a good way to give your organic SEO a boost and keep people coming back for more.
Blogs remain one of the most popular types of B2B content, and for good reason. According to one survey, 78% of bloggers see results from their content and 1 in 4 bloggers report ‘strong results’ from using this format.
With such tangible results, it’s easy to see why blogs have become a content staple throughout the customer journey. They’re another good way of demonstrating thought leadership in new or existing marketplaces, while requiring less of a time commitment from you and your audience than your long-form content. They’re also good for nurturing existing relationships and regularly showing your customers that you care about the same topics and issues that they do. But get creative - with so many blogs and bloggers out there you’ll need to provide something a little different if you want to cut through the noise. Consider adding visuals to your blog and keep it really scannable with lots of subheaders, to be sure you can grab the attention of even the most time-poor reader.
Social media ads and posts
When you ask the question, ‘where will our potential customers find us?’ one of the first answers you get will undoubtedly be ‘on social media’. And while your social platform of choice might vary according to where your audience is most likely to be found, a presence on social media is a must for almost every B2B organisation these days. When you’re building awareness or hunting leads, social media adverts provide a cost-effective way to reach a targeted audience. When you’re staying in touch with customers, social media posts and polls provide a way to create less formal, more human connections and engage in two-way conversations on the issues affecting them. A social media presence should be a consistent one, so consider it a thread that runs through your strategy, bringing campaigns together and providing links to the longer content that you want your audience to read or download. Always try to provide an opportunity for interaction if you can - and make sure you’re responsive when people do engage.
Around 87% of businesses now use video as a marketing tool. For B2B businesses, videos are a great way to make technical content more accessible (and dry topics more exciting). It’s content that performs well on social media and can boost SEO when embedded on your website, and it provides a number of options depending on where you want to use it on the customer journey. Video webinars, for example, provide a more interactive opportunity than white papers for building your thought leadership credentials, and are also good for lead capture, while explainer videos work well for lead conversion as well as for engaging existing customers. Really useful or exciting video content is also the content most likely to be shared, so provides an opportunity to expand your reach through peer advocacy.
As with any content, of course, the success you have with video will depend on making it both interesting and useful and in shaping the content to suit an audience and a purpose. While 10 minute face-to-camera educational videos will work in some circumstances, the general rule with video is to distil your information down and keep it punchy - people love this format because of its ability to provide information quickly and in a visually entertaining way.
An opportunity and a challenge
The options for content creation are ever expanding, providing marketers with an opportunity that is also a challenge. With so many options, creating a content strategy that supports and enhances your customer journey can feel overwhelming. My advice would be: make sure you have a really good grasp of who your audience is and what they need at each stage of the customer journey, keep the roadmap of your customer journey close at hand, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Your B2B organisation might not quite be ready to jump onto TikTok - but look at the channels you are comfortable with and create different types of content to boost your engagement levels there