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Unlocking content strategy to drive superior customer experience

Matt Clark, head of user experience at Amaze, discusses how businesses can ensure their content strategy is effective in meeting customer needs

The most recent Content Marketing Institute report tells us that 74% of B2B content marketers say they have a strategy for their use of content, but only 22% consider it effective.

Figures such as this, expressing the challenge of making effective use of content, through the development of a coherent strategic approach, are universal to all forms of digital marketing.

Encouragingly, organisations are starting to wake up to the fact that content is a strategic asset, which is elemental to business success. What is key here is having an overarching, company-wide content strategy.

Put simply, content strategy is the model that underpins all content design – technical, functional and visual. It goes beyond content and, at its core, is about aligning people, processes and technologies with business goals and customer needs. By creating a content strategy, organisations will have a blueprint for the ordered, thoughtful and creative use of content, giving long-term control over how a brand projects itself, while still consistently providing meaningful, relevant information to its audiences.

There are, however, some B2B-specific elements to consider. B2B marketers are more likely to communicate with an internalised focus on their products and services. Yet that’s a missed opportunity to demonstrate how well you understand your customers, their market places and the challenges they face.

There is frequently a disconnect between marketing and sales teams. Effective content strategy eliminates silos - in the B2B context, that means the field force has to be instrumental in helping shape your content.

B2B audiences expect privileged access to data, insights and commentary and many thought leadership B2B marketing strategies reflect this. The content strategist’s role is to ensure that the planning, conception and delivery of this content matches audience insights, reflects current market focal points and uses appropriate UX techniques to ensure an exchange takes place.

In addition, the B2B buying process relies much more heavily on detailed documentation, and a buying case that is attuned to the B2B buyer’s priorities when making a purchasing decision. Content strategy for B2B organisations must also consider the structure, management and delivery of content to non-customer facing touch points, including sales / technical intranets, field force tools, printed and distributed materials.

The key element, however, is that many businesses – B2B included – have yet to view content as a strategic asset. A purely tactical approach to content will work in the short-term, but it fails to address the wider challenges businesses face like inconsistency, inefficiency and ineffectiveness. If content is a valuable business resource then time and effort should be spent managing it well.

Here are five key steps to developing an effective content strategy:

1. Start with your story

It’s not enough for people to know your brand name; they need to know what you stand for. Consumers look for meaning when forming an attachment to a brand. Content conveys meaning through values and commitments. But, storytelling is not intended to be a selling tool. The whole point of customer-centric content is that it goes beyond products and builds affinity between the brand and the user.

2. Know your audience

In order to genuinely create content that customers care about it’s vital you understand them well. There is a wealth of data that can build the picture of the specific people you’re trying to reach. Insights must go beyond age and demographic and delve into attitudes and behaviours to allow a 360° picture of persona preferences to be formed.

3. Plan your content

With so many channels to consider, there is recognition that good customer experience relies on delivering interesting, relevant and personalised content across all channels seamlessly. The outcome of good content planning is the understanding of how the content will be prioritised, organised, formatted and displayed.

4. Align people and process

People are perhaps the most important element in any content strategy as attitudes and behaviours are as important as any working practices. After all, content is not just a marketing issue – it permeates multiple departments and when they act collaboratively and in harmony it can work like clockwork.

5. Engage your leaders

The more business leaders understand the value of content strategy, the more willing they’ll be to invest in it. C-suite involvement provides internal advocacy for content strategy initiatives by supporting the drive for enterprise wide planning and providing strategic governance.

The challenge of managing content is universal, but there are specific ways in which our five-point approach to content strategy can be made especially relevant to the B2B context. By applying our five steps to the B2B-specific contexts outlined in the introduction to this piece, you can ensure that your content strategy is more regularly and reliably an effective part of how your organisation uses content to meet your customers’ needs and your business’ objectives.