You can market your content and have very little in the way of a customer experience (CX), but not the other way round. If content marketing is something you do, CX is what you need to think about when you do it. Competitively speaking, it’s critical.
There’s an oft-cited statistic from business consultancy Walker which states that by 2020, CX will overtake price and product as a key differentiator for brands. Gartner, meanwhile, predicts that by 2018, more than half of organisations will redirect their investments into innovative CX ideas.
In short, customers are beginning to value how they interact with and relate to a company more than the product they’re eventually going to buy. And how you position, craft and utilise content marketing is only going to become more integral when building that relationship.
Customers are beginning to value how they interact with and relate to a company more
Make an impact
This makes sense if we put it into the context of this ever-growing millennial and Generation Z audience, who tend to value things like the social and environmental impact of their purchases over the price, for example.
Or the rise of the gig economy, which succeeds because it is a customer experience that is based around social impact – around gratifying convenience and lending a helping hand. The whole reason famously ‘disruptive’ companies in this space are winning is because they’re built on a model of giving the customer everything they want in an easy, pressure-free, service-rich manner that benefits everyone involved in an honest way.
But they don’t have to be the only ones that can do it.
Many brands are still missing this. A study from Accenture Interactive last year maintained that just 7% of customers say the companies they regularly engage with are delivering digital customer experiences that exceed their expectations. I’ll admit ‘expectations’ is quite a broad term, but even so, 7% is hardly a score that impresses.
Time and money
Despite a clear need, CX is often overlooked as a priority. And the usual reason is money. No surprises there, perhaps, but let me elaborate.
Something like a website is created and populated based on time and cost. CX is often an afterthought, and as long as the website was delivered on time, on budget, and makes money, it can be deemed a success.
Take a ticket machine, for example; let’s say your train is approaching the platform and you’re still battling the utterly illogical process of buying a ticket – someone, somewhere, designed that machine, got paid for it, and was given a pat on the back for a job well done. However, these machines routinely leave the customer fuming and frustrated. And possibly late. That’s a successful system – you still end up giving it your money, after all – that nevertheless has bad CX.
In the case of the ticket machine, there’s not much competition. The customer has to buy a ticket and it has to be from that machine, so who cares about CX? And furthermore, why invest in improving CX when the thing makes money?
CX is often overlooked as a priority
But when the competition is there, that’s when you need to start thinking about how your many, many channels are working harmoniously to create one cohesive customer journey. The various experiences a customer has with you, from finding you online to buying a product to providing support, must meet certain standards, keeping the customer at worst content, and at best impressed. Good CX is to envision each one of these steps and how they fit together from the point of view of the customer.
Signposts and service stations
Consider your content marketing to be a bit like a set of signposts and service stations on that customer journey. It’s valuable, entertaining, and consumable. Your content first of all supports SEO and promotes organic traffic to your site in the discovery phase, and plays its role all the way down to providing a reliable source of support and new information for your existing and repeat customers. Your content can be a valued source at every step.
The savvy marketer ensures that that content is not just valuable – it’s outstanding. They see opportunity to beat the competition not only on the quality and style of individual pieces of content, but also how that content fits into a wider picture, analysing the key data points and A/B testing to see how and where that journey can be refined.
Your content can be a valued source at every step
Content is just one part of CX, of course. There are elements like the paying process, the usability and navigability of your website, and just good old customer service (though to be honest, if that’s an issue, then there may be bigger fish to fry). However, content strategy is a crucial cog that helps turn the customer satisfaction wheel. Whether it’s courtesy of better communication, improved accessibility, or support, directly and succinctly, content can play a major role in portraying your company in a positive way.
Content strategy is a crucial cog that helps turn the customer satisfaction wheel
The rise and rise of CX is one of the strongest indicators yet that the relationship you forge with your customers, and the loyalty and trust that that earns, is fast becoming the most important factor for brands. These days we need to see everything from the perspective of the customer, not the seller, and present that outlook clearly through our content.
In this day and age, CX must be a forethought. It needs to be the reason you create a piece of content. On the customer’s journey, that’s the difference between your content marketing being middle of the road, or way out in front.