Creating an effective content marketing strategy

Marketers need to put customer experience at the center of content marketing strategy. Technology and process should take second place.

Crafting a multichannel content marketing strategy is a difficult proposition, especially if staff and technology investments aren't aligned with business goals.

Marketing departments often contort themselves trying to figure out which content resonates with their customer bases and which technology investments could boost that content's visibility. And marketing strategy has become yet another competitive differentiator with razor-thin margins.

Without a plan for content, marketing practices won't reach their desired audiences and businesses will lose revenue and brand recognition. The focus should be the look and feel of content and how it enhances the customer experience. Content marketing strategies often fall flat where content isn't tailored to customer preferences and needs.

Anand Rao, principal consultant at Mindtree Ltd., a technology consultancy specializing in digital transformation, spoke at the 2015 Gilbane Conference in Boston about the challenges customers face in molding a content marketing strategy that has the customer experience at the center.

How do companies ensure that content marketing strategies center on customer experience?

Anand RaoAnand Rao

Anand Rao: Consumers demand a consistent, quality experience regardless of the communication channel they use. Further, companies face challenges from competitors, a crowded marketplace of products and the rising cost of marketing practices. Marketing today is about understanding the always-on, always-connected consumer and delivering personalized and relevant experiences to them.

Many organizations see digital marketing as a driver of business growth and customer engagement. But marketing success is doomed without a clear direction and the customer experience can suffer if marketing practices are made up of disparate functions. Companies must strive for an alignment of people, process and technology for digital marketing initiatives, including content marketing, to be successful.

What is the main technological challenge companies face when developing a content marketing strategy?

Rao: Marketing departments can adapt well to new technological developments, but underlying challenges remain. Companies lack an integrated view of data that brings enterprise CRM data together with content effectiveness. Marketers need the most updated customer profiles in order to prepare content to do their jobs, which is why organizations need to invest in software that accounts for customer behavior across all channels, physical or digital, as well as displaying internal data, such as inventory performance.

Many marketers struggle with creating the right content. What are some guidelines they can follow when deciding on which marketing content to feature?

Marketing today is about understanding the always-on, always-connected consumer.

Rao: Many organizations struggle to begin with a robust content marketing strategy. They want to use customer insights to help them make relevant, compelling content but don't know which channels are appropriate for which kinds of content. They struggle to know which technologies, tools and services are worth investing in. Often, they don't have the right people involved and lack best practices as to which metrics to measure. There is no one successful content marketing strategy, but there are disciplines that guide a successful content strategy.

  • Make sure the goals of the content marketing strategy are aligned with those of the organization and the product itself.
  • Generate consumer insights that will personalize your company's interactions with customers.
  • Foster collaboration among a team of people experienced in research, content, marketing and digital initiatives.
  • Develop your content strategy by mapping the customer journey.
  • Create a marketing calendar to strategically plan the release of content.
  • Build on partnerships with other agencies that can provide creative and technological guidance.
  • Take an inventory of the software you already have and determine if you need other tools to complete your objectives.
  • Test, analyze, improve, repeat.

What are the challenges facing customer experience designers?

Rao: A designer and friend once told me, "Design is not UI/UX [user interface/user experience]; it is a way of thinking." This sums up the role of design in building great products. Having good design is table stakes for organizations today, but departmental data silos get in the way of creating an engaging customer experience across channels. A company's existing technology, workforce skills and the lack of an integrated view of data make designing products for the customer more difficult. Design strategy should be united with the overall business strategy. But obtaining consumer insights and harnessing technology are prerequisites that contribute to good design.

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