In the world of B2B marketing, your content serves as the storefront of your organization. Almost every interaction is defined by the experience content marketing creates.
A positive customer experience, thus, depends on a high-quality content experience. Inversely, poor content experiences lead to stagnant funnels, lack of brand authority, and inconsistent messaging.
At the root of a poor content experience is marketing's tendency to limit themselves to content marketing: top of funnel, little strategic alignment, and lack of visibility into content impact. The problem with content marketing is that it doesn't truly encompass the entire customer experience.
So—what does it take to have not just a good content experience, but an outstanding, seamless journey that makes all prospects dream of being customers?
Focusing on a Full-Funnel Content Experience
Before we can talk about creating a positive content experience, we have to acknowledge that we're not just talking about TOFU content. Everything from first touch point to product collateral to customer advocacy content is part of the experience.
So, since we have a full-funnel view of content, that means everyone that's part of the funnel has to be on the same page and providing a consistent experience—right?
According to Kapost's 2018 Marketing and Sales Alignment Benchmark, some people aren't so clear on what the ramifications of inconsistent messaging are on the content experience. Check it out:
Somehow, only slightly more than half (62 percent) of marketers and salespeople say that inconsistent messaging has a negative effect on the customer.
That number is simply astonishing to me. If our survey had been a test, that was the easy question that everyone could get right. Yet one in every three respondents would disagree with the fundamental statement that inconsistent messaging creates a negative customer experience.
But the numbers don't lie, and this is clearly something we as marketing leaders must address.
To all the naysayers: Just to paint a picture of what inconsistency might look like, let's say that an organization's marketing and sales team aren't aligned. They might have similar messaging, but it's different enough that the same customer has to question as they progress from top of funnel content to having an actual conversation with sales. For simplicity’s sake, I'll make a B2C analogy (B2B buyer journeys are so complex that I'd need an entire blog post to really get into it).
Say you're walking down the street and see a storefront that advertises a sale on all summer clothing. Score! You needed a new swimsuit. You walk in and a salesperson greets you, asking if you need assistance. You ask where the swim section is, are guided there, and immediately realize they exclusively cater to the opposite gender.
Womp womp. Wasted time, poorly targeted marketing, and general negative response. With a B2C interaction, the damage is minimal; however, B2B interactions almost always involve more resources—time, money, and so on. Poorly aligned content (aka, the storefront of your B2B organization) and sales interactions are detrimental to not just your brand reputation but to your bottom line.
So, back to our survey question. To the over half of the people who were either unsure or totally rejected the idea that inconsistent messaging is detrimental to the content experience, I throw down my metaphorical gauntlet. I'd argue that consistent messaging is foundational to a positive content experience.
And since this blog post is now my soapbox, I'll assume you agree with me! In light of our universal acceptance of consistency as a priority for B2B organizations, let's dive into how to establish an outstanding content experience.
Focus on the Customer
If alignment is central to a positive content experience, all customer-facing teams—marketing, sales, customer retention, and so on—must have a shared goal. In the Age of the Customer, that shared goal must be the customer. Now more than ever, buyers are in control—and that's only getting more apparent as marketing becomes more of an education center to engage prospects pre-sales.
According to our research, only 61 percent of marketers reported that their organization has adopted a customer-centric approach to marketing. Interestingly, 72 percent of sales thought that their marketing organizations had a customer-centric approach, which begs the question: Are marketers following through on their strategy?
Regardless, these numbers show we're largely behind the curve with transitioning away from product-centric to customer-centric content.
A stellar content experience starts with tailored content, which means your product, service, or whatever it is that you're selling isn't the focus. Instead, the needs of the customer are the core of what content should be targeted for. Sure, your solution might come up or become relevant as you educate readers about how to better their own lives. But all content must be strategized in order to appeal to the customer. And, despite what you might hope, the likelihood that your product itself is what a prospect wants to hear about—especially higher in the funnel—is quite low.
Develop a Cross-Functional Team to Own the Experience
When we asked our survey respondents about who owns the customer experience, answers were all over the board. Significantly, though, marketing and sales had very different opinions.
Sales, perhaps unsurprisingly, were most likely to declare themselves owners of all things customer experience. Marketers, however, did not follow suit: They were most likely to choose a cross-functional group with representatives from multiple departments.
Marketing: 1, Sales: 0. Coming from a marketer, perhaps that doesn't mean much—but let me explain why.
Regardless of what single department tried to manage the customer experience, lack of input from other teams will be your downfall. Marketers know what's happening in the general landscape, salespeople have an entire library of anecdotes about what goes on for your actual buyers, and customer success knows what organizations are successful with your offering. Can you imagine relying on only one of those data points in planning a customer's content experience? Hopefully not, but it's more likely that it's your reality.
Establishing this—and carrying it out with regular content planning and analysis meetings—is central to a positive content experience.
Prioritize Alignment at Scale
Aligning key stakeholders only gets more difficult as an organization grows. But, regardless of size, alignment comes down to one thing: communication.
One in three survey respondents reported that sales and marketing don't have a regular meeting. Unfortunately, in companies of 5,000+ employees, that statistic jumps to one in two. As can be expected, this lack of communication translates into problems that inevitably hurt the content experience.
Companies with over 5,000 employees were 15 percent less likely to have visibility into how sales uses content and 14 percent less likely to know whether internal stakeholders agree that inconsistent messages have a negative effect on customer experience compared to their smaller counterparts.
But, as more players come into the back end of the content experience, it becomes even more important to stay aligned. Not only must organizations prioritize interdepartmental consistency, but also intradepartmental consistency! Keeping even the largest team aligned comes down to breaking down silos and keeping process around content centralized in a tool that enables sales and marketing alike.
Feed Your Content Experience with Better Alignment
Ultimately, content needs to be more strategic. Simply creating more content isn't doing anyone any good—it's creating more targeted content to ensure that you can deliver the right content to the right customer at the right time. A rather cumbersome tagline, perhaps, but essential to the health of your content experience.
At the root of this thinking is the transition away from TOFU content and embracing the full-funnel content experience with a content operation rather than simply a content marketing team. A content operation incorporates not just the content team, but the rest of marketing, as well as sales, to better inform content across the buyer's journey.