Content marketing has solidified itself as a practice that strategically builds valuable relationships with audiences. Successful marketers have gone beyond the notion of "content" as marketing in and of itself, and they understand that it's now a strategic function of business-one that should be planned, created, and managed as carefully as any other product or service.
By looking at how we deliver value to audiences through content, it's natural that we move into thinking about the experiences we create through content. It's the sum of these actions that delivers a true customer experience. Interestingly, there's quite a bit of overlap between content marketing and customer experience. Both do the following:
- Begin with the needs of audiences (not just customers)
- Look to understand how to deliver value
- Architect experiences to deliver value
- Manage the delivery of the experiences through content
- Evaluate how well content and experiences are performing
- Refine experiences to deliver more meaning for audiences
We've seen huge shifts in how audiences interact with content and how brands use it as a vital differentiator. Kraft Recipes not only shares content that drives commerce for its products, it also delivers a valuable experience that helps its food-loving audience plan meals, holidays, and parties. Aon PLC, a B2B company, creates an annual Political Risk Map that helps businesses understand the political risk of doing business in hundreds of emerging economies. These are brands that have moved away from the traditional function of content and into creating differentiated experiences.
As we talk about "experiences," here's how I define them: Experiences are the combination of digital and physical content that creates value for customers and instills an emotional connection with a brand. The ultimate purpose of these experiences is to convert audiences into customers and generate repeatable revenue for the business.
When we get down to it, it doesn't matter if we attribute this definition of experiences to content marketing or customer experience. The end goal is still the same: to create a larger audience, proactively deliver value, and generate revenue. And that's why we're seeing a stronger correlation between content marketing and customer experience. Experiences are critical to building and deepening relationships with customers. But what drives them? Content. Content is the customer experience.
The "Customer 2020" report predicts that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. In that case, we need to look at content's role in creating these differentiating experiences.
The question to ask ourselves is, "What kinds of experiences am I creating with my content?" The answer that most of us will give is, "None at all." But the truth is that even a lack of a thoughtful experience still creates an experience-just not a good one.
Evoking an emotional response through experiences determines whether or not we build trust with audiences. This is important to keep in mind because trust builds influence. While we'd like everyone who connects with our brand to convert to a customer, we have to admit that's not going to happen. Take BMW, for example. Not everyone can pony up to its price tag, but it's built a massive audience that has passion about the brand. It's not just the experience of owning a BMW-it's about the experience of driving. Anyone can attend BMW's Driving Academy Maisach and discover firsthand how it feels to have total control of a car in extreme situations.
BMW is an example of how brands can take advantage of using content marketing to inspire passionate fans. These experiences also create expectations for budding customers about what it's like to engage with a brand. Delivering a great customer experience through content marketing is good business.