Content is the currency of customer experience, yet content is typically born amid chaos.
Marketers are seeking the answers to a series of complicated questions: “What content will be engaging for the customer, at what stage in the customer lifecycle? Which experts should create the content, and how well do they know the customer? What program vehicles works best to reach the customer? Did you reach and engage the customer?”
Focusing on the customer through content is an essential need for B2B companies—pull it off well and gain sustainable market advantage. But watch out for the pitfalls of old school thinking. It starts when there’s a focus on answering the “who” question:
- Who’s responsible for content?
- Who knows what content works?
- Who has real customer insights?
- Who decides what content should be marketed?
- Who decides what content sales should use?
Old school thinking goes something like this: Marketing creates content, sales consumes it. Sales sees what works with customers, sales tells marketing what works, and marketing does what sales wants. This classic view is frequently an obstacle on the road to marketing and sales alignment.
It also leads to drive-by marketing interactions with sales: “Yes, I’ll have a customer video, an ebook, and a webinar. Oh, and can you add an email nurture to that order and get it to me by COB on Friday? Thanks!”
Why is this old school? Let me count the ways.
- Questions about “who owns content” is the wrong place to start the conversation.
- Customer experience is the priority, which means CMOs need to prioritize the content that serves customers as well as sales.
- Insight into customers doesn’t reside in one place or one team; it comes from all of the customer’s interactions with us.
Let me focus just on the first point today.
Good-bye drive-by marketing, hello experience marketing.
Today’s empowered customer has obliterated traditional marketing and sales roles, giving rise to experience marketing.
We’re long past the “Mad Men” era when marketing created the message and everyone else consumed it. It was a push model then—here’s what we want you to know and to buy. Marketing today is all about the use of content to “go to market” and engage meaningfully. We still want you to know what we believe, but now it’s a conversation and an experience that we need to cultivate.
The role of sales has been completely upended too. Today customers educate themselves, often with content delivered by and about your brand in digital channels. They only engage with sales reps when they add consultative value and unique insights.
You need to learn how customers think about their challenges, how they seek information, who they trust, and how they want to engage. That part isn’t new—it’s the core of good marketing. What’s new and hard is that we need to curate the customer experience across an explosion of channels with a huge array of content across a wider span of expert teams and advisors through the right mix of programs that inform a customer’s journey.
This is THE exciting challenge of marketing today. And that gives rise to experience marketing.
To deliver on experience marketing B2B companies need to eliminate old, siloed sales and marketing models and create teaming at every stage of the customer’s lifecycle. This means the focus needs to be solidly fixed on an outside-in view: What are customers needing and experiencing, and how do we serve that as a trusted advisor.
This requires a shift in how organizations operate. Sales doesn’t get to say “jump” and see how high marketing will leap. Marketing doesn’t get to drop off messaging and say “good luck,” hoping sales can use it to close deals. Rather it’s about teaming as equals, and using insights to design a good buying and own to successfully serve today’s empowered customers.
That’s the new imperative—focusing on customers, driving the content that engages them, and aligning your market-facing teams to do it.
At Kapost, we’re on this journey. We’re getting great input from customers and prospects every day, and we’re working through this as a team. It’s hard, we’re not perfect, and we’re far from done—but’ we’re excited to be on the journey.
More on topics two and three to come.