Odds are good that asking 20 people what content experience means will get you 20 different answers.
To some marketers, it's about producing as many blog posts and emails as possible about topics related to what they're selling, with the hope that prospects find something useful to choose from (admittedly, not a great experience for the consumer of that content). Others view it more broadly, and they include video, SEO, paid ads, and more in the mix (and, even then, the content consumer's experience with the torrent of content is often not a priority for marketers).
However you define the term, one truth remains: In today's business landscape, you have to provide a truly great content experience, and it must succeed at scale.
After spending time with some savvy marketers, I've learned to define content experience as where your content lives (the environment in which it exists), how it's structured, and how it compels your prospects and customers to engage with your company.
So whether you've just been dabbling content creation or pursuing it with reckless abandon, it's time to rethink what you know. Because content's efficacy is revving up, but only if you understand the new rules of the game.
1. Relevance and Speed = King and Queen of Content Experience
Remember the 450+ articles with the title "Content Is King" a few years back? In my opinion, that was true—and still is. But it's old news.
Today, the king is sitting back on his throne while the next generation of royals—relevance and speed—take their rightful place in the spotlight. Content marketing is nothing without them; it needs both to do its job. If you take nothing else away from this article, remember that.
And whereas 10 years ago we spoke to relevance in terms of customer personas, the expectation now lives at the individual buyer level.
Relevance is the most important thing to buyers. The largest percentage of respondents to a 2021 B2B Marketing Report were looking for companies to address "the problem I'm looking to solve." People want solution-focused content. It's time to stop thinking about personalization as merge fields, and start recognizing that it's all about relevance.
Your audience wants content on topics they care about, and they want it in a timely fashion.
That's where speed comes in. Those videos you posted a year ago are probably no longer relevant. And guess what else? The videos you're posting today will likely lose their relevance, too. The world and its buyers are changing quickly, and organizations have to be nimble; they have to adjust to get results.
Consider the healthcare industry over the past year as an example. COVID-19 drove health organizations to change their content rapidly, and by region, throughout the pandemic, which was incredibly challenging to do. The ones that rose to the challenge continued to adjust their content on the fly, which is what it takes to be successful today.
Quality content is no longer enough; it must also be relevant and timely to make an impact.
2. Revisit What the Buyer Actually Wants From the Content Experience
There is an enormous disconnect between what marketers prioritize and what buyers want to have prioritized, the previously referenced marketing report found.
This may be shocking to hear, but marketers need to put their own agendas aside and instead zero-in on delivering what their audience actually wants.
To start, buyers do not want to be sold to; they want to be educated. The study found that 64% of buyers find user reviews most useful, followed by product tours (43%) and videos (33%). But guess what marketers reported prioritizing? Sales sheets, whitepapers, and e-books.
In many cases, your buyer is ready for your product to merge into their content experience—so give it to them!
Providing a solid content experience is a strategic marketing approach that is ultimately meant to drive profitable customer action. Fully 61% of those surveyed for the B2B Marketing Report said that to take action they want content that is relevant to their needs. Meanwhile, 33% of respondents said they get too much irrelevant content and they are frustrated by its lack of relevance.
What that tells me is that marketers have an opportunity right now to close the gap and do much better. And that starts by recognizing what buyers actually want and giving them that instead of what you want them to have.
3. Rethink Your Content Channels
It's not only the creation of content but also the distribution and destination that matter. How have you historically shared your content? Where do you reach your target audience? Where are you sending people once you have their attention?
If you haven't already, now is a perfect time to re-evaluate the distribution and experience portion of your content marketing approach.
Thanks to 2020's major upheaval of the marketing landscape, live events and field marketing were taken off the table. Organizations had to scramble to replace those mediums digitally, and many are still struggling with pivoting their strategies.
If you're in that boat, it's time to halt your approach and come up with a new distribution plan that works in the new environment.
The digital marketplace is crowded, of course, and capturing people's attention is getting harder and harder. Your new strategy for content should include making it engaging and enticing for your audience, beckoning them to continue along the journey you have in mind for them.
Also, offer opportunities for prospects to consume as much decision-enabling content as they choose so that they can be the authors of their own story with your brand—so that they have what they need to move forward.
A stellar content experience for your buyer can be transformative—to both their relationship with your company and your own business outcomes. But content experience works only if you treat it with respect and take the time to understand its nuances. When you do, you'll be on a fast track to big results.
More Resources on Content Experience
Five Methods for Planning Better B2B Content Experiences
Online Marketers Need to Embrace Personalization: Here's Why and How
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