Content is the source of why search engines exist and therefore, essential for any discussion of SEO. Content is also the means through which brands engage customers on the social web through helpful information, resources, advertorial and even entertainment.
Another perspective to consider is that when brands and individuals share information on social networks and media sharing sites the outcome is content. There are many ways to be more effective with social content creation, sharing and engagement that marketers are not taking advantage of.
From an overall marketing and customer engagement perspective, all content is not created equal. Any kind of content isn’t appropriate in any kind of situation despite what recent content advocates would have you believe. Since much of the focus of online marketing is on customer acquisition, many SEO efforts emphasize transaction or lead generation outcomes. That’s what they’re held accountable for. Unfortunately, search to purchase or social to purchase are not the only ways people interact with information online. Research before purchase as well as education and support afterwards are also important.
Being in the “brand as publisher” business is better than not creating any content at all, but it’s a much more effective thing to be purposeful in content creation & marketing according to the full customer experience. Seeing content engagement opportunities holistically can provide a company more ways to initiate, maintain and enhance customer relationships.
For example, in the context of online marketing, there are many different touch points during the customer relationship. Using the Buying Cycle model of: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Service and Loyalty, marketers can best plan what kind of content may be most appropriate to engage customers according to their needs.
For a holistic editorial plan, here are a few types of content and methods of communication to consider:
- Public Relations
- Word of Mouth
- Social Media
- Search Marketing
- Social Media
- Product/Service Reviews
- Direct Response
- Social Commerce
- Social Media (ASB Virtual Branch is a great example)
- Social CRM
- Online Messaging (LivePerson)
- Search – After the sale queries on FAQ, Knowledge-base content
- Email Newsletter
- Social Network, Forum – community
In the development of a content marketing strategy, there are numerous opportunities to be more relevant and effective. Planning content that’s meaningful to the customers you’re trying to engage according to where they are in the buying cycle and overall customer relationship provides for more efficiency in content creation as well as the repurposing of content.
Holistic content marketing and editorial planning also helps make better use of tactics that transcend the relationship timeline like SEO and Social Media. It’s especially the case with holistic SEO that content producers can extend their reach and visibility to customers that are looking – not just to buy, but to engage with brands in other ways.
By considering the content needs across the customer lifecycle, not just acquisition or conversion, companies can become significantly more effective and efficient in their ability to connect relevant messages and stories with customers that are interested. The result: shorter sales cycles, better customer relationships and more word of mouth.
How is your company leveraging content throughout the customer relationship? Are you coordinating a content marketing strategy that integrates SEO and social media? Does it make sense that the business of content strategy and promotion of content extends beyond marketing?
View Comments (9)
This is something that fail to do when creating content on their blogs. They don't produce content that leads their readers or prospects into taking an action.
Good point. While blog posts don't need to have a specific call to action every time, there's nothing wrong if the blog overall does. State its purpose and give readers choices to act.
I might even suggest that the content shared with customers in the latter stages of their lifecycle, via various touchpoints, may be more important than much of the "acquisition" marketing earlier in the cycle. Our existing customers are key to ongoing business growth!
Thanks for sharing this, Paul. You rock!
Hi Becky, Acquisition is indeed only part of the relationship. BTW, who's Paul?
I agree consumers (B2B and B2C) look for and need relevant content during all phases of the buying cycle hence the need for holistic content. Thanks so much for your touch points list and content examples! Companies who do this are engaging, acquiring, and keeping customers or, like you said, experiencing "...shorter sales cycles, better customer relationships, and more word of mouth."
I think customers search at every phase of the buying cycle. They just use different query grammar depending on where they are. If you include the verb representing their information task (analyze, compare, purchase, develop, deploy, upgrade), you can get them to land on task-appropriate pages from the SERP. They also tend to click paid results more frequently when they're ready to buy. So a paid campaign that uses single-offer landing pages works well in the purchase phase.
Great tips James. There's research to support the coordinated organic and PPC effort leading to increased overall SEM program success. I believe it was cited in Vanessa Fox's book, Marketing in the Age of Google.
Nice post, Lee. Lately I've been thinking about matching content to the where the customer is in the sales cycle, especially in complex sales (long sales cycles, or expensive equipment). In my case, I am considering how to use interactive product simulations as effective advertising.Regarding promotion beyond marketing, I did notice that you hadn't mention product training. I think good advertising is educational, and good content used in the engagement phase can extend quite naturally beyond the sale, or be a bridge, into support and training.
Thanks Jon, great suggestion on product training. That's a biggie, especially in BtoB.