15 Ways To Develop A Customer-Centric Content Strategy

Content marketing is a great way to get in front of and bring value to consumers without going overboard on your sales pitch. However, it can be tough to strike a balance. Your content shouldn’t completely ignore your offerings, but you want to make sure it adds value for your customer first.

Forbes Agency Council

That’s why developing a strategy focused on your target customer is the key to executing successful content marketing initiatives. To help you achieve this, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council gave their best advice on how brands can develop effective, customer-centric content.

1. Create Outcome-Based Content

People today are focused on issues, personal and social outcomes and ways that products and product providers can positively affect their lives and the lives of others. Content should be visual, interactive, emotive and outcome-based. Pick the right channel. TikTok is delivering huge numbers. – Peter Prodromou, Boston Digital

2. Implement Persona Identifiers On Your Website

Implement persona identifiers (via “tags”) into the data layer of your website. Push those identifiers into audiences within your analytics tool. This will enable you to understand which audiences are interacting with existing content, selectively build out additional content based on audience priority and run “lookalike” campaigns to promote the new content to only that audience type. – Justin Cook, 9thCO Inc.

3. Engage In Non-Commerce Dialogue With Customers

We find that most marketing plans emphasize methods for pushing content to consumers while giving little thought to methods for customers to engage in “non-commerce dialogue.” Companies that have effective customer-centric marketing have built these methods, not just “product reviews,” for engaging in these conversations. Focusing on those channels is essential to crafting better outbound content. – James Cioban, Cierant Corporation

4. Focus On Benefits Over Features

Focus on product benefits over features. Use “you” over “we.” And most importantly, do key phrase research and understand the searcher intent behind your phrases. Truly customer-centric content ties the searcher’s intent to the product on the page. It doesn’t rely on brand terms. Instead, it includes non-branded terms that speak to the product’s universe. – Brian Rutledge, GPO

5. Answer Consumer Questions

Create content that provides high-value information, answers consumer questions and guides them toward making the best purchase decision. Within your content, showcase the benefits, uses and value of your products and services as examples and case studies. This tactic will build trust with the consumer and drive them to come to you when they are ready to purchase. – Laura Cole, Vivial

6. Interview Your Customers

Start with interviewing your customers. Find a small number that best represents each audience persona you intend to target. During a brief interview, listen closely to the words each customer uses to describe why they choose your company’s solutions and how it has impacted their business and professional success. – Wendy Covey, TREW Marketing

7. Tap Into Their Existing Motivations

For content that is truly customer-centric, campaigns should tap into the customer’s existing motivations. The reason being, you can’t motivate someone to action, but you can align your content with what that customer already is motivated to do. Once that is done, the content can prompt them to take action. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

8. Talk About Things They Love

A company’s story is nice, but if you want to engage someone, talk about things they care about or love. Take a page from the big boys: Know what you sell and why people are buying. It is always about the consumer. Apple does not sell computers; it sells a set of beliefs or a way of thinking. Starbucks does not sell coffee; its sells status quo. Even Toms Shoes sold the concept of giving back. – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing

9. Practice Inbound Marketing

Develop customer personas that identify the needs, concerns, dreams and opportunities of your ideal audiences. Find intersection points and create content that speaks to your personas at every point of the buyer journey. Then, make every communication, from award wins to case studies to blog posts, speak to them about their needs rather than your capabilities. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

10. Ask Customers For Video Content

Customer-generated videos where customers record themselves with the brand and showcase its benefits offer an authentic way to show true excitement and endorsement of the brand from the customer’s individual perspective, which will appeal to others too. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

11. Make It Easy To Find Relevant Content

Make it easy for web visitors to find content suitable for their stage in the buying process. Think of your blog as a hub for insights that educate about your industry. Place evergreen content in static pages to inform about you and your capabilities. Find organic links between the two so that when prospects are ready to work themselves down the funnel, they can do so without friction. – Carey Kirkpatrick, CKP

12. Emphasize The Problem You Solve

There’s that old saying that nobody will care about your solution before they recognize there’s a massive problem—and it applies to them. So think about your customers’ context, situation and problems, and pick them up where they are by emphasizing that they all have a common problem that you figured out how to solve! – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications

13. Frame Your Message Around Their Needs

Customers largely see interactions with companies as transactional, while companies yearn for so much more. Content can help you build closer connections with customers, but only if it conveys your deep understanding of them. Always start with the emotional, social and functional outcomes they value as human beings. Then, frame your messages around the needs your offerings can deliver on. – Camille Nicita, Gongos, Inc.

14. Align Your Brand Ethos With Their Values

Newer generations care less about products’ USPs and more about how the brand’s ethos aligns with their values. To create a customer-centric content strategy, you have to understand what values are important for your audience and authentically align not only your brand message, but also your actions with those values. Brands that can create content around that will see the benefits of a customer-centric approach. – Emilie Tabor, IMA – Influencer Marketing Agency

15. Showcase Your Solution Through Testimonials

True customer-centric content needs to answer the questions your audience is asking. Rather than touting how great your products or services are, you need to provide a solution to their problems. Some of the best customer-centric content actually includes customer testimonials. This is especially helpful as video content: Let your customers speak to how you helped them solve a problem. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX

7 Smart Ways To Assess The Quality Of Your Brand’s Content

Anyone in or adjacent to the marketing world knows that “content is king.” Everything you create and share with the public should always be of high quality, as it’s a representation of your brand and is what will draw people to your business. But with a never-ending demand for branded content on your blog, social media channels and website, how can you be sure that each piece is top-notch before it goes out?

AdAge Collective

We asked the members of Ad Age Collective to share some unique ways to gauge the quality of your work before it gets published. Here’s how they recommend assessing your content.

1. Set clear standards.
In order to assess anything, you need to have clear standards. This goes for content as well. So, create a clear set of standards that cover things like tone, visual elements, key messages, restricted topics, etc. Standards may need to vary by media type. Then, the key is to have someone other than the content producer assess the content against the standards. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

2. Make content on-brand, on-strategy and interesting.
High-quality content, like all marketing, answers three questions with a resounding “yes.” Is it on-strategy? It must have a clearly defined goal, target audience, etc. Is it on-brand? From logo usage to the tone of the messaging, it must look, feel and sound consistent. Is it interesting? It must be unmissable and unskippable, which is easier said than done. – Chad Robley, Mindgruve

3. Show the true worth of your content.
Make sure your audience can see the true worth of your content by making it different and clearly better than the competition. Connect to solutions people seek now, and show the impact it will make on key profit and loss line items. Once that happens, then your content quality is above par and it puts you on the path to being one-of-one (and not one-of-many). – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

4. Read it out loud.
This is such a simple step, but reading your content aloud helps you understand how it sounds to others. You’ll find any awkward phrasing or repeated words. Hearing your content spoken aloud also gives you the chance to assess if it’s conversational. It becomes easier to make changes to make it sound better. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

5. Test it out with a focus group.
Test your content and images with simple online focus groups to quickly see what resonates the best. This will help you determine which content is of the highest quality and connects best with your audience for the brand message you are trying to project. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Put it in front of non-marketers.
Content is primarily the function of the marketing department. The risk is that piece of content comes across as too salesy or bloated when it comes solely from a marketing team without vetting. A good quick trick to see if your content is quality is putting it in front of other team members before publishing. My personal favorite: engineers. They’ll always tell you if a message is grounded enough. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

7. Make sure the right consumers see it.
Part of producing quality content is ensuring it resonates with the right consumers, but equally important is making sure they see it. When producing content, writers and promoters need to be on the same page about distribution, what part of the funnel it represents and what persona it targets. This plan, produced for all content, is a prerequisite for reach and efficacy, and therefore also quality. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

8 Ways Marketers Should Utilize Tech To Improve The Online User Experience

Technology has enhanced the customer experience quite a bit, with many companies employing the use of artificial intelligence agents for customer service roles. However, despite embracing technology for their customer service needs, many businesses are not fully using tech to improve the way customers engage online.

8 Ways for a better customer experience

Modern business centers on customer-website interaction. Customers want to feel as though they are welcome to your website and that their business matters to you. The customization and personalization of a site to suit a customer’s needs makes them feel valued. As marketers know, customers that feel valued provide repeat business. If you want to retain these customers successfully, your website must put user experience first.

Luckily, these eight entrepreneurs from Ad Age Collective know what it takes to create a successful user experience. User experience (also known as UX) and UX design have become key to how companies interact with their target demographic. Below, these experts share their best advice for companies looking to leverage tech to improve their website’s UX and build strong customer loyalty.

1. Design your website around your why.

A website is a purposeful entry point for information and action. Understanding why you need a website is essential to delivering on your promise. Once you prioritize needs by the target groups visiting the site, only then can tech play a big role in making the visitor’s journey faster and distraction-free, helping them to get to their desired goals. Tech also plays a big role for repeat visitors and repeat tasks. – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

2. Keep content relevant to customer needs.

When a customer lands on your website, use tech algorithms to have them land on content and images that they were initially searching for. That way, it is immediately relevant to their needs and the best possible brand experience. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

3. Focus on personalization.

Your on-site experience should not be the same for everyone who shows up. Many software vendors will enable you to customize your site based on where visitors are arriving from, whether or not they’ve been to your site before, what visitors did the last time they were on your site, whether or not they are existing customers, etc. You can even test different versions of your site simultaneously. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

4. Leverage artificial intelligence tools.

As traditional marketing tactics have become less effective, sales and marketing teams are adopting new AI-powered tools to deliver a superior customer experience. By identifying which accounts are visiting your site and uncovering critical insights about them, AI allows you to deliver relevant messages with chatbots or custom content streams based on what’s actually important to every visitor. – Latane Conant, 6sense

5. Use chatbots to answer simple queries.

Very often, people visit websites to get simple questions answered. Adding chatbots to your site can help visitors by giving them the right information almost instantly. This is especially helpful where they need information that can be extracted from a database. You enhance the customer experience by providing customers with accurate information fast. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

6. Don’t take advantage of your customer’s time.

If they visit your website, don’t first make them put in an email for your newsletter or close a pop-up. If you ask for their feedback on their experience or Net Promoter Score, follow up with what you’ll do to make it better for them. Data is currency, and consumers increasingly know that. Give them something of value in return for their attention and information, be it more personalization or fixing a problem. – Holly Fearing, Filene Research Institute

7. Ensure two-way communication.

Any tech that you utilize on your website needs to facilitate two-way communication with a customer. Whether using AI, customer feedback or  the ability to aggregate customer data, at the heart of your learning and your communication has to be an authentic human connection. When a customer engages with you on your website, this needs to be front and center. – Rich Honiball, Navy Exchange Service Command

8. Pre-fill customer data.

Forms are the bane of anyone’s existence. The constant drudgery of having to repeatedly fill out forms creates friction and a bad customer experience. Instead, pre-fill information where possible (accompanied by a “welcome back” message) and only ask for information that is absolutely essential. The less burden you place on your customer, the more they will appreciate you making their life easier. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

Building Your First Content Strategy? Nine Pro Tips For Success

Forbes Agency Council

Author: Forbes Agency Council

Original Publication: Forbes Agency Council

Date Published: May 4, 2018

Forbes Agency CouncilIn recent years, most marketers have taken the cliché phrase “content is king” to heart, making content the core of their overall advertising strategy. Even brand new businesses are aware of the importance of content, but it’s often overwhelming to build your first content marketing strategy from the ground up. How much attention should be given to blogging, social media posts, email newsletters and videos – and what topics should you cover for each?

Fortunately, the experts of Forbes Agency Council have a wealth of experience in content planning, so we asked a panel of them for their best advice. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Think About The Unique Perspective You Can Offer Customers

Too often, companies focus on just what they think is a great representation of their brand or what’s trending. But then content feels inauthentic or redundant. You have to start by identifying what your specific consumers want and what you can provide that’s unique in that area. It has to be something they’re not already getting. Then, map it back to your brand and current trends. – Craig Greiwe, Rogers & Cowan

2. Focus On Your Brand Strategy First

First, nail your brand strategy: assets, benefits and your reason for being amidst your competitors. Let that be your compass for the team, and the content will flow around it. Your message and engagement will be a lot more consistent. Know your budget so your parameters are realistic. Develop an annual calendar so you’re all on point. If you’re focused, everyone will have a lot more fun. – Sean Looney, Looney Advertising & Branding

3. Follow The News

The content that reaches the widest audience and goes viral tends to be content that maps to the news. The key here is to not just synthesize the news. Rather, offer insight into why something is happening and, better yet, how it impacts your current and prospective customer base. If you follow this formula often enough, you become a go-to source for industry thought leadership. – Ethan Parker, Treble

4. Identify The Specific Goal And Audience Of Your Content

Content is asset development. It’s the furniture in an apartment. I think of content as key artifacts that develop or communicate brand identity through a story. The most important tip is to answer these questions ahead of developing a content strategy: What is the goal of the content? Who are you speaking to and where is the best place to reach them? What content should you create? – Jeeyan Rostam-Abadi, Hawke Media LLC

5. Be Authentic

Let the voice of your content happen organically. Be authentic. Speak to what you know and are passionate about. Go to some industry conferences. As a business owner, you could easily be accepted to speak on panels that cover your industry specialty. Then, connect with an industry trade organization to become a contributing author and establish your thought leadership. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, hawthornedirect.com

6. Capitalize On Your Expertise

Hunker down and figure out what makes your business or startup unique. Is it a niche service you provide? A rare understanding of a particular field? Assess your forte, then plan a content strategy that speaks to your unique expertise. It’s very likely that other businesses are already hungry for some of that knowledge, and delivering it to them as content will prove beneficial to your strategy. – Priscila Martinez, The Brand Agency

7. Provide Solutions To Your Customers’ Primary Business Challenges

I always start with a customer focus. As you dive into a content strategy, think of your customers’ business challenges. Your content should demonstrate your understanding of those challenges and provide clear-cut solutions for addressing them. It should be less about how awesome your company is and more about helping customers and prospects work better, smarter and faster. – Paula Chiocchi, Outward Media, Inc.

8. Know Your Customer Well

The best way to ensure content marketing will be effective for generating new business is to have a crystal clear picture of your target customer before creating a single piece of content. Every content decision – including format, tone, subject matter and promotion channel – should be based on this specific persona. If you nail this, your content marketing campaign will successfully attract new customers. – Keri Witman, Cleriti

9. Don’t Copy Your Bigger Competitors

A common mistake I see is when new or small businesses create content that already exists on a larger and more sophisticated scale. For example, if you’re a small bank, don’t create content that Chase or Bank of America already covers. Stick to issues that are locally relevant or niche to your products. Then, you won’t be competing with duplicate content and what you do create is more searchable. – Kelli Corney, Mightily