Digital marketing is maturing, there's no doubt about it. In the past, brands could get away with relying on superficial campaigns and keyword-stuffed content that tried to shovel as many customers as possible into their sales funnels.
All of this is changing, and it's not just down to Google's increasingly sophisticated search engine algorithms. Online customers are becoming more demanding and more discerning. It's not about herding them into your site anymore.
Marketing success requires deep engagement with how customers feel, what they want, and the things they need. That's why "customer experience" is one of the year's most ubiquitous buzzwords. But how can your online marketing efforts be tailored to what savvy customers are looking for?
Focus On What Your Customer Base Needs
One helpful tactic is to conceptualize your website as something to be "experienced," not just a collection of product descriptions, blogs, videos, and images. Customer experience goes deeper. It seeks to ascertain exactly what your core customers are looking for, and then works hard to provide it.
All of your content should answer this basic question: am I giving customers the information they need to make a purchase? If you aren't, they will gravitate toward companies that cater for their needs. Success is not about bombarding customers with stats or patronizing language. It's about writing your content and making videos that connect with customers on the basis of their needs.
Maintain Clarity For Better Communication
What turns readers off most quickly? Aside from bad grammar and spelling, it has to be needless complexity. Most content marketers aren't trying to sell high-tech machinery to a tiny subset of specialist customers, so always ask yourself whether your language is plain enough for the average reader.
Poorly written content features dense sections that are full of statistics and jargon. It is characterized by long sentences and endless paragraphs. The reader might only need a fraction of the information such content holds, but if it is packed within hundreds of excess words, not many potential customers will bother to read until the end.
Customer Experience Is All About Sharing
In the modern world, an "experience" hasn't happened until it has been shared on social media. Whether it's holiday snaps, gig photos, or Snapchats of newborn babies, web users now instinctively reach for sharing services to send their experiences far and wide.
This propensity to share is a goldmine for online marketers, but only if their websites are set up to be shared. Think about developing shareable content. Lists are considered easy to share, and controversy spreads well too, but the key thing is to include an emotional "hook" in blogs and videos. Focus on making them inspirational and urgent, even life-changing (if that's not too much of a stretch), but always working to promote a strong emotional reaction.
Pay Close Attention to Social Media Conversations
Content is more likely to be shared if it is designed to enter into conversations such networks as Twitter or Facebook, so keep tabs on the trends in your field and who is talking about them.
When you find a hashtag or theme that touches on your product area, write a blog or commission a piece that gets to the heart of the issue and mentions your products or company (but not in an obvious way). If you can position yourself as a trusted source of information in the conversation, you can build a brand reputation and start to influence that conversation.
Create Ongoing Relationships With Customers
Direct e-mail marketing, blogging, Youtube video channels, and social media accounts are all vital tools, and they all should aim to do one thing: create strong, long-lasting customer relationships. Without repeat purchasers and loyal fans, no brand can last for long.
Create a community of people who follow your content updates, and regularly provide feedback to your customers via newsletters and blogs. When events develop in your product area, have an opinion ready and a link to your own products. When celebrities are associated with your field, make sure you don't miss out. Stay relevant and informative, and keep feeding your customers useful content.
Making the customer experience the core of your content marketing strategy should be a no-brainer in the current climate. As customers become more discerning, you need to step your game up to inspire and impress them, and to retain their interest.
Brands stand or fall based on their ability to nurture a community of loyal customers, and content is crucial in keeping these fragile communities alive. Take time to put the customer first, and overhaul your content strategy. The results will be well worth it.
Don Dodds is the Managing Partner and Chief Strategist of the Atlanta Web Design & Marketing firm, M16 Marketing. He is an innovative digital marketer with more than 18 years of experience demonstrating his idiosyncratic combination of creative, technical and business acumen.