Customer experience may feel like the latest buzzword, but expectations and trust are two factors that weigh heavily for a B2B Buyer. The State of the Connected Customer Report from Salesforce in 2018, found that 81% of B2B buyers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. Raising the bar, 73% of them say their standard for good experiences is higher than ever.
Considering nearly all experiences a company provides are fueled by content—how we create, present, distribute, and manage it at every touch point of the customer relationship has an impact on our company’s growth.
It wasn’t long ago that content was an open market. I remember when it was true that if you published it, your audience would come get it. What’s interesting is that there’s no shortage of B2B buyers requesting content. But the consumption gap between the time the content is requested and making the time to read it is increasing, according to Netline’s 2018 State of Content Consumption and Demand Report.
This could be for any number of reasons. It could be a lack of time. It could be discovering the content isn’t what was promised, or maybe that the content is repetitive to what the audience has read from other vendors. It could be all three.
With a decade or more of content marketing under our belts, it’s time for companies to formalize their content operations to ensure they have the capacity and ability to keep pace with buyer and customer expectations. One-off, ad hoc content efforts are only compounding the fragmented experiences that your audiences are rebelling against.
The Need for Formalized Content Operations
Kapost recently published the Content Operations and Strategy Hiring Handbook to help companies take a considered and informed approach to doing so.
Consider this definition of a content operation to understand just how much value formalizing the process can bring:
“A content operation orchestrates the activity of all revenue teams—breaking down silos, ensuring all content contributes to strategy, and managing content complexity across many teams and channels—so that businesses can create a cohesive, personalized journey.”
What I like about their definition is the acknowledgment that content gets created and used by many teams across the organization. What they’re really saying is that it all needs to be coordinated for the sake of providing relevant journeys throughout the customer relationship or lifecycle.
The other key point about a content operation is that it’s not strictly relegated to marketing. A content operation is about the strategy, orchestration, and management of ALL customer-facing content, whether it comes from marketing, sales, product, service, or other departments. This means your onboarding programs, partner and channel programs, product marketing, customer success programs, and more.
Orchestrating Content across the Lifecycle
The way content has been handled to date has not been at its best from a consumption perspective. Buyers don’t care which team is producing the content. What they care about is the relevance, the usefulness, and if it meets (or exceeds) the expectations set for it. A problem can occur with content created by various teams across the organization that don’t collaborate. When mixed together during the customer experience, the result is often like whiplash for those on the receiving end.
This happens because stories aren’t coordinated so your buyers and customers experience that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde phenomena. Gaps exist which require your audience to take major leaps of faith to get from where they are to where the next piece of content is asking them to be.
In the handbook, Jessica Bergman at Salesforce makes an excellent point: She said you need change agents on your content ops team to help those across the organization understand “…how each piece of content plays a part in your content strategy and customer journey.”
There’s an art form to storytelling across the customer lifecycle, as well as a strategy and purpose. Creating continuous engagement and trust requires persistent relevance and smooth transitions. A content operation with visibility into all the content being created, distributed, as well as leading a collaborative effort to ensure content matches up to strategy and story can transform the quality of the relationships built across your company with your customers.
A side benefit is that it also reduces redundancy because a content operation also functions as a system of record to preclude reinventing the wheel. Rather, you’ll find stronger experiences can be built because teams are freed up to add to the story that’s there, instead of building it yet again in another version that varies from the others. Confusion is reduced, cohesion escalates.
Don’t Leave Customer Experience to Chance
Customers expect a lot from the companies they do business with but they’re finding they fall short:
- 45% say companies miss delivering on their expectations for great experiences
- 44% say they don’t think companies have their best interests in mind
There’s clearly a gap in experience and in trust. To close the gap, we must find a way to deliver relevant, valuable content and experiences consistently at every interaction. When we’re able to do so, the trust will grow.
If the future rides on the quality of customer experience then establishing a content operation can help your company refine your efforts—taking what you’re already doing and raising the quality to a level your prospects and customers will embrace against alternatives. And that’s what we all should be striving to achieve.
Kristin Fallon at GE summed it up well in her contribution to the handbook:
“Aligning a team around content operations gives savvy organizations a competitive advantage to balance both centralized and decentralized content marketing, ultimately delivering the best CX in the most effective way possible.”