How many content strategies do you have within your business? Indeed, how many content strategies do you have within your marketing function? Just the one? Fingers-crossed that is the case, but can you place your hand on your heart and swear to it?
The above questions may have left you slightly puzzled. That is probably because content marketing has generally become too narrowly focussed on a single type of content production, namely marketing engagement content. However, the truth is that any content being produced by your organisation needs to be taken into consideration including the sales content and ongoing content for customer communications; although whether there are recognisable strategies in place is another question.
So what should you be looking for to answer those above questions? Start by taking a step back and considering what you define content as actually being. Within your marketing function there has been a greater recognition of late that content is more than articles, videos and imagery on your website or content hub. It does, of course, stretch to any form of content being used on any channel be it social, e-mail, digital, print and TV advertising, PR and so on. What is less well recognised is that all of these activities are being run from separately on a day-to-day, week-by-week basis. They are, in effect, running different content strategies.
But this is nothing compared to the impact of the other content strategies that almost certainly exist within your organisation. To understand this, you need to first appreciate what the word ‘content’ really refers to. It is not simply marketing content. Sales literature, call centre scripts, welcome packs and ongoing customer communications such as bills, loyalty schemes and promotions are all content. All of the business functions behind this sales and customer communications content have authority to communicate with your company’s prospective and existing customers. Yet little or no thought is given to what the effect of all this disparate, uncoordinated content is having on the customer.
Today, a lot of emphasis is quite rightly given to the customer experience. However, the analysis of customer experience is too tightly focussed on one particular part of the audience journey. For example, by simply looking at what the customer experience is in the call centre. This completely overlooks the fact that a prospective customer will almost certainly have had a customer experience prior to that conversation with your call centre.
So there needs to be a shift in emphasis away from building a content strategy to engage the audience and instead towards having a content strategy that serves the audience. By focussing on engagement, your business is placing too much emphasis on your own needs. By thinking of content that will serve the audience then you will be considering what content the customer is consuming from your organisation in totality.
The place to start is by mapping the audience journey. Only by doing this can you identify both what content already exists to support the audience journey and then where the gaps lie. The result will be a single content strategy that is contextually relevant to each and every one of your target audiences.
The challenge in doing this is, as is so often the case, internal stakeholder alignment. It is not just the challenge of trying to align internal fiefdoms but instead trying to make each function understand how they fit within the actual end-to-end audience journey. In both B2B and B2C terms it is similar to the long-standing conflict about attribution of sale – i.e. the business function that achieves the sale wants to take all the glory regardless of the contribution any other function had in progressing the audience towards the sale. Similarly, a function which is communicating with your target audience will wish to keep doing so to meet their own targets and KPIs. This is regardless of the fact that this might be damaging the overall customer experience as well as leading to significant missed sales and retention opportunities.
However, the answer lies in ‘alignment’ rather than ‘change’. By mapping the full audience journey, you can align and therefore connect together the disparate content strategies that exist within your organisation and, indeed, within your marketing function if that is a problem you have. It can then act as the first important step towards not just having a cohesive single content strategy but also operating a single content strategy even though the creation and execution of that content may still reside in separate functions across your business.