Content marketing: addressing questions as a strategy
Since it was coined at the end of the previous decade, the term ‘content marketing’ became adopted for various form of marketing and purposes where content matters. In other words: everywhere. Content marketing has become a huge umbrella term. Pragmatic as we like to be, we’ll cover the effective use of content marketing on this blog.
And one of the ways that is highly actionable, effective and close to the customer is using content marketing as a way to cater to the questions, immediate pain points and informational needs of (potential) customers. It’s a very obvious and well-known fact. It’s also relatively achievable, with some guidance and the necessary resources and skills (which in many organisations can be hard to get as 1) it does require experience and 2) often content is still looked upon as a commodity, an expense or an afterthought, even today).
A never ending source of content inspiration
Customers and prospects always have questions before, during and after their buying journey (and the whole customer life cycle for that matter), enabling you to address virtually all their – but also your goals, from acquisition to loyalty and beyond.
Answering these questions is not hard when combined with a Voice Of the Customer programme and if you do it in a calculated and prioritised way. Prioritisation in this case is a mix of the questions that are left unanswered and need to be answered from a customer perspective on one hand and answers that help you 1) increase revenue, 2) drive down costs (e.g. reducing pressure on the contact centre as the self-service customer is here) and 3) increasing customer satisfaction on the other.
A content marketing strategy for the short term and the long run
Answering questions as a strategic content marketing approach helps you generate results in the short term: the low-hanging fruit of optimising what is and creating what isn’t but should be. Yet, it’s also about the mid-term and even long run.
Answering questions requires listening to customers and understanding them to begin with. A customer-centric approach. It also opens up a realm of creativity, engagement and interactivity as the context, form and format(s) within which the answers are presented matter as much as the actual answer. In this regard, there is quite some room for optimisation if you just consider how, for example, internal search on websites is still resulting in poor experiences.
And there’s more: openness to customer inquiries and offering fast and good responses is known to impact customer experience positively and – as the eye of the customer is key in perception – can be leveraged to make a statement that translates in actions. A brand promise and reality.
Finally, if you start opening the doors of your question and answering machine involving customers and user-generated content where it makes sense, there are no limits to the mutual value that can be generated. This is where you’re in for the long run, especially as customer questions will continue to evolve and change as customers and your business do.
It looks easy and using the proper approach, data, information resources and so on it really is. Easy doesn’t mean fast and cheap though. It all depends on the business and context with customers and go-to-market models being important factors and the complexity of the buyer’s journey and touchpoints playing a role too. It also depends on how far you want to go (for instance, creating content that is less related to your proposition but key for your audiences and potentially other goals).
How you can make a difference by addressing customer questions
Isn’t answering customer questions boring, leaving little room for differentiation? If each company starts addressing these questions, pain points and informational and other needs of – prospective – customers, how can you make the difference in any industry?
Some thoughts to consider
- Your customers, business, brand, context and prospects are unique. Marketing has changed. This time it’s (really) personal and you can make quite some difference in this dimension of uniqueness. For instance, in the way you respond to questions, the simplicity and ease-of-use you offer and the broader creative and interactive context within which it all happens. You can stick out in the way you address your customers, from tone, completeness, form and format to words, visuals, channel mix and much more. This is one of the many areas where creativity comes in.
- It will take some time before your competitors free up the resources to find/identify customer needs/questions and to address them using relevant content. On top of a lack of a customer-centric approach, missing resources and strategies and the earlier mentioned views that still exist all too much, doing it does require commitment.
- Customers don’t only have pain points, needs and questions. We shouldn’t overestimate the rational dimension and underestimate emotional needs, passion points, persuasion points, etc. Furthermore, there are customers that aren’t aware they really have a need which needs to be fulfilled and in many areas making them aware of that is also important. This is certainly where data can play a role and – once again – creativity matters.
- Content marketing is not an island and goes hand in hand with other marketing tactics, starting with understanding customer behaviour, needs and intent but also including a somewhat technical/specialised dimension. Understanding the channels and formats used to find answers and leveraging them the best way possible – in a mix – is key. One example: if 60% of a question starts in a search engine, you’ll need to rank well in that search engine for that question in order to have your best possible answer seen. And being the best possible answer in the best possible context does result in brand differentiation, perceived relevance and an impact on the bottom-line. Again, data and creativity are key as is an integrated marketing approach.
- Finally, and this is not an exhaustive list, the core difference is about how well you know your customers and prospects. It requires a smart mix of face-to-face, internal, digital and real-time feedback and insights. From your customer service reps and sales people to digital data: it all helps. Data indeed but also a smart and creative way to unlock it and make it available in a simple, engaging and device-agnostic way.
Do you have any questions (that can help you make the difference when addressed in a smart way)?