Building engaged audiences through the information and experiences they value is a core goal of content marketing. It goes beyond just optimising a single click or purchase path, it’s about generating loyalty. If you want to deliver relationship-building experiences with the right content delivered at the right moment to the right person, you need the right data. In this article, I explore how data can be used to create content that deepens customer relationships – rather than just optimising a single transaction.
1. Build personal relationships on data
You may be able to see what content a customer likes, what products they purchase, what time of day they visit your app, and from what device. You may know their name, age, gender, location, industry, income, and marital status. But do you know their pet peeves and worries? Their dreams and desires? Their happiest moment of the day? Favourite indulgences? Greatest sources of pride?
Several of today’s top brands are already using data to improve their content marketing strategy and customer conversations in ways that go beyond the checkout experience on their eCommerce sites. They’re using customer information to strengthen the service side of their operations, as well as to optimise the content marketing they publish to their owned media properties (eg, blogs, microsites and social media).
2. Kohl’s captures offline behaviour to fuel content decisions
US department store Kohl’s uses an indoor positioning system that “walks the aisles” with customers. This mobile-based technology allows shoppers to opt in for promotions as they enter the store. Throughout their visit, people receive lifestyle content in real time based on the products they appear to be looking for.
Imagine a customer has opted in to receive information via the Kohl’s mobile app; they linger in the home goods aisle; Kohl’s sends them relevant content to increase the chance of a purchase- perhaps a look-book or a Pinterest board of home décor ideas. This inspiration or advice-driven content focuses on delivering additional value to shoppers beyond promotions and discounts.
Big data is the by-product of Kohl’s effective CRM strategy: it fuels the company’s broader content creation campaigns. Through Kohl’s CRM strategy, the company knows what the customer purchased in the past, and with its in-store technology, the company can track their behaviour as they move through the aisles. However, the company can make that data even more actionable (beyond coupons) by feeding this information to its content creators. Shopping behaviour can highlight common threads in Kohl’s audience – or personas – that inspire the type of content the marketing team might create and later distribute to pockets of people based on their own shopping experiences. This practice keeps Kohl’s top of mind among consumers, even when they aren’t actively shopping for new products.
3. Develop a data framework
Today’s leading brands use data in a variety of ways to enhance customer experience and develop deeper relationships. They use integration to unite disparate data points, pulling descriptive, behavioural, and qualitative information together around a unique person and helping to create a single, current view of that customer. This empowers marketers to keep the customer’s whole picture in mind – and to act quickly to provide them with the right content.
Integration is about more than digital channels; it reaches into in-person and phone interactions as well. It means tying all the data together around buyer personas, and making it available at all stages of the customer journey. Customer data integration requires a common customer profile and identifier across all interactions. In ‘real life’ relationships, when you talk to someone on the phone, in person, or over email, you carry memories of your past interactions, regardless of where and how they occurred – your understanding of them is not limited by the current channel of communication. Similarly, companies must stop thinking of their channels as distinct from one another.
Today’s digital enterprises most likely have an abundance of customer data, or can easily begin to gather more. Chances are what’s missing from your data is one of the three things we’ve already discussed: your own customers, their contexts, or the technology to integrate it all into a single view.
4. Use available tools to start to understand your customers
As a content marketer, your first goal is to establish buyer personas. Beware assuming too much in this process! Instead, apply tools to help understand your customers’ life cycle based on solid data. Some technologies to consider include:
Whether you use Google Analytics or another solution, analytics are essential for learning how traffic behaves on your website: what categories are performing best?; are articles in these categories being discovered through specific channels more often?
Social listening technology:
Use social listening tools to uncover threads in conversation to which you can apply your unique viewpoint in your content. For example, look at how people are talking negatively about your industry on Twitter and then use those tweets to drive topics of future blog posts. Is there a common challenge that your competition has yet to address?
Want to know how a certain subset of leads interacts with your long-form content? Marketing automation tools can tell you. Your marketing automation solution can also provide data that helps you personalise outreach to your customers. What email subject lines drive the most clicks? What topics generate the most interest? These findings can inspire the ongoing editorial strategy for your blog.
Content marketing platform:
Once you have a basic understanding of what the market is interested in, how leads are navigating your online content, and what downloadable assets might interest your audience most, you must be able to turn all of this data into actionable content. Use one of the many commercial content marketing platform options to pull all this information together and inform the content creation process.
5. Continually update your data for maximum results
You can leverage your unique data to grow genuine, lasting customer relationships by letting the data inform your acquisition and engagement strategies. As your customer view becomes more in-depth and complete, you will be able to share current and consistent customer views across your organisation, increase the relevance and appeal of your content, and get the right message to the right individuals at the right time.
To keep improving, you’ll need to consistently measure and compare data over time, and continually seek new and more relevant data sources. And you’ll also need to do what surprisingly few brands do: Ask customers for their preferences, information, feedback and expectations. The more relevant, aware, and integrated your customer data is, the more personalised, valuable experiences you can offer, and the more resilient your customer relationships will become.