First we said “Content is king.” Then the saying evolved to “Content is king, but context is everything.” Because surfacing your content to the right person, at the right time and place is key to content marketing success. And today? I’d argue that context is (still) king, and content experience is everything.

What Is Content Experience and Why Is It Everything?

When I say “content experience,” I’m talking about the summation of all the interactions someone has with your digital content and the impression they take away. I’m talking about content assets and personalized webpages and social posts, all connected and consistent—all working together to fulfill your audience’s informational or transactional needs.

Because today, that’s what it takes to engage our prospects and customers. You won’t succeed with a series of one-off content assets or campaigns. You must see the bigger picture: the connective tissue between all your related content, all the customer touch points along the journey.

The savviest content marketers and strategists understand how to optimize this experience for their users and customers.

To underscore the importance of optimizing content experience, consider the following:

  • 74 percent of online consumers are frustrated by irrelevant or impersonal content, according to a Janrain study. That’s why so much marketing content—from 60 to 70 percent, says a much-cited 2013 Sirius Decisions study—goes unread.
  • Customers expect your company to understand their needs and expectations. They want frictionless, consistent, and personalized digital experiences across platforms.
  • Gartner predicts that 25 billion connected devices will be in use by 2021. How will you communicate in a consistent way across websites, mobile phones, watches, and smart-home devices?

What Does a Great Content Experience Look Like?

Let’s look at two simplified examples to better understand these concepts in action.

Content experience example

Here is a simplified example of a good content experience. Personalized content assets are developed in relation to one another and arranged in a consistent flow to help users easily find the information they need.

Salesforce content experience example

In this example, Salesforce creates a consistent and high-quality content experience by integrating core and derivative content assets into the user journey.

Step by Step: How to Optimize the Content Experience

Now that you have a working understanding of content experience, let’s dive into the details of how to optimize digital experiences for your users. As you’ll see, the process brings together foundational marketing best practices with some newer content strategy concepts.

Step 1: Identify Your Key Audiences

Any content creation effort should begin by identifying your key audiences and their needs, careabouts, behaviors, preferences, and pain points. As you develop your personas with content experience in mind, remember that personas are not segments—they are multidimensional representations of real users or customers.

sample customer personas

Identify your customer personas.

Step 2: Map the Customer Journey and the Relational Journey

To guide your content creation for each persona, map out the stages of their customer journey as well as their relational journey with your brand. For the latter, determine their level of awareness of your products or services, as well as the depth of their engagement with your content. Are they a return visitor, power user, or influencer? Do they share your content, or is this their first time viewing it?

Remember that a customer journey and relational journey may not map to one another exactly: A long-time, loyal customer might not necessarily be a power user of your website or follower on social media. These journey maps will allow you to develop content that addresses their needs at each stage—and deepens their engagement with you.

customer journey relational journey

The customer journey (top) and the relational journey (bottom) with your brand.

Step 3: Determine Your Audiences’ Top Tasks

The work you’ve put into developing personas and building journey maps should lead you to an understanding of the top tasks (informational or transactional) that each persona is seeking to achieve at each step of their journey. List each one in sentence form.

top tasks and personas

What are the top tasks for each of your personas, at each stage of the customer journey?

Step 4: Develop Task Flows

Now that you’ve listed the top tasks for your personas, think through what content you’ll create to help them achieve those tasks. Map out a task flow of their steps to complete the task, as well as the content you’ll provide along the way to answer their questions and move them to the next step. Consider all the ways a person can come to your information during this process: through your website, or via external search, or in response to an email or a campaign. Go beyond your dot-com.

task flow diagram

Example of a task flow on a website.

Step 5: Build a Content Architecture to Support Top Tasks

Create a content architecture document that defines the specific content required for each touch point. This is the architecture of the content, not just a webpage wireframe. It may include content priority (high/medium/low), editorial guidance, content specifications, content variations for alternate channels, and personalization rules. While the example on the right shows a webpage content architecture with personalized elements, remember to think beyond the website: You are creating multiple versions of content in different formats that will serve as part of an integrated experience.

content architecture example

Example of a website content architecture.

Step 6: Test and Optimize

As with any marketing effort, the final step is to test and optimize. Is your content doing what you intended it to do? A content scorecard that measures content against both qualitative criteria (relevance, consistency, engagement, etc.) AND quantitative measures (views, shares, time on page, etc.) helps to assess whether content is performing in spite of its quality or because of it, and to indicate cases where it may just be in the wrong channel or format. This is, of course, an ongoing process. What you learn from assessing your content will be used to adjust and optimize the next time around to dial in your content experiences.

content scorecard example

Example of a content scorecard to analyze your content both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Next Steps for Marketing Leaders

B2B marketing leaders must now think holistically about how customers engage with their content and how individual pieces of content work together to shape a consistent and considered customer experience. They must embrace the vision of optimizing that experience and work to align teams around this practice—in the same way that they align teams around shaping an excellent customer experience. The outcomes are worth the effort: improved lead conversion and customer loyalty, and increased revenue.