I’m sure any of you who have spent time on this site appreciate the vital role content plays in building digital relationships. Perhaps what some didn’t realize was that 70-90% of a buyer’s journey occurs prior making contact with a vendor. But what about content with the product brand directly? Is it safe to say 100% takes place before actually reaching conversion? Even though most marketers still run campaigns that way it is surprisingly not so. Sure, the customer may learn about a product from a 3rd party destination like a review site, vendor site, social platform or subject blog, but does that foster a relationship or squander an opportunity to build a lasting one?

What happens to the consumer’s learning curve after his/her purchase? Or, if they never made a purchase, what then? Pre- and early digital, most of my clients were only interested in the bottom of (what we have called for years) the funnel. Only recently, most marketers have come to accept that this graphic representation of a consumer journey has changed into something almost indecipherable.

Today, we have to ask if our online presence or brand persona compliments and enables an ongoing relationship just as a brick and mortar presence (if we have one) should, or simply operates as a parallel independent entity. Does the content our brand shares actually foster familiarity with an individual beyond purchase based on common interest? Or does any of it surprise and delight? In other words, can automated content be delivered creatively, individually, and spontaneously rather than reactively?

It’s been my experience digital relationship building with a brand actually takes place much more often after product acquisition and not necessarily leading up to it. The relationship builds through direct engagement over a timeline of the customers choosing rather than via 3rd parties posting. Thus, the product brand actually is witness to the interests of a repeat sale, advocacy, and engagement through compiled data. Some call this nurturing, others would call it CRM. I like the term content intelligence.

Still, many “old school” marketers today still consider relationship building the road less traveled. They rarely act on the principle that it is far more efficient to resell existing members of their “family” than find and convince new ones from a crowded field of strangers. And they are still paying for that short-sightedness by needing to spend much more on digital ads, and living with lower conversion ratios.

The key is the pursuit and creation of continuous value within a mutually beneficial, active relationship. But buying into the logic is the easy part. Creating a framework of content and delivering the right pieces in the right sequence on an individual basis, even with the benefit of big, unstructured data is beyond the capability of many independent marketers. Once only entities like IBM, SAP, Google, Amazon, and the like could sift through that kind of data and draw inference. And only through example can today’s more modestly-sized marketers realize the insight Big Data can bring to their corner of marketing.

Automated functions previously relegated to strategists, content creators, and marketing management of those giants could now be scaled informing mainstream brands and vendors to make better content investment decisions and thus, show a better outcome. Not just near conversion, but throughout the relationship. Yes, you still need many tools to integrate more than structured data into a content marketing strategy. But I believe content intelligence will provide us answers if we are willing to look and I will continue with that in mind for my next post.