Most content will never be successful. Here’s how to change that.

Most of your content marketing efforts will fail.

You will invest with the best of intentions into your content creation, you will launch with excitement… and it will fail.

You will see a spike of hope ending in a flat line of nope.

And you won’t know why.

Your content won’t work because you’ve got the wrong focus.

In its most recent 2016 content marketing benchmark report, CMI states that only 34% of brands (across B2B and B2C) rate their content as effective, and 60% see it as their top challenge to produce content that engages and drives goals – of which lead gen and sales are the primary ones with 85% and 84% respectively.

These numbers illustrate two fundamental errors brands make in their content marketing.

  • A lot of brands invest in content marketing on the assumption that if they produce content, people will find it, click on it, and buy.
  • They prioritize leads and sales over earning familiarity, trust, and relationships.

The average person encounters roughly 285 pieces of content daily according to Lifehack; served with a side of more branded content. All meant to get them to take action. Their brand journey and experience with that content, however, are non-linear and multi-modal.

There is no guarantee of a sale.

The Biggest Mistake that Brands Make with Content Marketing

Up until now, you’ve put the cart before the horse. You’ve committed a cardinal content marketing sin by creating content for the sake of content, in an attempt to drive leads and sales.

You have focused on the tactics of creating, distributing and sharing content.

You have framed the brand-customer relationship from the brand’s point of view, aiming to funnel potential customers to a transaction.

You have created a content and channel centricity that neglects customers’ holistic experience with your brand!

What you have neglected is that content should function as value creation.

And at the center should be your customer. You need to achieve a true customer-centricity and focus on the customer’s point of view, move beyond single transactions, and establish a relationship that fosters ongoing conversation.

Walking A Mile in Your Customers’ Shoes

The cornerstone of customer-centricity and the first step in defining successful content marketing is understanding the customer experience and decision-making journey that underlies the customer-brand relationship.

The customer entry points to this relationship are manifold today with disparate locations, different situations, many channels and conversations building an interaction architecture that is driven by context, intentions, emotions and micro-moments of truth.

As such, customers choose products and services based on the quality of the entire experience, not just an isolated part. And to prevent those experiences from breaking down and causing frustration and confusion in customers, it is important to navigate this complexity with a customer journey map.

The central function of this map is to help your brand relate to your customers’ experience.

It explores what your customers think, see, feel, hear, and do; it illuminates behavior, preferences and needs throughout the entire customer experience cycle, guiding your brand how to engage content continuously to shape the experience.

The four phases of customer journey mapping

Do You Know Your Customers?

1. Uncover the journey

It’s all about understanding who your customers are in this phase.

It’s all about understanding what motivates them. Each of your customers has many personas; all dependent on time, environment, technology, personal demands, needs, and wants. These personas are not linear, isolated and mutually-exclusive, but fluid, flexible, and omnipresent. It is essential to tailor your content with what appeals to all of them.

When you uncover your customer’s journey, you need to uncover their needs, behaviors, and decisions in nuance and in relation to their current situation.

You should identify the varying characteristics of each of your personas and describe who they are, what motivates them, their goals, needs, drivers, barriers, as well as how they behave online and offline.

I do not mean that you have to create dozens of personas though. In fact, having too many personas is also a bad thing because it can cause you to lose focus. But it is important to realize that each persona will behave slightly differently according to their current state of mind.

Taking these potential, nuanced behaviors into account will help you develop depth in your understanding of your personas, which will intensify the focus of your content.

Be diligent in this exercise, and highlight persona nuances that will keep you from ignoring key players and their content needs, while understanding the overlap across personas that allow for divergent paths but not separate journeys.

2. Map the experience

Now that you really know your customers’ personas, you need to lay out the entire story in the next phase.

Just like the plot to every good Disney movie, mapping your customer’s journey needs to tell their entire experience from beginning to end.

Think of the narrative story arch of every good hero – which is essentially the individual journey from the opening of a story to the resolution of a conflict – your customer is the hero in his journey with your brand – from the beginning where an event sets our hero on a journey (awareness), to the hero encountering more and more obstacles (research), to encountering a decision point (consideration), after which resolution is achieved (purchase).

Every instance of customer interaction, both major and minor, should be included on the journey map.

The individual points on the map will have multiple possible outcomes – both positive and negative. All positive points are cues to create content around that experience and utilize the positive outcome – resolve the narrative in your brand’s favor.

3. Chart the content

After you have come to know what makes your customers tick, it is time to chart and align content that will serve informational, functional, and emotional needs along the path.

When you align content to the journey it is important to think solutions to problems, not products and services.

Being an expert makes it really hard for brands to think customer-first, and they think customers are searching for the product.

What customers are always searching for are solutions to their problems.

They rarely know which product they want; what they do know is what problem they have. You will be hard pressed to sell them a quarter inch drill bit; you will be able to sell them a quarter inch hole through.

4. Tell the story

In the end, you will have a storyboard that understands the actions, motivations, questions and barriers customers experience, and a brand in full support of the customer through every step of their decision-making process.

Your content will connect the dots between customer, business, brand, and benefits. Instead of content being king, the customer is king, which will make your content effective and a true currency for your brand.

Brands and their marketing departments are almost obsessed with attribution, but the reality is that different people prefer different channels. Using a combination of vehicles is likely the best way to effectively connect with different audiences.

Creating a strategic flow of information to the customer is essential to creating a coherent “story” for the customer to follow. The funnel and sales are your content’s downfall; taking your brand’s needs out of the equation will be your success.