Customer-focused content may be the most important part of your content marketing plan that you probably aren’t doing right. If you’re content isn’t creating real, emotional connections with your customers, then you know you aren’t doing it right.
Now, that isn’t to say your content is not good. It may be pretty helpful, too. But producing blog posts that don’t sound like they were written by a computer that contain basically correct information isn’t exactly a high bar to set for your content strategy.
Over the past several years there has been a lot of talk about the value focusing on customer experience. As e-commerce has matured, customer experience has become an important concept for both customer support and inbound marketing.
It isn’t a new topic, though. Enterprising merchants and retailers have been creating customer experiences for years with the use of cleverly immersive store environments and exceptional customer service policies. From Disney to L.L. Beane to John Deere, the examples are all around.
When you consider the creation of content for your website or email campaign, customer focus is a critical part of creating a positive emotional connection with your words and images. Creating content that directly responds to your customers’ needs is often the difference between a content marketing plan’s success or failure.
Why You Should Increase Your Customer Focus
If you’re in business, then you are almost certainly concerned about customer satisfaction. After all, the reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Yelp and other sites can help make or break your business. Having highly-satisfied customer satisfaction is the key to winning their loyalty, right?
No, according to by William J. McEwen and John H. Fleming in their seminal 2003 Gallup article Customer Satisfaction Doesn’t Count. Satisfied customers aren’t loyal, they merely haven’t let you yet.
Customers who are truly loyal to your business have an emotional connection to it.
Be honest with yourself. Do you really think filling your business’ website with hundreds of barely-legible blog posts written at a fraction-of-a-cent per word is going to create a positive emotional connection with your customers?
Your content strategy should aim to provide value to your customers, not just promote your website’s search engine optimization.
When you increase your customer focus and start to see your business through the eyes of your customers, you’ll have a better understanding of their pain points. That in itself can give you the confidence to make the bold choices that bring success.
What Makes Content Customer-Focused
I already mentioned the importance of creating a positive emotional connection through your content. Those connections are what create actual brand loyalty, not merely satisfaction.
But what is it about customer-oriented content that makes it memorable?
Orienting the viewpoint of your content is really just a mindset. First, let’s think about the opposite of customer-focused content.
That would have to be product-focused content, right? That is, it’s content focused on the things your business offers.
As an employee of a business, it’s easy to become product-focused. It happens to entrepreneurs, CEOs and even junior marketers. Transposing your own fixation of the product onto the content that supports it is bound to happen.
In The Quest for Customer Focus, Ranjay Gulati and James B. Oldroyd say it’s “a journey that the whole organization needs to make.” Becoming customer-focused instead of product-focused is a cultural mindset that needs to permeate through the whole structure.
When you’re creating content that’s focused on your product, you’re focusing on the product’s journey, not the customer journey.
Winning an industry award or being the top-selling SaaS product last year are great achievements, but they aren’t typically the most important thing on a customer’s mind. They’re busy thinking about their own aspirations, insecurities, goals and pain points.
Content that focuses on the customer puts them at the center of your conversation. Content that fills a need in your customer’s life is what makes it effective.
After that bond has been created, you’ll find more success when you point out paid features or subscriber perks.
How Do I Create Customer-Focused Content?
You know how hard it can be to stay customer-focused instead of product-focused when you’re on the inside looking out. Fortunately, there are numerous marketing tools and activities you can use to help you keep your customer-centric mindset.
Know Who You’re Writing To
From the first moment you begin planning your marketing approach, creating at least one detailed customer persona should be a top priority. Also called a buyer profile, it’s a short biography of the type of person most likely to buy your product.
When you have a good grasp on your customer persona, you’ll have a good idea how to communicate with your customers. That helps you stay genuine in your interactions and build emotion around topics that are important to your customers.
Understanding the emotions and motivations of the people that buy your product gives a special insight when mapping their customer journey. This helps you create content they’ll find more useful, entertaining and effective.
Walk a Mile in Your Customer’s Shoes
Understanding the customer journey for your business is perhaps the most important ingredient for putting your customers at the heart of your content marketing plan.
According to Adam Richardson, a customer journey map is a diagram of the all the interactions a customer typically makes with your business. This can include seeing advertising, interacting with a product or getting help when something goes wrong.
A sales funnel could be thought of as a type of customer journey map since it tracks leads through the stages it takes for them to become a customer.
More often, though, the sales funnel is used to specifically map the steps of the buyer’s journey. Distinguishing between the buyer’s journey and the customer’s journey may seem like splitting hairs; aren’t a buyer and a customer the same thing?
One strength of building a customer journey is that it can be as tightly-focused as a sales funnel, or wide enough to track every interaction over the course of a person’s life. In a tightly-focused business with customer-centric brand DNA, you may very well find the sales funnel and customer journey map are combined.
Build a Real Relationship With Your Customers
Whether you’re invested in a customer-focused approach or not, your content marketing is your long game for nurturing leads and convincing them to become customers. This works because you slowly build their trust.
For many businesses, customer service has been a key area in the adoption of customer experience principles. Community management has been one the main outgrowths of applying customer experience to customer support.
Offering customer service over social media networks and online communities of like-minded people has become a standard way of handling customer support. This is because it achieves a number of efficiencies:
You can only get so much mileage out of offering telephone or email support. These one-to-one interactions are the traditional way for offering customer service and technical support.
However, in cases where security isn’t a concern and you have a large number of customers, they are incredibly inefficient. For a business with a tight budget, a large customer service expense can spell disaster.
When you offer help with troubleshooting, education and general support in a public setting, you amplify your message. One-to-many interactions mean the support you offer to one customer may be seen by hundreds of others.
One-to-many support models create an efficiency that allows you to offer more insightful and generally better customer support with a far smaller budget.
When you set out to create customer-focused content, keep in mind your customer’s pain points. The best community managers can spot trends and create content that offers one-to-many support before most people even begin asking for help.
A community is a group of people that interact with each other. This includes regular customers, industry geeks, social influencers, your community managers and even your critics.
The synergy your community creates can further amplify your support and marketing efforts through word-of-mouth.
In support forums, it’s very common to see regular users with a deep knowledge of your product helping other users. Nurturing these superstar customers is often a goal in customer-focused content strategy.
Superstar customers have generally formed a deep connection with your brand and products. They’re often your brand evangelists, technical support agents and abuse moderators all rolled into one.
When you create customer-focused content, keep your superstars in mind. Maintaining a dialogue with them will help you understand their particular customer journey. This can help you hone your content marketing strategies to create even more superstar experiences.
Customer-Focused Content Builds Trust
I hope by now you have a better idea why you should inject a customer focus into your content strategy. In an age when more people resist the hard sell, quality content marketing has become critically important to a business’ long-term success.