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In this final article, we’ll show you how to tackle synchronizing content and channels. In the first two articles, we defined and mapped the customer lifecycle and buying journey. Why? Because the buying journey serves as the frame of reference and context for all the content we produce.

Content is the new Holy Grail. Guru Joe Pulizzi encourages us to create “epic content.”  Social media expert Mark Schaefer says, “you’ve got to make it RITE” (Relevant, Informative, Timely, Entertaining). And there are many good reasons to achieve these goals.  According to a Roper Public Affairs study, 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. Seventy percent say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company, while 60% say that company content helps them make better product decisions.

Here’s the kicker, content out of sync with the customer buying process is wasted.  Unless it’s relevant and timely, the fact that it might be informative or entertaining is moot – because it won’t be read. This why you must understand what touches and channels your customers prefer along each point in their buying journey. Since buyers are investing less time in face-to-face interactions, each interaction is keenly important.

When you mapped the customer buying process you gained insight into the following:

  • Which interactions are important and valuable to your customers and at what point in their process.
  • The type of resources they prefer to support their process.  This defines the content you need to produce and the format they need.
  • The channels they prefer to use to access the content and engage with the company.

This information serves as the basis for the final step in synchronizing content, channels, and the buying process.

The link between marketing activities, content, channels, touchpoints and the customer buying process should have become clearer once you completed the mapping process. It will become obvious that different programs and content will be more valuable and appropriate at different stages depending on the customer process. The map will serve as a guideline for improving the utility of your mix, and the format you use to deliver the content as well as the channel needed to connect and engage with customers and prospects.

Weave it all Together

So now you have the process defined.  As part of your mapping exercise you identified the type of content and the preferred content delivery channel for each step along your buyer’s journey.   The process flow diagram you developed captures the details.  The following illustrates what might be the high level version of the customer buying journey and the associated touches, channels, and content elements.

VEM-Buying-Journey

The purpose of the map is to understand what content you should develop, in what format/touch point, and delivered through which channel. For example, you may learn through the mapping process that traditional in-person events and presentations are far more valuable at creating contacts and connections for a specific segment than social media and blogs. Your map may reveal that webinars that leverage industry experts are a viable touch point for consideration for some customer segments while online chats with existing customers and traditional telemarketing are more effective for other segments. Through the process, you may learn that traditional e-newsletters are ideal for staying connected with one set of existing customers and an online community with guest posts is better for another. As a result, marketing will need to select the program and build content that supports the preferred channel for that touch point in the process.

Whether you illustrate the process in a flow diagram or a picture like this one, convert the process into some type of matrix that enables you to organize your content development calendar by buying stage.  For each box in the matrix identify the touch point and channel.  Set performance targets for each stage so you can determine whether the content and channels are producing.

Summary

We’ve covered a lot of ground in these three articles: the customer-buying journey, mapping the journey, and matching the content and channels to the journey.  It’s hard work! Is it worth the effort? Research by Marketing Sherpa  suggests that it does.  Their work reveals that buyers prefer content that is targeted to their specific industry, job function and company size.  The pacesetting companies in the Aberdeen study  experienced 7.8X higher year-over-year growth in unique site traffic compared to followers (19.7% VS 2.5%).  And in HubSpot’s 2014 Annual Report on Inbound Marketing and Selling41% of the 3500 marketing and sales professionals were able to measure positive ROI for their content marketing efforts. So before cranking out more content, step back and validate the buying process, content, touchpoints, and channels so you can orchestrate a marketing effort that will engage and motivate customers.

We hope you found this series helpful. We certainly welcome your comments.  In the meantime, there’s still time to participate in the 14th annual MPM survey as a way to benchmark how well your organization stacks up when it comes to marketing accountability and alignment.

Laura PattersonAbout Laura Patterson President and Founder, VisionEdge Marketing:

For 20+ years, Laura has been helping CEOs and Marketing Executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of their marketing. She was an early advocate of using marketing data, processes, automation, metrics, and dashboards to link marketing initiatives and investments to business outcomes.  She’s an experience practitioner with an extensive marketing and sales career in the financial services and technology industries. Laura has authored three books on marketing performance management, including the most recent: Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance Driven Marketing Organization. You can see Laura in action online at Marketing Made Simple, MarketingProfs, and Software Advice, or follow her on Twitter via: @LauraVEM.

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