The Business Case For Content-Driven Experiences

The following is an excerpt from Robert’s Book with Carla Johnson: Experiences: The 7th Era Of Marketing

So, what are “Experiences” and why should marketing manage and deliver them?

 These might seem like obvious questions, but they deserve to be asked, because the phrase “customer experience” still seems to lack a common definition. We need turn no further than all the analysts, software tool providers, consultancies and agencies out in the wild to get a variety of divergent proclamations about what “customer experiences” are, the best way to deliver them – and why, of course, they deserve to be managed carefully.

None of this helps those who need to understand it most: marketers who are responsible for navigating our businesses through change and for creating an optimal total customer experience. How ironic that these analysts, agencies and software companies haven’t created an optimal customer experience in their efforts to communicate what it means to deliver that very “experience.”

We need to understand this change – and fast. If we don’t, we run the risk of running down the same familiar road we’ve been on since the early 2000s. Here’s the reasoning: Digital is a disruptive new medium. Therefore, we figure, it must be separate and distinct from other experiences. Businesses of all sizes have spent the last 15 years separating out the idea of digital vs. physical. Brands now have vice presidents of digital marketing that sit in an office adjacent to the vice president of, what, regular marketing? They have CRM teams, as well as Social CRM teams who sit beside the Web teams. These people work with the eCommerce teams, but somehow don’t get along with the Blog teams and the eBusiness teams who have love/hate relationships with the PR Teams. Brands have engaged a traditional agency – along with their super hip and forward-thinking digital agency. The result: A structural mess.

So, with that said – let’s get an inevitable scope problem out of the way first.

What Are We Making A Case For?

We’re very much NOT the first to talk about the “customer experience”. Very much like the approach of Content Marketing, businesses have been thinking about (CEM) Customer Experience Management for some time. Even as far back as the 1980s, the idea of “customer experience management” was a popular topic. It is defined as the “totality of the customer experience”. And, thus, every single customer experience can be considered part of that thinking. By that logic, setting a price is part of CEM; the interaction that the customer has with the owner’s manual is part of CEM, and choosing whether to make the product from wool or cotton is part of CEM.

To suggest that the totality of CEM is marketing’s sole responsibility is not our intention.

To be clear: In our book we discuss only a subset of CEM. We examine only those content-driven experiences that help evolve a customer through their journey from aware, to interested, to committed, to loyal and ultimately evangelistic. In most cases, the value delivered from these experiences will actually be separate and distinct from the product or service itself.

Marketing is transforming from a group that creates its value by simply describing the experience the customer will have with the product or service being offered. Instead, new marketing strategies must focus on delivering experiences that deliver value that goes beyond the product or service.

And, in order to do that – marketing must evolve and create new processes.

Three Core Components of the Change In Process

In our work, we’ve seen a number of high performing brands start to think about content, marketing, and experiences in a new way. Three skill-sets, or competencies, are common among these companies, and can provide a strong business case for a new process (or approach) to exist to manage it.

They are:

  1. Orchestrating Events, Not Guiding Journeys
    Put simply, experiences are not paths or journeys. They are events consumed in a nonlinear fashion. Regardless of whether it is a long, high touch B2B journey, or a completely transactional B2C journey, customers don’t want to be guided; they simply expect to be charmed at every step, and on their own terms.
  2. Meaning-Driven, Not Data Driven
    Data by its very definition has no meaning. It is simply a collection of facts and statistics aggregated for reference or analysis.  To make data meaningful, businesses must develop new strategies to find that meaning. Instead of looking for proof-of-life within the data, they must instead ask insightful and honest questions – and look for the data to substantiate or disprove the hypothesis.
  3. Organizing For Agility, Not Speed
    Much has been made about the need for marketing departments to be more agile – but it’s not necessarily about moving faster. The inability to find the calm out of the chaos, and the constant pressure of “more” is due to a fear of moving too slowly. Rather, marketers can find joy in the balance of creating customer-centric experiences and re-orienting to more agile strategies.

Re-Design Marketing For Creating Content Experiences

It’s simple: Marketers must get beyond the cycle of chasing campaign-oriented capabilities around every emerging channel. To succeed, marketing departments must evolve.

They certainly must be able to describe the value of the product or service for sale through various campaign-focused offline and online content islands such as television, print, social, mobile or other. But, they must also create differentiated experiential value that is separate and distinct from that product or service – and then integrate the physical and digital world together seamlessly.

This new focus beyond the campaign requires that content must be made real. Content can no longer be simultaneously everyone’s job and no one’s job. The creation, collaboration, management, publishing and promotion of content-driven experiences must be an actual strategic function in the business.

To accomplish this, new processes must be created.  And then, new roles must be created to facilitate those processes. This is an approach or methodology that focuses on the creation of content-driven experiences as a separate asset. It has as much potential value as our product and could potentially even have revenue possibilities. This is the essence of a new approach to serve the marketing organization – Content Creation Management.

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