Today, digital marketers are faced with evaluating the best manner in which to approach a whole new group of customer expectations and needs.
Marketers now face the challenge of knowing the basic and essential changes that should be enacted to adapt to the new priorities that customers have.
Before the global pandemic happened, marketers were vying for customer recognition pigeon-holed by equal levels of disposable income and the Fear of Missing Out or FOMO.
These customers were incentivized to adopt the latest trends and experiences into their lives dominated by social media experiences.
Today, the global economic downturn caused by the pandemic has replaced unessential purchasing with real life-changing decisions in a marketplace dominated by the Fear of Losing Everything or FOLE.
There has also been a huge interest in the Covid situation, with most people turning their attention to how their lives are being affected – the fight to gain the consumer’s attention has become harder, and creating engagement and getting conversions has become an entirely different ball game.
This is the time when marketers have to use a different approach when it comes to getting the customer’s attention.
Marketers have to put the customer first.
Customer-First Marketing in 3 Minutes
Let us start off by understanding why a customer-centric marketing approach is more important today than it has ever been before.
Adapting to a changing global environment.
The global pandemic has changed the way traditional marketing is done forever.
From now on, digital communications will play a dominant role in attaining and keeping the customers’ attention and trust.
Digital engagement will determine consumer loyalty and trust in a reality dominated by social distancing.
Today, consumers are turning to the internet for communication purposes, more than before. Between January and March 2021, communication via email grew by 19% and the volume of businesses that were sending emails to their customers grew by 18%.
The fact that people were opening emails more than before meant that businesses were using emails as a means of building powerful relationships with their customers.
Although nobody can truly define how the new normal will look like, it is evident that putting the customer first is more important than it has ever been before.
Instead of beginning by creating a product or a channel for communication, putting the customer first focuses on the individual consumer.
Customer-first or customer-centric marketing requires marketers to implement strategies that build trust and empathy, to make sure that all communications are relevant and meaningful.
Understanding The Customer-Centric Content Marketing Approach
Digital engagement has become the primary method of interacting with customers and you have to stay close to them and pay attention to their individual needs.
This means making changes in your marketing strategies, making sure that the most recent customer data is at the center of every interaction that you use on the buyer’s journey.
In a customer-centric marketing approach, you have to build programs that will authentically engage the customer, using an approach similar to a committed customer service.
To achieve this goal, you have to understand the objective of the consumer and use campaigns based on messaging, data, and channel selection.
This should be contextual and relevant at the point of engagement.
You must also use the latest omnichannel or cross-channel marketing techniques such as dynamic content, smart content, artificial intelligence, and real-time marketing capabilities. This helps deliver a scalable level of personalization.
To get it right when it comes to customer-centric marketing, you must first put yourself in the shoes of your consumer, putting their needs, emotions, and passions first, ahead of your immediately transactional objectives.
Here are three factors that form the pillars of a customer-centric marketing approach in today’s world:
In today’s uncertain times, consumers are drawn to companies that they can trust. You must be honest when you are telling people about your business and its products and services.
You have to set aside transactional value in favor of relationship building.
Honesty and transparency are key to having a great customer-centric marketing strategy.
Always tell people about your business policies and data collection practices in a manner that they can fully understand.
Start off by placing the customer first. Understand what motivates and drives each of them.
- Respect their actions.
- Support their needs
- Set aside business gains and prioritize building long-term loyalty.
When consumers are putting off purchasing major items and tightening their expenditures, you need to show them that you care and understand what they are going through.
Many households are experiencing financial hardships and insecurity.
Companies dealing with financing are by showing empathy and making accommodations required to meet their customers’ restraints during these times.
Even the large companies are going out of their way to reduce prices and even give out free things as part of their social responsibility programs.
The paths that consumers use to make purchases have become more complex today.
It is filled with several micro-moments which are an opportunity for you to engage them contextually.
A consumer can look for information on a product or service on their computer, and then look through news feeds about the same items on their mobile device.
You have to think of the channels, locations, current environments, and recent activities of consumers so you can adequately meet their needs at these micro-moments.
When you adopt a customer-centric marketing approach, you are adopting a set of practices and values that will be relevant way beyond this crisis.
You are also getting used to a data-driven marketing approach that will make your marketing efforts responsive to the current trends and consumer needs.
Be consistent when it comes to serving trust, empathy, and relevance, and this time, when consumers are looking for stability – build a long-term loyalty program that will last for years to come.
Now that you know why adopting a customer-centric content marketing approach is the best way to reach your target customer in a personalized manner, let us take a look at the main areas where you should pay attention to when crafting a marketing strategy that will focus on the needs of the customer first.
How to Go about Creating Customer-Centric Content
#1: Consider your principal business goals
We have mentioned that the customer-centric marketing approach requires you to think about their needs first, but you should think about the overall objectives of your business too.
This will ensure that the strategy you craft will be based on reality and has strong goals.
Start by conducting an audit and seeing where your business stands today.
You have to consider issues such as:
- The revenue you are generating and the profit you are making
- The size of your marketing budget
- The performance of your current marketing campaigns
- How you are differentiating your business to win new customers
- Your current customer retention rate
- The makeup of your marketing team and the skills that each team member brings to the table
After doing this audit, you will be able to write a comprehensive set of business objectives.
Your business goals will have a new and relevant direction and you will be able to draft key performance statistics and indicators.
You will also be able to track your business performance as you continue to enact the strategy.
When you are crafting your principal business goals, think about those that you can achieve in the short, medium, and long term.
By writing down your business objectives in a document, you will be able to get things done in an organized manner.
You will also have a clear vision of where your business will stand in the future.
You should always be
- Ambitious albeit realistic
- Determined, yet flexible
- Goal-driven, but ultimately customer-centric
#2: Understand your target customer
After you have audited your current business standing and crafted the objectives you will focus on, it is time to think about the customers that you are targeting, and how your products and services will meet them at their point of need.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is to assume that you have an intimate knowledge of your customer at this point.
This can make you go in the wrong direction and destabilize your entire marketing campaign. It is crucial that you do your due diligence and get to know and understand the people you are targeting.
Use Quantitative and Qualitative data
You can use surveys to discover a wide range of relevant data about your current and potential customers.
You can collect data on their usage habits, demographics, location, professional and personal goals, etc.
The data can also uncover hidden or unexpected information that you can use to make your marketing campaigns better.
Carry out focus groups and interviews to collect this data.
This way you will get qualitative data that helps you create a more human concept of who your target customer is.
Segment Your Audience
After you have collected the data, analyze it and then create topics and ideas for each of the segments represented in the data.
The data will also help you in planning your content calendar and also the voice and tone to use when communicating with your target customer.
Use your research to find the challenges and pain points that the customer is facing. This helps you come up with more ideas and develop content that fully resonates with the target audience and form great connections.
Finalize creating your segments.
Businesses have more than one type of customer or audience.
Look at the factors that you will use to segment your target audience.
You can use location, budgets, challenges, goals, and even why and how they use your products and services.
Segmenting your target customers into groups helps you in personalizing your content so that it makes a lot more of an impact.
#3 Develop your target customer personas
Now that you have understood and known your target customer and you have grouped them into segments, you should go ahead and create your different target customer personas.
These are theoretical representations of the people who will purchase your products or services.
These are also known as buyer or reader personas in content marketing lingo.
Reader personas encompass a broader range of people than buyer personas.
Reader personas also include potential brand advocates who will share your content with other networks even if they do not personally buy your products or services – they help bring other customers to you.
You will then use these personas (buyer personas) for all your content marketing goals from this point onwards.
They help bring all the data you have created into personified entities that you can easily relate to.
They also help harmonize the vision of your target customer across all members of your marketing team.
Create a content marketing statement for each of your personas
Once you have defined your target customer personas (buyer personas), you can develop a content marketing statement that is geared at answering the following questions:
- Who is the person you want to help?
- How are you going to go about helping this person?
- Why do you find it important to provide value to this person?
#4: Map out the customer journey
Mapping out your customer journey helps you to understand how your target customer wants to interact with you. It aids you in delivering the most relevant content at the right time.
The map will show you the path that your target customers will follow from the moment they realize that they have a problem, to look for possible solutions, and finally purchasing your products or services.
Your business and your marketing team can reap a lot of benefits from having a good knowledge and understanding of the customer journey.
This is especially useful for purposes of content marketing and will help you create a strategic content plan.
#5: Develop your content funnel
To come up with an effective customer journey map, you should know what your target customer needs at every stage of the content marketing funnel.
Stage 1: Awareness – discovering their problem
This is the stage at which your target audience discovers that he or she has a problem that needs to be solved. Your buyer personas may look at this problem differently.
For instance, they may turn to Google for answers, go to Facebook, or ask a friend for advice on what solutions are available to address the problem.
Due to the different approaches, they may come across a wide range of solutions. Although some might be very different from what you offer, others will be similar.
For instance, if a person wants to buy a good pair of shows, he might ask a friend where he or she can get great shoes.
There are several places where he can get good shoes. He can go to a shoe store, he can browse the Internet by conducting Google searches, or he can ask a friend to recommend a great pair of shoes.
Each of these sources will differ from one another, even though they all address the same problem – where to get a great pair of shoes.
Content mapping question to consider: How does each of your buyer personas discover the problems they have and how do they start looking for solutions?
Stage 2: Consideration – comparing solutions available for solving the problem
After your buyer persona has listed the different solutions available, he or she will begin doing research and narrowing them down.
Each buyer persona has a unique way of going about the consideration stage.
Some of these include:
- The price
- The ease of use
- Where it can be found (location)
- The reputation of the product or service
- Recommendations and reviews from others
- How well it solves the problem
- The quality of the product
- The quality of the customer service
- Previous engagement with the brand
And so much more.
Content mapping question to consider: what are the criteria that are most important to your buyer persona when it comes to considering the various solutions available?
Stage 3: Conversion – the point at which you position your product or service as the best option
At this point in the customer journey, you are supposed to showcase the features and benefits of the product or services that you are providing.
Once you have a good understanding of the criteria that your target customer will use for consideration, you can craft content and copy that indicates that your offering is the best.
Content mapping question to consider: How are you going to show your target customer that you have the best offering for solving their problem?
Stage 4: Retention – crafting content that will keep your target customer coming back and reconverting
Once your target customer has converted into a paying customer, your business will benefit from keeping them coming back to buy more products or services from you.
This means that your costs per customer acquisition will go down and your profit margins will increase.
Find ways in which you can keep in touch with your new customers. Get their feedback so you can craft content that will keep them thinking about your brand.
Content mapping question to consider: What is the reason behind the conversion of your new customer and how have they experienced your products or services?
Stage 5: Advocacy – creating relationships that will make them want to spread the word about your products or services
Your task at this stage is to identify and nurture brand advocates who will help you bring more customers to your brand.
Define what your customers want in your terms of customer service
Once you have established a routine of developing content according to your customers’ expectations, you can then create sharable content, offer discounts when they refer a friend, and other referral deals.
Content mapping question to consider: What value will you be able to give to your customers after they make a purchase? Will you make the content shareable?
Bonus tip – You can use InpactHero to map out your customer journey, and get actionable recommendations and insights. Use this tool to provide valuable content and also choose the best content format that you should use at each stage.
#6: Plan your content output
At this time, you need to align your content innovations with your business objectives and the target customer needs at each step of the content funnel to get maximum focus and effectiveness.
Taking your budget into consideration start planning your content, mapping it into the buyer’s journey by answering the content mapping questions that we laid out in the step above.
When crafting content targeted at your buyer personas, make good use of effective keyword research to create a hierarchy of the content topics based on their importance.
High-volume long-tail keywords show that a content idea or topic is of great importance.
You may also discover additional questions and topics that your buyer personas could have an interest in.
After you have come up with a list of target keywords, you need to work out the search intent for each buyer persona.
Try to understand what they are looking for and the problem they are trying to solve when searching for answers on the SERPs.
You can use tools like SEMrush to find articles that your competition has created.
Also perform a search on Google, using the list of keywords you have created, and see the types of articles that are ranked at the top of the SERPs.
The type of articles that you see ranking high on the SERPs is an indication of what Google thinks will best suit a user’s needs.
So, if your search returns a high volume of lists, How-Tos, Guides, thought-leadership articles, infographics, or videos, then you should also think about creating similar content formats.
Bonus Tip – You can use the SEMrush Topic Research tool to help you find a list of subtopics related to the keywords that you have used. Use these to generate new ideas for new headlines create awesome headlines and topics to feature in your articles.
Build a content calendar
After you have your list of topics and title ideas, you can now go ahead and place them within a content calendar. This will help you create content well ahead of the time you intend to publish it.
When you are crafting your content calendar, you should put the topics in clusters.
The clusters show the interlinking of your articles in a way that gives a deep and complete treatment of the theme you want to cover.
This will help Google to know that you are an authority in your niche. Your website visitors will also find more value in your content when arranged in this manner.
Here is a sample of a content calendar that you can create:
|Topic||Buyer Persona||Keywords||Funnel stage||Publishing Date||Distribution Channel|
These are not the only areas that you can have in your content calendar. Others can be:
- Writing and editing deadline
- Supporting content
- Responsible person/team
- Promotional copy
Add content diversification
There is a need to get the most out of every piece of content that you create.
If you have a guide or blog that is doing very well, then this means that it should be diversified.
Diversification means taking one piece of content and then curating it into a different content that can be used to bring in more readers o viewers from other content distribution channels.
You should look at the content and then see how it can be diversified into something else and used on a different platform.
For instance, if you have a guide that has performed very well on your blog, you can:
- Turn it into a YouTube video
- Create a webinar
- Craft a short infographic to use on Instagram
- Create a series of posts to publish on social media
- Host a live Ask Me Anything (AMA) show on Instagram
You need to think of the best distribution channel for the new content that you are creating. You also have to think of your target customers and where they spend the most time. This will help you publish the content on a platform that will bring you the best results.
When you are starting a content campaign, you must test sponsoring and sharing content on various distribution channels.
Once you start getting results, define your benchmarks so that you know that you are getting the best results for the money you are using.
#7: Track your progress
You must track the performance of your content so you can set the KPIs. Use the primary goals that you set up in the first step and see how you have performed in the marketing campaigns that you are carrying out.
Then you can set specific metrics that you should track. This way, you will be able to optimize your content creation, the themes you use, and the distribution channels you target.
There are several ways in which you can track the performance of your content, and some of them give insights that go beyond the direct impact of your content on generating direct sales.
This means that there is a wide range of metrics that you should follow.
Here is a table showing you some of the metrics that you should always watch:
|Metric type||Metric results|
|Primary Objective||Get 50 Marketing Qualified leads (MQL) from blog posts within a budget of $5,000 in the next 3 months|
|Primary Indicators||The Number of MQLs that the blog post generated
Ensuring that you stay within your budget
|Secondary Indicators||The number of new newsletter subscriptions
The blog banner advertising conversion rate
The increase in form subscriptions
The average time spent on the blog posts
The total increase in blog traffic
Note that these are just a small sampling of the metrics that you should track, so generate a comprehensive list and track them in the manner shown in the table.
You should also run timely audits of the performance of your content so that you don’t lose your rank on the SERPs and consequently your traffic.
Also, make sure that you update your content regularly.
Now, we have seen how you should get to know and understand your target customer, using the customer-centric marketing approach.
You have also seen how you should go about creating content for your funnel to guide the customer through the customer journey.
Now it is time to look at 15 practical implementations of the knowledge you have gathered so far.
These are practical tips that come from seasoned content marketers who have used customer-centric marketing solutions to create successful businesses.
15 Practical Tips for Creating Customer-Centric Content – Provided by Industry Leaders
- Use non-transactional dialogue when communicating with customers
Expert – James Cioban, Cierant Corporation
Today, many brands create marketing campaigns targeted at pushing content to their target customers without giving much thought to how to engage them in a non-transactional dialogue.
Brands that use the customer-centric marketing approach build upon these methods. They don’t just ask for product reviews from their customers as the only means of having a non-transactional dialogue with them.
You should look at ways in which you can create outbound content for customers to enjoy, especially on other platforms.
- Create content based on certain outcomes
Expert – Peter Prodromou, Boston Digital
Today, people are focused on personal issues and social outcomes and how products and product providers can have a positive impact on their lives and the lives of those that they care about.
The content you create should be visual, emotive, interactive, and based on certain outcomes.
Make sure that you pick the best channel for content distribution.
- Use persona identifiers on your blog or website
Expert – Justin Cook, 9thCO Inc.
You should use tags to implement persona identifiers in the data layer of your blog or website.
Then push the identifiers to your target customer within your analytics tools.
This way, you will have a better understanding of how your target customers are interacting with the content you create.
Based on the results, select additional content that you can craft and run “lookalike” content marketing campaigns with new content targeted at that particular buyer persona segment.
- Showcase benefits over features
Expert – Brian Rutledge, GPO
You should always show the benefits of your products or services before the features
Always use “You” instead of “We”.
Do key phrase research so you better understand the user intent of your target customer.
Content that is truly customer-centric ties the product page to the searcher’s intent.
This should not be based on brand terms but should include non-brand terms that speak about the product niche as a whole.
- Give consumers answers to their questions
Expert – Laura Cole, Vivial
Craft content that offers valued information to your target customer. Answer their questions and guide them towards making the right purchasing decision.
Inside your content, make sure you showcase the benefits, value, and uses of your product or service as case studies and examples.
This is a great way to build trust with your target customers, making sure that they come to you when they are ready to make a purchase.
- Involve your customers in interviews
Expert – Wendy Covey, TREW Marketing
You should always have a one-on-one interview with your customers. Get a few customers representing the different segments of your target customers.
Interview them and listen closely to the words the customers use to talk about why they prefer your products or services and how they have improved their lives or businesses.
- Delve into what motivates your customers
Expert – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave
If you want your content to be truly customer-centric then you have to dig deep into what currently motivates your customers.
Why should you do this?
You cannot motivate someone to perform the desired action, but you can align your content with the things that the target customer is already motivated to do. Once you have done this alignment, you can give them content that will encourage them to take the desired action.
- Showcase the things your target customers love
Expert – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing
It is great to have a company story, but if you really want to engage someone, you should talk about the things that they love or care about.
If you look at the big brands, you can see that this is true. You must always think about what the target consumer loves.
Apple does not sell computers and other tech gadgets – they sell a way of thinking or a set of beliefs.
Tom’s Shoes does not sell shoes – they sell the concept of giving back.
Starbucks does not sell coffee – they sell the status quo.
- Focus on inbound marketing
Expert – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative
You should create buyer personas that fully embrace the needs, dreams, concerns, and opportunities of your target customer.
Then find intersections and create content that speaks to each person at every touchpoint of the buyer journey.
Make sure that all communications speak about their needs and not your accomplishments and capabilities, even when you are talking about awards you have won, blog posts, case studies, etc.
- Ask your customers for video content
Expert – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
Videos, where customers record themselves using your product or service, can be an excellent way of communicating the various benefits that people can get from using your products or services.
The videos show the true excitement and endorsement of your brand and come from the customer’s unique perspective – these act as an inducement to other customers to join your bandwagon.
- Make your content easy to find
Expert – Carey Kirkpatrick, CKP
Make sure that the content targeted at different stages of the customer journey can be easily found on your blog or website. Think of your blog as a place where people come to be educated.
Use evergreen content to give information about yourself and your capabilities.
Find organic links between these two factors and it will be easy for your target customers to consume your content and travel down the content funnel and do so without any friction.
- Lay emphasis on the problems that you can solve
Expert – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications
According to one old saying, “Nobody will care about your solutions before they recognize that there is a massive problem.”
The same saying applies to your target customers.
Think about the target customers’ problems, situations, and context, and then find a common solution to all of them and pick them up and show your target customer how your products or services will solve these issues.
- Craft your message around their needs
Expert – Camille Nicita, Gongos, Inc
For most customers, interactions with businesses are mostly transactional; companies on the other hand look for a lot more.
Content that can assist you in building better and closer connections with customers is the best to use.
You must convey a deep understanding of your target customer’s needs in your content.
Start off with emotional functional and social outcomes that they find important as human beings.
Then proceed and craft your message around the needs that your products or services can solve.
- Align your philosophy to their values
Expert – Emilie Tabor, IMA – Influencer Marketing Agency
New generations of buyers are not concerned with USPs. They care more about how the brand philosophy aligns with their values.
For a customer-centric content marketing strategy, you must have a deep knowledge of the values that your target audience holds dear.
Once you do so, it will be easy to align your brand message and your actions to these values.
Brands that create content around target customer values reap the benefits of the customer-centric approach.
- Use testimonials to showcase your solutions
Expert – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX
Ideally, customer-centric content should answer the questions asked by your target customer.
Rather than go about touting how good your products or services are, try to give a solution to the problems they are facing.
One of the best ways to go about this is to use authentic customer testimonials.
It is even better when these can be given as video testimonials.
Let your existing customers speak to those who still have a few doubts and win them over for your business. – let them show others how your products or services helped them solve a problem they were facing.
Creating customer-centric content is a great way to get new customers, and is also a great way to retain and nurture them too.
Customers tend to keep coming back to brands that care about their needs and cater to their demands.
When you have a transparent approach, unique ideas, and a great love for your customers, you have the real power to change the content marketing game altogether for your business.
This article has helped you understand what customer-centric content is all about and the importance of using the customer-centric content marketing approach, especially in a world that has changed dramatically after the pandemic.
The article has gone further and shown you how to create this kind of content and finally given you 15 practical tips from experts who have successfully used customer-centric content before.
Use the steps that we have discussed above and incorporate some or all of the tips found towards the end of the article.
Start shaping your customer-centric content strategies like one of the big companies e mentioned above, Apple, Starbucks, and Tom’s Shoes.