Content marketing – applying the principle of ‘form follows function’ to deliver great customer experience

Content really is the BUZZ word of the moment when it comes to digital marketing. Everyone from PR to search to social marketers are talking about how high quality, relevant and timely content is fast becoming the only way of truly gaining exposure and driving engagement online.

Whilst I couldn’t agree more with this I do think there are rather large variations in the meaning of and use of “content”.

To me “content” is any form of media that serves a purpose.  I attended a brilliant talk by Dave Trott at BrightonSEO a few weeks ago and he was talking about the Bauhaus theory of ‘form follows function’ (the principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose).

Content for content’s sake

Dave Trott’s words really rung true with me and couldn’t be more applicable to digital. This is because of the range of different marketers creating content to suit their purposes. Online PR folk are talking about creating content to engage bloggers, usability experts want to create content that helps convert, search marketers want to create content that will attract links, social marketers want to create applications to drive engagement and so on.

With all of this content being created and no doubt serving a purpose for those individual marketing threads I can’t help thinking we are going to end up with a smorgasbord of content for each brand that all tells a slightly different story and makes the customer experience with the brand a little disjointed.

Shouldn’t we all be working together to create threads of content with the customer experience in mind? Shouldn’t the function be to provide the ultimate experience for the customer rather than more granular objectives of “get more links”, “likes”, “conversions”, etc.

Finding the content sweet spot

If we work on truly understanding the customer; their values, needs, requirements and expectations of both the brand itself AND of a good shopping experience then we can use that data to find the content “sweet spots” that communicate the brand story and engage the customer on every level. This theme of content and messaging can then be adapted to suit specific channels, forms, mediums and purposes. With the customer at the heart of content planning and execution you will be more likely to create content that they want to absorb, interact with or engage with at each stage of their buying journey.

Having an effective content strategy that comes from the point of view of the customer first AND THEN the specific marketing functions will create a far stronger brand experience which is reinforced at each touch point.

It is crucial that ALL content stakeholders work to a central plan of themes and messaging that can be adapted to suit specific requirements. One theme of content can cascade out into multiple forms that increases conversion rates, shares, traffic and so on BUT first and foremost engage the customer with the brand and its values.

This sentiment is echoed in an article in a recent “Marketing” magazine where Alan Mitchell argues that consumer service is trumping traditional advertising (subscription only link). He cited a recent Volkswagen GTI launch in the USA where advertising, in its traditional sense, was cast aside. Instead, a racing game app drove an 80% leap in leads, test-drives and quote requests. Yes, this was a piece of great content but what VW did first was to ensure it was interesting and, more importantly, useful to the customer.

The original piece of content was then cascaded out by the customer through social channels, gained exposure via PR and probably a whole load of links to the VW website too.

Form followed function.

2 Responses to Content marketing – applying the principle of ‘form follows function’ to deliver great customer experience

  1. Thanks for your comments. I do agree that the more complex the organisation the more complex the content strategy needs to be. However, if there are multiple personas buying multiple products then multiple streams of content to engage them may not necessarily be creating content for contents sake. If organised effectively and seeded out in the right places across channels it should remain effective as long as you have invested in proper customer insight. This is where it is so important to have all stake holders in the business involved and to your second point understand the way the content you are creating will travel digitally, or through word of mouth.

    Content done this way should absolutely be able to create new customers by increasing brand awareness and visibility during the purchase consideration process.

    Traffic is certainly one way of measuring content but that absolutely should not be the only method. If there are multiple threads of marketing that the content is being used for then each of those threads could measure the effectiveness of the content in their own way. PR might measure mentions & brand sentiment, conversion folk may measure upturn in conversion rate and AOV, SEO may measure increase in links, ranking traffic.

    If done as part of a wider marketing strategy then surely the ultimate overriding metric is revenue although as with any wider strategy it becomes hard to attribute upturn to specific activities within that strategy, which is where attribution modelling comes into play.

  2. Great article, absolutely agree – but it’s difficult to measure the success of content marketing in understanding the customer; their values, needs, requirements and expectations in complex organisations with a wide range of products and services (without creating content to suit every customer ‘persona’ and content ‘for contents sake’). In a recent Content Marketing Trends survey by Holger Schulze, web traffic was the number one metric (64 percent) used by marketers to measure the success of content marketing. But does this tell us enough? So what someone has visited a web page? Content Marketing works well with existing customers but how do we get content in front of new/potential customers? Especially in a B2B environment where social media and viral campaigns are not as effective and relevant.

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