Until now, content and customer experience have generally been viewed as separate things. That is, content is material designed to attract, support and retain a target audience. And customer experience is essentially a catch-all concept to describe brand and company perception.
And because of this either/or dichotomy – content in one bucket, customer experience in another — companies have been told to focus on one vs. the other. For example, Entrepreneur.com contributor Mikal E. Belicove notes: “When it comes to marketing strategies, content marketing has just been crowned king, far surpassing search engine marketing, public relations and even print, television and radio advertising as the preferred marketing tool for today’s business-to-business entrepreneur.”
Yet, Gartner for Marketers blog contributor Augie Rae has a markedly different view: “Content is not king. It is important– vital, in fact — but it is not king. A new study from TrackMaven demonstrates that while brands continue to pursue greater content production strategies, they are getting less engagement for their effort. This is an outcome that a simple supply-and-demand analysis could have predicted, and it demonstrates once again why customer experience is the real king.”
Naturally, this seeming disparity begs the question: which of these two aspirants should sit on the throne, and lead the way when it comes to winning over the hearts and minds of customers? Is content king? Or is customer experience king? Or perhaps we should borrow the Game of Thrones playbook and see who’s left standing when the dust settles or the snow melts?
The answer is not to join the debate (or the battle) at all – because the dichotomy between content and customer experience doesn’t exist! In reality, content and customer experience are and always will be integrated – because that’s how customers see things, and that means it’s how companies must see it, too. As noted by Moz.com’s Ian Lurie: Forget content marketing, SEO content, and whatever else you know them as. We need to fundamentally change our approach to content. It’s not an add-on or a separate thing. It’s an inseparable part of the user experience. Let’s act that way.”
And so, how can companies “act that way” – and more importantly, reap the rewards of this integration? There are 5 key factors to keep in mind:
- Accept that Content and User Experience are Unified
As far as customers are concerned, content influences and impacts their experience – for better or for worse. For companies, this means any discussion or strategy about content must embrace user experience, and vice versa. As noted, to see these as separate things is a false dichotomy. They are part of the same continuum.
- Content Professionals and User Experience Professionals are Allies – not Enemies
“Content Professionals” and “User Experience Professionals” use different tools, have different types of expertise, and spend most of their time doing different things. But they aren’t enemies. They’re allies who must discover, appreciate, and take advantage of what the other side brings to the table. In the bigger picture, they’re on the same team, which means they both succeed – or they both fail.
- Content is Everything Product-Related
Content isn’t just marketing collateral, sales material, product information or technical documentation. Content is everything that has to do with a product, regardless of whether it’s published on the web or handed to prospects at a conference. [To learn more, download our new ebook “The New Definition of Product Content”.]
- Content is Dynamic – not Static
Content – and by extension, user experience – is dynamic instead of static. This means that companies must constantly monitor touchpoints to track content engagement; optimizing what works, and repairing or replacing what doesn’t. Dynamic content must also be supported by continuous customer input and SME feedback. As pointed out by Salesforce’s Chief Digital Evangelist Val Afshar: “Companies who care about the customer experience proactively solicit for feedback, review the feedback, and take action accordingly in a timely and responsive manner.”
- Use Content to get Closer to Customers
Companies must extend the reach of their content by providing customers with easy, personalized access to the information and answers they need, and from any device. By shifting from “a world of documents” to “a world of answers”, companies can strategically use content to get closer to customers, and create a positive experience that will resonate long into the future.
The Bottom Line
Content and customer experience are integrated and part of the same continuum; they always have been, and they always will be. Companies that demonstrate their awareness of this truth by creating, distributing and evolving great content across all of their touchpoints are rewarded with a growing stream of happy, profitable customers.
However, companies that reject or ignore this truth will find themselves falling further behind — because despite their efforts and investments, their content is making them stand out in the marketplace for all of the wrong reasons.