Before they buy your product, they’ll see your content
Why you should apply design thinking to content marketing
- Marketing teams need to start thinking about the experiences of people consuming their content and apply principles of design thinking to craft engaging brand stories.
- Layer persona development and journey mapping on top of your content strategy. This gives you a much more holistic view of potential customers and how they begin their journey as a reader and viewer of content.
- As you identify content opportunities at different stages of the journey, add a layer of data-driven research and analysis to surface specific topics and angles, ensuring that each asset aligns with what consumers are really looking for.
Design thinking is innate to your company. Whenever you develop a new product or solution, you’ve zeroed in on the experience of your customers and put yourself in your their shoes. You understand and empathize with their wants and needs.
Can you say the same for your marketing strategy?
Maybe not, and here’s the challenge: when we think of “customer experience”, too often we’re just thinking about the experience of using a specific app or platform or site. But customer experience should extend across the entire brand. Your customers’ engagement with your written content, email campaigns, videos, social channels, and visual media matters just as much as their experience of your products or platform.
They want your brand to tell a story they can relate to. If you’re successful, they’ll transform into buyers.
The first step: look at your customer journeys
It’s time take your knowledge of user-centered thinking and apply it to content. If you’ve done journey mapping exercises in the past, then you’re familiar with the practice of putting yourself in your customers’ mindset and identifying their needs and pain points. At each stage of this journey, there are opportunities to create content they can relate to—content that will drive engagement with your brand, build awareness of your product, convert prospects into customers, or drive brand loyalty and advocacy over time. In many cases, an audit of your existing assets will reveal that you already have content that delivers on the customer needs, and you may just need to repurpose it to more effectively reach your readers. In other cases, you’ll find key gaps that could be filled with new creative ideas.
Every single piece of content you create should encourage your readers on their journey. Building your content marketing strategy around customer journeys ensures every story you tell supports this progression. When you’re selling technology to an enterprise customer, for example, you may be providing a solution that your target audience doesn’t yet know they need. Upper funnel content is then critical for educating these potential users about what your product is, and why it will help them.
Enterprise tech is also characterized by long sales cycles, so you have to figure out how to engage your prospects with content that keeps them coming back for more. Perhaps you’re publishing industry-leading perspectives, original research, or answers to frequently-asked questions. Regardless, your content should deliver enough value to earn their attention—and their continued investment.
There’s no silver bullet to how much content will drive a conversion. Some decision makers will start their journey knowing they want your software, and will require only a few case studies to pull the trigger. Others will take their time weighing their options and comparing you with your competitors, and you need to show them that you’re the best choice. This means that your full content repertoire should be designed to address their concerns, no matter how many, and keep them moving forward with a strategic call to action—no matter their preferred next step.
Design thinking needs data
There’s no shortage of data available to marketers, but this can result in analysis paralysis if you don’t know specifically what you’re looking for. That’s why you need to layer in data analysis with your content journey mapping.
At each stage, you’re empathizing with your customers and imagining their needs, their perspectives, and their thought process. But don’t just guess: get the data. Look at search trends and the wider competitive and publishing landscapes so that you can confirm whether or not you’re reading your market right, and make sure every piece you’re producing has quantitative and statistical evidence to back it up. Track the performance of your existing content to see which pieces are driving engagement. By looking where customers are asking questions and giving their attention, you’ll also understand which channels you should be publishing on.
You’re used to design thinking and journey mapping as you develop your product, but now you have to bring it to your content, and validate your storytelling with data-driven research. All of these components have to work together; only then can you build a cohesive content strategy that delivers real value—to you, and to your customers.