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Content marketing has become more and more part of the planning dialogue for organizations as the digital age continues to mature. The concept of content marketing recognizes the growing importance of content to move buyers and consumers towards an action such as a decision, purchase, subscription, and enrollment. Undoubtedly, the proliferation of the varietal forms and media of content that has arisen in the digital age has helped position content marketing as the overarching term to fit these new formats into an understandable phrase, idea, and concept.
What is becoming more evident each year is that organizations need to move from thinking about which forms and media to use to employing experience design thinking into content creation. While experience design has its’ roots in product design and later with customer experience, there are crossover applied principles that can be beneficial to the emerging field of content marketing. What I believe content marketers need to be careful with is taking the term Marketing or Marketer too literally. What I mean by this is that if content creation is done solely through marketing thinking, it can be hard to stop the inertia of that rolling boulder buyers refer to as spin coming right at them. Thus, we could fall into the trap of spinning our way right out of the buyer’s mind.
One of my favorite comments I heard last year was Paul Greenberg‘s manifesto that buyers and consumers do not want to be an object of a sale but rather a subject of an experience. Content creation, without experience design thinking, is prone to the former versus the later. The end result the same – the continual feed of spin in different forms and media that leaves buyers and consumers feeling more like an object of a sale.
Where should content marketing start then? It should start with understanding the buyer and the consumer at a very deep level. Content creation is a powerful way to respond to ideas, emotions, perceptions, behaviors, moments, and mindsets. Note I use the phrase respond to as oppose to shape. All too often, what is attempted in sales and marketing is done under the false presumption that we can fully shape a buyer’s or consumer’s mind to how we want them to think. One of the main reasons I’ve seen organizations place little value on qualitative research and overemphasize quantitative research for targeting those they want to shape.
One of the key principles of experience design is to obtain a deep qualitative understanding of your user, buyer, or consumer. It is only through this means can we begin to understand how to respond to the buyer’s or consumer’s mind through content creation. We respond to an understanding of processes, mental perceptions, issues, and goals of the buyer or consumer. Designing the content experience to help buyers or consumers reach understanding and decisive moments that maps back to their issues and goals. As a long-time advocate and proponent of the use of user, consumer, and buyer personas, it is important for content marketers to fully grasp the power of personas to help them reach this deep understanding that is a prerequisite for effective content marketing. While the role of content designer has been around for a short while specifically for web development, I would advocate that organizations think about the role of content experience designer that is a member of an experience design group in the consumer world or a member of a buyer experience design group in the B2B world.
The emerging field of content marketing’s long-term success and role in the digital age is predicated on the blending of experience design and marketing thinking. Challenging organizations to overcome the ever present problems associated with silo thinking and non-aligned sales and marketing. One thing we do know now is that the failure to incorporate experience design thinking into content creation can mean that the overall effectiveness of content marketing in an organization can prove to be fruitless.