How to Ensure Your Content Marketing Takes a Customer-First Approach

Prioritizing your customer – it’s something that every business wants to do with their content marketing strategy, but unfortunately, a tactic that many companies fail to truly embody. To sound like a total broken record here: if you want to put your customers first and earn their loyalty, you need to implement customer-centric marketing strategies.

Here are some of the top ways you can put customers first and improve the efficiency and success of your content marketing strategy.

Offer Transparent Answers  

In today’s world, transparency isn’t just preferable – it’s the key to earning customer trust.

Data breaches and news outlets jam-packed with “fake news” have instilled more doubt in customers than ever before. This is what experts refer to as the “trust crisis,” and chances are, it’s impacting your brand’s digital marketing schemes more than you know.

According to Sprout Social’s Social Media and the Evolution of Transparency report, roughly 9 out of 10 Americans believe that transparency is more important than ever before. Even more surprising is that 89 percent of those surveyed would be more likely to stick by a brand during a crisis if the brand was transparent before.

Now is the time to be radically transparent with your customers, especially when it comes to providing answers to their questions. Eliminate suspicions or anxieties consumers might harbor through openly honest communication and marketing.

Image Source: Trustpilot

One way to do this is through verified customer review sites. Don’t just tell your audience about your products – prove to them that they’re worth buying through real people’s reviews. Customers will be actively looking for these reviews, so the more you can fuel transparent feedback and use them in your content marketing strategy, the better.

Image Source: Southwest

Take a look at Southwest Airlines and their honesty campaign called “Transfarency.” The airline states that their philosophy is that “customers are treated honestly and fairly, and low fares actually stay low.”

Not only is Southwest Airlines openly honest with all its consumers, but it strives to make that an integral part of its brand. It’s no coincidence that Southwest is the most popular airline in America and that people love the straightforward, transparent approach.

We’ve witnessed time-and-time again just how valuable consumer transparency can be to a struggling (or thriving) brand. Consumers have WAY more access to more research and information than in previous decades, and as a result, they’re more selective about the brands they choose to support.

Prioritize your customers by providing them with the answers they need upfront, no strings attached.

Trust us: they’ll appreciate the transparency more than any flashy graphics or funny advertisement.

Use Pain Points for Topic Clusters

Before we jump into this point, let’s talk about what “topic clusters” are.

Simply put, topic clustering refers to the practice of grouping content together by a common thread or overarching topic – called the pillar. The pillar post is generally a long form piece of content that outlines all aspects of the topic.

  • The Ultimate Guide to E-commerce SEO
  • The Master Guide to Content Marketing Strategy

The clusters work to provide specific information in smaller posts that link back to the pillar – all of the clusters together create a comprehensive resource that consumers can easily peruse.

Image Source: Hubspot

Why is topic clustering a great way to put consumers first?

When a customer visits your website in search of answers, it’s extremely helpful if you’ve already clustered relevant topics together for their benefit.

This is especially true when your topic clusters are built around specific pain points. Get up close and personal with the most common problems and concerns your customers have, then tie solutions and answers for these pain points into relevant clusters.

There are four major categories of pain points: financial, productivity, process, and support. Use these to fuel answers for your customers’ most common questions or issues. They can serve as excellent inspiration for content topics.

Not sure how to identify your most important pain points? Here are some ways to unearth the root problems your customers face.

  • Conduct qualitative research to focus on individualized responses to open-ended questions
  • Read reviews that indicate common themes and problems amongst customers
  • Ask your sales and support teams what problems they commonly hear about

When we take on any project, one of the first things we do is ask our clients “What are your customers most common questions and concerns?”

From here, we push for a customer-first approach in a content marketing strategy that addresses these problems and provides meaningful answers.

Create Highly Specific Content for Buyer’s Journey Phases  

Image Source: Copper CRM

Every time a new customer encounters your brand, they go through a defined “buyer’s journey” that begins with awareness – and hopefully ends in a positive decision. As a marketer, it’s your job to engage with this journey and propel customers to the desired end result.

Although the four-stage buyer’s journey can be applied to pretty much any industry or business, it’s up to you to create a journey map that’s specific to your brand.

  • Where are people confused or concerned?
  • What’s the weakest point in your buyer’s journey?

The more you can pinpoint the problems and friction in the journey, the easier it is to provide the answers that people need to move on to the next phase.

If you’re taking on a customer-first approach to content marketing, it’s vital that you understand how the buyer’s journey plays a role in your customer’s decisions – as well as the content you provide. All of our efforts around digital marketing in San Diego take the buyer’s journey into account, and yours should, too.

Cover the Four Basic Phases  

Each stage of the buyer’s journey requires different information – and therefore, different content. Let’s take a look at how you can reach every kind of buyer in each stage with content marketing.

Content That Promotes Awareness

First things first: you have to get your prospect’s attention.

If a customer isn’t aware of your brand or what it has to offer, the buyer’s journey will never begin. That’s why your awareness content needs to revolve around research that clearly spells out the problem, then educates them on the solution.

This is where a compelling brand story comes into play. Think of brands like Patagonia. They educate people on the problems facing the environment, then position themselves as a company taking action to preserve nature’s beauty:

Source: Patagonia

The goal here is to show the world that you’re more than just a business. You need to showcase your values and dedication to your mission.

Content for Those Considering Your Services or Products

In this stage, you’re targeting customers who already know what your brand is – but don’t understand everything about it. Your goal is to provide them with all the information they need to fully appreciate your company’s methods. Your goal in this stage is to help customers recognize your brand – as well as understand how it stands out against the competition.

Image Source: Apple

This is when blog posts that compare different products can be powerful, as well as “why choose us” posts and explanations about your USP. The idea is to help your customers move toward the next stage in which they actually complete a purchase.

Additionally, you use this stage to learn more about the customer and what it will take to get them to buy a product.

  • What’s their budget?
  • What’s their role?
  • What are they looking for beyond the basics?

Content to Spur Consumers to Make a Purchase

During the final stage, your ultimate goal is to push that customer to the end of their journey and ultimately a completed sale with your company. To do this, you need to convince customers that:

  • Your brand is better than the alternatives they’re considering.
  • Your offerings meet their desires and needs.
  • Your products/services are affordable and worth trying.
  • Your product/service will exceed their expectations as soon as they make the purchase.

Image Source: Amazon Prime

This is when many discount ads, loyalty programs, free trials, calls-to-action, and other kinds of incentivized content come into effect. This content can push a buyer from the second stage of their journey into the third stage, finalizing the purchase.

If you’ve mapped appropriately, this part of the buyer’s journey should flow naturally and compel the customer to take that final step.

Content to Retain the Customers You Already Have

By the fourth stage of the buyer’s journey, you’ve snagged a customer.

However, your work isn’t done – the goal is to retain them for the long-term. Maybe they just bought one product or they are participating in a free trial. Now’s the time to seal the deal and create a lifelong customer.

Image Source: Adobe Email

There are many types of content that can fit in this stage, from educational follow-up emails to repeat customer discount announcements or new feature shares. Your goal is to show customers that you have more to offer and that their loyalty will be rewarded.

In Conclusion

As NGDATA so perfectly stated, “Businesses that take a customer-centric approach do more than say they put their customers first; they make it a priority to provide an exceptional customer experience at the point of sale and after the sale to increase profits and gain a competitive edge.”

These content marketing strategies will give you a leg up on your competitors and convince customers that you have their best interests at heart. Be transparent, answer their questions, and soothe their concerns as you hold their hand through the buying process.

About Kevin

Kevin Svec is the Chief Content Strategiest at E2M Solutions Inc. In addition to hosting the San Diego AMA's radio show, This Week in Marketing, Kevin runs his town travel blog. Check out his post on SEO Tips for Travel Bloggers!