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Content, Context, & Chaos – Have You Ever Been Experienced?

experience2“Are you experienced?  Have you ever been experienced? Well I have.”
Jimi Hendrix

Have you heard? Customers are more empowered now, and we have to be really good at engaging them across a lot of digital channels. Okay, this is the part where I insert some insane growth numbers about mobile, social or how much the buying decision is now affected by content:

  • 90% of all mobile searches result in something
  • By next year mobile internet usage will overtake desktop usage
  • It takes 90 minutes for people to respond to email, but only 90 seconds to respond to a text message.

Are they all true? It doesn’t matter. Because even if they’re not true – they feel true. But without context or meaning – they are just yet another set of data that makes us marketers feel like we’re ever more behind in dealing with the chaotic disruption called digital content and marketing.   

So, whew… can we skip this part? We know it’s important.

It might seem counter intuitive, but even in 2013 digital marketing and customer-centric content strategies still make up less than 15% of the enterprise marketing effort  (irony duly noted for every stat that appears from this point forward.)

So what’s the hold up?

Well, our experience at Digital Clarity Group is that this is not naiveté, or reticence to change from the CMO’s perspective. It certainly is more of a grassroots effort, being primarily driven by rank and file practitioners. But the challenge is not forcing old, stodgy C-Level executives to button up their cravats, down their snifter of brandy Don Draper style, and “get with the times. Rather, it’s precisely the change itself, coinciding with the last five years of economic uncertainty, a “do more with less” environment, and the speed of the disruption that has CMO’s back on their heels as they look to fundamentally change their operating model.

As a vice president of marketing of a Fortune 500 technology company recently told me: “We are now 100% focused on content and experience ideas that blend paid, earned, and owned channels. Our biggest challenge is not in figuring out where to place ads, it’s in how we stay relevant and engaging in such a fragmented and changing environment.

Content, Context & Chaos – 3 Ideas For An Operating Model

I’m so very pleased to be speaking at SDL’s Innovate Conference in a couple of weeks, where I’m going to outline these ideas in a little more depth. My talk (which has roughly the same title as this post) is a new one for me – so I’m doubly excited to give it. I’m also pleased to announce that this talk will coincide with the release of my new DCG Insight Paper called Content, Context, & Chaos: How Marketing Must Change to Deliver Customer-Centric Systems Of Engagement.

1. De-Silo The Content Process              

Today, many marketing organizations are siloed, even within themselves. The Social Team isn’t speaking to the Demand-Gen Team, and the Web Content Team is completely separate from the Sales Enablement Team who think the Social Team are a bunch of entitled idiots, and on and on. And while this is an operational challenge to be sure, there are almost always instances of grassroots innovation and experimental creativity where these silos are creating valuable, relevant digital content experiences.

Thus while the business may be yet unsuccessful at creating holistic “systems of engagement,” they have been able to create “pockets of engagement” through new and creative experimentation.  So, efforts to de-silo the content process are uncovering valuable and unique methods for connecting and scaling these “pockets of customer engagement” into systemic, scalable processes.

2. Focus On Contextually Rich Content & Experiences

As CMO’s take advantage of integrating and connecting content as a more unifying force, context is become the overriding focus to drive more optimal experiences. Any process that helps the marketer deliver more contextually relevant content to the consumer is valuable.

CMO’s still struggle with developing an organization that understands today’s empowered consumer.  At least 80% of CMO’s are still solely depending on “market research and competitive benchmarking” to make strategic decisions. Solely using data in aggregate doesn’t provide the deeper insight into individual consumer needs. And, in most cases, it renders any technology deployed to optimize experiences and content as ineffective at best.

CMO’s must deploy the balance of enabling their teams to do the human work of understanding and developing contextual audience personas and utilizing technology to help optimize their experience. In short:  Technology optimizes the EXPERIENCE. Understanding personas helps marketers to create and optimize CONTENT.

3. Embrace The Chaos Of Change

It is the engagement that’s important. The systems can come with time.  Today, most marketers still use customer experience data as “proof points” to show how more transactions were created instead of as a source of insight into generating higher quality attention, deeper interest, engagement, and creating a more passionate brand evangelist.

In order to fully move beyond this, the CMO must make physical and virtual space for creative ideas to be shaped and shared. It requires a repeatable operating model, but also one that allows for chaotic and disruptive change to be an integral part of it.

The more the marketer focuses on embracing chaotic change, connecting ad hoc content processes, and focusing team members on delivering creative relevant context, the more the group will begin to deliver on the promise of systems of engagement.  There is no possible way for the CMO to know what changes will be just beyond the horizon.  But by embracing a method by which change, rather than scale, becomes the new core to the operative strategy – the CMO will be able to adapt and succeed much more quickly.

I hope you’ll check back in a couple of weeks when the insight paper is released.  It goes into more detail on these three ideas, and offers up a model on how to approach different types of context using both human and data collection techniques.

We’ve seen content, and the facile management of it across multiple channels become a centralizing force that transforms the marketing department from collateral creator to instrumental strategic leader.

When the CMO and the marketing group is charged with acting as centralized actuary, cheerleader, facilitator and ultimately owner/author of the totality of branded content, it’s both much easier to not only make the customer experience promise, it’s easier to keep it.


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