Get the right content…
“If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will. They need to have audio, and possibly video. They need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond that offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print magazines.”
That quote is from Bill Gates’ “Content is King” essay, written way back in 1996.
Bill was right on. It’s the right content that makes all the difference, and content marketers have noticed. Think about content marketing strategy for a moment. Content that works amplifies and supports prospect or customer website experiences, and print media / video consumption. Marketers, who understand their content consumer’s experience better and more deeply, will create superior content, appropriately targeted to purchasing phase, mood, and expectation. It’s the right content that gets superior marketing results.
The Right Content is No Accident
Recently, I had a conversation with my colleague Chris Ross, former VP of Marketing for Burton Group and VP of Interactive Marketing for Gartner. Today, Chris runs Systym, a marketing experience design firm that is unique in the field, developing experience-based content strategies for their clients. He convinced me that creating the right content is no accident. I asked Chris about the basis of the Systym approach. He said…
We designed our [Systym] process to understand the content consumer and then develop a more relevant content strategy. At a macro level, we must understand our client’s buyer through segmentation and true persona development. Then, we build with that, walking through each persona’s experience with the products or services under discussion.
When I discuss content assignments with my clients, I use the familiar “Awareness, Exploration, Evaluation, Purchase, Loyalty, Endorsement” funnel as a basis to understand more about the content target. I asked Chris whether the Systym methodology was the platinum version of my approach. There is much more to Systym’s approach than the sales funnel, as you will soon learn.
The Systym Approach
The fundamental Systym concept is to optimize the mix of website, downloadable content, social media, and print, to maximize the sales result. Get the prospect’s experience right at the front end and turn the prospect into a buyer.
Correct sequencing and orchestration of the right content across the buying event space is critical. Sequence and timing are difficult to quantify, but necessary. One of the reasons people will be interested in Systym is that, in-house, they are doing the best job they can with the resources at hand, but are still coming up short. At each stage in the prospect-to-buyer process, Systym considers urgency of prospect need in each segment, as well as the trigger(s) that transition prospects from one purchasing stage to another. At each point, Systym evaluates potential content resources and their relative contribution to prospect conversion.
OK, so the Systym methodology is finer grained and more specific than the old sales funnel. It is a highly customized, client –specific plan as opposed to an off-the-shelf instruction book.
Systym delivers a facilitated process, not just a template. Marketing automation firms offer game plans, like Marketo’s Lean Content Marketing approach, but we will delve into “what does the content need to say” and determine whether each piece of content should be, for example, a logical argument, an emotional appeal, or credible testimony. The output is a detailed blueprint on the back-end of the Systym process.
Clearly, Chris had our Burton Group Reference Architecture lesson in mind when establishing Systym as a hands-on facilitator of their marketing experience design process. Powerful processes need leaders.
At Burton Group, we offered clients our Reference Architecture, also a prescriptive methodology for weighing alternatives and making decisions about enterprise technology concerns across a spectrum of interest, including security, privacy, identity protection, and application software development. Though the full Reference Architecture was published and available for client use, it took the hands-on efforts of our consulting professionals to make this asset come alive and deliver value for our clients.
Ready for the Right Content?
I wondered about ideal buyer for Systym’s offerings. Chris told me…
The best Systym prospect is the marketing organization that has already embraced content marketing, and now they want to do it better. If they have already bumped into the challenges that we help solve, they will understand our value proposition perfectly.
What are those challenges?
Here are four common content marketing challenges…
1 – Resource constraints – Having more demand for content than resources available to produce it
2 – ROI concerns – Wondering whether their content spend delivers a return for the business (response, engagement, etc.)
3 – Sales funnel dropouts – Struggling to sustain activity throughout the funnel, yielding buyers.
4 – Efficiency issues – Creating duplicate content with tactical efforts, yet lacking assurance that the content aligns with prospect and buyer personas.
Chris emphasized that content marketing challenges are not confined to gaining new customers…
It’s not just about acquiring. It’s about retaining customers. Marketers must understand the post-acquisition (retention) buyer persona. When someone is already a customer, a business wants to retain and enhance the relationship. Systym designs and engagement experience to support a client’s business objective for their existing customer, whether it is cross-selling, up-selling, soliciting testimonials, or driving word-of-mouth sales.
Systym Delivers Rapid Time-to-Value
Whenever I speak with prospects about consulting engagements, I always discuss the likely time-to-value from the engagement. Time-to-value means how long it will take a client to begin deriving benefits from the engagement. Of course, if recommendations become shelf-ware, the time-to-value is infinite, so I make the assumption of a motivated client, eager to turn recommendations into action. Chris said…
From the time we deliver the final output, the client may enjoy immediate benefits. For example, they might suspend creating wasteful or redundant content and free their resources to address a content gap right that Systym identified. Another example is discovering that existing content is offering logical arguments at a time in the sales funnel when an emotional input would be more effective.
Here are a few success measures Chris mentioned.
1 – Gaining clear understanding of their audience, in a crisp fashion
2 – Knowing their core buyers and prospects, and how to address their experience needs.
3 – Understanding how to build content to complement the experience, at every funnel step
4 – Having a concrete plan to put into motion, ready to deliver value
Of course, these success measures make sense for the firm that is actively doing content marketing but wants to make it more efficient and effective than it is now. Systym isn’t offering an evangelism effort. Organizations not doing content marketing now might not be good candidates for Systym.
An Exciting Niche
With the explosion of marketing automation technology and the ubiquity of advertising agencies, including digital agencies, I wondered whether Systym’s offering might overlap the offerings of other more established approaches. Chris explained…
Systym has a unique offering. The whole idea of marketing experience design is a new discipline. Why has no one done this before? At Systym, we focus on a leading edge problem that many organizations are just starting to experience. Marketing automation firms don’t deliver the facilitation and consulting Systym does, and ad agencies are interested in media buying and creating content.
Personas and experience plans will be different for each client so this isn’t cookie-cutter work. Marketers often thought about generating a response rather than constructing an experience. Except for product-based user experience, or existing customer experience, there has not been a swim upstream to the prospect’s experience. Systym sits in the seams, between agencies, marketing automation, and internal teams.
In fact, considering or adopting a marketing automation solution is complementary, and is a strong indicator that a Systym play is right. By the way, Chris has recently posted about marketing automation. Without a solid plan, marketing automation adopters won’t attain the full value of their investment, because they have not done the full job of defining the experiences they want to provide. Marketing automation costs plenty, so create the right content, and get the marketing automation value you deserve.
Organizations already working with an ad agency will find Systym to be extremely complementary. Systym is about getting the right marketing experience plan in place, not about graphic design, content authoring, website building, or other agency tasks. Systym helps agencies by building a plan, which great news for an agency or any related consultancy.
The Bottom Line
Marketing execs, managers, and other business executives all have a stake in marketing experience design. Systym’s approach is clear and straightforward, producing concrete results rather than an endless consultancy. Marketing experience design doesn’t have to be long or complex, but only as involved as it needs to be, and no more than that. If you can describe your buyer, then you have initial insight into your personas. For example, if you know you have three categories of buyer (e.g. homeowners, estate managers, and contractors), you are already on your way.
Systym engagement participants will include sales people, customer service reps, and executives who spend time visiting with customers. The combination of people from across the client organization will make the developed personas richer, and enhances detailing the buyer’s experience. For a timing perspective, your annual client meeting is a great opportunity for Systym to meet with your prospects and buyers 1:1 to gain insight.
Are you ready to learn more about Systym? Contact Chris Ross here, and see whether you qualify for a complementary content strategy briefing from the experts. Remember, a couple of hours with Chris could prove extremely revealing.
If you have your content plan in place, and want to discuss content development, contact me, and find out how Principal Consulting can make your content plan come to life.