Category Archives: content marketing

Whose eDiscovery technology is at work on the Panama Papers?

The Panama Papers leak is destined to be one of the most significant news events of the year — maybe the decade.

Fundamentally, it’s a story about an enormous cache of confidential documents released by an unnamed whistleblower about the practices of one obscure Panamanian law firm that have enabled some of the world’s most powerful people to hide many trillions of dollars in wealth from taxation. An international team of journalists led by Süddeutsche Zeitung is combing through it all. Governments are highly likely to fall as a result of these revelations.

It seems very unlikely to me that the research is being done by hand. Some technology — semantic analysis tools akin to those used in eDiscovery by law firms and corporate law departments — has to be involved. There is no other way the journalists could be efficiently crawling through 11.5 million documents on over 214,000 shell companies to find the correlations needed to identify the people behind them.

My question is: Whose tools are being used? Because while this volume of data would hardly be unprecedented in the eDiscovery discipline, this would still be the nucleus of a marketing coup beyond the wildest dreams of a tech company CMO if it could be publicized.

This is an offer: I write a lot of marketing case studies for tech companies. If your eDiscovery tool is being used to comb through the Panama Papers, and you can get me access to the people I’d need to talk to in order to research it, I’ll write a case study for you, gratis. Anyone?

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An Original Tool for Content Strategists

I’ve posted a couple times about the use of “Customer Journey Mapping” to guide content strategy – or at least to devise a practical plan to decide what content to generate. I first wrote about this in the fall of 2014. Since then, I’ve seen a number of Content Marketing pundits jump on board with this concept. It’s getting to be put up or shut up time.

The premise here is that customers follow fairly regular paths toward discovering your product and buying it. They often get lost along the way, and the challenge for your marketing and sales teams is to help them find their way to your solution. Customer Experience experts describe predictable “Moments of Truth” when prospects need a specific kind of information from you. Each of those Moments represents a need to create and deploy a specific kind of content to help clear away roadblocks to a conversion opportunity.

Thus, by mapping out this “Customer Journey” for your prospects, you also get a compelling plan of attack for filling out your library of essential Content Marketing materials.

I’ve been sharing this idea for more than a year now, and generally getting a warm response. The experts in the Content Marketing field have gravitated toward this idea, and I’ve begun to see various tools and templates being offered to help corporate content strategists implement the concept.

Long story short: I’ve downloaded a number of these tools, hoping to find one that might be helpful to the sorts of people who hire me to write white papers and blog posts. I have been really unimpressed with what I’ve seen. So I made one, and I’d like you to have it.

Here it is. Click the big, ostentatious, red button buttonto download Peter Dorfman’s Customer Journey Mapping Worksheet. A lot of Content Marketing consultants would force you to fill out a lead generation form to get a wicked cool gadget like this. But that’s not how I roll. (I hate gated content. Be honest…don’t you?)

I would, however, appreciate your feedback on it. And I’d love an opportunity to help you put it to work.

The big difference between this tool and the others I’ve seen is that mine is specifically intended to guide content creation and deployment. Because it isn’t enough to have defined Customer Personas and mapped out the stages in the sales cycle. If you’re even following along in this conversation, you probably know there’s more to Journey Mapping than that.

Once you know where the Moments of Truth are for each persona along the Journey, you can generate content that will be useful right then and there. What many Journey Mapping teams forget to ask, however, is how that content is going to reach the customer when he or she needs it. The decision on what content to create has to take into account which of your many Touch Points is in the best position to expose that content to the prospect. So it’s worth spending time up front listing those Touch Points and considering when and how they interact with the customer.

For each Persona, the tool invites you to consider:

  • The unique Journey associated with that Persona (usually a different path for each customer type);
  • Your company’s Messaging at each stage along that path;
  • Which company Touch Points interact with the customer at each stage;
  • The customer’s typical state of mind at each stage (which influences the tone of your communications at that point in the Journey);
  • The Buying Authority of the person you are likely to be influencing at each point in the Journey;
  • The Objections and Roadblocks to a purchase decision, or to your solution, and your optimal responses to each of these obstacles; and
  • Stakeholders who must be won over, including those in a position to approve a deal and those in a position to oppose it.

Knowing all of these specifics, you’re in a good position to take an inventory of your marketing content, matching specific pieces to specific Moments of Truth. You also can identify obvious gaps in your arsenal of content, and schedule resources to generate new content to close those gaps. And by considering who the Touch Points are at each stage of the Journey, you can decide how best to format content and who to train on its most effective use.

As I say…I would love to help you implement this Content Strategy approach. If you like what you see here but want some additional guidance, just let me know. If you would like me to work with your team to develop its Content Plan, I’d be glad to discuss that too.

If this method helps you identify content you need to develop and you need help generating it…voila! You’ve stumbled across my ulterior motive for offering this tool. Let’s talk.

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We’re breaking away

Peter Dorfman and Peter Dorfman Creative Services have a new home.

Selling a farm in New Jersey and moving to a city in Indiana might seem a little bit counter-intuitive. But it’s a lifestyle change we’re eagerly anticipating, and we thought you might like to know about it.

Bloomington, Indiana is a hip college town, a focal point for culture and progressive thinking, in a congenial Midwestern setting. We’re excited to be adopting it as our home base.

Everything else remains the same — particularly my commitment to excellent content, timely service and professional insight.

Our office is now located at:

723 West 8th Street
Bloomington, IN 47404

You can still reach me at 908 391-5921, and pwdorfman@dorfmanwords.com.

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Partnering With Agile Marketing Teams

My years in technology adoption and implementation have led to lots of opportunities to help tech companies market what they build. But it isn’t always easy to predict what experiences will have the greatest value in a marketing context.

I have been involved at several points in my career in field implementation – most recently as a member of a series of “agile development” teams deploying enterprise software. The term “agile” describes a variety of methodologies implementers use to boost their chances of success in projects that stretch out over months or years, have lots of moving parts, and are subject to unforeseen changes and risk factors.

flyDevelopers have found that it is foolhardy to try to engineer a large-scale project from the beginning, anticipating everything that will happen to the tooling, the project team, the budget or even the business unit that commissioned the project. Agile teams embrace big objectives, but achieve them by tackling smaller projects in sequence, each delivering functionality that is a component of the Big Vision.

It occurred to me numerous times during agile development projects that this approach would map nicely to all sorts of business processes where the goals are lofty, the team members are interdependent, and lots of external factors can alter the terrain. Marketing, for instance.

Agile Marketing

Think about it. You want the dominant share of one or more carefully identified market segments. You want to seize that dominance and hold it indefinitely. That’s a big, complex, extended-term goal. On the way there, competitors, shifting customer preferences and product evolution will all converge to change not only the path to that objective but the objective itself.

At any given time, it makes the most sense not to be executing against last year’s macro strategy, but rather a continuously-refined micro strategy incorporating everything your marketing team has learned from the last several micro strategies.

In short, the agile concept makes eminently good sense for marketing, and it turns out that “Agile Marketing” is indeed a thing. In fact, it’s a big thing.

As a freelancer, I engage with marketing organizations every day, and I look for aspects of agility in client organizations. Agility makes it easier to manage a project that is a component of a larger strategy. It is always encouraging to see signs of it in a new client relationship.

An organization may signal its intention to achieve agility by adopting agile development terminology; it always remains to be seen how well the jargon matches up with the actual methodology, but it’s a “tell.”

Scrum

Teams attempting to talk the talk often draw their terminology from a specific flavor of Agile called “Scrum.” Scrum buzzwords herein will be presented in boldface (to assure the reader that I am not just making these things up for effect).

fly4Like all agile approaches, Scrum tries to reduce the risks in big, complex undertakings by being very specific and concrete about requirements, and by decomposing big objectives into bite-size chunks – tasks and time intervals in which things are done. This approach gives the team lots of opportunities to stop and reflect on how well it is meeting its objectives, what each bit of work product contributes to the Big Vision, and even whether the Big Vision still makes sense.

A Scrum team maintains a master list of tasks and objectives called the Backlog. In software development, the tasks in the Backlog are directly related to building specific, required functional components of what will be the finished application.

Translated into marketing terms, the tasks will be related to specific lead generation goals, product launches, adoption of a marketing automation system, an event, or the release of marketing collateral or a web site.

A development team works its way through the Backlog; the team has a leader, but an individual from the business side (not a developer) owns the Backlog. That person, called the Product Owner, is responsible for making sure the tasks are accomplished and keeping the team and the Backlog aligned with the Big Vision of the business.

Whatever the marketing team decides to call this role, keeping the tactical marketing folks aligned with the CMO’s strategy is crucial.

It is useless, however, to build a Backlog and assign people tasks unless the tasks are drawn from a clear set of requirements. Product designers usually spawn requirements from User Stories – brief descriptions of desired functionality, envisioned from the point of view of a user. A User Story typically is expressed something like this: “As a Business Analyst, I need to generate Weekly Report X as an Excel CSV file, pulling data from Tables M, N and Q, without closing Microsoft Dynamics, by clicking a single button, and have that report available to all PC or Android users in Engineering.”

fly5Notice that the story includes an Actor (Business Analyst), an end product (Report X), timing, and various constraints and conditions. It is not much of a stretch to imagine marketing programs and deliverables in similar terms. Note also that in Scrum, several related User Stories may comprise a larger story, cleverly called an Epic.

Sprinting to “Done”

Tasks, User Stories and the Backlog all are units of scope. Projects are, of course, constrained by budget. The third essential unit of measure is time. Scrum segments projects into short, fixed-length units called Sprints, in which carefully defined portions of functionality will be built to completion. A Sprint typically is two weeks. The team will determine what product features it can reasonably expect to build in those two weeks, and set that as the scope of the Sprint. Complete means delivered – the scope of a Sprint generally includes new functionality the team can actually put in front of the Product Owner and users, tested and working.

This definition resolves a key issue both for software developers and marketing teams: How do we know when we’re “done” with a task or a project? “Done” is relatively easy to define in software; in marketing, an eBook can be objectively finished, but it may be harder to draw a line under the project of which it is a component. Still, agile methodology has advantages over other project management tools in marketing:

  • Participants get to enjoy the satisfaction of finishing something – of “winning small” – every couple of weeks.
  • Everything is time-boxed. Tasks are not allowed to sprawl, and once the duration of a Sprint is fixed, it can’t be changed. This goes for successes as well as failures. Small failures don’t balloon into disasters.

A Sprint isn’t just two weeks on a calendar. It is structured around four kinds of events:

  • Sprint Planning – Scope definition and assignment of tasks.
  • Daily Standup – The team meets daily, usually for 15 minutes in the morning, to address status. Daily standups often prevent the need for other ad hoc meetings. Each team member is asked:
    • What they did yesterday to move the Sprint objectives along;
    • What they plan to do today; and
    • What “blockers” might keep them from meeting the day’s objectives.
  • fly6Sprint Review – At the end of each Sprint, the team meets to demo or present (among themselves) anything that it completed during the Sprint, and to go over:
    • What items for the Sprint got done, and which ones didn’t.
    • What went well, what became a problem, and how they solved those problems.
    • What Backlog items remain.
    • What is likely to come up in planning for the next Sprint.
  • Sprint Retrospective – A meeting to assess the Scrum team and ways it can improve itself.

The term “agile marketing” may be new to a lot of managers. But applying techniques like Scrum to marketing makes sense, and a great deal has been written about it. Here are a few more links:

I look forward to engaging with agile teams, either to create work product for a single Sprint or as a outsource partner with an active (open- or closed-ended) role on an agile marketing team. If agile is your inclination, or even if you’re just curious about it, let’s talk.

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Personas, Content Personalization, Big Data…and the Here and Now

I’ve checked, and yes, “Minority Report” was science fiction.

personaI frequently find myself at odds with the pundits in my field – it was a recurring theme of my years in the Knowledge Management field, and it seems to be my lot as a Content Marketing practitioner as well. I often have found the pronouncements of the personalities who present themselves as thought leaders to be unhelpfully far ahead of day-to-day reality.

I had an experience this week that vividly reinforced this impression, at an online “virtual trade show” hosted by the Content Marketing Institute. I sat in on a chat session moderated by a Content Marketing consultant who has a lot of visibility – certainly far more than I have at events like this. The subject was the use of content as a way to create good customer experiences. It was “open-mic,” so to speak, so I chimed in.

I’ve been interested for some time in the intersection between the Customer Experience (CX) discipline and Content Marketing, and the potential for the concept of “Customer Journey Mapping” to provide a useful roadmap for content strategy – or at least for the planning of what content to generate. I wrote about this last fall.

I’ve been sharing this idea fairly widely, and generally getting a warm response. Briefly summarized, the journey map will leverage a small set of “personas” – stereotypes of your typical customers, or at least an important slice of your audience, developed through analysis of a far-from-exhaustive but representative history of customer interactions.

Reasonable Consistency

The premise behind personas is that there are a finite number of well-worn paths by which people arrive at the realization that they have a need and that your product is an effective solution for it. The premise assumes that among customers who fit a given persona, people are reasonably consistent in how they approach the problem and resolve it.

In fact, there is enough consistency to allow you to draw a fairly reliable map of their process of deciding to buy your stuff – recognizing that along the way, most of them will have predictable “Moments of Truth” when they need a specific kind of information from you. Each of those Moments of Truth, given insightful analysis on your part, will reveal a need to create and deploy a specific kind of content.

Thus, by mapping out this “Customer Journey” for each of these personas, you also get a compelling plan of attack for filling out your library of essential Content Marketing materials.

As usual, participants in this week’s chat were warming to this concept – but not our moderator. His problem was with the personas.

Stereotyping customers in this way, he suggested, is outmoded – unscientific, even. It’s a shortcut, designed to make the marketer’s job easier, at the expense of precision in targeting the content. These days, he argued, marketers have access to Big Data on their prospects, and content should be tailored to individuals – not broad stereotypes. The objective should be personalized content. Personas are artifacts of the marketer’s laziness. The whole approach is outdated – “It’s lame,” he opined.

Years Ahead of Reality

I mulled this over as others in the chat started to climb on board with this idea.

“I get the point about Big Data and personalization,” I responded. “I just don’t think most companies are there yet. They don’t have the tools and their content isn’t nearly granular enough. This is one of those cases where the pundits are years ahead of field reality.”

Our host conceded this point. “Correct,” he replied. “Hardly anyone is there, which is why it’s important for us early adopters to move the needle in that direction.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m not sold.

I believe personas have years of useful life left in them, because they work, and are likely to continue to work. I have no specific data to support this, but my read is that people tend to approach a specific problem in consistent ways — not all the same way, but the variety of strategies is far from infinite. Stereotyping them sounds unfair, possibly archaic. But I believe for most marketers’ purposes, personas get close enough to reality to provide quantifiable value.

persona_bI’m as smitten as anyone with the marketing and customer relationship management possibilities in Big Data. I’m just not convinced that the buzz around data mining applies to content creation. Today, no one I know beyond the marquee Big Data pioneers (Facebook, Amazon, Google) has the capacity to generate marketing content of sufficient granularity to lend itself to individualization.

Even those companies are getting results – serving ads and offers on users’ personalized pages – that bemuse as often as they impress.  (Yes, Facebook, I’d love to retire in Italy. No, I’m not in the market for a Bugatti. Where on Earth did you get that idea?)

At any company for whom I have worked, any effort to generate content sufficiently fine-grained to take advantage of individualization would collapse under its own weight. There simply isn’t the manpower or budget to support such an effort. (As a content creator, I’d love it if there were.)

Siren Song

It’s entirely possible that our moderator was right, that the siren song of content personalization is so seductive that today’s benighted marketers will simply have to come around. I’m doubtful, and no, I don’t think it’s important for us early adopters to move the needle in that direction. Not yet, anyway.

I think for most organizations, personalization makes far more sense if we get there by putting relatively standard (but effectively crafted) content in the hands of human agents – “touch points,” in Customer Experience jargon – who are in a position to take advantage of individualized targeting when they provide that content to the customer. Because it does make sense to personalize the experience; for crafting the content itself, my money for the foreseeable future is on personas.

I welcome your feedback. Heck, I welcome your pushback. Comments?

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Meet me at LegalTech?

I’ll be browsing the exhibits at the ALM LegalTech conference in New York next week, if you care to meet up.

I’ve been around the Legal Technology market for quite a while, taking on writing projects for the attorney, corporate counsel and legal technologist audiences.

legal

I’ve done numerous legal-focused projects including:

  • Media relations counsel for Litéra, a vendor of document change management software chiefly to law firms;
  • Case studies and white papers for the Information Governance Initiative, a consortium of tool vendors in the Records Management, eDiscovery and related areas – I’ve written white papers for Active Navigation, Equivio and Nuix;
  • A customer story for Anaqua, a patent law case management tool vendor;
  • Contributions to the corporate blog for Bridgeway Software, a matter management vendor;
  • Contributions to the blog of Robert Half Legal, a leading recruiting firm for law firms and corporate law departments.

Before launching Peter Dorfman Creative Services, I was Principal Knowledge Manager, globally, for the Office of the General Counsel at Hewlett Packard for three years. I managed the Legal intranet for a department of 1,200 operating in 77 countries, and led communications and collaboration projects for the Litigation, Intellectual Property and IP Licensing, Mergers and Acquisitions, Ethics/Compliance/Privacy, Contracts and Commercial Law, Antitrust and Competition Law and other disciplines. I had a key role in the department’s Legal Process Outsourcing effort as well.

If you want to get together in New York, or if you just want to talk about how I might be able to help your content marketing program succeed, contact me directly.

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Convergence: One Year’s Meme

Peter Dorfman Creative Solutions celebrated its first birthday on December 1. It’s a good time to stop and reflect on what I’ve learned from a year as a freelance content creator.

I leverage not only my original training as a journalist but three decades of experience in marketing, implementing and writing about technology. So it’s hardly surprising that most of my content marketing initiatives have been technology-related. It is intriguing, however, to see the way disparate projects with disconnected clients tie back to a common idea, as though companies operating in distinct market segments all are inspired by the same dominant meme.

conferenceIf that’s the case, this year’s meme has been the erosion of the wall between the world of corporate Chief Information Officers and the businesses they serve. The distinction between the rationale for the business and the IT assets that enable the company to execute that strategy is disappearing, as markets, marketing channels and the products sold through those channels all become increasingly digitalized.

“It’s impossible to live in this society and not be inundated with technology,” Barry Libenson, CIO of the West Coast grocery retail chain Safeway, told me in an interview. “That’s the reality, even for a large brick-and-mortar operation like ours.”

A Seat at the Table

I spoke to Libenson in connection with an article for the magazine SupportWorld, published by the customer support professional organization HDI (“Come Together: Business and IT Executives See Their Roads Converging,”November/December 2014). He was describing the preoccupation with the digitalization of virtually every important business process. People of a certain age remember when enterprises could be run by executives who never touched computer keyboards and had admins filter and print out their emails. Such a thing is inconceivable now. For a CIO like Libenson, the result has been that he now has a seat at the table where business strategy is developed, and technology is no longer just an enabling tool but is a core part of that strategy.

My background in IT Service Management (ITIL) and my nodding acquaintance with the software development discipline have led to a series of content projects related to this convergence recently: White papers and two eBooks focused on Agile or Lean development strategies intended speed up the process by which pragmatic business challenges are translated to enterprise software.

Developers have argued for decades that the traditional process by which software is designed, built, tested and deployed is too slow and too disconnected from the needs of the business to be practical. Now, agile development methods by which software is rolled out in small, rapidly developed increments are ubiquitous. It would be unthinkable to develop new mobile apps by anything other than agile methodologies with constant feedback from the business. This is not a fad; it’s simply that these software tools are essential competitive weapons, and that change in competitive markets is so rapid today that there is no way conventional development methods could keep up.

More to the point, however, it is no longer feasible for the business to call a meeting with IT, draw up a set of requirements, and tell the developers to come back in six months with a finished application, expecting it to reflect an understanding of the original business problem. The new reality is that Marketing, Finance, Operations and other business functions must adopt technology developers as trusted partners, invest in bringing the techies up to speed on what the business actually does for a living, and allocate business people’s time to development projects as fully involved product “owners.”

Esoteric But Practical Concerns

Business people also must develop an appreciation for some seemingly esoteric factors that can impact the timing – indeed, the feasibility – of critical development projects. A series of writing projects for Nlyte Software provided an object lesson with respect to the data centers that serve the infrastructure needs of enterprises.

The data center is a huge black box to most line of business executives. They think of it as a remote installation stuffed with expensive hardware that houses their applications. Beyond that, the executives rarely give the data center a thought until some capacity issue becomes a reason why they can’t have some IT enhancement, or can’t get it in the current fiscal quarter. Nlyte markets software that provides advance warning when data center resource issues have the potential to become bottlenecks for business system enhancements.

While IT people are the immediate consumers of the data Nlyte’s tools produce, business people need to develop an appreciation for processes like Configuration Management and Change Management, so that they at least know enough to anticipate that issues like data center capacity could get in the way of a critical business initiative.

The convergence of the business and technology currents in enterprises is a halting, imperfect process. But it is irreversible and it is not just driven by millennials – it is captivating executives at the peak of their experience and their command of enterprise strategy. It seems likely to be an important continuing theme in 2015 content projects.

Is mission convergence a theme behind the products or services you sell into enterprises? Contact Peter Dorfman for help articulating that point to technical and business audiences.

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Follow my pinboard (Sorry, no recipes)

pinterestIf I were in the business of crocheting stories, dancing case studies or baking white papers — or if I was more deeply involved in video production — odds are it would have occurred to me sooner to set up a pinboard on Pinterest. I don’t mean to belittle what actually is a very intriguing medium for visually oriented content. I’m just a word guy, and I have a writer’s biases.

Anyway, it’s arrived: Peter Dorfman Creative Services is now on Pinterest. I plan to use it as a place to share links to my work as it appears on clients’ sites, as well as my own posts and articles on content marketing, writing, social media, knowledge management, and life in general. Once I get some experience with it, I’ll have thoughts on the use of Pinterest by professional services firms.

Do follow me there.

Incidentally, “no recipes” is just an assumption I’m making today about the way I will use this pinboard — or future pinboards. Before long I might be singing a different tune.

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I’m on Google+. Just because.

gplusI’m regularly reminded by the pundits in the social media game that Google+ is an essential place for brands to be seen — including my own. I don’t mean to be unkind, but I’m still waiting to be convinced.

Nevertheless, I maintain an active presence there, and have just started a Group, called Content Directors. It’s an invitation only group that is intended for people who are responsible for Content Marketing programs for their organizations — operating companies, not-for-profits and government agencies. If you’re accountable for your organization’s content, the group is for you to network with your peers who share this responsibility.

Do join it, if the shoe fits.

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From Customer Journey Map to Content Strategy

One of the most disorienting questions I get as a proponent of Content Marketing is this: “How do we know when we have the content we need?”

Why this question is disorienting should be obvious enough after a moment’s reflection, but it’s one I get fairly regularly. One might expect eventually to be “finished” creating marketing content if markets, products, buyer behavior, competitors, media, technology, social context or anything else that touches a business every day ever stopped evolving.

But of course, none of those things is ever static. There will always another question to answer, another objection to handle, another upheaval along the complicated road your customer travels before adopting your product.

The question beneath the question really is a rational one, however. The marketer really is looking for a way to prioritize, and to find a sense of equilibrium. He or she is reJourney Mapally saying, “Look, we recognize that Content Marketing is a big commitment, and we just need a way to measure progress, and to know that there’s a ‘right’ way to do this.”

Actually, there is a way. Odds are that the organization’s marketing team already has a rather detailed roadmap that can give a discerning content marketer a clear and explicit picture of what content is needed to meet the company’s revenue objectives. It’s called the Customer Journey Map (or perhaps the Customer Experience Map).

The term “Customer Journey” has been gaining popularity over the last decade, as a way to capture the insight that your customer’s relationship with whatever it is that you sell is rarely love at first sight. This is especially true if your product is conceptual, digital, connected to the Web, or if it costs more than $100 or has more than half a dozen moving parts.

Your buyer travels a long and winding road to adoption, from recognition of a problem that needs solving (or simply an itch to own a widget like yours) to researching a solution, discovering that sticky1your product exists, sizing up its attributes, overcoming doubt, calming the naysayers who may have a stake in the decision, securing the funds, and ultimately getting to “Yes.”

Actually, from your perspective, the individual who buys your product still has a lengthy journey ahead. You’re looking for relationships that generate recurring revenue – follow-on sales, maintenance fees, upgrades, repeat purchases and the like. So the journey extends through the post-sale support phase as well.

It Probably Looks…Like a Map

sticky7It is likely that the Product Marketing or Product Management function took the lead in developing this map, as a way of understanding and gaining control over the customer experience. In flat organizations, Customer Journey Mapping may draw in quite senior executives, and probably involved direct input from customers as well. The product of this intensive introspection may take a variety of forms, including something that looks, quite literally, like a map. It may have features that remind you of a game.

I’ll provide some links below to articles that explain the Journey Mapping process in depth – it’s out of scope for this post. For now, I’ll note simply that it includes an effort to understand the buyers of your products as character stereotypes, called personas. It is useful to scope the exercise by limiting these personas to a small set, and classifying them by various demographic and psychographic characteristics.

sticky3The customer personas become characters in the linear narrative that plays out across your map, which is designed to capture the complex series of milestones each individual reaches on the way to becoming your customer. The traveler will experience an array of emotions along the way; sales people typically talk about “pain points,” and certainly discomfort gives rise to need. You hope to create elation at the discovery of your solution, but commitment to it will be punctuated by moments of skepticism, conflict and fear of making an expensive error, all of which must be anticipated and dealt with.

The Journey Map charts these emotional ups and downs, associating them with events in the sales cycle – some of which you can control and some you can’t. Also clearly visible on the map are your organization’s “touch points” – the actors on your side who interact with the customer and influence his or her decision. Over a sales cycle that may be months or even years long, there may be a number of touch points: Your advertising, your trade show staff, industry analysts or current reference customers of yours who know your product’s strengths and weaknesses, your inbound marketing team and inside sales force, the people who manage your social media presence, account executives, and eventually (you hope) post-sales support staff.

Moments of Truth

sticky5The Journey Map gives you a tool to understand what happens at each moment and each touch point, typically including certain “Moments of Truth” at which the buyer (and other stakeholders in the purchase decision, including supporters and potential naysayers) face complex and potentially make-or-break decisions. Having the map allows your product management and sales organizations to analyze how their touch points handle each of these predictable moments, to provide the best possible customer experience within the available budget, and maximize the likelihood of closing sales.

What does this war room exercise have to do with your role in content marketing?

Let’s return to the original question: What content do we need? Now think about what you can learn from the map. Over the time sequence that it represents, you can clearly see the points when and where the customer is going to lose her way and grasp for expert help. No doubt, you already know that content marketing includes the development of materials that help potential buyers to recognize the problem your product was designed to solve, understand the range of possible solutions available, and frame your offering in the best possible position among competing alternatives. But there are other times and places in the Customer Journey where your touch points have opportunities to influence the buyer’s decision-making.

sticky2At every moment of contact between the buyer and your touch points, there is an occasion to discover and list the issues and questions with which the buyer is grappling. Usually, the map will literally list those questions (sometimes in a table in a document, sometimes on a color-coded sticky note on a wall – there are many mapping techniques and styles).

Voila! Each question, at each point of contact on the map, is a clear indication that some type of content would be a valuable asset. Is there a complex technical issue the buyer will have to resolve for a stakeholder in her engineering department to get the OK to proceed? That’s a clear indication for a technical white paper or video – not only do you know it would have value, but you also know when in the sales cycle to introduce it, and through what touch points.

Is this the point where a buyer of this persona is experiencing uncertainty because of inevitable competitive noise? Now is the time to introduce a customer case study telling a success story involving a similar buyer with a related problem for which your product was the solution – or a reprint of an analyst report with your product in the “leader’s quadrant” for its category.

sticky6Many companies have undergone a Customer Experience or Customer Journey Mapping process and, ideally, are continuously updating and revising their maps. It doesn’t automatically follow that your content marketing team participated; you may not even know your company has such a map. It’s worth your while to find out. The place to look first is in Product Marketing or Product Management.

What you want from the custodians of the Journey Map is the opportunity to use it to build a catalog of must-have content. Bear in mind that some elements of your content inventory will be relatively durable – white papers, testimonial videos, case studies and certain kinds of infographics. Some of the needs you discover will be relatively ephemeral. Most of your social media elements will have this character – not a document to be written, but a series of posts in a blog or in social networks, each of which has a rhetorical lifespan measured in weeks, days, even hours in the case of a tweet.

The Journey Map will give you indications not only of what you should be building, but when it will be needed, by whom, for which buyer personas.

You also want to establish a relationship with the product team that brings content marketing into an active role in the process of updating, clarifying and enriching the map going forward. If your company’s Journey Map now lists the questions that arise at each point in the journey, it also should list the content you have or will generate to answer those questions.

Here are some resources to bring you up to speed on Journey Mapping, if you haven’t been involved before:

A search will turn up dozens of other resources on Journey Mapping.

If your organization has never undergone a Journey Mapping process, Peter Dorfman Creative Services can facilitate a discussion to get that effort rolling. For more information on planning a Journey Mapping Workshop, contact Peter Dorfman.

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