It's often said that every organization's second business is publishing. As they feed an increasingly content-hungry, always connected, multichannel, social audience, businesses have evolved from providing information about products and services via print advertising and a sales rep with a limited-run brochure tucked in his briefcase to static "brochureware" Web sites to multichannel smorgasbords of content consumers need before making a purchasing decision.
Research shows that consumers in the buying phase are touching organizations across three or more digital channels—the figures vary, but a 2012 study by Forrester states that this applies to approximately 33 percent of new customers. Of course, this multichannel engagement extends to the entire customer life cycle, as people research or air a problem on social media that might previously have come through a call center. Also, according to the Forrester study, existing customers are more likely to connect across multiple digital touch points.
It's not just the channels; it's also the kinds of content. Emerging marketing disciplines, such as content marketing, suggest we need to produce more content, further refine our story depending on where the customer is on the customer journey, and raise thought leadership as a part of the marketing mix. As a result, the orchestration of your message across channels is a core discipline within customer experience management (CXM) and a growing business imperative.
It is a business imperative that is first and foremost about being relevant, about delivering the right piece of content to the right person at the right point in his or her engagement with your business. And it is this need to be relevant that is fueling a content explosion.
For example, a global organization with multiple brands and products, serving customers in multiple markets with multiple languages, is probably already facing a challenge, just in terms of "brochureware" Web sites, of managing hundreds of Web sites, each with three, four, or even 50 language variants.
If we now sprinkle into the mix the need to provide each of these consumers with more information to inform their buying decisions, such as the product manual, a video, and the recommendations of other buyers, along with the requirement to be tweeted about and appear on Facebook and YouTube—your content factory is now cranking it up to full speed.
It's at this moment that you dial up the content engine room and suggest that while the content in the right language is great, it would be better to create something focused on the technical buyer, that gets them to engage during the early lead nurture stage, and that is a bit techie but not quite as techie as the 147-page manual. You know?
Oh and by the way, this content still needs to be compliant with the brand and the legal restrictions of your industry and consistent across the board. Plus you must own all the digital rights to those images.
It's probably now that you'll hear the result of the content explosion.
This content explosion needs to be fed; it needs more authors, and more authors means a democratization of the content creation process. These new authors, trained at home on social media, need accessible, easy-to-use tools and a workflow framework that will ensure they can jump right in, but still abide by those governance rules.
In addition most organizations have a latent content store tied up in other systems, such as their intranet. Or they have support systems that when pried open can be a customer engagement asset that provides the very thing customers need—for example, the answer to whether your widget works with their TV or the great experience someone just like them has had with your product.
Luckily, there are tools that can help. Most organizations are familiar with Web content management systems (CMS). These allow global companies to manage their multichannel, multidimensional communication from a single touch point, allowing each Web property or publication to be configured within a content structure that easily enables organizations to repurpose, inherit, localize, and publish fresh content.
They are often built to play nice in a heterogeneous environment too. Need something sliced and diced straight out of SharePoint, your legacy DAM system, or the customer portal? Your enterprise CMS is there to help.
Then of course you need to publish it, personalized (of course) to provide customers with a relevant experience as they click through the email campaign, to the mobile Web site, and across to liking it on your Facebook page. Your CMS has you covered.
It may be that evangelizing the value of content management systems and best practice within an enterprise might seem like old hat, but to my mind, how can you implement a contemporary CXM strategy without one?
Ian Truscott is the vice president of product marketing at SDL.