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Q&A: Carlos Hidalgo on using content for a human customer experience

Carlos Hidalgo explains how content marketing can provide a more human customer experience.

By now, most B2B marketers understand the importance crafting a good experience at every level of the organisation. Here’s how to use content marketing to forge a more human customer experience.

Right now, the word on every marketer’s lips (and hastily added to their LinkedIn bios) seems to be customer experience.

The recent focus on customer experience is emblematic of a wider shift in power towards customers, according to Carlos Hidalgo, founder and CEO of VisumCx, a customer experience strategy firm.

“Twenty-plus years ago, before the prevalence of the internet, the vendor by-and-large controlled the sales process and how far behind the curtain the customer could see. Today though, I’m in control as a customer or as a B2B buyer,” Hidalgo says.

“We have the ability to network with people we’ve never met over social media and understand what other vendors are doing. We have the ability to do research on our own about products, trends and directions.”

This power shift’ means that an audience-first approach is more important than ever.

“Take the time to go out and get granular in understanding who your customers are, what roles they play when engaging with your brand, how they’re using your product or service, how they’re engaging throughout the full customer arc, and then figure out what’s happening in that industry that may impact them,” Hidalgo advises.

“If I can understand those types of things and continue that constant loop of knowledge, it will transform the way I develop content to engage with customers across the full arc of their journey.”

We caught up with Carlos to chat about how to craft content that improves customer experience.

Mahlab How does content marketing fit into the wider customer experience?

Carlos Hidalgo Think about how much we do our own investigation and research in buying online and digitally – you have to create a connection. Content helps you create a connection with the buyer or with a customer.

M You’ve mentioned that you don’t want a sales person contacting just because you downloaded a white paper. When is it okay to push a marketing qualified lead to sales?

CH Part of what companies have traditionally done with their  content, especially when it comes to demand generation, is assigned a  score by asset type. We say every case study gets 25 points, every white paper gets 40 points.

Rather than that, take the time to document the buyer’s journey. What I should be doing is scoring my content based on its place in the purchase path. So if a customer downloads a white paper in the late stage of purchase journey that should get more weight than if they download on their first interaction.

We have to understand that not every interaction should be called. I was doing research for a client on one of their competitors yesterday and in the span of 24 hours I received six emails and two phone calls from the vendor. All I did was fill out one form.

They had no idea where I was in my buying process. The reality is I’m not in a buying process, and if they took the time to do it right and understand who I am and what my company is I would never have been called. I should have been sent another piece of content aligned to my journey to help me continue to make a more informed decision.

M What happens after conversion?

CH Well that’s where the money is. Everybody wants to talk about before conversion because acquiring new logos via demand generation is sexy. But if you look at what Forbes says, 90 per cent of customer value occurs after the initial sale.

What I see a lot of times is someone becomes a customer and then the next time they hear from a company is when it’s time to renew. How does that work? What marketers should be doing is welcoming and telling these customers how glad you are that they chose you and how glad you are that they are your customer. And tell them what it means now to be a customer, what they can expect. You ought to make sure that throughout the entire process of onboarding you’re setting expectations on what customers can expect from the company during this process, sometimes through content.

M How can content marketers be sure that what they’re doing adds to the customer experience?

CH I think content marketers really have to get to know their customers. In B2B we have this idea that we sell to accounts or to prospects. Well, the reality is we sell to people. People feel, they emote. We have bad days, we have good days. We have things that happen in our personal lives that impact our business. We have spilt coffee on our trousers on the way to work which puts us in a bad mood when we walk in the door. These are all things that we encounter but yet somehow when it comes to B2B we seem to miss out on the human element.

My colleague Brian Carroll talks about empathetic marketing. If I can empathise with a customer that content resonates. You’re probably going to have an opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with them further down the road.

M Do you think that marketers at the moment are mostly succeeding in communicating with their customers like they’re another human?

CH I think by-and-large there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. That’s not to say that all content marketing is garbage but if you look at the reports that come out of the Content Marketing Institute, year after year the trend has been that content effectiveness, as rated by content marketers, is declining. There’s a thought process out there that we have to become content factories. Well I don’t believe that. I think we have to connect with our buyers through our content.

I think there is some good content out there that really hits home. One of the examples I’ve written about before is Quarry, which is an agency in Toronto. They had John Deere as a client. Before they ever wrote a piece of content or created a video or created an asset they actually sent people out to spend a day in the field with farmers to understand what they do – what a day in the life of a farmer is like. I thought it was brilliant.

It’s not unlike an interpersonal relationship. The more you are around somebody – whether it’s a relative, a significant other, a best friend – the more you know what to talk about. You definitely know what not to bring up. We’re going to have to get to that same level with our customers if we’re going to be great at content marketing.

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