May 5, 2020

What is Content Experience?

Until not too long ago, the sole purpose of content was to enable technology: A mostly quantity-driven content machine has kept the wheels of our distribution channels spinning, and the hopes that more of everything will increase customer acquisition and conversion revving.

Unfortunately, these hopes aren’t always fulfilled. Content strategy and marketing that are built on a foundation of quantity aren’t always resulting in conversion, which is forcing more organizations to rethink their perception of content and how to justify continued investments in it.  We are seeing a considerable shift in the way organizations are evaluating their content efforts, what expectations they have in it and how they are using content to drive business goals. Welcome to the advent of the next phase of content strategy: Content experience (CXP).

A definition: What content experience is and what it is not

While the term “content experience” isn’t new and has been used in various contexts over the past few years, the understanding of CXP is evolving quickly. Especially in a value-based framework that positions CXP as a strategic business tool. So, what does that mean?

Consider content experience very much an elevated form of content strategy. Its primary goal is to solve the challenge of content oversaturation.

Content strategists and marketers typically execute on the business conviction that more is always more: The more content we publish, the faster we can run our distribution channels and improve our chances to deliver more people, leads and sales. However, the more we flood email, social, web, mobile, partner and paid channels with information, the more we drown the messages that truly matter. To counter this trend, we can employ content experience an extremely effective way to identify quality-based content opportunities and tackle the saturation problem through business and audience messaging alignment: Deliver the right content for the right audience at the right time.

Why experience matters – and why it is more that “just” strategy  

If you were to look closely at the roles of technology and content over the history of the mass-market Internet, it isn’t all too surprising that content has become increasingly important. From the invention in 1993 through the dotcom crash in 2001, the web was all about content quantity. With Content 2.0, the beginnings of ecommerce added conversion needs to the simple requirement of content existence. Content 3.0, fueled by the “social revolution” in the 2010s, began shifting the roles of technology and content in the evolution of our digital world: Content volume suddenly began driving technology developments.

Content 4.0, the “contextual web”, considers data as part of the content equation - and has moved content in the driver’s seat: Content is now driving the direction of technology development. Technologies such as AR, VR and AI are built on data and content - and would be unthinkable and irrelevant without them.   As astonishing as this journey has been, it isn’t exactly shocking. If we look back at the history of other media types, such as print media, radio, or the history of TV, we realize that media channels have gone through very similar phases as they matured. TV is driven entirely by content and experiences today. Technologies follow the pace of content.

As digital content grows its role, experiences will increasingly determine success and failure by allowing consumers to understand what messages to care about and which ones to ignore. Content strategy will remain critical for planning the best approach for effectively communicating your brand and product. However, CXP is what will sell your brand and product.

How to build and implement CXP and how it changes content practice requirements

CXP is built on three fundamental pillars.

Pillar 1 is content strategy in its traditional sense – as a practice that develops a data-driven master plan that a) is squarely aimed at the intersection of business needs and audience wants as well as b) accounts for enough flexibility to allow for adjustments when challenges and opportunities arise.

Pillar 2 is content marketing, which executes content strategy through tactical content planning, content production, optimization, distribution and nurturing.

Pillar 3 is content governance, or content management, which facilitates the production and publication of content by symbiotically aligning people processes and tools to become the glue that maintains a cohesive content ecosystem of strategy and tactics.

Organizations today focus very much on execution through tactics. In many cases, we don’t see a fully developed strategy in place and most organizations struggle with content governance and an understanding what content roles they need to fill, what tools they need to use and what processes to follow. The challenge organizations face is that the goal of producing and delivering the right content for the right audience at the right time requires content strategy, content marketing and content governance to be in sync. Remove one of them and your CXP chain is broken and at risk of breaking down without you knowing it.

No matter the size of an organization, CXP is moving quickly to become a strategic business tool for anyone who employs content to build brand equity and product visibility, intends to influence audience conversion behavior and drives conversion and retention as a bottom line business goal.

CXP will require many content teams to separate content strategy from content marketing and position strategists as data masters that will not only be able to identify opportunities in challenges and outperform competitors, but also to communicate these opportunities directly to business decision makers.

Content managers will see extended responsibility in developing and managing effective content staff structures, managing tools and developing processes that help content (and digital) marketers execute a content strategy. Content managers will also have to run routine content audits as well as routine analysis reports that will help strategists in their successive decision making.

What should I do?

It depends. If you’re an organization with a content operation that acquires and converts audience at record rates, don’t do anything. Obviously you content and your content team is doing great. Keep doing what you’re doing.

If you aren’t sure if your content is delivering the results it could and wonder if it could do more, start exploring your options. Read up on content strategy, marketing and experience and consider acquiring third-party advice.

If you know you’re behind, take action. Realize that content is a strategic business tool. Your business defines its role and goals.

And yes, we’d love to talk to you and chat how we can help you supercharge your content strategy.


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