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Is content experience the evolution of content marketing?

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher April 4, 2019
Something went wrong in the content marketing factory - we overlooked what our audiences need. Barb shares what she learned from the President of Uberflip, and why we need content experiences.

Over a year ago, Randy Frisch, President, and CMO of Uberflip penned a blog that had the potential to tick off a lot of people in the content marketing world - if only it didn’t make actual sense.

In that blog, he talked about how we need to shift our focus from simply creating great content, to delivering great content experiences. The problem, Frisch said is that we spend a lot of time writing content for personas and organizing that content around the buyer’s journey, but we don’t think about how to best deliver that content. It’s too much Frisch said, to expect a content marketer to write and syndicate content.

Essentially, companies are getting really good at content marketing, but who cares? Because they aren’t getting equally good at content experiences that drive what Frisch called “profitable customer action.”

That blog turned into a book, “F#ck Content Marketing: Focus on Content Experience to Drive Demand, Revenue and Relationships.” Halfway through the book, I had the opportunity to talk with Frisch (I finished the book shortly after).

From content marketing to content experience

The reality is that writing content and placing content within context to our audience are two very different things,” Frisch said. It’s the content experience part of content marketing that is ignored. Frisch said there is a similar problem with account-based marketing. The focus is on tiering accounts and picking the right ones to work on. He said we start at the beginning of the process, hiring resources and implementing technology for that phase and we create content, but we don’t move beyond that.

Context experience is the evolution of content marketing; the next logical step in the investment of content. Frisch wrote his book to make companies and people understand that there isn’t much point in doing content marketing and going through all the effort to create great content if we don’t focus on the experience.

The following chart helps to prove Frisch’s case. According to CMI research, content marketers have increased spending on content creation by 56% in the last 12 months, their biggest spend. The only reference to distribution is in paid content.


Source: 2019 B2B Content Marketing Research

 The same research shows that only 39% have a documented content strategy to reference (another 39% say they have a content marketing strategy; it’s just not documented). I would suggest that this lack of clearly defined and documented strategy is a big challenge for those wanting to create quality experiences that leverage that content. However, if you look at the benefits of a documented content marketing strategy, there’s very little that talks about delivering content effectively.

content marketing investments

Source: 2019 B2B Content Marketing Research

Which makes you start to think Frisch has a very good point - companies are missing the point of content marketing.

Publishing content to the website isn’t the end goal

When I mentioned this lack of documented content marketing strategy, Frisch pointed out many consider publishing simply putting content on the website.

In the book, he references a SiriusDecisions study that states that 60-70% of content is not being used and he explained that doesn’t mean it isn’t up on the website, because it probably is published somewhere. But it’s crazy for marketers to think that consumers will go searching through your website to find the information they need when they don’t look past the first page of Google search results (sometimes I don’t look past the first four results!). Plus, I’ll add that many brand websites don’t provide a search option, leaving a consumer to page through content - blogs or resources section - with no good way of finding information.

Frisch offers a job description for a content experience manager; a new role marketing should either bring in or raise from within the existing team. It’s a cross between a writer and a demand generation marketer who plots where content will go. He gave the example of email marketing - we all know how to think about creating a nurture stream and sequencing emails, but we don’t think about that with content.

A content experience manager is someone who understands the content and what appeals to different audiences and can map out the flow of that content. It’s not a new concept, Frisch said, but it is new for content marketing.

It’s time to focus on the content experience. If you need help figuring out how to do that, Frisch provides a content experience framework.

The content experience framework

content experience framework

Source: Uberflip content experience framework

Frisch walks through the complete framework in his book, and you can learn about it on Uberflip’s website as well. In the book, he talks about the framework in the context of four marketing strategies: inbound, demand generation, ABM and sales enablement. He told me these are just the most current marketing strategies, but the framework is adaptive and can support any new strategies that will come along.

The framework is the same regardless of which strategy is employed, but there would be some differences, for example in personalization and the type of targeting.

The first two steps of the framework are things many organizations don’t currently do - track and inventory their content, but for any marketing strategy to truly deliver on a content experience, they need to be done and maintained on an ongoing basis.  The most unique parts, Frisch said, are the personalization and distribution. He said most marketers jump directly to distributing to the same points (like the website or the blog), and they don’t adapt or personalize (instead organizing content by the format or chronological date).

Marketers should think about organizing content assets by vertical (demand gen), or a personalized stream by specific account (ABM), or specific contacts within an account (sales enablement).

Even if a visitor comes to your site organically, the idea of organizing content by format (videos, white papers, ebooks) doesn’t make sense. They aren’t looking for ebooks, they are looking for solve a problem, so organize content around key use cases or needs.

We took this approach with one of my clients - providing navigation to key challenges organizations face, with each challenge page providing deeper information around the problems and solutions, as well as the products the client sold that could help. If you look at Uberflip’s homepage, you see they do a similar thing with use cases, and if you scroll down the homepage, you see more ways to dive into specific areas you want information on.

Getting started with content experience: people, process, technology

Frisch said it starts with good people and identifying who on the team will be responsible for the content experience, either an internal person or someone you hire to take on that role.

The second step is to centralize and organize your content. It’s not fun, but it needs to be done. He said it could be as simple as using a spreadsheet. Once you’ve done this and you have great people that have a well-defined process, it is possible to personalize the experience at scale. Frisch said, when you hit a bump, then you layer in the technology.

Without technology, your ability to personalize at great scale is difficult though. The book describes the story of a company called Snowflake that created these great experiences for a set of customers by hand, but when it succeeded and the company wanted to do more, they had to implement technology to help them.

The key is that technology helps you take a process further, but it shouldn’t be the first thing you think about when you are defining the content experiences you need for your company.

My take

I liked the book. I have a ton of sticky notes with references to things I want to do. It doesn’t give you all the answers - I don’t think it’s supposed to. But the framework can help you apply a process to how you leverage all that great content you are creating. And that was my biggest takeaway - create great experiences with my content.

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