By John Lane published July 1, 2013

Content Marketing Strategies Based on Customer Context: 3 Examples

arrivals and departures-content marketingRecently, I’ve been thinking that airports serve as an interesting parallel to content marketing. All airports serve one main purpose, they all have similar amenities, and the flow from entry to exit is more or less standard. Yet, modern airports have also been designed to give off a particular vibe. Visiting Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport — with its spartan décor (which is contrasted by plenty of slot machines) — is a far different experience than traveling through Austin-Bergstrom — where live music and the smell of Salt Lick Bar-B-Que entices. Like content, airports attempt to create a unique experience for audiences for a period of time, knowing they will only stay there as long as they have to.

But airports have one primary focus that content marketers can take a lesson from. They all put two goals front and center: Providing information on where customers are coming from, and providing information on where they are headed. It’s this concept of arrivals and departures that many content marketing strategies often overlook. 

It relates perfectly to two phrases I believe we will all hear a lot in the near future: “The Moment of Need” and “The Next-Most-Likely Action.” These phrases are about establishing context. In essence, they are the arrivals and departures of a content marketing strategy.

Arrivals: The moment of need 

Most marketers are using buyer personas these days; they allow us to craft content to be positioned correctly with the right message in the preferred media of our audience. But I find personas are often lacking information about the myriad points in time that people may be looking for your content. Or rather, the point at which they’re asking the question (searching) that your content may answer (results). It’s as much about understanding the best device and channel as it is the best message. It’s why experience maps are just as important as the persona.

Departures: The next-most-likely action 

By the same accord, particular personas may still pass by the perfect content for their needs if it isn’t primed for their place in the buyer’s journey. It’s only by understanding this critical usage factor that we can provide the right call-to-action to accompany each piece of content we create. Interestingly, that could mean multiple versions of the same content that uses different CTAs, all primed to be found, not just by the right person, but also at the ideal moment.

To illustrate these points, take a look at three types of content that was created to meet Lowe’s Home Improvement’s content goals (full disclosure: Lowe’s is a client of my agency, Centerline Digital, which led the first two campaigns below): 

1. The how-to video series 

The moment of need: A customer is exploring the idea of starting a tiling project. 

The potential media and message: The Shop Class series — a video series that goes through the detailed steps of tiling. It starts with a short video that gives an overview of the entire project and then includes several step-by-step videos. These are hosted on YouTube and embedded on a dedicated project page on the Lowe’s site. They can be found by Google search (i.e., “how to tile a backsplash”), and were featured on the Lowe’s online tile page. 

The next-most-likely action: The tiling customer would make a list of needed supplies and start shopping… perhaps online? 

The ideal call-to-action or offer: A link, a coupon, or both.

But, what if the customer already bought her materials and has run into problems during the project? How does that change her moment of need? The content? The next-most-likely action? That content strategy path would probably be something like this: 

The moment of need: A customer is in the middle of “step one” of a tiling project and has hit a snag.

The potential media and message: Customer service content, such as a providing a link (or QR Code) on the packaging, or instructions that lead to a landing page with the same videos as mentioned above. 

The next-most-likely action: The customer looks for more detailed information, or a specific tool she needs to complete the project.

The ideal call-to-action or offer: A landing page that features a “chat with an expert” button; or a direct link to a website page where that tool can be found.

In other words, brand awareness and enforcement and customer service goals can both be achieved through a singular content effort, simply by switching the targeted CTA and distribution medium to one that is most appropriate for each goal.

2. The product demo interactive kiosk 

The moment of need: The customer visits the hardware store, searching for new faucets for that bathroom she’s tiling. 

The potential media and message: An interactive end-cap display — featuring videos, images, etc. — is placed in the aisle near your products. The information there allows shoppers to compare types of tile, view best-use applications, and receive installation tips. 

The next-most-likely action: The customer can make a quick decision based on the look, price, and ease of use of your product. 

The ideal call-to-action or offer: Provide directions to guide selection of the right tile, and/or an offer on select styles or brands. You could also offer the ability for the customer to get a printout of her chosen model, its cost, and where it can be found in the store.

Lowe's display-content marketing strategies

3. Self-serve tips 

The moment of need: In a pinch, the customer is trying to get a stripped screw removed from old backer board so that her tiling job can keep moving forward. 

The potential media and message: A short video (or infographic, or image), like the Lowe’s Vine videos, that offers instruction on how to remove a stripped screw. It should be created in a way that’s easy to absorb, and ideally, it should be optimized for mobile (as that’s what the weekend craftsman will have in her pocket). 

The next-most-likely action: The customer can get back to work without wasting any more time. 

The ideal call-to-action or offer: Nothing. Well, close to nothing. Just the simple option to “like,” follow, or share the video with others, and the ability to bookmark the content for future reference, if needed.

So as you’re thinking through your content marketing strategy, don’t just think about how people will perceive or engage with each different piece of content in a silo. Be aware of where they are coming from — their moment of need — and where they are going — their next-most-likely-action. If you do, you will deliver more appropriate content more often. And the efficacy of your content will skyrocket.

Want to learn and share info about content strategy? Join Joe Pulizzi and Content Marketing World speaker Michael Brenner for a Twitter Chat about content strategy on July 2 at 12 PM EST.  Follow the conversation @CMIContent and #cmworld.

Author: John Lane

Watching TV as a kid, I used to run to the bathroom during the shows so I could make it back for the commercials. Today, as Vice President of Strategy & Creative for Centerline Digital, I craft content strategy that helps clients like IBM, GE, and ChannelAdvisor engage their target audiences. You can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn (among other social channels).

Other posts by John Lane

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    Nice article…..This blog will helpful to all the visitors,
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  • ABLE Digital Group

    Great Posting John and since I spend a lot of time in airports, the analogy is “Spot On”. My Secondary School English teacher always reinforced the need to support a viewpoint with an example, and the Lowe’s Case Scenarios activated some triggers of Ideation…Tx

    • johnvlane

      Thanks for saying so. As a practitioner first and teacher (hopefully!) second, I think it’s important to have a good example to prove every point as well. It helps others learn and apply.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Arindam Dutta

    Content marketing is likely to search all purpose rather than just getting or driving
    traffic. Content marketing will help us build brand and boost conversion rate.
    Guest blogging helps not only build links but more importantly build
    relationships with other bloggers, reach your target audience more effectively
    and of course gain traffic.sscsworld.com

    • johnvlane

      Yes, when done well Content Marketing can become a powerful, perpetual motion machine that drives awareness, brand (personality), lead generation and sales. And guest blogging can be a big part. Thanks for adding that thought to the thread.

  • Johanna

    Timing, as they say, is everything…. one of the best articles I’ve read on content marketing

    • johnvlane

      Thank you so much for saying so, Johanna!

  • Bill Roberts

    i really like the stripped screw example where the user need a quick tip/fix on mobile, would value any live examples of great contextual content marketing folks can share

  • Lakshan

    Well written, John. The examples do really convey the information much better. Context, though, is important not only to content but also other marketing tactics. Incidentally, I was reading another article which mentioned how critical context has become to marketing programs http://bit.ly/1hntDD0
    Explaining it like you have, however, was refreshing and insightful.