Latest Customer-Centricity Battleground Is The Website

Websites are big investments for any organization.  Often perceived as the ‘face’ of an organization, the goals of corporate websites range from educating, selling to engaging customers or simply chest thumping on how totally awesome the company thinks it is.

Just about everyone feels they have a voice when it comes to their organization’s website – Marketing, sales, customer service, product marketing, the CEO, the Board, etc.  The focus frequently shifts from consciously defining how the website supports and enables the buyers’ journey to appeasing a committee of interests.  That’s too bad because according to KoMarketing / Huff Industrial Marketing, 37% of survey respondents indicated that they will visit a vendor website 3 – 5 times before making a purchasing decision.

The ineffectiveness of most websites is driven by digital marketing being slow to evolve their content marketing strategy to align with customer preferences.  Websites should be speaking the customers’ language and solving their problems instead of what most do which is broadcasting corporate brand messages and selling products and services by using company internal language.

Five years ago 95 percent of websites were comprised of collateral and product/service pages. Today, according to Lionbridge, that should be less than 50 percent. The other 50 to 75 percent should be storytelling, challenge/pain solving content marketing, and enabling tools and information for key moments of truth.

To dig further into the role that websites should play in customer-aligned marketing, I sat down Clint Poole, VP of Global Marketing, of Lionbridge.

Christine Crandell:  Do websites still matter?

Clint Poole: Today’s best websites serve as the backbone of a well-structured digital ecosystem whose components are meant to manage all of the desired customer/audience digital actions, from engagement to conversion.  The website itself should serve as the definitive source for educational and meaningful content that is re-distributed across multiple digital channels in the sub-formats that make it relevant to the buyers’ preferences for those channels. The website should serve as the hub.

The educate vs sell angle is a massive one. Content that educates and entertains is much more likely to be linked to compared to brand-centric or persuasive content.  Customer-valued content gets you in front of new audiences with an element of credibility and social proof that can have massive viral effect.  The above factors increase your website traffic which increases the size of your engaged audience which leads to conversions thereby increasing your opportunities and ultimately translating into increased sales and revenue.

Christine Crandell:  Where have marketers gone astray?

Clint Poole:  There is reluctance to change or at least the lag time to change.  Over the past decade marketing professionals have become entrenched internally as they became overwhelmed with the complexities of the new marketing technologies and engagement channels.  Culturally, the function has lost its focus on customer intimacy that used to be its core competency.  We continually hear from Marketing leaders that they are driving “back to the fundamentals” of marketing, which includes developing an understanding of their buyer’s needs, preferences, and perceptions of a brand.

For consumer marketers this is a challenge because their customers don’t necessarily want to have a relationship with the brand. That requires marketers to focus on analytics to drive conclusions and big data analytics have not been perfected to a point of prevision.

For B2B, marketing measurement is just getting to a point of maturity where marketers can truly measure the influence of multiple touch points across a buyers journey.  They are still looking at the overall map versus truly understanding the buyer “moments that matter” and focusing efforts on those critical interactions.

Christine Crandell:  You believe that websites should follow customer journey maps and engage in ‘educational storytelling’.  How can marketers operationalize that advice?

Clint Poole: The key is in the application of a new website strategy where the purpose is to educate and engage through content that is meaningful, relevant, and interesting to the buyer.  This requires a finite understanding of the preferences of your target audience at each stage of their customer journey and creation of content that matters at each and every moment.  It’s a matter of prioritizing which moments on the customer journey are most critical because there are too many moments to treat them all equally and buyers are too overwhelmed with messages to absorb everything.

Personalization tools are driving the tactical application of right content at the right time, but getting it right is tricky.  Personalization can be a powerful lever when real insights about your buyer’s pains are addressed through content and delivered at the right place and the right time with the help of tools that leverage digital body language and other knowledge about your visitor.

Christine Crandell:  Popular belief is that ‘content is king’ and should live in the website.  You disagree, why?

Clint Poole: We believe the complexities of buyers’ preferences require a brand to consistently distribute the same message and content via multiple channels simultaneously.  As such it can’t simply live on the website in isolation, but needs to be part of a well-designed content publication strategy that maps buyer preferences and effective formats for specific channels.  Each of the digital channels plays a specific role and those roles are maturing.

Blogs were once the posting ground for short-form content that marketing couldn’t justify publishing on a website.  Blog posts were perishable content that fueled social and was often focused on “engagement”; not on ‘more serious’ product content.  Today, most marketers realize that the main goal of all digital channels is to build relationships and trust. In response, blog content is slowly shifting in tone and length and we are seeing blogs trade quantity for quality.

Christine Crandell:   What are best practices to ‘assemble’ the right digital properties to build engaging, endearing, and enduring customer relationships?

Clint Poole: We’re in the age of the consumer which means customers expect effortless, exceptional experiences every time they interact with your brand. If they don’t get it, you risk losing more than a sale. You risk losing trust, brand loyalty, and a profitable long-term relationship.

Providing exceptional customer experiences is the new competitive differentiator. And since most buyers initially interact with companies through websites, mobile apps, and social platforms, the race is on to ensure quality experiences across those and all other customer touchpoints.

My advice is to start by getting to know your customers through persona development, buyer process/journey maps, and intelligence based on behavior. Because only when you truly understand your customers’ needs can you coordinate touchpoints to provide consistent, seamless experiences that foster enduring relationships.

Personalization is key. Today’s consumer expects the right content at the right time on the right channel—and in the right language.  Which means brands must now scale and adapt experiences to meet the needs of their various global consumers.

It is clear that website localization (including multilingual SEO, social media, marketing campaigns, and more) is a business imperative, however there is still work to be done. We saw this in our recently released State of Web Localization Survey and were surprised to see nearly 40 percent of respondents are still without a strategic approach to website localization. The cost of not localizing can be counted in lost opportunities and percentage of lost global market share.

Where do you start? With a strategy that delivers locally relevant content, consistent messaging—and exceptional customer experience on a global scale.

 

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