@ChristiJOlson, https://www.linkedin.com/in/christijolson

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As Bing’s evangelist for the marketing community, my responsibility at Microsoft is to help businesses understand and get the most from their digital marketing programs. Sometimes that’s through paid search advertising on Bing Ads or other platforms. Sometimes that means giving advice on how to be successful with content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). Personally, I am most at home talking with partners and customers about how to drive quality traffic to their sites and how to create rich digital experiences to surprise and delight their consumers. The truth is that it all comes down to creating a better customer experience.

To create better customer experiences with digital marketing, I have a three-point strategy:

  1. Understand the customer decision journey.
  2. Think integrated marketing whenever possible.
  3. Never lose sight of the quality of your content.

1. Understand the Customer Decision Journey

Here at Microsoft, the heart of our digital transformation has been focused on the customer. Like many of our partners, our business models have shifted in response to industry disruption from digital technology. This disruption has caused us to take a deeper look at how we do marketing, and respond through innovation and adoption of new ways of bringing people, data, and processes together to create value for our customers.

While the digital landscape might seem fragmented with so many different channels to be focusing on – search, display, social media, video and mobile – my advice to marketers is to not look at each channel in silo, but to understand your customer’s decision journey. Know how your customer engages and interacts with your specific brand, product, or service throughout the funnel.

Then, instead of focusing on channel-centric touch-points, move toward creating a meaningful relationship with your customer that involves frequent and on-going interactions across the channels.

“Help solve your customer’s problems and fill their needs, and you can turn customers in loyal brand advocates.
– Christi Olson, Bing Marketing Evangelist

Many brands in the retail, software and technology, and services space have embraced digital media and started to become more customer centric. Starbucks, for example, is a brand that stands out to me as a leader in customer focus. Starbucks effectively uses digital tools and technology to create a rich immersive customer experience through their mobile experiences both online and in-store. They also make a point to engage and interact with their customers through their online community and across social networks.

Starbucks has also moved to a gamification system for their loyalty and rewards program, connecting customers to online ordering, in-store pick-up, and mobile pay options through their app. This digital and online experience transcends the coffee shop and has created fiercely loyal consumers.

2. Think Integrated Marketing Wherever Possible

Integrated marketing is about bringing different marketing channels together so they work in tandem to not only increase ROI, but to help the customer with their intent. The movement toward creating more holistic marketing campaigns is tied to the desire to create a more seamless experience for the consumer.
The first step toward integrated marketing is for business decision makers and marketers to come together during the strategy and planning phases of a campaign to understand how each interaction and engagement with the customer ties into the bigger picture of the customer decision journey. These interactions can include email, blogs, social media, search, in-store experience, signage, and any other touchpoint for customers in the buyer’s journey.

“Not every customer engagement will drive a sale, and that’s okay. But it’s important to understand the role that each interaction has in moving customers through their purchase journey.”
– Christi Olson, Bing Marketing Evangelist

3. Never Lose Sight of the Quality of Your Content

Content is still king and the channels that distribute the content, like search and social, are queen. So when thinking about your content efforts for 2017 and beyond, you need to be customer centric and create relevant, compelling content. It’s not about the quantity but the quality of content and making sure that you can reach and attract customers across each stage of their decision journey. Then think about how to leverage the content in your marketing campaigns to help move customers across the journey from research stages to the purchase decision.

It can be a struggle to find examples of companies who do an amazing job of leveraging their content. Here are a couple businesses who are on the right track, along with some insight into what we can learn from their examples.

  • Diono, an infant car seat manufacturer, provides content to help consumers understand the value of their product during the research and purchase phases of their journey. However, their content isn’t always appearing at the top of the search results to be found during the early phases of consumer research.
  • Nintex, a workflow automation company and Microsoft Partner, recently started to research their customer decision journey and develop content to reach consumers across each phase. Their goal is to understand their consumers’ wants and needs across each stage of the journey and making sure that the available content addresses those needs.

As the recent article on Microsoft’s DCCN platform outlined, consumers expect to have a quality and compelling experience with businesses across the web if they are to trust that brand and keep them coming back for more.

The key to success is to transform your marketing so it takes an integrated approach that creates relevant experiences on that all-important customer decision journey.

The businesses who take the time to define that journey and apply marketing strategies against each touch-point will see more engagement and better ROI from their content in this digital age.

How have you experienced success in creating better customer experiences through digital marketing? What advice would you share with partners looking to improve? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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