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The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Meet our New Customer, the Content Marketing Manager

Changes in our Customer Mix Reflect the Seismic Changes Happening to the Business World

Is the rapidly changing digital world changing who you serve?  It is certainly changing ours.  But that is nothing new.  Usability Sciences has been around for 25 years.  Our “customer” has appeared in many guises over that span.  The key, for any business, has been to recognize what’s happening and be able to adapt to a new set of needs.

gears-brain (1)Our President Jeff Schueler started the company after taking early retirement from IBM in the days when computers had green screens and the boxes that powered them were big enough to transport livestock.   Our primary customer, in those far off days, was most often the software product manager for a company like Sterling Software or Computer Associates, and the product was something that ran on a main frame or a mini.

Then along came the PC and we got a new customer, usually the product marketing manager for a start-up company like Borland, or Corel, or even a little outfit called Microsoft.

Then came the Web, and our customer took on yet another persona.  The Web meant that every company on the planet needed a website, so our new customer was whoever had a budget and a clue.  Marketing didn’t pay too much attention to “digital” types back then, so they tended to be younger folks from the IT department, often very junior and often very defensive because those early websites were usability disasters.

Even the slowest adopting companies soon came to realize, however, that their website was a strategic asset, so it often fell under the control of the brand manager, especially in CPG, where we had a lot of customers in the 90s.

Then came the advent of e-commerce, and usability became the watchword of every e-commerce director measured on conversion — which was all of them.  The person running the e-commerce channel is still our most common customer, but lately he or she is being joined by a newcomer – the Content Marketing Manager.

Here is how these new customers explain their arrival at our door.  In their words:

·The most effective way to compete in the modern world is to create a superior customer experience.

·That experience begins long before the customer spends their first dollar with us.

·Prospective customers expect us to provide value to them (invest in them) if we are to win their trust and earn their consideration when it eventually comes time to buy.

·We earn their trust by feeding them content relevant to their industry, growth stage, and needs.

·We must continue to deliver that value along the entirety of the customer journey — by which they mean BEFORE the prospect is a customer, as well as while they are a customer.

Free, up-front content has thus become the foundation upon which the relationship is established.  Content is the pre-sales genie who sets up the subsequent sale.  In many cases, early, valuable content creates such a bond with the prospective customer that vendor selection (when it comes around) is a foregone conclusion.  Content delivery these days IS SELLING because selling involves so much more than just what is done by sales people.   Selling now begins as soon as the relationship is established.  In fact, if the stream of content is of sufficient value, the formal (traditional) sales process may never even take place.  The prospect can have been “sold” without any conventional selling having happened.  Such, these days, is the power of content.

Content marketing managers, therefore, want to build their strategies on solid research.  They want to know what content to deliver to which prospect or customer at the most impactful point in that customer’s journey.  They want personas; they want journey maps; they want to test their content’s readability, usability, and impact. They want to measure the degree to which every piece of content moves the trust needle with their current and their prospective customers.

These are the realities of doing business in a world in which the customer calls most of the shots and the cost of switching vendors is measured by the time it takes to click a mouse or swipe a screen.  The customer in this modern world CHOOSES what they read.  Content marketing managers want that choice to be their content.  We’re more than happy to help in making that happen.

-Roger Beynon, CSO, Usability Sciences

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