How to Make Customer Experience the Heart of Your Internet Marketing Strategy

    by Guest Blogger

    Date

    August 8, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    customer experience managementintermediate

    Here's a question for you: How much does customer experience factor into your marketing strategy?

    If customer experience (CX) is a new concept for you as a marketer, think of it as the overall experience a customer has with a partciular business, from their discovery and awareness of the brand, all the way through their interaction, purchase, use, and even advocacy of that brand. In today’s wired world, chances are good that the relationship you have with your customers is going to include one or more digital channels -- your website, landing pages, email communications, mobile interactions, social media participation, etc. That’s the increasingly important subset of CXM, something called "Digital Experience Management." In other words, customer experience is way more than just a friendly voice on the phone.

    To deliver an excellent customer experience, you have to think like a customer, or better think about being the customer. But how do you "be" the customer when you're, well, not? There are three “Be’s” to consider that will help you deliver a superior digital customer experience: 1) Being relevant, 2) Being consistent, and 3) Being iterative. Let's learn more, shall we?

    How Marketers Can "Be" Their Customers

    1) Be Relevant: Creating relevant marketing requires an understanding of your customers so that you can present them with the right content, at the right time, so they convert and take the next step with your company. And being relevant requires a deep understanding of not just your buyer personas, but the customer journey -- from how future customers find you, to how you sell and market to them, to how you support and service them when they're finally a customer of yours. Relevancy is the backbone of any successful company.

    2) Be Consistent: Today, most marketing is organized around specific digital channels -- web marketing, email marketing, social media marketing. But your customers don’t see these as marketing channels like you do; they only see your company. Marketers must put the customer at the center of their focus, designing a consistent experience for them that bridges across channels.

    3) Be Iterative:  Focusing on customer experience means putting the right processes in place to understand customer behavior, and make improvements to digital channels through constant optimization.

    Now that we understand how to put ourselves in our customers' shoes to create a better experience, let’s take a look at how to apply these concepts to our critical digital channels. Let's learn how to be relevant, consistent, and iterative so we can deliver a memorable customer experience!

    Creating an Excellent Customer Experience on Your Website

    Websites have evolved far beyond being an online company brochure. Your website serves as the central hub for all your sales, marketing, and customer support efforts, and must address the needs of all audiences accordingly. It should help advance a visitor from lead, to customer, to happy and dedicated customer by providing every visitor with the right content at the right time to incite the proper action. And here's how to do it.

    1) Be Relevant: Throughout the digital customer journey, you learn lots of implicit (learned) and explicit (stated) data that can help you deliver more relevant content on your site. In fact, you start learning about your customers from their first visit to your site! Here are some of the ways you can deliver relevant content on your website:

    • Site behavior: What your customers do while on your website e.g. how often they visit, previous conversions, and top pages.
    • Visit Source: How, where, and when someone got to your website e.g. referring domain, search term, location, time of day, etc.
    • Social graph: Behavior on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn.  In fact, according to eConsultancy research, 88% of companies say social graph personalization generates results.
    • Customer data: This includes data from your sales and marketing databases, like HubSpot and Salesforce.com -- just take a look at all the rich data you can see from integrating your marketing software and CRM!

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    2) Be Consistent: For companies to provide a consistent experience on their website, they must stop organizing marketing into functional silos like web, email, and social media, and instead embrace the fact that the customer journey weaves its way in and out of all of them.  So keep your website in sync with the messages being presented across all channels. For example, HubSpot recently hosted #PinterestDay, which as you can imagine by the hashtag and theme of the day, occurred largely on social media. But the website wasn't ignored -- if you visited their blog, you would have found Pinterest-related content that aligns with that theme. Oh, and it was in your inboxes, too, as they coordinated an email marketing campaign for the day, too.

    3) Be Iterative:  When marketers think about analytics, they most often think about web analytics, which provides a high level view of website performance against general metrics like page views, unique visitors, and bounce rates. But marketers thinking about digital customer experience need to be more focused on measuring and optimizing business outcomes, like leads, donations, downloads, and registrations. Marketing analytics provides insight into the metrics that move the needle on the website and tie investments to the ultimate goal for most companies -- generating revenue.  

    Creating an Excellent Customer Experience on Your Landing Pages

    Landing pages are a great way to convert visitors to leads, because they have a higher conversion rate than the homepage. Makes sense, since they serve a focused message targeted towards a specific audience, right? Let's apply our three "Be's" to landing pages, too, since they're such a critical part of our marketing.

    1) Be Relevant: For landing pages, being relevant means delivering the content that a visitor expected to get upon arrival. Whether they came to that landing page from a paid search ad, an email offer, or a call-to-action at the end of your blog post, the copy that got them there promised something. Are you holding up your end of the bargain? Or are you pulling a bait and switch? If the content on a landing page doesn't match the original offer that drove the click, it’s likely that your visitor will navigate away.

    2) Be Consistent: Consider how a visitor arrived on your landing page. Did they come from email, for example? Then they might be trying to convert on your landing page on a mobile device. Is your landing page optimized to provide an equally excellent user experience from inbox to landing page? Consider not just whether your landing page fits on a smaller screen without making scrolling necessary, but how long your landing page form really needs to be to get the information you need.

    3) Be Iterative: Landing pages are perfect candidates for iteration through A/B testing. Also called split testing, A/B testing provides a way for marketers to test different ideas about content, design, form fields, CTAs, and more to see if they improve conversion rates. And instead of making those changes based on hunches, A/B testing uses a scientific approach to ensure your changes are based on data -- you know, what your leads and customers really want.

    Creating an Excellent Mobile Customer Experience

    It isn’t enough for your digital marketing to be "mobile friendly."  Instead, you must deliver experiences that are best suited to the way visitors use different devices and screen sizes.

    1) Be Relevant: Creating a relevant mobile experience isn't much different than creating a relevant web experience ... except that you have to create it on a tiny little screen. Mobile optimization is becoming more and more critical for marketers to prioritize in their marketing strategy, but it's also just one more thing to worry about on an already long to-do list for marketers. So if you're struggling to prioritize how to optimize your company's presence for mobile devices, start by optimizing for the devices your audience uses the most to consume your content. And remember that mobile optimization extends beyond just your website, but to your email marketing messages, too.

    2) Be Consistent: Try to create a mobile experience that's similar to your desktop experience. Don't consider this a time to try out designs out of left-field. You'll have to make some tough choices about what to eliminate (or in some cases, what to add) considering the mobile browsing experience doesn't afford the level of detail the desktop experience does, but any changes you make should never interfere with the user understanding that they are, in fact, on your company's website.

    3) Be Iterative: As you're designing a mobile site or optimizing your emails for mobile, it only affords more opportunities for A/B testing to make improvements. Mobile marketing is relatively new ground, so best practices are still burgeoning. If your emails are suffering poor click-through rates from mobile readers, consider testing a new layout. If your landing pages are suffering poor conversions from mobile visitors, perhaps you need a shorter form.

    Creating an Excellent Customer Experience in Your Email Marketing

    Speaking of email marketing, any marketer worth his or her salt knows that it sure ain't dead ... it's alive and kicking! And considering how protective we all are over our inboxes, it's more important than ever to create a stellar email marketing experience for our readers. Here's how.

    1) Be Relevant: The MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Report indicates that 65% of respondents find the delivery of highly relevant content to be a very significant challenge, and another 30% find it somewhat significant. That's not good. Delivering highly relevant content to email inboxes is critical for high click-through rates, high delivery rates, and low unsubscribe rates, so if you can do one thing for your email marketing today ... it's to segment those lists! Once you've segmented your email lists, start mapping relevant content to each list segment so your contacts are getting the best content for them and the best time they can receive it.

    2) Be Consistent: When generating your opt-in list, ensure that you clearly state how, when, and what your contact is signing up for upon subscription. This will not only set proper expectations -- expectations that can be reaffirmed in a welcome email that also serves as a double opt-in opportunity -- but decreases the chance that you'll be marked as SPAM later down the road or suffer an unsubscribe because readers didn't understand what content you'd be sending, and at what frequency. And most importantly, you have to actually maintain that type of content and sending frequency!

    3) Be Iterative: Like landing pages, marketers must build a continuous optimization plan into their email marketing. If you think A/B testing is reserved for pages on your website, you're missing a huge opportunity to improve your email marketing results! Start testing your email's layout, length, messaging, subject lines, sender name, call-to-action, and more to find the secret sauce that works for you.

    Creating an Excellent Customer Experience on Social Media

    If you build it, they will come. Except with social media, they'll come whether you've built it or not. That's why smart marketers are taking control of their social media presence, and finding exciting new ways to engage with prospects and customers. Here's how you can always keep the customer in mind when managing your social media presence.

    1) Be Relevant: Stephen Covey once said, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."  This is especially true in social media, where to be relevant you must first find the places where conversations are happening about your company or solution. Then, you can engage by providing relevant content. In other words, don't spend your time on Facebook if your audience is on Quora and LinkedIn. And once you find that audience, take the time to listen to what they want and become a trusted member of the community -- and that can only happen by providing relevant, helpful content on a consistent basis.

    2) Be Consistent: Integrate your social media presence across all your marketing channels. If someone's following your company on Facebook, for example, there's a good chance they already are, or will soon be, opted in to receive email communications from you. Or read your blog. Or follow your company on LinkedIn. That means if you're not including social share and follow buttons across all of your marketing channels -- even your other social media channels to promote your other accounts -- you're missing a huge opportunity to create an integrated experience for your customers.

    3) Be Iterative: Close the loop on social media marketing by monitoring the ROI around your social media activities. Most marketers know they "should" be on social media ... they're just not totally sure what they're doing there. If you use closed-loop marketing software, however, you can see exactly how effective your efforts are, by tracking what content on which social networks drives traffic, leads, and customers.

    Be Relevant, Consistent, and Iterative with Hubspot and Ektron. Today, Ektron and HubSpot are partnering to deliver a Digital Experience Management solution, which combines Ektron Web Content Management with HubSpot’s all-in-one marketing product. The new solution was built on the HubSpot API, and combines the best of Ektron and HubSpot.

    This guest post was written by Tom Wentworth. Tom is the chief marketing officer at Ektron, a provider of web content management software. You can follow him on his blog, or on Twitter @twentworth12

    Image credit: ganesha.isis

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