Content marketers like to use Seth Godin’s saying that ‘Content marketing is the only marketing left’. Content is obviously crucial in marketing. It has always been. Or should have. It just took businesses a really extremely very long time to realize it. In that regard, it reminds me of social media. It seemed a necessary wake-up call for businesses to realize that marketing is not a one-way street. However, the end of umbrella terms such as social media marketing and other marketing strategies/tactics is nigh. We are going molecular and will deconstruct all interactions, with a focus on touchpoints and customer experiences: touchpoint marketing.
Content marketing is a lot about providing value in order to get it back, one way or another. The same is often heard when it boils down to social media as well. Lately, I see an increasing attention for content as such. And that’s a pity. Obviously, content deserves the proper attention since it serves both business and – prospective – customer goals, across all touchpoints, channels and stages in the customer life cycle. Again, it’s not an afterthought and it should be great, people deserve that much.
However, “content-centricity” leads to the same mistakes marketers have always been making. Content is not the centre of the universe, just as our business, messages and core values aren’t. The so-called ‘empowered’ customer is what makes marketing work and your products and brand. Consumer empowerment is not new either. It just is more visible, powerful – and hyped – than ever before. But it’s not a buzzword, it’s a fact.
Touchpoint marketing: beyond content, conversations and customer-centricity
Excellent content and relevant conversations are not goals. Neither is customer service excellence or even customer-centricity. They are the basics. What matters is the context and value of each touchpoint and experience, both from a business perspective as from the customer intent viewpoint. That’s what touchpoint marketing is all about (and, no, it’s not a term to remember, what it means matters more).
It’s in aligning purpose/intent, experiences, channels, goals and content within context that interesting touchpoints occur and that the basis for a relationship, leading to tangible value, is laid. Content marketing is not the only marketing left. It’s time to look beyond general terms such as content. It’s time to dive deeper into the context, what makes people tick and what constitutes relevance throughout every single touchpoint and individual customer experience.
When doing so, we must realize that we need to define the customer as everyone living in the ecosystem that includes our business, including social connections and employees. Understanding value chains and the needs of participants within them is key. Touchpoints occur in several circles and degrees, each with their own rules, significance and even metrics. Consistent customer experiences across channels lead to recommendations, retention and loyalty.
Towards a holistic marketing approach
It’s clear there is a shift from us towards ‘them’ in marketing, a Copernican revolution that puts people at the very centre of what we aim for as marketers. This is in a way a passage since the ‘us’ and ‘them’ view is fading away as well. In order to achieve the next stage, polarizing and opposing approaches should disappear within our businesses as well, removing silos and hurdles that stand in the way of a holistic and single customer view that revolves around touchpoints.
Touchpoints matter more than content. They need to be looked at in all circles and spheres of the ecosystem: direct, indirect and even invisible. Direct touchpoints are obvious: when people click a link, fill in a form, have a direct experience with your businesses (even if it’s a silent one such as in advertising) or start talking directly to you. Indirect touchpoints, however, are crucial too. Word-of-mouth, social interactions and the value you share are essential to turn indirect interactions in more direct ones. These touchpoints, in circles beyond our immediate ‘reach’, bring social connections – who are customers in the social space – closer to us.
Every single element that constitutes a touchpoint is key:
- the subject (people, the interacting individuals, whether it’s with other persons or with social objects)
- the intent (the purposes of the subject, often several ones at the same time)
- the social objects (such as content, where intent and interaction occur)
- the context (such as the various stages in the life cycle, time, place, brand, you name it)
Ultimately we aim to let them be of common significance for us and ‘the other’. It’s this common significance – and experience – that constitutes the opportunity where conversion happens. Look at touchpoints ainstead of just content. Include context, intent and experiences. Content marketing is not the only marketing left. Customer experience management and touchpoint marketing aren’t either. But they sure matter more than ever before.
It’s all about integration (of really everyhting) and what the content and everything you do as business signifies in a common significance context means. It always was and will be. Meeting the intent by aligning and mapping it with business goals and by removing all obstacles in achieving the purpose, is omnipresent in all today’s winning marketing and even business tactics and strategies.
In a not so far future, touchpoints will be present in all marketing strategies and probably even be calculated with scientific models that provide frameworks for businesses looking to prioritize and calculate the value of all touchpoints. This is what integrated marketing will be about. Before it happens, a lot of deconstruction will have to be done: identify all parameters and especially contextual dimensions – including emotional ones – that constitute touchpoints and, probably more importantly, the experiences.
The real integration we will witness is that of insights from several disciplines that go beyond marketing and include psychology, sociology, anthropology, technology (IT) and even philosophy. Deconstruction, as defined by French philisopher Jacques Derrida, as well as Nietzsche’s “Umwertung aller Werte” and the psychoanalytical teachings are penetrating the world of business.
Marketing and business become molecular and will look at all micro-elements that constitute human interaction, experiences and touchpoints. You might find this too theoretical and abstract but you’ll see the impact soon. In fact, it already started…