Measuring Loyalty: Brand as an Influence - Part 1

Customer sees the brand as an influence through content

Introduction: Using content to build influence & its measurement

Influence is built over time and is directly related to trust. One expression of a company being influential occurs when a prospect or customer sees your company as a resource for advice. And this is expressed in two ways:

  • through content accessed by a customer or prospect
  • or by customers directly contacting you to answer their questions.

Let’s start with content in this video.

Content provides people with a passive way to interact with your organization and have a conversation with your company. They don’t need to contact your company directly to get a question answered and can better understand your product and service offering from afar with limited interaction. The challenge with this method is discovery, which is often addressed through content marketing in social media and search. As you know, social media enables people who are browsing to discover your content; search enables those who know what they want to find your content.

If you can track a customer’s path from social media to a web site to purchase and beyond and observe what an individual reads and accesses for content along the way, you can gain amazing insight into the various conversations you were having with that person. In the end, as we know, content is a type of conversation that provides advice. And when a customer gets advice, they perceive your company as directly adding value to their lives in some way. As we’ve discussed in other videos, loyalty is an aspect of a customer relationship, developed over time through such conversations and customer experiences that add value to someone’s life.

In this analysis, all content can be leveraged and is relevant to demonstrate loyalty – from marketing and sales content to support forums and service updates. All content helps a customer more clearly see what you offer. And customers don’t access content using a linear path; they access content as they find it on social media or search or discover it at your site. What companies sometimes forget is that they are not just selling a product, they are selling the services, the support, the advice, or rather the experience you provide them and how you are engaging with them along the way. You are selling customers a feeling and emotions when they solve their problem using your approach in a product or service. Essentially, you are selling not just an item but a series of conversations, interactions, engagements, and a relationship. This is why each touchpoint with a customer matter and makes a difference.

Data to measure content influence

So, what should you want to discover regarding content engagement related to loyalty?

The types of conversations happening at each step of the customer relationship lifecycle:

You’ll want to understand which content topics get most attention in your content library. Knowing that shows you both the problem that people want solved and the problems that people believe that you solve. The articles that are not being read may be about what you really do, but if your customers aren’t very concerned about those topics, maybe you need to shift your communication strategy? It may be that customers and prospects aren’t interested in those ideas or they don’t care about them yet because they don’t see their value or the connection to the problem they want solved. You could get other insights from this too, depending on your analysis. To sum it up, content that isn’t read doesn’t mean it’s not introducing a valid conversation topic or isn’t useful. It may mean that there is work to be done for people to understand the connection between a topic and the larger problem they are experiencing. 

From social posts to blogs to brochures or whitepapers to support to podcasts, track what is being read or heard and by whom. The medium people use to get information is key to know in this analysis because it reflects the closeness of the company or the company relationship. People who access longer form content are more committed to understanding your company, product, or service than those who access a 1-minute video. And probably more open to have a conversation with you company about that product or solution as well.

You are also going to want to know who is having what types of conversations and what these people are likewhat information do they want, what information do they already have, what problems they believe they have. This information you discover may reflect if someone is a new or first-time visitor, an influencer, a definite prospect or buyer, a new customer, or an existing customer. You need this information to understand how this person would use your product or service. Further, you’ll want to know which company this person represents. He or she could be from a customer company, a partner, some other stakeholder organization. You’ll also find it valuable to understand someone’s role in the organization and how that role relates to the problem your company solves. If someone is from a customer company, then that person may have different interests than someone from a partner company, the press, an analyst, or some other stakeholder. And there may be different types of customer companies with slightly different needs. Understanding this difference could impact how you communicate to your reader and their interest in content topics as well as their level of engagement or focus. This may also influence your plan for how to best contact him or her again.

This information could also help you determine the closeness of the company and customer relationship. Someone who is a customer is far more invested in a relationship with your company than someone who hasn’t yet purchased. A customer may trust the company far more than a prospect. For example, if a customer is reading prospect information, this could mean a number of things:

  • A customer is looking to expand their relationship with the company
  • The customer is unclear about what the company offers and needs clarity because they may have had a shift in their understanding of their problem and need a broader solution
  • The customer wants to validate what they know about the company to communicate it to someone else, which is loyalty in the making.

Note that the more granular you can get with this information, the better. With demographic information combined with content types and topics, you could discover some insights about needs and desires of your customers.

Additionally, you are going to want to know how frequently customers access your content to get a better idea of how reliant they are on your company. This is a key element that represents loyalty. The more frequent the interactions, the greater the emotional attachment with the company, and that attachment builds loyalty. Frequent connection is never bad, even if the frequent connection is about resolving a problem or issue. That means that the customer cares enough to solve the problem with your company. They could forget about it and walk away or get so frustrated that they feel it is not worth fixing the problem with your company; but staying and trying to resolve the issues communicates that they want to make it work. Somehow. That’s pretty loyal, especially if there are problems. Just be sure that your company and support team fixes the issues or yes, they may walk away for good.   

Journeys and Brand 

In the workbook on branding, I include an exercise where you can map your customer journeys to your brand. You could also do this with your content journeys and gain some insights and better understand their personas too. Or you could correlate some of your product functionality journeys to your content experiences to better understand which personas have which types of conversations with your company. It’s straightforward to do and something to consider connecting the experiences together.

An approach to analyze content data

However, for this video we want to explore loyalty in conversations through influence. So, we talked about the data to reference, but how do we get started to analyze the data?

First, determine how you are communicating your brand values through content and conversations.

To do that:

  • List your content titles and their associated topics. You may want to also indicate the content type here toois it a blog, a whitepaper, a brochure, a customer service document, whatever it is.
  • Indicate if the content is experienced by being read, listened to, watched, or includes in-person engagement.
  • Indicate where the content is on the conversation quadrant: automated experiences, automated conversations, in-person experiences or in-person conversations.
  • Include where on the customer relationship lifecycle your company believes the content lives. Some of the data gathered will help you validate if customers share your perspective.
  • Map titles and topics to brand values

A lot of this you can do as you create content through tagging.

From there, you should be able to do a brief analysis to determine how your content is communicating your brand and identify what’s missing in your brand story. You’ll gain a lot of insights about the medium selected, where you have the most materials concentrated in the customer journey, and the type of conversation connection through the quadrant identification.

Next, determine how people are responding to your content.

Map content traffic to each of the pieces. This is important to do to understand what is useful or not useful to customers based on their interaction with it. If possible, determine how people are finding content – on their own, through search, or social.

This will help you see clearly which content pieces are most influential and making an impact in each step of the customer relationship lifecycle.

If you can also map time spent reading an article or content piece or watching a video or listening to a podcast, that would be helpful. If you have the projected time it takes to read an article and the average time spent on the page is less than that, then obviously, people aren’t reading your content. You can then explore how many are taking the time to read it and who is doing that if you have that data available. This is key to building influence and loyalty.

Third, determine who reads which materials.

Get an idea of what people access as a primary touchpoint, secondary touchpoint and so on in the customer relationship lifecycle. This would be useful to compare your company’s intention for the content created and if customers agree and use it as you planned or differently. This may also expose new personas who are having different conversations with your company that you may not be aware is happening. 

So, you’ll have 2 outputs here or 2 charts:

  • First, discover when readers access content in their journey and the order in which they read it.
  • Second, see if there is a path trend for the order of articles accessed like there are for web pages at a site. And from there, you may better understand the intention and motivation of the reader for what they want to learn or in what way they want to connect with your company

To create these charts, you’ll need to:

  • Map readers and their sessions to articles to better understand how many are reading each one and where in their journey or during which touchpoint they do this.
  • You’ll also want to map readers and through your analysis gain insights to determine who they are and their interests. You may be able to extrapolate a persona from the various paths.

For this part of the content analysis, including search and social media may not be feasible. And that’s okay.

What you want to do during this part of the process is notice trends for individuals that share qualities and characteristics with others consistently reading specific patterns of article topic collections. You may notice a type of persona emerge through this exercise regarding interests, how much they value your company’s insights, which insights they find more valuable, where they are in the journey and if they use the product or service or something else. You can observe their commitment level to your company or product, which becomes clear with what they choose to read or access. All of this information together can help you better understand how to continue to communicate with them best and build greater loyalty.

Keep in mind that loyal content consumers may not be customers and instead be influencers or simply fans. They may frequently read your content and share it with their audience, promoting your company for you and speaking well about it. They are sharing the problem you solve and the approach you take to solve it. This points to item #4 on the listwanting to see your company succeedand supports the idea of why reading and sharing content frequently indicates a strong sense of loyalty.