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3 Strategies to Differentiate the Online Experience

Posted on 6.30.2013

:: By Ian Truscott, VP Product Marketing, SDL Content Management Technologies Division ::

The lingua franca for delivering contemporary websites has changed, and so have today’s business drivers and the expectations of modern-day customers.

The CMO is now focused on optimizing the customer experience (CX); analyst firms talk about digital experience management (DXM) and customer experience management (CEM/CXM); and customers are embracing anytime, anywhere access with your brand using a variety of devices and social channels. 

As marketers, we’ve tried to understand these digital opportunities by repeating what we did with print. Industry analyst Tim Walters shared this rather apt quote with me from media theorist Marshall McLuhan, which addresses how television became the disruptive media (in 1960): 

“When any new form comes into the foreground of things, we naturally look at it through the old stereos. We can’t help that. We’re just trying to fit the old things into the new form, instead of asking what the new form is going to do to all the assumptions we had before.”

We’ve been doing exactly that with how we market using the Internet. For example, people think of a website as a brochure. In digital marketing, we refer to print publishing processes with terms like publish, approve, archive and syndicate. In the broader marketing ecosystem, we are trying to fit old media disciplines, such as PR, into this model, leaving us struggling as the latest new engagement channel — whether its Pinterest or Google Glass — disrupts our old line of thinking.

To help differentiate your online presence in the face of these new forms, consider following these three business practices today.

1. Engage in content marketing

Despite what you have just read, there is one thing that has not changed, and that’s something we need to carry over from the old world to the new: your story. The tale of who you are, what your brand and product stands for, who your people are, why you raise money or the services you offer your citizens, is a valuable resource and one that should be marketed.

To tell this story, however, you need to consider who you are talking to and how (e.g. device, channel, etc.) they are listening. For example, what if you’re a B2B manufacturer of air conditioning parts and no one is visiting your Pinterest page. What’s the point if it does nothing to enhance your business?

Start your digital experience management strategy by stripping away the buzz about the channel, and think about your story. This storytelling approach is enshrined in the discipline of content marketing — the idea that you focus on the content to engage with customers and prospects without selling. As the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) states:

“Eighty percent of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. Seventy percent say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company, while 60 percent say that company content helps them make better product decisions.”

Thus, content marketing is not about a single “fire and forget” campaign, but a sustained unveiling of the story over a series of content touchpoints.

2. Practice social media listening

Your sustained story needs to be told to a specific audience. And to figure out who this audience is, it’s a great idea to reach for social media, not to post, but to listen.

Using social media to listen can help you find your online audience and where they hang out. It can also give you more subtle insights into the language they use, how they describe your industry and products and their sentiments about you and your competitors. All of this provides guidance into the editorial position you should take with your content.

It also gives you a measurement baseline to work from, as analysis of this social data can reveal commitment to your brand and products. You can revisit this baseline to gain insight into the success of your strategy and the level of audience engagement.

3. Think “One Web”

Once you have defined your story and the audience you want to reach, it’s then appropriate to think about delivery tools and tactics.
To tell this clear, consistent story across all of your digital channels, you need to manage the content centrally and then dynamically deliver a relevant experience to that unique visitor, for that channel and on that device. This is not about your company running a bolt-on mobile solution, an app or even siloed email or Facebook campaigns — this is content for all touchpoints, and what I mean when I talk about “One Web” thinking.

Don’t get caught up in the latest new channel. Instead, focus on what you want to say, and what your customers need to hear, in order for them to reward you with their business, loyalty and advocacy.


Discover everyday brands using content marketing successfully.


Ian Truscott is an experienced and passionate advocate of customer engagement, Web experience, content management, digital marketing and social media. A former analyst with the Gilbane Group, Ian is now the VP of Product Marketing for SDL Content Management Technologies Division and serves as a Director for the Content Management Professionals Association. Ian's experience spans over a decade and comes from doing almost every job a techie can do in the software business — from CTO, product marketer and product developer to pre-sales, consultant and computer operator.

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