Strategic Integration - Enterprise Ready
:: By Dennis Shiao, DNN Corp. ::
Customer Engagement Meets Content
We marketers spend a lot of time on our websites, assembling
information architectures, defining and documenting
user personas, working with designers on graphical elements
and spending half of our waking hours generating
the content that our target audiences crave.
The website is the center of our marketing universe, the foundation from which all other content flows. Yes, a presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. is important, but they’re higher floors that sit atop your foundation. Your website is such a central element of your business that it should be listed as an asset on your balance sheet. There are few assets more valuable, and your website is one that doesn’t depreciate. In fact, it grows in value as your business expands.
The Rise of Customer Communities
Over the past several years, community software vendors have been successful in creating interactive and engaging online communities for businesses. Organizations can obtain valuable feedback on existing products, crowd-source ideas on new products and allow wider communities to provide user support to other customers. The online customer community has achieved near equal footing (in business value) to an organization’s website. The website is the focal point for a company’s content, while the community is the focal point for customer content and engagement. This begs the question, however: If the website is the center of your universe, why must your customer community exist as a remote satellite? The answer: it shouldn’t. In other words, content and engagement should both happen at the center of your universe. Customer engagement and content should be integrated and your website is the place it can all happen.
: 5 Power Strategies for Effective Online Communities : The most successful websites on the ’Net have one thing in common — active, engaged digital communities. Discover software solutions and strategies to drive content, collaboration and conversions.
B2C commerce sites mastered this many years ago: As customers browse and research products, they’re provided with insights (about those products, such as the most popular items) from across the larger community. This results in more informed buyers, which leads to more satisfied customers. For B2B, specifically, there’s value in providing community content alongside product content. Instead of an unmoderated flow of customer comments, for example, perhaps you provide a curated subset of product content from the community. The point here is to give prospects and customers contextual content where they’re researching, instead of forcing them to visit an entirely separate community site.
Consistent User Experience
Recall that your website is the center of the universe. You spent painstaking hours with designers, refining and iterating over colors, placement and logos. When you build a separate community site, however, much of that consistency goes away. Integrating social interactions into your website provides your customers with the ultimate in convenience and familiarity: They can interact while they’re already engaged with your content, all in a “user journey” that’s familiar to them. You have the ultimate control and flexibility with your website elements. Shouldn’t you have the same flexibility with your customer community?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
With your website as the center of the universe, SEO provides the directional signs for visitors to visit. What happens, however, when your customer community exists as a satellite? Your satellite gets a customer. company.com sub-domain, while your website occupies the main company. com domain. When customer engagement is married with your content, then everything falls under your main company.com domain. The result is a significant boost to the SEO value of your domain.
: Unconventional Community Building : Discover four tips to build and maintain an active and useful digital community on the Web.
Analytics and Business Integration
Marrying customer engagement with content has numerous benefits on the user-facing front end. As a business owner of your website and community, now consider the back-end, the area that makes your chief financial officer take notice. Because content views and customer engagement occur from a single platform, you go to one place to review data, reports and analytics. In addition, you send a consolidated view of the customer to your customer relationship system (CRM) and marketing automation platform. Think about a lead-scoring profile that combines content views with community activity.
Engagement and Gamification
Community software vendors have built wonderful engagement features, including gamification. Case studies published by those vendors demonstrate that gamification creates more activity and higher levels of engagement. But what about applying some of those neat engagement features to your website? Do I need to seek out yet another platform for that? Not if your customer engagement initiatives are integrated with your platform. Now, you can selectively enable social and gamification features to sections of your website. Or, you may choose to enable your entire site with these features. Customer engagement is key to longterm sustainability. Leverage the center of your universe to help enhance these interactions. Grow your relationships. Grow your business. Grow your success.
Dennis Shiao is Director of Product Marketing at DNN Corp. Contact Dennis at firstname.lastname@example.org.