There’s been a huge shift in my house. Just three years ago I brought home a Sonos player. My son thought it was the coolest thing and before I knew it the black cube had found a home in his room. It wasn’t long until my daughter needed one too and the house was filled with Sonos equipment. Fast forward a few years and those Sonos speakers have become paperweights. If you ask my 10-year-old son why, he’ll point to the shiny new white and grey device in our house—our Google Home. We now have three of them.
If you ask my son, Ethan, why he prefers a Google Home to his Sonos, it’s simple. “I can use my voice instead of searching on my iPad to find music or who won the Raptors game.” Many have called this the rise of ‘voice,’ but I think this is a nod to the importance of content experience.
In the same way that voice detection has simplified the way we discover and engage with content, so too does content experience.
For those less familiar with the term content experience, it is the environment in which your content lives, how it’s structured, and how it compels your prospects and customers to engage with your company.
As marketers we can learn a lot and brace for change by looking at the shift that’s happening from Sonos to Google Home—even Sonos knows it needs the addition of voice capabilities to stay relevant and keep customers loyal. This shift reflects an expectation from consumers to find content with as little effort as possible. We open an app these days and there are recommendations, we ask Google or Alexa for advice and there is no hesitation. As marketers, we need to find ways to ensure we cue up that next piece of content that our audience is craving.
I was recently chatting with Jeffrey Rohrs, the CMO at Yext. Jeff and I started to chat about a world where knowledge is at our fingertips, very in line with the Yext vision. He pointed out something I had not realized. He explained that Google Home has dramatically changed the expectation for accuracy in search. It’s getting hard for many of us to remember the days when we’d go to the second page of a Google search result. What’s the joke? Best place to hide something is on page 2 of Google—right!
Well, think about what voice search is doing—it’s removing the relevance of anything beyond the top result. Ask Siri, Amazon, Spotify or Netflix for what to do next and they all have the answer. The idea of multiple options or answers are becoming a thing of the past. Our lives are busy and we expect our solutions to learn our preferences and deliver recommendations to match our search.
Let me take you back to my house and show you a little staged, but real, demonstration where I asked my six-year-old son to play a song on both Sonos and Google Home.
Let me assure you the only thing that kept my son fighting was that he’s too young to understand failure at six years old. But for many of us when we can’t find what we’re looking for we simply give up. In the digital world we might call this anything from bouncing to losing to the competition.
Let’s look at this under the lens of content experience. For years, many of us have been producing thought leadership content to generate inbound interest in our product or service. We know this as “content marketing.” For a while, no different than Google ranking logic, if we had great content that landed us on the first page we expected people would navigate to find the pieces relevant to them. We kept producing content and posting it on our blog in chronological order hoping people would land on an article and go on to explore other content or jump to our product pages through a call-to-action.
With time we started to realize that people were coming to our sites with problems and it was important to organize content by topics or personas so that someone didn’t have to sift through content by date to find what mattered to them. The company I co-founded helped a lot with this ability to manage the flow of content or the buyer’s journey.
But as we saw with my son, it’s a new era of expectation where we expect to arrive with information personalized to our interests, job title, and needs. Consider yourself, the marketer, to be Google. When a prospect arrives on our site, we need to do our best to deliver hyper-relevant and authoritative content that is worthy of being the first result on the first page.
So how do we do this? We can’t cross our fingers and just hope that we get lucky. Coincidentally, Google has an option to (a) display Search results or (b) leave it up to chance and go to the first page which is known as “I’m Feeling Lucky.” At some point, I predict Google will have to change the copy on that button from “I’m Feeling Lucky” to “I’m Expecting Relevance.”
To keep up with this expectation, a few years ago our company invested in artificial intelligence. Just like Google we realized there’s enough data out there that we could recommend content based on a combination of rules and historical engagement. We weren’t the only ones. There have been a number of companies who have launched ways to personalize website experiences. Marketing platforms like Marketo introduced Content AI, Oracle bought Maxymiser, and Salesforce is building it’s Einstein brain. All of these companies can help personalize homepages with an image, copy or even the product your buyers are searching for.
But the content marketing world isn’t as simple, in my opinion. We need more than just a page with a custom message to impress our audiences. In fact, when it comes to content, IDG suggests buyers download an average of seven assets throughout the sales process. So the challenge becomes lining up a sequence or stream of content that you can consume. After all, if it takes seven pieces why wait for seven visits if we can cue them all up at once. Sounds a little like Netflix, doesn’t it?
Just as there are companies helping to create personalized homepages, we found and partnered with a company that had tons of data to aid in greeting visitors with content from our library of assets often sitting unused. Bombora is a very cool company that has alliances to capture data that is mapped back to companies to see what might be trending as a hot topic in their organization. I’ll skip the technical details here but think about knowing what topics are “surging” and being able to line up pieces of content on your site that map to that. All of a sudden, our need to guess which piece of content to lead with for every visitor to our site is simplified. We need data sets and solutions like this to meet the expectations of our audiences which are getting more and more picky by the day.
Did you know that Google handles 3.5 billion searches per day? That’s possible because of the investment they’ve made in infrastructure over many years. The same approach is needed by marketers to handle the expectations around personalization and content on our sites.
I’ll leave you with this question: If six different buyers with different job titles and requirements turned to their Google Home and said “Hey Google, read me some content from Brand X,” would you know what to serve to them? I’m guessing you’d struggle–six personas is hard to cater to! But let me simplify it and see where you land–could you even do it for one of your personas if they came back six times?