Nurturing Relationships with Content Marketing

It’s common for marketers to break the customer journey into buying stages. Something like — Discover, Research, Compare, Decide, Purchase, Support.

Others use Selling Cycles — Requested White Paper, Demo, Pricing Request, etc.

Either way, using buying and/or selling cycles helps the marketing and sales teams segment audiences and deliver the right content to them at the right time, i.e. delivering content in context.

These approaches work well for infrequent purchases. It’s a path that buyers travel to buy a cruise, or a car. But for companies that offer ongoing services — plus the opportunity to add on extra services — we might think in terms of Relationships and how context marketing can help deepen the relationship.

Seth Godin proposed relationship types in the subtitle to his book, Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers. In a subsequent book he added Tribes to the list.

For Sitecore marketers, a Stranger would be an anonymous user. Once the user connects — normally via email — they become a Friend. All the data associated with previous user sessions is connected to this profile. In other words, we have some details about this Friend. An engaged Friend becomes a Customer. An engaged Customer becomes a repeat buyer and adds more services. Some become Tribe members, or a brand Advocates.

None of this happens without intentionally developing content experiences that nurture this relationship.

For service providers, overlaying a user’s current relationship with behavioral data — via profiles and pattern cards — can be incredibly powerful.

Before you set up Goals and Outcomes in your system, consider whether using Relationship Stages should drive context instead of — or in addition to — Sales or Buying stages.

What’s the difference between Sitecore Outcomes and Goals?

Sitecore 8 introduced a new tab in the Marketing Control Panel, called Outcomes.

Sitecore defines Outcomes as “the business significant result of a dialog between a contact and a brand.” In other words, Outcomes are used to identify users who have reached an important milestone in their journey.

Outcomes will often describe relationship levels.

For example, an eCommerce organization might set “Email Newsletter Sign Up” as an Outcome — this is when an unknown user becomes a known user. Or perhaps a user creates a free account. Or purchases a product. All these can be desired Outcomes towards nurturing a lifelong customer.

For a sales-based organization, these relationship levels might track with sales phases. A prospect might become a Marketing Qualified Lead. Or a Sales Qualified Lead. Or a Customer. Once again, all these can be Outcomes towards nurturing a lifelong customer.

Sitecore Administrators can create custom Outcomes in the Marketing Control Panel. Once a user reaches an Outcome, they receive a flag on their profile. Sales, Marketing and Support folks can then use this information to pick up relevant and targeted conversations with the customer.

Sitecore also allows marketers to group specific Outcomes together. So, an Outcome Group called “Purchased” might include several variations on the Outcome for individual products, e.g. Purchased Basic License, Purchased Elite License, etc.

Sitecore Marketers cannot assign Engagement Values to Outcomes. But they can assign monetary values to them. This allows projections for a pre-sales pipeline or an ROI on sales.

So, what are goals?
Goals are online activities performed by a user. A user might Request a Brochure, Register An Account, Sign-up for a Newsletter, and so on.

It’s fair to say that, typically, most users who reach an Outcome will have accomplished several goals along the way. For example, before reaching a “Purchase” Outcome, an online buyer might have clicked on an email link, watched a demo video, added the item to a shopping cart, confirmed their order and other actions.

Not all Goals are equal. Users that add an item to their cart, for example, are more engaged than those who are watching a video. Sitecore allows marketers to add Engagement Values to these goals. For example, a click might be worth 1 point; signing up for a newsletter, 5 points; attending a webinar, 10 points; requesting pricing 20 points; etc.

To identify Outcomes, think about the relationship levels between you and your customer or potential customer. When team members say, “we should reach out to ______,” who are they targeting? (Newsletter Members, Customers, Advocates, Trial-Takers, Marketing Qualified Leads, etc?) This list will be a good starting point towards developing Sitecore Outcomes.

To identify Goals, think about online activities that help facilitate a user’s movement towards each Outcome. (Demo Requests, Newsletter Sign Ups, Brochure Download, Pricing Request, etc.)