When you are reading your favourite news site, browsing a blog or researching a product, or watching a YouTube video you will often see “related articles” or “you might also be interested in…” and listed in these areas will be content that is related to what you are currently watching or reading. This often leads you down a rabbit hole of reading and watching content, but it doesn’t take you anywhere specific. There is no guarantee that the content is continuing to fulfil your needs as it’s not personal to you. This is because the selection of the content presented is just content-to-content based and not related to you and what you need.

Mostly, this is achieved by tagging key words of interest and subject matter in the item and grouping other items with similar tags. Some more advanced systems will gather these interests around your identity as an interest “graph” and use that to find more content you might like. Whilst that entertains the audience, it doesn’t serve brands as interests are not needs. Unfortunately, while brands are still pursuing “likes” and vanity measures, as opposed to commercial returns, it will feel like engagement.

Brands that do this with their blogs or content hubs are not helping themselves as it just wastes your resources and your customers time. The problem is then amplified when considering the multiple channels and systems that brands are using to deliver the content. By just looking at inbound decision engines and outbound campaign management solutions we see a massive disconnect in the customer experience as there is no “red thread” of context (need), that would unify the communications.

A more sensible approach is to purposefully create content that will lead the audience from their need towards your product or service. Then next-best-content becomes the next step in the journey that logically takes the customer forward. When content is purposefully created around needs, the need data can be fed all the way through the marketing, nurturing and sales journey and beyond to service and loyalty.

For example, I need a new car because my old car has broken down. I live on a farm, and I have two children and three dogs. When I start researching vehicles, my need is not necessarily as simple as wanting a 4×4 car; it is a vehicle that will enable me to drive through a muddy field, tow a trailer, take the dogs out and do the school run. If the content I consume is structured around these needs then I can find what I need more easily making for a much better solution for me. However, if those needs are tracked as I consume that content and then passed to the dealership, there will be a very happy salesman who knows exactly what I want before I get there.

What this then means for the different technologies in the marketing stack is the content and the journey that has been created provide the “glue” and the context for all contact. For the outbound campaign management solution, this means that it can send the next-best-content, be that to start a customer on a journey or to nudge them along. And for the decision engine it would have the need and where the customer is on the journey as context for next-best-actions.

With this approach, we no longer create content by using “content pillars” to entertain our customers. We create content with a much greater purpose and we can therefore measure each item of contents performance against the goal of moving the customer towards us. And, after all, is that not what marketing should be about?