Get Started with Context Marketing in Sitecore 9

You have Sitecore and decided to begin contextual marketing to address your business challenges in today’s digital world. Excellent choice, well done.

Sitecore 9 offers many options to personalize content in real-time. Personalization is done in the context of the visitor in an automated way at scale and in an Omni channel approach. Those are a lot of buzz words. The real-time aspect is essential. In today’s fast-paced world, speed and relevancy are key to be able to engage your audiences while you have their attention. With limitless options, statists show that visitors spend 6 seconds deciding to continue reading or not. Your content must engage visitors.

Marketing automation is equally essential, as it will help you to offer relevant, coherent messaging and content across a multitude of digital channels and services. By connecting various data sources, both online and offline, you create a competitive advantage. The connected data enables you to differentiate your services by providing an outstanding user experience.

Sitecore 9, with its completely new integrated marketing automation engine (automation plans) and email engine (EXM), along with its xConnect API layer on XDB (profile and behavioural data) are important steps that enable marketers to create powerful context marketing campaigns.

6 Context marketing opportunities

There are many opportunities to use this technology to your advantage. Consider context marketing for the following purposes:

  1. Conversion optimization: generating more leads and sales.
  2. Experience & service design: design new personalized services, fix gaps in existing user journeys.
  3. Improving customer service & loyalty: reduce friction, frustration and effort for your customers, increase engagement and reduce churn.
  4. Building a 360° degree customer view: combine multiple data sources and merge online and offline data for new insights.
  5. Optimizing and automating your campaigns: start doing dynamic segmentation based on behaviour, move towards always on campaigns, do more effective data-driven re-targeting and advertising.
  6. Creating seamless Omni-channel experiences: today’s consumers generally interact with multiple channels before making final decisions; outdated last-click attribution models often obscure the total customer journey. Being able to identify consumers across channels and providing them with a coherent user experience will prove to be an important business driver.

That all sounds wonderful, but we suggest you define 1 or 2 primary focuses for your initial projects. Now how will you start doing context marketing? Before you start, there are some things we believe you should keep in mind or be aware off.

9 Things to keep in mind when starting with context marketing

1 - "Dream big. Start Small. But most of all, start" (quote by Simon Sinek). Even with all the tools and technology, you do not become a data-driven customer experience company overnight. Connecting systems and data silos often takes time, so does structuring and tagging your content to start collecting meaningful data.

Make sure you have both a short-term plan with initial quick wins and a long-term roadmap that identifies technical dependencies and blockers for projects of strategic importance (for example building a customer service portal). With some creative thinking, you should be able to jump-start conversion optimization tracks that can help build business cases and create internal traction for further investments.

2 - Context marketing and personalization should not be approached as a one-off project. It is not a one-off project you do for 3 to 6 months and then are done with it. It should become part of your continuous monthly optimization efforts just like your SEO, advertising or campaign efforts.

After all, if you are aiming to create the best possible user experience you are never done. Each improvement will yield new data and insights upon which you can continue to build. Most important is that you do not let data silos or lack of technical integrations hold you back, even small quick wins can often provide important gains and will allow you to familiarize yourself with the technology and be better prepared for the big projects that take more time.

3 - “Organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast” as Peter Drucker once said. More often than not traditional companies often misunderstand being multi-channel the same as being Omni-channel. In reality organizational silos and a lack of alignment of KPI’s and reward systems across departments actually create internal competition, rather than stimulating collaboration for the benefit of the customer. This often results in data silos and a fragmented customer views. Be prepared if you want to realize a digital transformation without management buy-in. You will need to introduce new KPI’s and find win-win scenarios across departments to get the necessary resources for your projects.

4 - Context marketing or personalization is about being relevant even towards anonymous users. As a potential customer, I want to feel understood and feel your company can offer relevant solutions to my problems, much more than I want to be addressed by my first name with standardized information. There is a lot of information and context we can derive from a visitor’s behaviour and digital fingerprint. If we design our digital tools and services well, we can use Sitecore to get a good idea of the potential customer profile or at least provide him with a more relevant experience.

5 - Adopt a mind-set of continuous experimentation & optimization. Context marketing is data-driven by nature. Ignore and challenge your gut feeling by putting them to the test on a regular basis. Marketers that collect behavioural data, run A/B testing and other test scenarios will often find themselves surprised with the outcomes and get a better understanding of their customers. However, a data-driven approach to testing should always be combined with qualitative research as well. The numbers may tell you what is happening but not why customers react in a specific way, so qualitative user testing definitely remains essential in particular when creating transactional applications.

6 - It is not a one-man band, time to rally your growth marketing team. Context marketing is as much about creative online marketing as it is about tools and technology. It requires many different skills that are generally not found in a single profile. Hiring one person is not likely to provide the best long-term solution. Creative digital marketing, design & UX, technology and IT all need to come together. Find a Sitecore partner that can offer an integrated approach rather than just Sitecore developer profiles. Furthermore internal staff are often not thinking outside in enough, but all too often lead by internal back-office requirements, so an external perspective on things is generally an added value.

7 - We need better content, not more content. Context marketing is content-driven by nature. A natural reflex is often to respond “we need more content”. However it is much less about volume then about having content in the right format for your goal and the stage of the decision journey your potential customer is in. Consider taking a good look at your information architecture if you are in a multi-site and multi-region context, simplifying and restructuring your content and navigation may offer important quick wins. For example, the concept for your global corporate communications website geared towards shareholders, press and job seekers, may not be suitable for your regional websites which are focussing primarily on leads and sales. Make sure you offer clearly separated path ways for specific audiences as this will provide a clearer view on the visitor journey and will make it easier to present them relevant content.

8 - Think about turning content into services. Before thinking about creating more content, we recommend having a good look at what you already have. What do you have in printed catalogues, brochures, annual reports, help guides, etc.? What content helps solve problems, and how can you transform that into a free online utility or service. Jay Bear certainly offers a good starting point in his book “Youtility”. The premise is simple: What if your marketing was so helpful that people would theoretically pay you for it? For example, for one of our customers, we transformed their printed brochure with health insurance benefits into a personalized online tool that provides a personalized overview of benefits tailored to your specific family situation. The tool became an immediate success and major lead generation channel.

9 - Capture Interest and intent through interaction with content. If you have sufficiently differentiated content and a clear information architecture, you should be able to derive both interest and intent from user’s interaction with your website, and thus identify qualified leads. For instance; someone just browsing your product information pages and looking at infographics, is much less of a hot lead than someone looking at specific case studies and testimonials in a particular vertical or downloading a specific whitepaper.

Now that you have acquired the right mind-set, you should get down to business and get practical.

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