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Growth Studies

Ever visited a company’s blog to try and learn more about their industry or brand perspective, only to see that their content delivers little value beyond product promotion? All too often, brands view content marketing as just another way to sell to customers rather than an opportunity to provide genuine information and entertainment for potential and existing customers. As consumers become savvier at sniffing out marketing, it’s clear that a solely sales-oriented approach to content creation is not the key to success. 

At AdRoll, they've developed a robust content strategy that has helped cement their brand as the go-to e-commerce marketing platform for growing direct-to-consumer brands. The reason for AdRoll's success? They pivoted to a customer-first approach to content. Here’s how their strategy shift helped them grow their web traffic by a whopping 438% in just 12 months. 

What Is Customer-First Content?

Customer-first content is when companies focus on the characteristics of the personas within their ideal customer profile and build content that addresses the needs that come with those characteristics.

A customer-first strategy requires a holistic understanding of your customer personas and their journeys down your sales funnel. What are they interested in? Worried about? Excited to learn about? What do their day-to-day look like? What roles do they play in an organization? What tools do they use? By understanding what their world looks like, you can then serve more relevant content in formats and distribution channels that they can easily engage with. 

 A customer-first strategy may look like this: 

- Writing about peripheral topics that aren’t exactly in your niche, but your audience may be curious about. 

- Joining hot topic conversations and providing your unique perspective. 

- Developing content that addresses platform and company-agnostic solutions to common problems.

How Did Adroll's Content Strategy Change?

Before AdRoll pivoted to a customer-first approach, their case studies and resources were solely focused on product solutions. In other words, they weren’t very customer-centric. 

So, they focused on transforming the way they looked at content marketing, shifting to a customer-first content strategy.

After starting producing more customer-centric content, two other ideas complemented this new strategy:

- Create two-way content

- Repurpose existing content with visual storytelling

Beyond the format of their content, it was time to update distribution to make it easy for customers to find and engage with. They began: 

- Posting more frequently. By publishing at least one new piece of content a day, they’ve set their readers’ expectations to tune in regularly. Pro tip: If you’re struggling to fill up the calendar, you can easily repurpose longer-form content for blog posts or infographics. 

- Drafting seasonal content well in advance. For example, in early September, they posted a holiday marketing planner with goals and action items, so readers had ample time to prepare for the sale season. 

- Exploring new content distribution channels. With every retailer, influencer, and solopreneur jumping on the content marketing bandwagon, it’s not enough to post a new piece of content on your site and call it a day. Not only did they ramp up their social media presence, but they also asked both internal and external partners to join their distribution network. 

- Tighter alignment with SEO. SEO and content work hand-in-hand. Content marketing is nearly worthless if nobody can find your posts. Here’s where their internal SEO experts come in — they regularly advise their team on which keywords they should focus on, as well as the latest SEO best practices. 

The Challenges

It wasn’t easy to revamp a content strategy from the ground up. Here were some of their challenges and how they tackled them: 

- Having to broaden their scope and find unique content topics, rather than regurgitate the same tips and insights as to their competitors. They experimented with disseminating tried-and-true information more creatively — take a look at their Halloween-themed horror stories, for example — which was great for boosting engagement. 

- Making sure the team wrote in a compelling voice that was on-brand. Cue the style guide, reviewers with keen eyes, and a ton of practice. 

Getting buy-in from other teams. There was a need for other departments and internal leaders to contribute to their efforts, from suggesting topics to penning guest posts. Though some jumped on board immediately, others were hesitant — after all, writing isn’t for everyone, and it can be intimidating! As a result, they had to build a production infrastructure that works for everyone. Ultimately, AdRoll attributes much of their success to how they got the whole company excited, involved, and invested in this process. 

The Results

Unsurprisingly, the engagement rose dramatically after the pivot to a customer-first strategy. After transitioning from product-centric case studies to more personable editorial pieces written from customers’ perspectives, AdRoll saw average read times increase by over 300%! Additionally, brands who were initially reluctant to participate in their customer spotlight pieces began changing their minds — participation jumped by 16x in a year, which has helped them build a thriving community via content. 

The stats speak for themselves: Focus on leveraging others’ stories and learnings to educate the broader market, and the readers will come. 

Back to You

If you’re looking to attract your audience with content, rather than interrupt them, start pivoting to a customer-first content strategy. Take it from AdRoll — by developing a content strategy that is independent of only pushing product and sales, they’ve connected better with their customers, who are more excited to join their community thanks to the value they provide. 

If you’re ready to get started on the first step of creating customer personas, check out this step-by-step guide

Written by
Julie Zhou