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RIP Content Marketing: Breaking Through Market Static Requires a Compelling Vision and a Media Property. Have Them Yet?
Welcome to The Digital Experience Report, your source for news, analysis, and insights on the ExTech (Experience Technologies) market and all things related to the Digital Experience.
In this report, we look at the death of content marketing and the rise of media properties as tech companies struggle to balance their messages, an upcoming webinar on the changing face of service management in a world of hybrid work, new studies from Mendix, Frost & Sullivan, Qualtrix, and Ivanti on the state of the customer and employee experience, a new Juniper Research study on chatbot usage, and news from MoEngage, Gainsight, Appian, AI Rudder, Bonitasoft, C3 AI, Jiffy.ai, BigCommerce, Ardoq, Nexthink, Emplifi, Workato, Dixa, and Tactic.
RIP Content Marketing: Breaking Through Market Static Requires a Compelling Vision and a Media Property. Do You Have One Yet?
There is a growing sense of disruption across the spectrum of the ExTech market, and it was on full display this week. On the one hand, we're continuing to see heavy investments in anything related to artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. On the other, we're seeing more data (and investments) that point to the fact that the actual name of the game is innovation in and the transformation of the customer and employee experience as the true drivers of value.
However, these two points seem a bit at odds as the "tech" bit of the "ExTech" market continues to come out on top in terms of messaging and positioning. However, as I laid into a bit last week and will double down on this week, the messaging and positioning continues to be a challenge — for most. And, I think it's leading to some fundamental shifts not only in how ExTech companies message, but in their overall content strategy.
AI & Automation Continue to Lead the Way
There was a lot of ExTech news this week, with a lot of focus on new rounds of investments and acquisitions. However, what is striking is the degree of emphasis on two particular "tech" parts of the ExTech story: AI and automation.
Of note were the $50MM Series B for AI voice assistant company AI Rudder, C3 AI's five-year expansion contract to extend AI capabilities for LyondellBasell, and JIFFY.ai’s $53MM Series B to help its clients become “autonomous enterprises built on AI and automation” bringing these two über buzzwords together.
Now don’t get me wrong. Much of the reason we’re even talking about this vast collection of technologies I call ExTech and the transformation of the customer, employee, and ecosystem experience is because of the capabilities that technologies like AI and various forms of automation make possible.
While the concept of the experience economy came into being in 1998, it didn't start to truly manifest itself for almost two decades — mainly because we needed the technology to advance to the point that we could deliver digital and digitally-enabled experiences at scale. So I get that technology — and AI and automation, in particular — is a critical part of this shift to experiential value.
But what concerns me is that there continues to be an outweighing focus on the tech, with too little focus on the experiential value it's meant to support.
But It’s Innovation in the Customer & Employee Experience That Matter More
When you ask enterprise executives about what they’re focused on (as I did last week) or employees what matters to them, you find that AI and automation are the "how," not the what.
A slew of new surveys this week bear this fact out. A recent study by Mendix found that a whopping 88% of enterprise leaders are treating delivering an “outstanding customer experience” as an important goal, but that an equally staggering 90% of them are struggling to do so (because of silos and “aging technology”).
Similarly, a new Frost & Sullivan study found that customer experience innovation is set to “undergo exponential growth in the next decade.” The study found that an overwhelming 98% of contact centers expect to “transform operations” using a combination of new technologies and new approaches to customer engagement in the next 24 months.
And on the employee front, the latest data is even more intriguing.
A new Qualtrix study shows, perhaps a bit unsurprisingly, that employees are across-the-board happier in our post-pandemic remote-work environment than they were two years ago. The respondents shared that they have seen improved relationships at home and enjoy greater flexibility at work.
The impact is so significant, in fact, that a new Ivanti study shows that 71% of employees are willing to forego a promotion to be able to continue to “work from anywhere.”
Technology — and almost certainly AI and automation — play a significant role in all of these customer and employee experience findings. Without technology, it's nearly impossible to transform the customer experience or contact center operations, and it's technology that enables employees to work from anywhere and find better work-life balance and job satisfaction.
But the fact remains that the core focus of a tech company's messaging needs to be on these outcomes rather than the technology itself, which leads to the last bit of disruption that was on display this week.
Leading to a Shift Away from Content Marketing and to Media Properties
On Tuesday, Salesforce held its "World Tour Special," previewing some of its focus and messaging for 2022 and announcing a series of in-person events in cities around the world.
Almost since its inception, the company has conducted a master class on selling a vision to its customers as its core go-to-market strategy. It sometimes spends frustratingly little time focused on the actual technology that it sells and delivers to the market during its events.
Last week's event was no different. While it spent some time talking about Slack and Mulesoft, it spent the vast majority of it talking about the company's vision for the world and the role that technology can play in shaping it — and highlighting stories about how it and its customers are doing so.
These stories (including the World Tour event itself) are all shared on the company's (relatively) new media property, which it dubs Salesforce+. In doubling down on its Salesforce+ strategy, I believe the company is also previewing a more significant shift in how tech companies need to message and transform their content strategy.
Fundamentally, I believe it's a signal that the traditional approaches to "content marketing" are dead. Merely having a corporate blog or trading an analyst report for an email address will no longer be sufficient in a market in which enterprise leaders need genuine education and are looking to buy into a shared vision of the future.
This shift will demand that organizations create their own versions of these "media properties" in which they focus on customer challenges, opportunities, and stories, and the content they create and share goes from being an add-on and lead gen activity to being a first-class citizen in their go-to-market strategy and efforts. In fact, I believe it must become the primary way tech companies tell and share their story with the market.
Adobe, another master of the art of selling a vision and telling a story, will hold its annual conference this week. I'll be doing a little live analysis of the event with the crew at CRM Playaz at their Adobe Summit Watch Party, so join us to see if they prove my point! I expect they will.
The Digital Experience Live
Join Charlie on March 23rd at 11 am EST when he joins ManageEngine for a live webinar to discuss hybrid work and the trends that have been driving the shift towards it. Learn how service management teams can equip themselves to tackle the hybrid work era and adapt in their support efforts. Click here to register.