Courtney Eckerle

They Won’t Bite: How talking to customers helped Dell EMC turn its content strategy around

October 12th, 2017

“What we were finding was that a lot of our content was very product focused, and really quite technical. It’s not that we didn’t need that, but we weren’t engaging with customers at the top of their decision making,” said Lindsay Lyons, Director, Global Content Strategy, Dell EMC.

Lyons and her team came to the same content revelation that many marketers do — “we were talking about what we wanted to talk about, and not talking to customers about what they wanted to talk about,” she said.

In this content effort, they overhauled production efforts to ensure that content went through a stringent and honest assessment. This ensured that the content was not only in the tone that customers wanted to speak in but also in the spaces that they were already interacting in.

“We were really honest with ourselves when it wasn’t working, and decided that we had to change things, instead of going with the recipe that we thought had worked for so long,” she said.

She said the team realized that customers are constantly “creating and consuming content in a different way, and we needed to change with it.”

The first thing they did to correct this was to go out and talk to customers.

“We asked them really simple questions like, ‘when you’re trying to solve x problem, what do you search for on the internet?’ It was beyond pulling keywords, but we just started to think like a customer and start to ask the same questions that they had,” she said.

Upon understanding what customers questions were, the team performed a content audit to see if the existing content answered many of the questions that customers had. The answer, Lyons said, was overwhelmingly no.

The first thing the team did after that was plan to build content to address those questions. But, they had to make sure it was also effective, by using these questions as a quality monitor:

  • Did it answer questions in the customer’s voice?
  • Are we meeting them where they are?

To create this new content, the team did an overarching stop-start continue assessment, Lyons said.

In that stop-start assessment, they evaluated what things they wanted to start doing as a team, with the answer of course being to create content that customers wanted.

“We looked at how much time and how much budget we thought we would need for that,” she said. “Then we looked at what are the things we absolutely cannot turn off?”

Lyons gave the example of content that was considered to be currently working, as well as activities that are considered “run the business that you just have to carry on.”

They had to fill the ‘stop’ bucket, and “that was the hardest one”, Lyons added. They looked at their content results and asked, “what are the things that are just not working?”

In some cases, she said, they discovered pieces of content that had only been downloaded four times in six months — and those downloads came from inside the company.

“We took a very methodical approach, but we also had a layer of therapy in there. We let people freak out, and we let people get angry, and we let people get excited. And it happened in that order,” she said.

Many of the results that the team saw from this customer-first content effort were internally transformative, as well as externally.

“Psychologically, our team feels a lot more connected and effective in speaking with our customers. They actually started to light up. It wasn’t this ‘rinse and repeat,’ talking about products all the time,” Lyons said. “Now we’re getting to talk about solving problems for our customers, using the same technology that we were talking about before.”

She said that the team also found that because they now know what is effective and have stopped producing things that aren’t working for customers, “we’re happy to do it.”

Because the team has gotten more efficient and effective, it has had the additional bonus of allowing them to be more creative as well.

“Now that we’ve gotten effective and we’ve proved that this approach works, we are able to do a lot more fun stuff,” she said. “We’re experimenting with how we can target customers with [virtual reality]. How can we augment our targeting using artificial intelligence?”

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Courtney Eckerle

About Courtney Eckerle

With a focus on aspirational, customer-first marketing, Courtney’s goal has been to produce clear, interesting and actionable external content for MarketingSherpa readers. This has included writing over 300 case studies, moderating live event interviews, and producing video content. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Mass Communications and Film Studies from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., and was a correspondent for USA Today College prior to joining MECLABS Institute.

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