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April 2, 2018
Conquering Content Marketing
Like it or not, we’ve all become content marketers. The new orthodoxy is that content drives engagement throughout the customer journey which leads directly to conversion. So, marketers have to illuminate all the potential pathways and determine which content coincides with and motivates action at each step in the journey. This added burden demands time, skills and resources that many marketers don’t have.
The challenge has been to understand what works best at each stage. Marketers suspect there are common tools and common approaches for each journey stage. But until recently there was no collective source of intelligence. Each brand was on their own to determine what to produce, when to present it and how to evaluate its performance.
Enter ion interactive and Demand Metric, who originated The Content Experience Impact and Buyers Journey Report in 2014 and updated it in January 2018 by interviewing 290 B2B and B2C marketers. Similarly, L2 studied 106 brands across 8 verticals to an Intelligence Report on Content & Commerce 2018. They identified some of the content that works best.
Generally, marketers believe that interactive content beats static content for prompting engagement. Nine out of 10 marketers surveyed believe that interactivity directly impacts buyers’ decisions and that interactive content educates buyers, is more easily and frequently shared and provides a brand with significant differentiation from its competitors. Interactive content, according to the report, is most effective at the middle or consideration stage in the buying process, probably because it enables a prospective buyer to answer his or her outstanding questions on their own without a salesperson.
Interactivity and persuasiveness seem to be interrelated. The greater interactivity; the greater engagement leading to conversion. Evidently, the skillful use of content can facilitate prospects essentially selling themselves and/or feeling in greater control of the sales process.
Brands in the L2 study concentrated content efforts believing that less is more. Focusing on home pages, video, blogs, product lookup tools and social or user-generated content (UGC) like reviews, photos and unpacking videos, brands can make appropriate content investments.  A critical move is linking product pages to these other content forms and using mass personalization tactics on homepages by displaying relevant goods , adding social interacvtivity and emphasizing a “what’s. new” section.
Timing matters. A third of marketers believe that buyers reveal themselves and are primarily influenced early in the buying cycle. Forty-five percent are convinced that revelation and influence are maximized in the middle consideration stages. And just 18 percent think that content can impact the final buying stages. Seven out of ten responders think engagement needs to be cemented earlier in the journey. This adds to the impetus to traffic interactive content in moidalities and at inflection points that affect outcomes.
Assessment tools lead the pack in terms of use and assumed effectiveness. They are followed, in rank order, by Interactive White Papers, Contests, Quizzes, configurators, ebooks/look books, calculators, wizards and games. It’s an interesting and counterintuitive ranking which probably reflects the survey audience.
The primacy of an assessment tool feels right. Everyone wants to know where they stand relative to their marketplace and to have benchmark data to make the case to acquire something new. But in a country of gamers, you might think games would play a bigger role, though this may reflect constraints on talent, timing or budgets. Similarly, you might assume that calculators and configurators, which enable prospects to do the operational and total cost of ownership math would be use more frequently and effectively than a white paper. Though, here too, this might reflect the limitations of the survey audience.
The report is not definitive. But it offers marketers several useful guideposts. Focus on interactivity as early in the process as possible. Define a content sequence likely to follow the logic train of a prospective buyer. Develop interactive content that is inherently useful to prospects but that reveals a prospect’s identity and pain points. Sustained interactions are more likely to convert. Keep experimenting. Focus on measuring the take rates and impact of the content you create.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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