Dear Savvy Digital Marketers: Not all content is meant to convert me or even force me to do something. Can’t we just get to know each other for a while? I know the stats are terrible and most fickle browsers are “Willies” (Will he come back?). But maybe you can just let me window shop for a minute and decide if I’d like to come in. I am pretty confident that I can find the big red BUY button or the SIGN UP NOW form. Maybe I just want to look around before being pounced on.
These days every blog or news site I read has a pop-up request for my email address after 2.5 seconds, which must be the best practice from some internet marketing summit I wasn’t invited to.
Even on my first visit to a site, I’m constantly nagged to give them my email and verify my existence so they will give me the juiciest content.
What ever happened to a first date? How about building a little trust with a potential customer first? How about letting me peruse the goods for a minute so I can make up my own mind? User Experience is all the rage, and I think it is time for UX to meet Content Marketers in the middle and determine the real goals for their programs.
Content Marketing is wonderful and has been a passion of mine pre-dating the term, and also before I knew what I was doing. But hear this: Not all content is meant to convert to an email address, subscription, eBook download, or online purchase. Content is a way of building trust with your customers by presenting value to them before they give you their hard-earned money. This doesn’t mean your content should meander or be untargeted. In fact, your content needs to be exactly what the customer is looking for, or is pleasantly surprised by, and the quality needs to be outstanding to rise above the noise in today’s market. Your content does not, however, need to convert at every stage.
Here are a few content goals outside of driving email subscription, eBook downloads, and purchases:
Help somebody! As they say in Pay It Forward. By helping a potential customer achieve something, solve a problem, or learn something new, you establish a relationship on the best footing possible. Free eBooks are great ways of doing this, but also consider freely downloadable PDFs, instantly streaming videos or advertisement-free YouTube content to help someone win. They won’t forget.
Create awareness. Sometimes you just need to have a little fun with your brand or do something symbolic that can help shine a light on the exciting work your company is doing. Your potential customer is in on the gag and knows you are puffing your chest a bit, but they see the difference between “GIMMIE GIMMIE EMAIL” and “Hey look at me for a second!” Good examples of this include PR around achievements, technology, or new market initiatives. Co-marketing with partners, trade associations or community activities is also possible. Be careful to not mix in charity here. Many feel that should stand alone and represent brand ethics and values apart from the product.
Example: GoPro created a huge music push a few years ago and it worked, creating a new audience of musicians donning cameras. Sometimes, they went way offbeat, but in a fun way. Here is a wakeboarder and surf guitarist featured in a GoPro spot. This appeals to the GoPro adventurist experimental spirit.
Stimulate the market. By showing unusual uses or places for your product or service to be consumed, you can stimulate your customers' imaginations and create new paradigms for how your product can be used.
Example: The Apple commercial with the high diver showing the iPhone being splashed with water made me think I can have my sensitive electronics right next to the water and even get wet. I might not have had this idea before seeing this spot.
Build credibility and establish connections to influencers. Show how power users, celebrities or superfans of your product are having success. Especially powerful when their own natural words and descriptions are employed in the content. This could be done with social proof using celebrities or enthusiastic customers voicing what works for them.
Establish trust. Most customers have at least some reservation or suspicion in their first interaction with your brand. By showing the customer that you understand their problems or what makes them happy, you can earn their trust.
Practice thought leadership. Even this very blog is about me putting my opinion out there. By taking a stand and saying what you believe, you risk losing some of your audience or even customers, but you also gain the possibility of connecting much deeper to those who might like to learn more about what else you have to say.
Create deeper meaning. Sometimes ordinary products don’t seem as vital as they may actually be. To combat this, companies can demonstrate their product's bigger implications and even show how they play into larger social and cultural movements. A favorite recent example would be Sonos (along with Apple) revealing scientific proof that shared listening of music actually makes us happier and more connected to our loved ones in our home. They even found “You love (and make love) more” when the music is on in people’s homes.
Delight current or past customers. Stimulating word of mouth is really every marketer’s dream. Content, that customers enjoy or learn from, helps customers have more success or find new reasons to enjoy their product or service. You might even inspire them to recommend the product to a friend, share something on social media, etc. While I was at Ableton, I directed marketing investment toward educating our customers in workshops, online videos, and even delivering free downloadable instruments. Ableton still offers many free download packs and lessons today. Our customer engagement was extremely high, and word of mouth grew noticeably on these content initiatives.
Measure the Pleasure
I spent over 15 years in the audio industry leading teams to create and execute many successful content marketing programs. Not all of them were conversion focused, and I believe that is part of the reason for their success. This isn’t to say we didn’t have goals about engagement or measure the traffic, shares, likes, and comments. We also measured the results by talking to customers, hearing about their perception of the brand and products. In short, the connection you make with customers and expansion of the brand are measurable.
Content is still king but that doesn’t mean the king needs to be a huckster. Some kings are gracious and let their subjects snack a bit before levying the tax! Decide how your brand should welcome potential customers and have a strategy for communicating to the c-suite that not all content initiatives are for conversion. For your next content initiative, put the customer in the proverbial driver’s seat to decide if they want to move forward with the brand. I expect you can figure out how to contact me if you would like to learn more.