People are tired of getting one-way direct mailers, banner ads, and commercials from faceless brands who have no personality. Consumers want to interact with brands, not just be passive purchasers of products and services.
To date, marketers have focused on using content and social marketing to make their brands seem more “human” and engage with fans. The next evolution in brand communication will be a shift toward interactive content marketing—and we’re starting to see this shift already.
What exactly is interactive content marketing? And what does it mean for your brand’s marketing initiatives?
When we talk about content marketing, we’re usually referring to traditional editorial assets like articles, whitepapers, eBooks, and case studies. The next generation of content will reinvent what content marketing means by taking a dynamic approach to storytelling. This means:
- RIP, PDFs. Interactive content will be built using responsive HTML5 and other code so that it renders nicely everywhere, on any device.
- Content will be animated and richly designed.
- Stories will come in the form of text, videos, sound, GIFs, and images all working together.
In the real world, when you interact with someone, you usually take into account who they are, what they’re interested in, who they hang out with, and what their background is. Interactive content marketing works the same way. You can use key information about a viewer to pull in demographic data, geographic data, lifecycle data, and company data to provide a personalized, relevant, meaningful experience for the end user.
Traditional content marketing guides the reader down the path of a linear, one-dimensional narrative with a clear start, middle, and end. With interactive marketing, your narrative can become much more flexible and dynamic. You can tell your brand stories using a layered approach that provides a snackable, bite-sized surface layer with more meaty, detailed content to educate audience members who really want to dig into a topic.
Source: 10Ten Media
Most marketing seems to be talking “at” the audience. With interactive marketing, the audience gets to talk back. Examples of this type of interactive content include:
- Branching Content
- Interactive Videos
Instead of passively consuming content, invite your viewers to actively participate in telling a story with you. A two-way interaction is a much more powerful experience, for both your brand and your audience.
Marketing Objectives for Modern Content Programs
In the day-to-day mad dash to keep up with editorial calendars and field last-minute requests, marketers can lose sight of the content marketing objectives they are supposedly working towards. While their labor may not be at odds with wider business goals, their focus may start to drift over time. When this happens, content becomes less effective and marketers see diminished ROI.
Every business has slightly different content marketing objectives depending on your audience (B2B vs. B2C), industry, and size. However, there are a few common goals that all marketing teams share.
Drive Brand Awareness
Every marketer wants to grow their audience and keep people talking about their brand. While this may feel like an aspirational goal that can’t be easily measured, there’s both a qualitative and quantitative component to brand awareness.
- Thought leadership seems like a purely qualitative goal. After all, you can’t really “measure” whether your audience thinks you’re an expert in your field. But you can measure other factors that point to being a thought leader, such as shares by industry influencers, social mentions, citations in other people’s content, and guest post/interview requests from outside publishers and research firms.
- Increased engagement is a more quantitative goal that can be measured through individual metrics like time spent, pages viewed per session, bounce rate, video views, scroll tracking, on-page clicks, and shares.
This is the quantitative goal that most marketing programs are judged on. There are four key ways content can contribute to your team’s lead generation effort:
- Increase in conversion rates: Creating high-quality content will inevitably lead to higher conversion rates on gated content, subscriber forms, and demo request forms.
- Increase in lead volume: Driving more traffic to content with integrated lead generation forms will increase your overall volume of leads (if your content is relevant and interesting, that is).
- Increase in qualified lead volume: It’s a content marketer’s job to create content that will educate and qualify leads as they move down the funnel to sales readiness. By creating content for your target persona at each stage of their decision-making process, the volume of qualified leads will increase over time.
- Increased in lead engagement: By serving up the right content to the right people at the right time, you can drive higher engagement from your existing leads—and that tends to make them more willing to hear about your products and services in the long run.
Shorten the Purchase Cycle
Whether you’re selling software to other businesses or shoes directly to consumers, a shorter selling cycle is always preferable. Two ways content marketing can help speed up the buyer journey are:
- Lead nurturing: By educating leads on the value of your products or services—and also, if necessary, changing the conversation to focus on the negative consequences of not using your offerings—you can help them reach a purchase decision faster.
- Comparative content pieces: You know consumers are going to shop around before making a purchase. Why not help them consider their options with a handy (and strategically crafted) comparison guide?
Generating leads organically or optimizing your paid programs can reduce cost per lead (CPL) and cost of acquiring a customer (CAC) considerably. Great content can help you achieve both of these goals. On the organic side, this may mean investing in additional long-form web pages, articles, or other indexable content around keywords your audience is searching for. On the paid side, this may require new ad creative, more engaging landing pages, and reducing friction in the info capture flow.
With the right content, you can drive a larger average order value (AOV) for initial purchases and increase customer lifetime value (CLV) with additional purchases over time.
- For B2C companies, content that curates collections of recommended items can be highly effective for increasing AOV, especially when based off of previous browsing or purchase history.
- For B2B companies, content that clearly defines the benefits of a premium subscription package or add-on services can increase AOV.
- For both types of companies, maintaining meaningful, ongoing conversations with customers via email and other channels can help increase CLV by reducing churn and driving upsells.
Nurture Customer Relationships
Beyond simply increasing revenue per customer, marketing can help brands nurture customer relationships by providing interesting, valuable content tailored to the existing base of users. This investment in customer education, inspiration, and entertainment will ensure that you have a tight-knit clan on brand advocates who will spread the word about your products or services, either peer-to-peer or on social media. Using structured referral programs can be a great way to incentivize sharing while also enriching your relationships with customers by rewarding them for their activity on your brand’s behalf.
In order to drive meaningful results, content marketing objectives must be grounded in the business goals of the wider organization. These universal content marketing objectives apply to most companies in most cases, but there are sure to be others unique to specific organizations as well. Make sure to periodically evaluate content to confirm that it’s contributing positively to these broader organizational goals.
Crafting Interactive Content for Conversion
eMarketer found that 60% of B2B marketers identify lead generation as their top online marketing challenge. Given that the modern inbound lead generation machine runs largely on content, marketers need to think about the experience of their content marketing and how that experience impacts conversions.
Create Content That Stands Out
Kapost found that website conversion rates are nearly 6 times higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (2.9% vs 0.5%). However, prospects are starting to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of digital content available from brands, businesses, and publications. In this era of content fatigue, it’s no longer enough to simply create content on a regular basis. Your content has to deliver tangible value to your audience.
A few ways you can add value to your interactive content marketing include:
- Unique Topics: Write about topics that no one else is covering, or approach common topics with a unique angle.
- Engaging Formats: Break out of the static content mold by experimenting with interactive eBooks and infographics, branching videos, and multimedia narratives.
- Authentic Storytelling: Share meaningful stories from employees, leaders, or clients in a way that evokes a genuine emotional response from your viewers.
- Original Material: Whether you use stats from a study you fielded, photos that your creative director took, or music written by a staff member, bringing something new to your content can provide extra value to your content consumers.
Experiment with Lead Capture Tactics
68% of B2B businesses use landing pages to garner a new sales lead for future conversion. However, there are a variety of lead capture tactics you can experiment within your content marketing program to see what yields the best results.
If you’re leery of scaring prospects away, CTAs within a broader content piece or a traditional subscriber form may be a better place to start. Keep in mind that the tactics you use on desktop may not translate to mobile. Pop-ups work great on a big screen, but not so great on a mobile device. You may want to use different creative for mobile lead gen tactics, or use different tactics altogether depending on how your audience’s device usage habits.
Test Different Lead Gen Pathways
When it comes to creating content that converts, the temptation is to guide people only to gated content in order to fill the top of your funnel with leads. There are a number of other lead gen pathways you can test out, including:
- Ungated content with CTA to view another gated content piece.
- An ungated “teaser” of a content piece with the rest behind a form fill.
- A content hub with multiple conversion opportunities to subscribe, download content, or request a demo.
- Open-access content that links out to gated content on a similar topic.
You can also test progressive profiling options on gated pieces to lower the barrier to entry on awareness pieces and ask for more information as someone consumes content on a topic further down the funnel.
Capture and Analyze Content Performance Metrics
Only 27% of B2B marketers feel like they’re effectively tracking content utilization metrics. Part of the problem is that many marketers don’t have enough tracking in place to understand how content is being consumed; the other part is that marketers don’t take enough time to analyze the metrics at their disposal.
Here are a few tips for digging deeper into your performance data:
- Stop relying on static content formats. PDFs and JPEG infographics may be relatively easy to produce, but they’re a complete black box when it comes to analytics. Opt for web formats like standard web pages and rich HTML interactive content that provide rich data.
- Invest in better on-page tracking software. With services like CrazyEgg, SumoMe, OptinMonster, and Optimizely, you can gain more insight into how specific portions of your web pages are being engaged with.
- Implement tracking codes consistently. If you don’t already have a clear system for creating tracking codes in your link shortener and marketing automation platform, make it your top priority. Otherwise, your reporting will be confusing, inconsistent, and not very useful.
- Learn how to analyze your data. The information you glean from a weekly and monthly dive into your content performance will help you create much more effective content. It won’t derail your creative process—it’ll empower you to be even more creative.
Testing your lead gen tactics and pathways can help you entice viewers in the right way with your content. And reviewing your content performance over time will help you create a positive feedback loop in your interactive content marketing program, ensuring that you know what works and do more of the same.
Interactive content marketing is the future. Your customers are longing to make real connections with brands and interactivity in marketing content helps to forge those connections. It’s time to start elevating your interactive content marketing practices.