Engagement Dis-content: The Perils Of Putting Format First
Still, marketing departments around the globe produce three white papers and two Webcasts, for example, only to determine later exactly what content will fill the space or time.
New research on information consumption by IT buyers confirms that content is indeed king, and that independent, high-quality customer case studies and third-party reports are more important than the format in which the information is presented. In fact, certain media formats can actually backfire on marketers. Consider the hundreds of 60-minute Webcasts with vendor-speak complemented by a monotonous talking head. Research also shows that there is a major disconnect between the amount of vendor marketing (in all formats) and the unbiased information buyers need at various stages of the purchase process, from consideration to final vendor selection.
If the content is perceived to be independent and of very high quality, it will work in almost any format.
Generational aspects of content consumption are now a key determinant of what assets should be developed for certain demographics. Early MySpace and Facebook users are now in their mid-20s -- and could be your influential buyers. Since peers and colleagues consistently come up as the two greatest influences in buying virtually all products, marketers must view social networks and communities as perhaps the most powerful marketplace. To reach potential buyers through social networks, one tactic may be to migrate traditional assets (print and online news and information) into social network conversations as part of a prospect qualification strategy. Suggestive or collaborative filtering models provide a means of guiding buyers from white papers, podcasts and Webcasts into active peer discussions on sophisticated technology issues.
When surveyed by IDC in 2007, technology buyers (IT and business professionals) begged their vendors to educate them instead of sell to them. Guiding them through a knowledge-based sales process was rated as a major factor in the decision to purchase a product -- even ahead of price.
Therefore, the development of such an "engagement curriculum" enables leads to be scored based on the myriad of attributes that content assets (white papers, Webcasts, podcasts, etc.) carry. Content audits become a critical step in this curricular process. Such asset characteristics that can be coded to travel with the document similar to a bar code on a product are:
· Sophistication of the content and the expertise needed to understand it
· Content focus on a purchase process stage ( consideration to selection)
· Consumption patterns of the asset
· Content format
By linking these content attributes to a CRM or lead nurturing system, marketers can build a dossier of a buyer's informational consumption patterns to create a deeper understanding of his product interest and engagement patterns.
Lastly, after auditing the content inventory and determining the attributes of each asset, mapping and sequencing becomes the final phase of the optimization and engagement process. This stage requires a suggestive strategy to guide the prospect through a more sophisticated and intimate educational process. Tracking the time frame in which prospects consume information of varying degrees of difficulty, targeted to various buying cycle periods, results in an Engagement Intensity Index TM score.
The buyer-seller relationship must begin with an understanding of what a prospect prefers at different stages of product consideration. By optimizing and mapping content and understanding the engagement intensity, performance measurements become a much richer indication of intent to buy than the traditional business card information collected in exchange for access to one piece of vendor information.