It’s 7:30 a.m., and I am waiting in line at Starbucks. This is my time to prepare for the day, and I am cleaning out my inbox, by sending content to my trash folder—content that costs thousands of dollars and countless hours to create. My daily clean-out routine starts by deleting the common perpetrators: invitations to webinars from companies I don’t know, free offers for things I don’t want, blog posts urging me to click on them, status updates and tweets from my network begging me to read something they didn’t …
This constant barrage of digital content has made me numb. The fact is that I’d rather be watching and sharing a video about a crazy kid dancing at a basketball game, than reading, and forwarding valuable content that will help me do my job. Today’s content stands no chance of making it out of Starbucks!
How Can You Avoid Your Content From Going Straight to the Trash Can?
I am not talking about how to draw your attention. For this, you have to use a powerful picture, create a provocative tagline, etc. Let’s assume you have got all that figured out, and most of you do these days. What I like to discuss is the boring content that follows. Here are some keys to creating meaningful content:
1. Engagement over entertainment: Entertainment in the B2B world is extremely expensive. Few of us have a CEO who is willing to commit the dollars needed for an entertainment pitch. The better, more affordable path to success, is engagement. How to engage? Make it my story, relate it to my journey, and provide a conclusion that applies to me.
2. Offer me value. Now: I’m impatient, and I need to deliver results. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need you to solve all my problems right then and there, but at least help me diagnose my problem, or provide a fresh perspective. But please do not try to sell me—it won’t work.
3. Native to online/tablet use: This sounds basic, but it’s extremely important for the success of your message. Sharing a PDF file through Dropbox is not a digital content strategy. Your content should be native to online use and target a tablet instead of a PC. The NFL leverages the TV as a medium compared with fantasy football which is an immersive online experience. Similarly, your online content needs a new approach. Let your audience double-tap, swipe, and pinch their way through an exciting experience.
4. Be authentic: Show me you care about this topic. Show me your passion, share your opinion, forget copy/paste, and put your heart into what you do. You are truly the unique selling point, regardless if you work on the first or tenth floor.
A Lean-Backward Video vs. a Lean-Forward Prezi
Below is a typical lean-backward video experience. This video plays uniformly on all devices. You can hit Play or Pause, and watch. Not much engagement.
Reversal: Turning an engaging Prezi into a non-engaging, lean-back video
In contrast, click here to try this interactive lean forward experience on your iPad. Use your fingers to navigate, pinch to get a broader perspective, swipe to change your point of view, and double tap where you want to go. You can even rotate it. Notice the difference? Instead of viewing, you are discovering. You can start anywhere, and finish anywhere you want to.
Sell Sell Sell and Blah Blah Blah
In his book Convergence Marketing, Richard Rosen asserts that building awareness and enabling interaction require finding a balance between sales (high-velocity conversion), and marketing (low-velocity conversion). I leveraged his work to look critically, at the (software as a service) customer journey, and plugged in the content we commonly use as part of sales enablement. What you see is that most of the content we use today falls into the categories of “Sell Sell Sell” or “Blah Blah Blah”—neither of which is engaging or meaningful to the customer. Content that hits the sweet spot between these two extremes, seems to hit the spot where it actually offers value to customers. But beware, you may have produced the right kinds of content, but it is still key to engage through interaction.
The example above demonstrates how a boring video, becomes engaging by changing the tool. Can we do this for other content, too?
Visualization of the “trust cloud” of engaging and meaningful content—click to engage
What Kind of Content Is Ready for Overhaul?
Some types of content are easier to overhaul than others, and some have a bigger impact. Here are the three pieces of content that I found to have the biggest impact:
- RESEARCH MATERIALS: Aggregate, analyze, and share research through a research paper that outlines the problems experienced in your market. Combine a variety of source materials such as video, PDF documents, etc. The key is not to fall into the trap of recommending your solution.
- WHITE PAPER: Present a white paper of a solution that leverages the research and that turns the analysis into action.
- VISION PITCH: Share your vision of a better world, why we need it, how to go about it, and what is needed to get started.
Which Tools Can Engage An Audience?
For the past year, I have been tinkering with different types of online content, and published it on a variety of platforms, to determine what attracts the most views, drives the most engagement, and, ultimately, develops the most business.
I have included a table below listing the number of views, and likes, some of my top assets have accrued on various platforms. For example, my SaaS In the Enterprise prezi (white paper) received 439,396 views and 1,244 Prezi likes, while the Slideshare version of that same asset—literally the same content, simply reformatted into slides instead of path points—received only 39 views and one SlideShare like.
Comparison of the same content published on different platforms
Although each platform excels in its own way, the data show that Prezi stands out head and shoulders above the rest. Realise that the number of views (likes) directly correlates to rankings in search engines. The likes indicate engagement and are reflective of where most of the leads are being generated. Below are some of the comments I’ve received.
“Prezifying” Content Delivers Results across the Entire Journey
I recently received word from a client, to let me know that the traditional marketing materials we had “Prezified” into a Virtual tradeshow “has grown legs, and has Usain Bolt-ed way past its expected goal lines.” The Prezi was viewed over 25,000 times, and created as many impressions as ten other videos the company had created—combined! This kind of virality is the result of engaging, entertaining native-to-online content.
A “View” is Worth a Thousand Words
The value is not always in the number of views, likes, or shares. Sometimes all you need is just one single view, to make a stellar sale. Over the past months, I developed outreach campaigns for several companies, leveraging their top executives to generate leads. I’ve collaborated closely with the CEO to send out a brief and to-the-point e-mail asking a prospective CEO to take a look at the Prezi and determine if the idea in question was of interest.
Why not? Value is simple. The seller is going to spend his valuable resources, to engage the prospective clients’ valuable resources to come to the conclusion that your offer is not on the CEO’s priority list.
Why not spend money on a professional storyteller, who captures the value, avoids all the (technical) details ,and tells it in a visually stimulating way? This approach continues to show great results. In my opinion, the best “cold calls” are actually made by executives who use their skills and networks. I was very fortunate to find several of my clients willing to share their CEO-to-CEO Prezis that illustrate the power.
Three examples of CEO-to-CEO stories
Yes, content is key in a digital strategy. Yes, content sells in a digital strategy. But what content are you going to build your strategy around? Add pictures to your PowerPoint and post it on SlideShare? Create a boring e-book around your valuable content? A shallow Infographic that generates views?
I hope that after this post has given you, a sense of what is possible, and perhaps even some fresh ideas. If you like to read more, click here, and if there is anything I can do to help, you know where to find me. At Starbucks, having a coffee, while cleaning out my inbox.
PS: Try out the Apple Speech function to have this article read to you while stuck in traffic.