The Power of Interactive Marketing Content to Attract & Convert Customers
Updated: Feb 12, 2019
With the majority of businesses -- including 89% of start-ups -- now using content marketing as a strategic marketing approach, the race is on to create content that helps your business stand out from the crowd.
We're all familiar with the standard forms of content: blogs, white papers, videos and infographics, to name a few.
But beyond creating clever, high-visibility video campaigns that generally only the largest brands can pull off, how does the average business differentiate itself?
I believe there is an underutilized approach that most -- though perhaps not all -- organizations can leverage. I call it interactive marketing content (IMC), and I have ascribed it a very specific definition.
The Traditional Interactive Approach
The concept of interactive marketing has been around a long time. Webinars, events, contests, downloading an e-book, even the popular BuzzFeed quizzes (i.e., Which Julie Roberts character are you most like?) fall into this category. There is an exchange of information and/or an "interaction" with the brand, but it either a) doesn't provide real value to the prospect or b) it's flowing one way -- from the business to the customer.
Now you can argue that the information a prospect gets from a webinar or a trade show has value, but it's usually a one-directional form of communication, from the business to the prospect, not the other way around. It's not something the prospect has independently sought out.
Interactive Marketing Content: A Definition
As Demand Metric's 2018 Benchmark Study revealed, 96% of study participants believe that content interactivity impacts buyers’ decisions as they go through their journey.
So what makes IMC different than traditional interactive content? It has the following characteristics:
a) it benefits or provides actual value to the prospect
b) it's usually sought out by the prospect from the business
c) it's interactive, meaning there is some dynamic exchange of information from both parties
d) it exemplifies the company's brand, that is to say the content is directly relevant to the product or services the business provides
Before getting into the specific examples, it's worth noting that there are some gray areas within and between these definitions. The important take-away is to ask yourself what brand value proposition(s) does your business have that can be translated into interactive marketing content?
When I worked as the marketing director at MINDBODY, I mined our clients' aggregated business data to identifiy important trends, including year-over-year sales increases and the number of hours saved in administrative time. For example, salon owners may have originally scheduled appointments manually over the phone, whereas once they started using the SaaS platform, those appointments could be made automatically through the website.
I used these two pieces of data and asked our developers to create a simple calculator that would help other salon owners determine what type of revenue growth and reduction in operational expenses they might expect if they transitioned to MINDBODY.
Since the data varied by industry, the calculations happening on the back-end would produce different results for each prospect. The prospect also entered their specific wage information, creating another unique data point.
This ROI tool became one of our most successful interactive content marketing tools, playing a significant role in sales conversions. Though we did not require any contact information to use the calculator, you could easily turn this into a lead generator by requiring an email address to which the results could be sent.
Calculators are being used effectively in the banking and fitness industries to calculate things like mortgage payments and body mass index.
As VP of Marketing at Digital West, which is a data services and telecom provider, I wanted to create interactive tools that would both educate prospects and gently guide them to our services. Some of our services were very technical in nature, so I strove for messaging that was easy-to-understand.
The result was three 10-question assessment tools: one on Internet connectivity, one on IT infrastructure, and one about IT consulting. I didn't have the benefit of a developer to assist me with the project, so I used a simple Survey Monkey interface to craft eight content-related questions. The first question asked for an email address, and the last required the user to tally up their responses. It wasn't very elegant, but it worked.
I tied their numeric answer in the final question to one of three different automated email responses in HubSpot. Depending on their answer, they received a personalized message that essentially said one of the following:
You're in good shape, but we're here for you.
Looks like you could use some fine-tuning, we can help.
You really need help. Call us today!
Not only did we help educate the prospect, they became a lead in our system and were automatically enrolled into a nurturing campaign associated with the topic of the assessment tool they used.
A word of caution. Tools like these can be helpful, but be sure to create them with integrity. Meaning, don't inflate numbers, don't have every response be "you need our help," and don't in any way trick the prospect into believing they need your product or service when they really don't.
Most apps are the ultimate in providing IMC, but developing them can be cost-prohibitive. I must admit that I learned about the Charmin Sit or Squat app while doing background research for this article, but I found it so fun, I'm including it. The app helps consumers find clean public restrooms nearby. "Clean" bathrooms mean it's safe to sit, whereas in dirty ones, you'd want to squat.
It checks off all four points of my definition: sought by the prospect, interactive, provides value and supports the brand!
Other IMC Tools
Free tools or "light" versions. Canva is one of my all time favorite vendors for this purpose. You can create great graphics for free, but only by upgrading to their Canva for Work can you unlock additional features like resizing, brand kits and animation.
Free trials. SEMrush offers a free 7-day trial, which helps users get hooked on the great competitive research tools they offer.
Surveys and Quizzes*
Maps, in some cases
*These tools make the cut provided they provide real value to the prospect and they underscore the brand proposition. A quiz that has nothing to do with your business -- even if it is super fun -- doesn't make the cut.
What Value Do You Deliver?
Think about your brand value proposition or the main benefits of your products or services. Do you save people time? Do you save them money? Do you improve their quality of life? Maybe you make them more efficient in their jobs, or help them feel better about themselves in some way.
Now ask what data you already have. Maybe it's something hiding in your sales CRM or in your CFO's financials. Perhaps your customer service reps have some jewels you know nothing about, like the 10 most frequently asked questions. Ask around or brainstorm with your team to identify data that you can translate into some form of interactive marketing content.
It may take some creativity, but I'm guessing you'll find something there. If you'd like to brainstorm ideas or get help in creating your own interactive marketing content, please reach out!