In writing my new book, Digital Relevance, I spent a lot of time thinking about how a digital approach changes a lot of things, including the opportunity we have to become more relevant to our audiences.
An obvious line of thought, given the title of the book, right?
But here's the thing. Most marketers have gotten so tied around the axle about wanting their content to perform from an audience perspective that they've not given much thought to how it can perform as an inquiry to improve that very relevance and engagement that they're after.
The big question to answer is: What is my content designed to help me - as a marketer - learn about those who engage with it?
What I see mostly is the assumptive stuff based on format, such as:
- If the audience engages with an ROI calculator or views a demo they're late stage
- If they complete a form they may be a "lead"
- If they attend a webinar they're in the evaluation stage
But, how do you know? Because someone said so? Hmm.
We need to be better than this. We need to develop a rousing curiosity about what our audiences are interested in and what engaging with a specific piece of content could mean to them.
Based on the information in the content, not the packaging.
Content must be designed to have mutual value. It must deliver something your audience cares about AND it must deliver an answer to a line of inquiry that can help you improve relevance in a way that leads to additional engagement.
Part of the issue with this is that, as marketers, we're conditioned to think in a perspective based on one-to-many rather than one-to-one. I'm not saying that we yet have the tools or skills to excel at the latter, but I do think we have a huge opportunity to move in that direction. We may as well start now, because that's what's coming.
Think about nurturing for a moment. The point of nurturing is to create continuous engagement based on enticing prospects to take steps toward purchase over the course of their buying process.
This doesn't mean sending out an email with a link to your latest blog post every two weeks.
It means unfolding a story that creates curiosity and anticipation for what's next in the journey to solve the problem on their plates - aligned to their perspective (persona).
So what can you learn if you design your content both to serve prospects and as an inquiry?
Start simply by considering how the dots can be connected to reveal insights you can act upon to find improvements.
For exmaple, if they read A, what's the propensity for them to read B? Or do more of them skip right to F? If they do skip to F then perhaps your content is out of order for how the problem presents to them. Perhaps a change to the way you connect your storyline would improve response and next steps.
As another example, let's get to the meat of the content. Let's say someone reads a content article about determining whether to build or buy the solution to a problem and they share the content with their colleagues. What can you learn? Obviously, if you're selling the "built" version, the slant of the content would be toward that choice.
So could you discern that the person who forwarded the content is trying to convince others involved in the decision that buying is the better option? Or, is that too much of a leap and maybe the group is still wrestling to answer that internal question? If you have a "see also" about how to make that choice and the person also clicks to read that, you may have an answer.
But, more importantly, what you also learn is where they are in the buying process. They're still considering whether or not to move forward with buying as a means to solve their problem. Until that question is answered, they won't move forward. They are early stage. Does that tell you how to move forward with engaging them? It should.
However, if you're only looking at the format or the number of content assets they've engaged with, you really have no idea about what stage they're in or what they truly care about. The content of the content is what can tell you. If you design it in pursuit of inquiry. The way in which you connect the content about a topic together can also tell you which way they're leaning.
What does your content and the way you share it help you to learn about your audience?