We’ve all been in ‘research mode’, browsing company websites or industry blogs to understand a little more about a topic. Then suddenly, you’re in a sales funnel with teams pitching demos and “special offers”, leaving you unsure as to how you gave off all the wrong signals.
Or perhaps an ad piques your attention. Your expectations grow as you realise it could be something that interests you. You arrive on the landing page, and in a split-second decision you fill in the form with your name and email. Then behind the gate of mystery, it’s a 10,000 word eBook that no matter how you turn the 6” screen of your iPhone, it just doesn’t work.
63% of Google search traffic originated on a mobile device
Both of these happened to me, and it led me to wonder whether firms are still putting their production preferences and company objectives above the needs and wants of the audience?
Sales journey vs buyer journey
Are we forcing our sales journey onto buyers, rather than trying to work around them?
Whether your preference is the funnel, flywheel, or infinity loop sales model, they all beg the question; are they just a little bit linear and one-way?
Should we be doing more to allow buyers to move up, down, and round our content, embracing that no two journeys are ever the same?
Production vs consumption
Are we being guided too much by our team’s production preferences rather than our audience’s consumption choices?
Of course, writers want to write, designers want to design, and social teams want to share, like and post, but this shouldn’t dictate our output.
If we spend more time understanding where our audience lives online, what they want to consume, and how they want to consume it – and in the process, build a more robust persona – would we be able to create content that really resonates?
All roads lead to Rome
Of course, all roads in our sales journey lead to Rome. But what if I want to stop off at Milan & Pisa? Perhaps you want to stop off at Florence or see Rich in Tuscany on the way....
Too often, marketers prioritise producing content that meets the objectives of the company (or its funnel), rather than prioritising how the content helps the audience.
The solution could lie in allowing the audience to self-navigate through our content. Free from the confines of funnel position or a predefined sales journey. Enabling marketers to focus on producing content that helps and informs rather than content that gets the audience from A to B.
As we embrace the randomness of each buyer journey, we’ll be rewarded with better engagement. As the audience embraces the freedom to explore the content on their terms, they’ll be rewarded with a better experience.
After all, who is more receptive? Someone left feeling boxed in, frustrated and misunderstood or someone relaxed, at ease, having their questions answered on their own terms.
Give the people what they want
Coming back to the Italian analogy; what if I wanted to travel around Italy in a convertible, but you were forcing me to explore it by coach? That wouldn’t be a great experience for me. Take the example above, did they all need to be eBooks? Most people hate reading long-form content on an iPhone.
We aren’t bad-mouthing long-form content. In many cases, words allow you to articulate better than any other form of communication. But even words and long-form content should be put under the lens of the content marketing strategy.
Different stages and content ideas require different depths. Sometimes, we need to embrace big-picture thinking, presenting concepts or theories and framing them in a way that aligns the buyer to our thinking.
These content pieces align your audience to your thought process, meaning they’ll be more receptive when you present something a little more strategic, perhaps a framework, tools, or processes, to help move from idea into action.
And when they start to consider how this looks tactically, we’re already well placed to assist them, having built up affinity through other content. We’ve talked the talk, but now let's walk the walk. Together.
It’s not just about producing great content, it’s about understanding how the audience wants to consume it; delivery is key. Not everything you produce needs to live on your domain. If your persona reveals that your target audience is more likely to listen to podcasts, why not break up an eBook into a series of podcasts? Perhaps then, great content would no longer be hidden on company websites. Instead, Twitter polls and LinkedIn discussions would thrive, allowing firms to engage with their audience where they’re more receptive.
Is it time for marketers to embrace the randomness?
Marketing’s job is to influence. We use content and communications as a vehicle to encourage a user to take a particular route, but for too long businesses have been making the route a one-way road, with no U-turns, right turns, or even left turns.
Perhaps the solution to creating a successful content marketing strategy for the new age of marketing lies in relinquishing a little control? Accepting that in today’s landscape we must meet the audience where they are, in the formats they require, however they want to navigate through our content?