This column is in no way somewhere for me to spruik the company I work for, but obviously what I do day to day is likely to inspire what I write about. And this week, I’ve been mostly banging on to clients about the importance of understanding customer touchpoints within content marketing strategies.
The principles of content marketing are pretty simple. In essence, it’s the idea that alongside creating advertisements that interrupt people, brands should create content that engages them. It’s the creation of a film or a magazine or a blog or a website that is so interesting that audiences will seek it out – and then tell other people about it. This is easy to understand, right?
Of course, this whole structure is founded upon a pact between consumer and brand: the brand gives the audience something of value – the content – in return for the audience giving back something of value – their time. Still with me?
Implicit in this is the idea that the content part of content marketing needs to surprise and delight, to entertain and inform – this is where the value lies. And of course if it doesn’t do any of these things, it’s really no better than the interruption model. Again, so far, so straightforward, you would think.
So let’s add a little more complexity: the idea that the different types of content a brand generates can be used to move people gradually through a set of consumer touchpoints, with the sale, usually, a few points into that journey. The sale is the ENDGAME.
Apparently this bit is a little difficult to get.
You see, I keep coming across brands that say ‘Yeah, we want to get into this content space’, but instead of understanding the pact with the consumer, and understanding the idea of the ‘nudge‘, the idea of gradually moving their consumers through a series of touchpoints, they decide to go straight in with the sale, or straight in with a request: Here’s the content, now buy something from me. Here’s the content, now give me your email address. Here’s the content, now let me sleep with your wife. (OK, the last bit was made up, but you get the point.)
So here’s the simple message for today: stop and think. Use your content wisely. Pull people in with your videos and blogs but don’t ask them to buy something straight away, or to give you their email address. The content has to be in exchange for one thing: the audience’s time. If you want to get hold of an audience member’s email address, give them something else in return for a new something. This ‘new something’ will be the second touchpoint. It could be the opportunity to win something, or to voice an opinion, or to access some more content that is bigger, better, more in depth: an e-book or whitepaper. You could even ask your audience for their email address to enable you to share content with them that is more tailored to their interests. There are a whole bunch of things you could do to pull your audience in deeper, but deeper is the right adjective. Don’t propose on the first date.
Want to see some examples of ‘free’ content? How about the Woolworths Baby and Toddler Club (full disclosure: this is one of my projects). Or the Red Bull YouTube channel. Or Tablet Hotels’ The Magazine. Or – and this one uses ‘user-generated content’ but it’s still ‘free’ to the consumer – Burberry’s Art Of The Trench. None of these ask me for anything in return for this content.
There’s one other point that I’d like to make, which is that although engaging content and the ‘interruption’ model seem to be at loggerheads, they’re really not. Your interruption advertising can be used to signpost content and push users to it. Encourage viewers of your TV spot to come see what’s happening at your website/Facebook page/YouTube channel. Offer them wonderful, engaging content in exchange for their time. And then pull them in deeper.
Richard Parker is the head of digital at strategic content agency Edge, where he has experience working with leading brands including Woolworths, St George and Foxtel. He previously spent 12 years in the UK, first at Story Worldwide then as the co-owner and strategic director of marketing agency Better Things.