I hate to tell you this, but you know that laundry list of marketing activities you have that makes you feel like you’re doing something?
It’s irrelevant. Your customers don’t care.
You should know by now that your customers don’t want to be advertised to. And when they see you pump out yet another blog post that’s nothing more a thinly veiled sales pitch, they feel cheated for wasting attention on you.
Your audience isn’t stupid. They know you’re just trying to sell them something.
Let’s put this another way.
There is a brand new bakery in the small town I live in. Bakeries have been trying to make a go of it in this town for years, and all of them end up failing. But Michelle Honeman of the newly opened Sugar Momma’s Bake Shop won’t be short of business anytime soon. Why? What does she have that makes her so different?
Besides having a remarkable product, with one-of-a-kind baked goods that look more like sculptures than cakes, Honeman is a local celebrity, thanks to a contest on the Food Network.
(This phenomenon is part of why even smaller brands are rushing to get celebrities, including YouTube and other internet celebrities, to promote their products, but that’s another post).
Nobody wants to be sold to – they want to be entertained and engaged. If you want someone’s attention, you have to earn it. And the only way to get someone’s attention is to give them something they want first.
You have to begin with a remarkable product – but that’s just the cost of entry. It’s not enough. Honeman’s products are remarkable – she is more than a baker. She is an artist, crafting her works out of confection. That’s why everyone wants her work. She has taken a mundane experience and turned it into a transformative one.
That’s your job as a marketer. You have to give the user a reason to even consider why they might want that remarkable product because they have so many other options to fill that same need.
That’s why over the past few years, marketers have gone the direction of content marketing. Whether you’re blogging, writing white papers, or curating content on social media, content marketing is the smartest, most cost efficient way to start a longer conversation with a prospect.
Savvy marketers understand it’s much easier to buy from someone you know, like, and trust than it is a stranger, and that’s why so much time and effort goes into crafting an editorial strategy that supports customers in making a decision about their product.
This giving mentality is effective. But it’s becoming less so every day because so many people are now creating content, much of it noise.
So what’s does this mean for you? Have you been perpetuating bad marketing and busy work while competitors reap conversions?
This is your wake up call. Want to rise above the noise? Make better content. How do you make better, more effective content? Make it interactive.
The new (old) world: Interactive content marketing
If you haven’t seen the Buy The World A Coke 2012 update by Google and Coke, you need to. They actually created special vending machines where you can buy someone a Coke from anywhere in the world, and they can send a thank you video back to you. It’s spectacular. By beginning with a nostalgic ad and infusing it with technology, they managed to actually let you buy the world a Coke.
This is interactive content marketing.
What makes content interactive?
Interactive content is first and foremost visual. A well-written blog post on its own performs well enough. A blog post with a quiz that makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger? That goes viral.
No matter how strong your SEO skills are, it’s not enough to have content sitting out there waiting to be found. Passive content forms – like ebooks, white papers, and yes, even blog posts – are not enough to keep users engaged for long (in most cases).
Don’t mistake my meaning here. It’s smart to be ostracizing with your content medium when it’s for a niche audience, like articles you would post to Medium. However, it’s ignorant to market a product with mass appeal without creating the content those users want.
Interactive content has several key indicators that separates it from basic content.
This content is active
Interactive means you are engaging the user. The user must respond to your content, or move on. And this is exactly what you as a marketer want to happen. Active content allows users to opt in or out more quickly, which gets you closer to your leads that much faster.
This content is evergreen
As long as the content still gives the user utility – that is, the content is still engaging and useful – this content is good for much longer than the average webinar, blog post, etc. Think Copyblogger tutorials for an example of this.
This content gives users what they want – more apps
Apps are designed to facilitate interaction between a user and their device, whether that is in the context of a game, a productivity app, or even something as basic as a calendar. Apps are at the center of interactive content marketing, which means it’s crucial you’re spending your budget creating the right ones. You’ll also notice how much overlap can begin happening here between advertising and the product itself.
This might sound crazy, but that’s actually a good thing.
As a marketer, you can end up insulated from a product and users if you’re not careful, and that’s the beginning of the end. However, in a lean business environment, this can sound expensive and time consuming. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Truly innovative marketers know the application you build into marketing the product is as much a part of what you buy as the product itself. That’s part of why you should consider thinking about marketing more like someone who plays video games.
Why you should think like a gamer
It might sound farfetched to start thinking like a gamer to generate great content and high quality leads, but you must do exactly that to stay relevant. This is because of a central highlight of gamifacation research, “urgent optimism.”
In her groundbreaking work Reality is Broken, author Jane McGonical says, “Urgent optimism is the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.” This desire is what makes a user make an in-app purchase, take a brand’s quiz, or share a video with a friend. It’s the belief that an action they can take right now can bring them closer to a win.
The story you build around your brand can provide that rush of endorphins that accompanies your user’s win with the right combination of interaction and integrated media. Think it sounds too good to be true? Well, it might – if you think it’s easy.
Crafting a compelling story has never been simple, but it’s the only way worth marketing. Whether you’re selling shoes or coffee or a game about exploding kittens, putting in the work to create a story worth telling and retelling take much more than an MBA and positive thinking that your work will be received as genuine when in fact you just want someone’s money.
Urgent optimism isn’t merely positive thinking – it’s fueled by our need to engage with others in a shared experience.
Warby Parker creates a shared experience when you buy a pair of their glasses, because they’ve made you part of the story with your buy-one, give-one purchase.
Virgin Air creates a shared experience when you fly with them, because the innovative and entrepreneurial fly Virgin.
You create a shared experience when you allow your customer to engage in a story with you. Interactive content marketing is the way you should be doing it this year.