There are many ways to engage with customers using content. It starts with creating content they want to consume. Content that is useful for whatever task or decision process they are currently involved in. But then it comes to the different ways you can deliver that content, interactive approaches, while considered table-stakes, still seem to be a work-in-progress for many companies.
According to a study by B2B Decision Labs, 83% of companies believe it’s important to create interactive digital content, but only 18% are actually creating it.
Alex Kelly, Director of Digital Marketing at Ceros, a cloud-based platform for interactive content experiences, spoke with me about how we can employ interactive content in our marketing and sales strategies and some things you need to do to get started.
The definition of interactive content has evolved
To be honest, we’ve been discussing interactive content for what feels like forever. But there’s an increased awareness of its importance today, and Kelly said there are a couple of reasons:
- The competition is getting fierce. With all the content offered through inbound marketing campaigns, you need a way to stand out and be more interesting.
- The acceleration from physical experiences to digital experiences has increased the amount of online content, and it will only continue.
For content to be considered interactive, it must require active engagement from the consumer, whether a click, a view (eg: video), or entering or selecting information. There are many ways to create interactive content - quizzes, infographics, videos, clickable charts, product tours, games, and even landing pages can be interactive.
According to Kelly, interactive content can include embed cards in a web page or a blog or it could be a landing page with sections gated. It can be a 'choose-your-own-adventure' e-book, a microsite for an ABM campaign, or an RFP response that lets you select package options to get pricing. This list goes on and on.
Interactive content is used in pretty much all areas of marketing and sales. Tech companies were early adopters, but today there are just as many other companies in other industries who benefit greatly from interactive content. For example, Kelly said a real-estate company selling furnished condos can provide an experience where buyers can select the furnishing they want for their new home. Beauty companies, like Sephora, have interactive quizzes and buying guides, and home furnishing companies, like Ikea, provide tools to help you design your living space with their furniture.
How interactive content can help drive conversions
Interactive content is much more interesting to engage with than a basic PDF or web page. And if you are analyzing the performance of your content, you can quickly determine how to improve and optimize it to get better engagement. For example, which sections do customers spend more time on, and what are they skipping completely? As a result, there’s more opportunity to create the content your customers want.
But there are even better reasons to monitor and track how your interactive content is being used, like deciding the next steps for a buyer. The Marketer’s Guide To Interactive Content Success talks about adding “completion events” to your interactive content. These hooks help you understand where a buyer is on their journey. Use this information to determine what other content to offer or when it’s time for a salesperson to reach out.
For example, suppose someone is spending a lot of time viewing an interactive product guide where they can select different options and see how the product will work and what it will cost. In that case, that could be a trigger event for sales to reach and provide more information on specific product packages.
Some advice to get started
Kelly offered some advice to get started with interactive content, but his first words were “it depends,” which means you have to think about your situation and apply this advice accordingly.
First, he said to map the touchpoints along the customer journey (social, web, product, sales) and understand what is working and not working today. Then think about how you can improve and impact some of these touchpoints with interactive content.
Of course, you need to know if you have the bandwidth to take the work on interactive content. It all depends on what you want to do, the available resources, and the tools you have to work with.
Next, you need to assess your internal skillset, Kelly said. Do you have in-house design experience (either a graphic designer or a marketer with good design skills), or do you need an external agency or freelancers to help?
Kelly suggests starting small, then thinking of ways to re-think and re-team before you scale-out. He also recommends looking at the tools and solutions you are already using and making sure any new tools for interactive content can integrate into how your team is working today.
I would add to consider carefully whether interactive content is the right approach for a given situation. For example, in the B2B Decision Labs study mentioned above, interactive content didn’t work as well in certain sales campaigns as traditional static content.
Ceros talks about interactive content, but they also go further defining what they call “experiential content":
Experiential content is digital content that is purposefully designed to create an immersive experience for its consumers through some combination of interactions, animations, embedded media, and storytelling. It encourages active participation in an effort to form memorable, emotional connections between the consumer and the brand or creator.
Experiential content is a better way to think of interactive content because you are thinking about it in the context of the customer experience. You are using interactive content to help tell a story and create connection. This approach can be expensive and may require outside resources if you don’t have a highly experienced design team and the right tools. But when done right and for the right reasons, you will cut through the clutter of unimportant content out there.