Content Marketing Formats Must Evolve
PDFs, infographics, and other static content aren't going to cut it for long.
The ability to evolve and the agility to pivot in response to trends are crucibles upon which marketers' work is often judged by consumers and organizations alike. One area in which this is especially apparent is content marketing. As surely as digital content marketing has become elemental, so too has the Web's indiscriminate urge to disrupt it.
We stand now upon the precipice of a paradigm shift: Content marketing, an answer itself to the shifting demands of consumer culture, must evolve. Here are just two examples of content formats that marketers need to bring up to date, as well as advice on how marketers can cater their content to the engagement-seeking audiences of today.
Everyone loves a good infographic. They're (ideally) easy to digest, fun to look at, and often shareable. Infographics are an excellent way to present text information in a world dominated by visual social channels, such as Instagram and Pinterest. But consumers have grown so accustomed to stellar visual content that a seemingly passable infographic can come off as dull or unimaginative.
“Infographics were a big step away from the text blogs and whitepapers that had previously dominated the market,” says Peter Arvai, CEO of presentation software company Prezi, “and audiences fell in love with them for their use of visuals to deliver information in a quick and memorable way. Today, infographics are fading away in favor of video and interactive media, from dynamic landing pages to presentations. Now that the visual bar has been set, people expect even more from the content they consume online.”
PDFs are the most direct descendant of print media in the digital space, and it's no surprise that they're so popular in content marketing. The problems arise when measurement, user experience, and general efficiency enter the equation.
“PDFs are a tie over from print. The only time PDFs are an appropriate format is when you print them,” says Matthew Wellschlager, VP of marketing at interactive content creation software company Ceros. “Everyone is consuming content on their computer or mobile device, and yet B2B marketers are still providing these PDFs. You don't see Coca Cola, or Red Bull, or any of these brands that are at the forefront of B2C content marketing creating PDFs.”
The fact is, B2B customers are also consumers, and they expect the same quality of content in their role as B2B purchasers as does any consumer. “There's this assumption that because you're selling to a person who wants to make their business better, they have the patience to sit through a 1,000-page eBook or whitepaper,” Wellschlager says, noting that this is rarely true today.
Arvai agrees. “People don't want to scroll through a text-filled PDF; they want to engage with something visual, dynamic, and easy to navigate,” he says. “In an era where social media encourages people to engage in conversations with brands, and where your company's content is competing with cat videos for the attention of your audience, traditional, linear content formats are going to fall flat.”
Interactivity and measurability
Much of the rhetoric around providing more dynamic and interactive content formats pushes for better usability and design—a valid point to be sure. But the crux of the opportunity lies in two key areas: better facilitation of direct communication with consumers (whether B2B or B2C purchasers), and more effective ways to track and measure how those consumers interact with and act on content.
“People aren't satisfied with one-way communication anymore; they want to participate in a conversation,” Arvai says. This is where interactive content comes into play. “Instead of creating long, static documents, consider creating ‘choose-your-own-adventure' style assets, from flowcharts to non-linear presentations, that allow your audience to jump right to the pieces of information...they care [about] the most.”
The added and crucial benefit in creating interactive content is the gateway it opens to a rich source of customer data that can feed marketing automation and campaigns. Given the costs and resource commitment of even the most rudimentary content marketing efforts, the idea of not knowing if or how customers are interacting with content is a harrowing one.
“[With PDFs,] I have no idea if anybody did anything with the content whatsoever. I don't know if they spent 10 seconds or 10 minutes with the content. I have no insight into the value of the content,” Wellschlager says. “From a CRM perspective, I have no way to alert sales if a prospect is reading a PDF. I have no way to score a prospect based on if they read one or 10 pages. When you use any kind of digital content, you suddenly have the opportunity to do smarter things.”
These “smarter things” include dynamic landing pages, assessments, interactive infographics and eBook that allow marketers to collect behavioral data they can use to track conversions and inform future content and campaigns—the possibilities in digital media are as endless.
“There are all kinds of tricks that get unlocked once you move away from PDFs,” Wellschlager says. “You've got these smart marketers deploying tools that are testing all of this stuff. Then you go to the PDF and it's just a black hole. You're flying blind [with static content], creating content to say you created content.”