How often do you go to YouTube and only look at one video? Yeah, me neither. It’s more likely that I’ll watch one cute pet video (don’t judge), get enticed by another related one and another. Then 10 or 15 minutes later, I’ll come up for air, having spent way more time avoiding work than I ever imagined (don’t tell my boss).
But it’s really not my fault. Like Vegas, the game is rigged and the house always wins in the end. Best-in-class digital publishers like YouTube, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Wimp, LinkedIn and Netflix are masters at engineering the content experience to keep me (and you) reading or watching longer. Why? Because that’s how they make their money, and they go to great lengths to hold on to our attention while they’ve got it: Enjoying this? You might like this. Read this next….
B2B marketers have a lot in common with digital publishers. In the attention economy, we’re all vying for mindshare and we all need our prospects to engage with more content. But for all the similarities, there are a few important differences as well.
The Click and What Comes After
Digital publishers make money from advertising. The more attention they generate and, in turn, the more pages you visit, the more ad impressions they can offer their advertisers. Digital publishers measure their effectiveness by the number of page views per session: In other words, their success depends on how well they maximize engagement here and now while they have someone’s attention.
While this model has led to some bad behavior on the part of digital publishers (click-bait anyone?), most publishers recognize that their long-term viability depends upon using technology to deliver a better content experience for their audience. They use sophisticated technology to track your behavior and actively suggest and promote specific calls to action that steer you toward the next piece of relevant content. If a digital publisher gets you to engage with only one piece of content, they haven’t done enough to maximize your engagement.
Netflix makes its money through monthly subscriptions not advertising, but they’re also in the attention business – getting it and holding on to it. Netflix focuses on maximizing content engagement to make sure that you continue to find value in your subscription. Happy customers binge and Netflix encourages this behavior with features like recommendations, auto-play and the “are you still watching?” prompt. The more content they can get you to engage with in a continuous session, the more likely you’ll be to keep paying month after month. This is how they measure their effectiveness.
What’s this mean to B2B Marketers?
Now let’s turn the camera around and look at B2B marketers today, and reverse-engineer how they make money for the businesses they serve (spoiler alert: It’s all about attention). The B2B marketer exists to hand qualified leads over to sales, so reps can turn them into revenue.
A qualified lead means that the prospect is interested, educated and sales-ready (e.g. ready to have an informed and intelligent conversation with a rep). In order for this to happen, marketers must get prospects to engage with content – lots of it. The more relevant content a prospect engages with, the more likely they are to be sales-ready.
To make this happen, and to accelerate the path to purchase, marketers need to capture and hold on to their audience’s attention just as digital publishers do. And similarly, marketing effectiveness can be measured in terms of not only clicks, but by the amount of content a prospect consumes per session after they click.
The good news is that research shows that B2B buyers will binge in much the same way they do with on-demand TV. Content bingeing is not exclusively a B2C or digital publishing phenomenon. The difference is that publishers have figured out how to let this content consumption behavior happen without getting in the way. Savvy B2B marketers are trying to do the same, but they face some unique challenges that publishers do not.
Marketers are at a Disadvantage
When it comes to holding on to attention, B2B marketers have certain disadvantages compared to digital publishers:
- Connecting the dots with different types of content – Publishers’ content is almost always native to their own websites, making it easier for an audience to connect the dots. B2B content is often scattered across their own and third-party sites (analyst websites, peer review communities, YouTube, etc.) The content itself is also in many different formats: PDF documents, videos hosted on third-party sites, SlideShare presentations, interactive webpages, and so on. This makes it difficult to connect the dots for prospects without forcing them off the website – and this is dangerous because your buyer might (let’s face it…probably will) get distracted and never come back.
- Measuring content engagement – Publishers can easily track time spent on a given webpage using web analytics tools. B2B marketers can track time spent on site too, but what about all the other stuff they want their buyers to read and watch? That infographic, third-party analyst report, SlideShare deck or case study PDF download? In these cases, marketers have no way of measuring content engagement beyond the click.
- Making engagement data actionable – If you think tracking time spent reading or watching your content is hard, how about making that engagement data actionable? Digital publishers use data to deliver relevant content and behavior-driven content journeys where one piece of content leads naturally to the next. Until recently, B2B marketers have lacked technologies that make this kind of engagement tracking easy and actionable.
- Bridging budget and technology gaps – Digital publishers have the infrastructure, resources and technology to connect the dots for their audience. They have to; it’s their core competency. B2B marketers are constantly being asked to do more with less. They lack the resources and budget to develop or invest in expensive engagement technologies – even if these technologies were readily available to them.
The ultimate question for B2B marketers is how to overcome these disadvantages and start focusing on content engagement with the same seriousness and sophistication as digital publishers. Here are a few tips for maximizing content engagement:
- Make the most of every click – You can achieve this by investing in tools to maximize engagement with your content after the click.
- Engaged prospects will binge – Find ways to encourage this content consumption behavior and you can pack more of the buyer’s journey into every click.
- Package and promote related content that is relevant to the initial click – Think in terms of content journeys not one-off content events to hold on to your audience’s attention while you have it and satisfy their craving for more.
- Tell a good story – A story has a beginning, middle and end and it entices a reader to keep turning the pages. This is important because stories are the best way to adjust someone’s attitude and influence their behavior. Think about how your pieces of content work together as a whole to tell your story and make sure that story is consistent across all your channels.
- Measure content engagement – Use engagement data to align your content with your audience’s behavior. Without actionable content engagement metrics, you can’t understand what’s working and you can’t demonstrate effectiveness. Imagine the difficulty a digital publisher would have getting ad dollars if they didn’t have viewer metrics! Once you’re capturing engagement data, you can integrate it with your MAP and make positive adjustments to your programs and strategy.
B2B marketers and digital publishers have a lot in common, but the differences are just as telling: They expose gaps and areas where publishers come out ahead in maximizing content engagement. For more about what B2B marketers can learn from digital publishers, and why you can’t afford to be left behind, check out our eBook: Engagement Marketing in the Netflix Era.
Bill Hutzul is Senior Account Executive at LookBookHQ. His focus is on helping B2B marketers develop effective content strategies and “fail faster” by learning and iterating with better content engagement data. Get in touch at Bill@lookbookhq.com or @BillHutzul.
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