By Marcia Riefer Johnston published June 29, 2017

Bingeable Content: How to Move Buyers Through Your Sales Cycle Faster

bingeable-content-move-buyers-sales-cycle-fasterNot that you or I ever do it – plop down on the couch, put up our feet, click on the TV, and gorge ourselves on a full season of, oh, say, The Americans. Netflix has mastered the art of prompting us – I mean, prompting people – to binge on its streaming content.

Nick Edouard, co-founder and president of LookBookHQ, suggests that we marketers make like Netflix and entice prospective customers with content they can binge on. He made this point at the Intelligent Content Conference in his talk Never Waste Another Click: How Intelligent Content Experiences Can Accelerate the Buyer’s Journey.

What does Nick mean by “never waste another click”? He means, stop sinking all your energy into getting people to click through to single (“dead-end”) content assets. Instead, focus on keeping people engaged – hooked, even – after they click.

Why? Because your best prospects will move more than twice as quickly through your sales funnel – and are more than twice as likely to buy – when you reward their hard-won clicks with “bingeable” content, based on what Nick has seen with his clients.

Reward clicks with bingeable content and prospects are more likely to buy, says @nickedouard. #intelcontent Click To Tweet

All images in this post come from Nick’s ICC slides, and all quotations, unless otherwise noted, come from his talk.

Typical marketing approach: Single-asset content offers

Marketers are good at creating content that’s “one and done” – or, as Nick says, “one and dumb.” We create an offer that dangles a single content asset (white paper, presentation, etc.) in the hopes that people will click our offer and give us their contact info. Conversion! Score! We hand over the content asset. That’s that.

single-asset-content-offere-example

This approach has several weaknesses:

  • The content is often a dead-end asset. Where does someone go after the conversion?
  • The content looks the same for each person who clicks. Nothing about this experience is personalized.
  • Engagement with the content can’t be measured — you have no idea whether prospects even looked at it.

While “one-and-dumb” content may get the contact information you want to kick off a lead-nurturing process, it squanders the larger opportunity to give your prospects – and your company – more rewards per click.

Are you creating “one-and-dumb” content? @nickedouard #intelcontent Click To Tweet

Besides, B2B leads rarely result in sales. “The average end-to-end conversion ratio (initial lead to closed deal) for B2B marketers is 0.75%,” says Forrester analyst Lori Wizdo in her 2012 report.

The average end-to-end conversion ratio for B2B marketers is 0.75% via @loriwizdo @forrester. Click To Tweet

“If we don’t know that people are engaged with the content when we hand them over to sales,” Nick says, “sales is in no position to have an intelligent conversation with them.”

A smarter approach: Content-rich (bingeable) experiences

An “in-session, bingeable experience” offers visitors a set of related-content choices. Just as people binge-watch TV shows, they consume online content in concentrated ways when they’re engaged. People don’t wait for a marketing team to dole out a piece of content every two weeks; they click around looking for answers to their questions, following their curiosity for long stretches, never moving from their seats. As Nick says:

Marketers need to do a better job of accommodating this natural behavior. ESPN gets it. They aren’t happy if I read just one thing and then disappear. They want to hold my attention. They’re aggregating and promoting more relevant content to me in-session. They’re doing a lot of things to keep me engaged.

Like Netflix, ESPN essentially plays matchmaker between its content and each viewer. Our job as B2B marketers is to play matchmaker in a similar way between our content and each prospect.

Bingeable (match-made-in-heaven) content provides “in-session content sequencing,” as shown in this example:

content-sequencing

The left sidebar lists a set of content assets that people might want to select. For a walk-through of these content assets, in their listed order, people can click “next” in the promoter box on the right.

A set of content assets like this may be manually curated by marketers, similar to the way you might create an iTunes playlist. Alternatively, the set may be dynamically created by artificial intelligence– machine-learning algorithms – based on factors like the relationship between the content assets, data on how people have engaged with these content assets in the past, metadata, and so on.

If the click that brought someone to this URL came from a $15 ad expense, “the return on that $15 is now far higher” because your click-to-content ratio has rocketed from one to one, to one to many. Your prospects have access to a whole set of content assets to explore, not just one item to download.

Why bingeable experiences require intelligent content

It’s intelligent content – including artificial intelligence built into the content system – that enables Netflix to guess what programs its customers would enjoy. Here are some recommendations Netflix made based on what it knew about Nick:

content-discovery-example

Bingeable content requires an intelligent #contentstrategy, says @nickedouard. #intelcontent Click To Tweet

Netflix does its best to read our minds not only when we browse (as shown above) but in session too. For example, as soon as Nick finished watching Episode 3 of Narcos, Netflix immediately promoted the next episode, as you see in the lower-right-hand corner:

content-discovery-example-2

Want to offer content experiences that give your visitors a Netflix-like sense that you’ve read their minds? If so, your martech stack needs intelligent content delivery, shown in gold here:

intelligent-content-delivery

Here’s how Nick explains this intelligent content layer:

It needs to work with your marketing automation platform, with the database, with your CRM. It needs to use first- and third-party data. And it then feeds back into email. If Bob has already engaged with three or four content assets, let’s accelerate him through the nurture. You don’t need to send him emails two and three because he’s already engaged. Let’s move him to email four.

In other words, the intelligent-content layer enables you to “accelerate the buyer’s journey” by enabling prospects to “self-nurture.” As a result, in Nick’s experience, those prospects reach buying readiness sooner.

Intelligent content delivery has two parts:

  • In-session content options: The system must display related content that visitors are likely to find enticing. “We’ve done the hard work of getting Bob to click something. How do we allow Bob to binge on the right content while we have his attention? How do we let Bob self-nurture? How do we let him accelerate?”
  • Engagement analytics: The system must track individuals’ engagement with the content. “We have to be able to answer questions like these: Did Bob consume our content? If so, is he likely to be ready to go on to the next stage? What other content did he engage with after the first click? What do Bob’s choices tell us about his interests?”

Model for delivering intelligent content

Here’s Nick’s model for delivering intelligent content:

intelligent-content-delivery-model

This model requires us to answer these simple but challenging questions:

  • (Left) What do we know about this visitor?
  • (Right) What do we know about the content?
  • (Middle) How does this visitor engage with the content, and how does the content inform the visitor?

For a given visitor, your system’s ability to make welcome content recommendations – in other words, your ability to create a bingeable experience – depends on your answers to all three questions. And the usefulness of your answers to these questions depends on the usefulness of your metadata and your engagement metrics.

Wanted: Better engagement metrics

The problem with most analytics is that they tell us what people’s fingers did (what they clicked) – not what their brains did. Analytics don’t know whether people read the content. They don’t tell us whether people are now more informed or more engaged.

In fact, what people do on the destination side of the click is more important than the click itself.

What people do on the destination side of the click is more important than the click itself, says @nickedouard. Click To Tweet

Marketers typically treat the click as the measure of digital marketing, and “it’s not a good enough measure,” Nick says. We need to think like publishers. We need to ask, was the content consumed? By whom?

Nick gives the following example with fictional names – Mark Johnson and Skefington – representing people who clicked on a certain email.

marketing-engagement-report-example

In a marketing automation platform, both clicks would look the same. Here, however, we see that Mark Johnson (top row) spent only 32 seconds on the video. He got a bit of information, and disappeared. Skefington, on the other hand, watched the video for a minute and a half. Then he read the Forrester report for three minutes. He read about unified CX for five minutes 43 seconds. In all, he spent 10 and a half minutes across four content assets. We know that Skefington is better informed now. “He’s in a mood to get something done. He has to be at an advanced state of sales readiness,” Nick says.

Nick’s model for intelligent content delivery depends on meaningful engagement metrics like this. As a marketer, you need to know how engaged people are with your content. You need to know about the Skefingtons out there. All clicks are not the same.

What can you expect in return for creating the kind of content experiences Nick advocates for? His customers’ results show that in comparison with prospects who have minimal engagement with an organization’s content, the most engaged prospects are more than twice as likely to buy, and they move through the sales funnel at least twice as quickly.

Conclusion

Marketers would be wise to mimic what Netflix does in creating content-rich experiences that prospective customers and customers will find irresistible. How bingeable is your content? What is your content team doing to move from single-asset content offers to fuller, more content-rich experiences? What results have you seen? Please share what you’ve learned in a comment.

Here’s an excerpt from Nick’s talk:

Sign up for our weekly Content Strategy for Marketers e-newsletter, which features exclusive stories and insights from CMI Chief Content Adviser Robert Rose. If you’re like many other marketers we meet, you’ll come to look forward to reading his thoughts every Saturday.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Marcia Riefer Johnston

Marcia Riefer Johnston is the author of Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them) and You Can Say That Again: 750 Redundant Phrases to Think Twice About. As a member of the CMI team, she serves as Managing Editor of Content Strategy. She has run a technical-writing business for … a long time. She taught technical writing in the Engineering School at Cornell University and studied literature and creative writing in the Syracuse University Masters program under Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @MarciaRJohnston. For more, see Writing.Rocks.

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  • Michael Stone

    Superb article.

    • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

      Thank you, Michael. Nick’s talk was superb.

      • Nick Edouard

        Steady there, Marcia, I’m blushing… 😉

        • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

          🙂

  • http://gearboxmagazine.com Brian Driggs

    Such a simple, yet intuitive, idea.

    If the idea behind magnets is to trade meaningful value for permission to communicate with people, why not make the offer along the lines of “our complete resource library”? Feels like that would do some measurable good for the list. #getallthewhitepapers

    Did I miss the insights into how engagement time was measured in these examples? The 32 seconds vs. 10 minutes example was absolutely correct. Engagio, maybe?

    This is exciting information, Marcia. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

      Brian, thanks for commenting. I defer to Nick on your questions. Delighted that you got value from reading this.

    • Nick Edouard

      Interesting offer idea, Brian. I think it’s a bit more than that though – we’ve had resource centres or hubs for a while now. What we as B2B marketers need to do a better job at is recommending and / or letting prospects discover relevant content / the content they need (and here’s the key) wherever and whenever we see them – not just in A place on A web property, if you get me. And the content is likely to be more than A type or A form factor too.

      Regarding the insights, that level of content engagement – how long did Bob spend reading my white paper, watching the case study, etc. – that’s something that our solution (LookBookHQ Intelligent Content Platform) actually tracks. It’s real and enormously powerful engagement data. The fine folks at Engagio (full disclosure – we’re a customer of theirs) translate actions into time. So a different approach but we’re certainly united in our believe that there’s more to engagement than clicks and form fills.

  • http://www.vinishgarg.com/ Vinish Garg

    Such a masterpiece article that emphatically brings content strategists closer to marketers. Collaboration on metrics and goals is the key and no mature organization can deny the need to collaborate, after reading this article. Thanks Marcia!

    • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

      Glad you enjoyed it, Vinish. Nick gave quite a presentation.

      • Nick Edouard

        Vinish, you’re spot on – and thank you for the great write-up, Marcia!

        • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

          My pleasure, Nick.