So, Your Content Sucks: Why You Should Care!
All to often in marketing engagements of almost any kind, content is viewed as a tactical requirement – not as a strategic differentiator. Examples are prolific, across websites, tradeshow booths and our email inboxes – we are flooded with marketing speak designed to appeal to our emotions or tell us in minute detail about the function and benefit of a multitude of products and services. Even the most finely crafted visual experiences often lack relevant, contextual and meaningful content to back them up.
Forrester captures the predicament well in their 2009 paper, How to Avoid B2B Marketing Obsolescence: “Market consolidation and changes in technology provisioning make it more difficult for providers to differentiate on features alone. Bring a new capability to market today, and competitors will copy it tomorrow. Commoditization forces marketing to work harder to differentiate products because prospects experience differentiation through the implementation rather than the unique features. Messaging that we review is full of jargon and base- less claims and demonstrates little appreciation for the specific business objectives driving buyers. Marketers clearly struggle to deliver compelling content—such as case studies and implementation guides—that engages readers and fosters trust.”
Content Drives Customer Engagement
Forrester research suggests in their 2009 paper, How To Take B2B Relationships From Indifferent To Engaged, that “a visit to most B2B Web sites reveals generic content, nonspecific functionality and navigation, and a general lack of focus.”
Does this sound familiar? It should it’s why most of BAT’s customers engage us—to craft a website that better engages prospects, leads and customers. The problem is that while information and visual design can lay a clear path towards interaction and transaction, the tipping point to engagement is compelling content. Forrester posits in How to Avoid B2B Marketing Obsolescence that the key driver to success in engaging prospects is, “straight-talking, relevant content that supports both traditional and online channels.”
Why The Disconnect?
It’s content—the core component of any marketing effort—that most marketing organizations are least encouraged or equipped to fulfill.
Marketing departments are strongly encouraged by product development to focus on the details of the offering, encouraged by sales to provide as little detail as possible so as not to “pollute the sales process,” encouraged by the c-suite to look like a fortune 500 company (e.g. lots of content), and frequently feel pressure to adopt “best-practices” from the “market leaders”—proven or not.
On top of all of these conflicting pressures, Marketers rarely have resources or support devoted to content development. In most cases the same internal resources relied upon for supporting an entire corporate marketing plan are tapped to source the content, and occasionally a 3rd party copy-writer is contracted to write the content—often with little real understanding of what a company does, who its customers are, or how to drive a transaction. Most often the marketer is tasked with crafting content on their own, in a vacuum at night, over weekends and on the plane – when they’re not being drawn in a million other directions. In those rare instances that an agency is hired to lead content development as well as visual design they are rarely equipped to do so – they just don’t understand content as evidenced by Forrester’s 2010 paper, The Future of Agency Relationships, which fails to list content as a core offering of Advertising, Direct Marketing, Media Planning, Interactive or even PR agencies.
It’s no wonder most content is either fluffy and filled with “marketing” messages, or dense like a bad fruitcake with every detail of every function given its own 200 word description.
What’s The Impact?
Fewer prospects + poorly-qualified leads + smaller conversion rate = Lost Revenue
Many companies spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars carefully researching customer personas, crafting intuitive information architectures, layering on visuals designed to portray the brand and compel interaction, only to port old content into these new designs or wedge poorly crafted copy into a beautiful interface. The net result is visible everywhere you look on the web— hundreds of websites with dense, bedtime material content; content disconnected from the design, or in some cases, content that is so constrained as to say nothing.
The net result is a myriad websites that confuse, alienate or completely fail to communicate to their prospects in any meaningful way. The
best way to identify this phenomenon in your own website is to track the single-page exit rate or “bounce-rate” through your analytics program. For most B2B companies this hovers in the 40-50% range— which means 40-50% of visitors (or prospects) are writing you off before visiting even a single page beyond the one that they landed
on. Certainly a good percentage of those visitors are abandoning because your offering is just not relevant (which speaks to a whole different set of SEM and SEO problems)—but if even 20% of those abandonments are just confused prospects—imagine what it could do to your funnel to capture them through clear and compelling content.