Why Experiences are the New Content Currency

Posted on September 14, 2015

The gold rush for content to engage B2B buyers has been raging for several years. Despite massive investments by brands in writing/editing staff, content management tools, syndication and metrics — the impact on revenue is unclear.

Content is the Secret Sauce for Engagement — Or Is It?

MarketingProf’s recently published a 2015 study by The Economist Group and peppercom that cites that while 85% of global business executives say the primary purpose for seeking business content is researching a business idea, 93% of marketers said they connect their content directly to a product or service.  This suggests a disconnect between the kind of content that buyers want to read and the content marketers are actually publishing.

But another disconnect exists — a disconnect within Marketing organizations themselves as 85% say their content is intended for brand building, yet 70% measure effectiveness based on leads generated.

So let’s take a look at how we got here and perhaps more importantly — where we should go from here:

  • In the late 2000’s, it was all about learning to publish content for engagement (e.g. Ann Handley’s Content Rules, Jay Baer, Joe Pulizzi’s Content Marketing Institute, etc.)
  • By 2010, the marketing automation trend caught on and content was proclaimed as the “fuel” that powered the modern marketing machine for lead nurturing
  • Around 2011 data evidence suggested adding images to social media posts, blogs and other written content increased engagement.
  • By 2012, website design went bonkers for Parallax as designers rushed to replace on-page copy with big impact images (even Paypal redesigned for Parallax and added background video)

As marketers obsess over how to optimize content to increase precious seconds of engagement, they may be missing the opportunity to command hours of buyer attention span.  But how?

The answer may lie in an emerging reality: today’s B2B buyers are now inundated with so much content that the following is becoming true:

People tend to forget what they read, but remember (and share) what they experience

Enter, experiences.  The bigger and bolder, the better.

Experiences: The Next Frontier for Creating Engagement

Written content appeals to a single sense: sight.  Video content appeals two senses: sight, hearing.  However, experiences appeal to all five sense (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell) — and so they become most powerful form of interaction.

What does this mean for field marketers?  They need to rethink their approach to audience engagement by shifting from rigidly structured audio/video content to organically occurring experiences that appeal to all of he senses for lasting impact.

For many B2B brands, their field marketing has become stuck in a rut of three predictable tactics that are supposed to help their field sales teams secure valuable face time with their best prospects, customers, and channel partners: (i) dinners, (ii) golf outings, and (iii) sports tickets. The problem with this is that they are the same tactics used by competitors who are also competing for the buyer’s attention span.

To cut through the clutter of dinner invitations and golf rounds, modern field marketers should consider delivering powerful experiences that result in more meaningful connections between sellers and buyers for several reasons:

  • Experiences appeal to both the intellectual and emotional aspects of the buyer
  • Experiences appeal to all five senses
  • Experiences that involve interaction and reliance upon small groups or teams further encourage dialog, cooperation, and trust
  • All of these move the buyer/seller relationship forward in a positive direction

My recent work with Aston Martin Racing North America has revealed that sports car racing and VIP driving experiences offer the powerful combination of appealing to all five senses while providing incredible opportunities for capturing image & video content. People enter the day (or weekend) as strangers and leave as friends — the power of experiences for bonding and creating business relationships are undeniable.

The Impact of Experiences on Sales Enablement Strategy

The opportunity to leverage experiences doesn’t end with Field Marketing, however there are implications for sales enablement professionals who might still be thinking that the most effective selling happens in a controlled environment with A/V support:

  • Sales & Marketing leaders might consider shifting their thinking from tactics (persona-centric collateral, narratives, etc.) to a sales engagement strategy (sales enablement, experiential marketing, content, etc.)
  • Part of the sales engagement strategy should consider the setting(s) where the buyer is most likely to engage with the sales rep at each stage of the sales cycle so that their sales enablement assets can be used more effectively
  • While some sales conversations should be held in formal conference room (presentation) settings, many pre-sale and post-sale exchanges may be more effective if they are structured as experiences to build the relationship
  • Understanding the sales setting (and selecting the right setting for maximum impact) is critical to sales success

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.

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