Ardath Albee’s new book Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results was published by Palgrave Macmillan (January 6, 2015). I was privileged to review an advanced copy this past October and absolutely loved it.
I will break up this review into three sections:
- What Buyers Want
- Developing Marketing Content
- Strategies that Drive Results
What Buyers Want
Ardath states that “buyers want to buy.” And, they want to buy faster than they do now. The problem is that companies are driven by campaigns that are not in alignment with the buyers’ tempo and timing. There is a great example in the book about an inside sales rep pushing content that is not relevant to the buyer—simply because the campaign says so. The buyer gets lost and goes somewhere else.
Ardath also makes the point that “buyers are looking for an emotional connection with a vendor”—one that makes them say, “They just seem to get us.” The vendor that makes them feel most comfortable and seems to understand the buyer wins the business. I can affirm this based on previous experience. One client we had for ten years (They were acquired by a larger company after crediting us for helping them grow 54% compound annual growth rate for five years.) selected us because they felt that they could have been sitting in their own offices when they read our Vision, Mission and Value statements.
Developing Marketing Content
In the book, Ardath explains that one of the main reasons she wrote Digital Relevance was for marketers and corporate communication professionals facing the challenges of today’s “shrinking attention spans and the increasing noise and velocity of content publishing.”
She points out that “downloading content does not mean the prospect is ready to buy.” Here are some bullet points to whet your appetite for the meaty content in this comprehensive 256-page book:
Value is not about what you do but what the customer gets.
- Campaigns fail. Fragmented digital experiences don’t work. There should be no start or stop—marketing should create a continuum experience. A never ending story.
- There is far too little reinvention or repurposing of content. Some common mistakes: using the same piece over and over; saying the same thing that everyone else is saying; using self-serving calls to action such as, “Schedule a demo today!”; under-utilizing social media by multiple uses of a link and title without value and/or context.
- Engagement is curiosity driven by content—there must be a shift from irrelevant communication to radically relevant conversation.
Strategies That Drive Results
Early in the book Ardath notes that while she sees “decent” content out there, often there’s no strategic plan for orchestrating engagement with prospects and customers. She goes on to say that with revenue accountability increasing every day, marketers are “unsure they can prove what they do matters. Yet matter it does.”
Here’s a summary of her recommendations for strategies that drive results:
- Shift from one-off communication to a continuum approach. Look beyond the campaign and unrelated transactions with buyers and move to an approach that builds a story positioning your company as the perfect expert that buyers need to achieve their goals.
- The section on persona development made more sense to me than anything I have ever read. I won’t spoil it for you by spilling all the details, but that section alone is worth thousands of dollars as compared to the minimal investment in time and money it will take for you to consume the wealth of information.
- Depending on the level of attention prospects give to digital dialogue, marketers can gauge where prospects are in the buying process. Cursory attention indicates curiosity but no interest. Misleading attention shows that a prospect is interested, but not ready to buy. In voluntary attention, prospects subscribe to nearly everything you publish but stop short in the buying process. Finally, there’s intentional attention. At this level, prospects “are intent on learning what they need to know to make a purchase decision.”
- Unfortunately, marketers respond by offering a one-size fits all solution that leads to big mistakes. What they end up with is no relevant calls to action, too much perceived effort, and gaps in the story. Instead of owning an “expertise position,” they sound like every other marketer. Their message is often “too high” because they don’t target specific audiences by persona and attention hierarchy.
- Buyers can be visual, auditory, and/or kinesthetic. As such, you have to provide content that offers the buyer information in a form that is comfortable for them to absorb.
- It is important to get in early—keep the competition from “anchoring the buyer’s thinking.”
- Finally, when content and the strategy are completed, provide sales with “Cliff Notes”—they won’t absorb extensive detail but still need to be in the loop.
Ardath Albee’s book is an excellent read and packed with great practical advice and road maps to get to where you need to be.