Your Content Is Your Product
Feb 13, 2014
“Part of the reason people ‘hate marketing’ is because marketers think their campaigns should build relationships with their customers. Consumers don’t want relationships with you; they just want you to help them make smart buying decisions.”
That is part of a comment from Jono Smith on an article I wrote for the Content Marketing Institute titled: “Think People Hate Marketing? Try the Right Content in the Right Place.”
He goes on. “This was documented in a 2012 Corporate Executive Board study (which was turned into an HBR article last year) which showed that consumers have little interest in having a relationship beyond the merely transactional. Their top reasons for connecting with a brand: to get information and discounts, and to buy things.”
It’s a great point. It got me thinking about expanding on the topic of “content in the buying process.” The original article’s premise is this: People think they hate marketing due to a perception bias. They project the disdain they have for marketing that is disruptive — having a message they aren’t seeking forced onto them, or finding all the wrong info when they actually need something — to all marketing.
Augmenting the discussion based on Jono’s comment, the questions become: What are all the parts of a transaction? Is it merely the exact moment in time when I hand someone money and they hand me a product in return? Or does it also include the information gathering I do before I hand over the money? And the research I might do after?
I think a transaction includes all these moments. And that’s why: Your Content Is Your Product.
Here’s a practical example. For the first time in 11 years, we recently bought a TV. And as a lot has changed in the TV market over the last decade, I started by educating myself; and I did what 7 of 10 people do when considering a purchase: I turned to Google first.
Content Before The Sale
Based on search, I visited brand websites – including Samsung, Phillips, Vizio and LG. I read reviews – on CNET and random third party sites that were at the top of results pages. And I went shopping online – with Amazon, Target and Best Buy among others (where there was more content and reviews).
Content During The Sale
I like to buy in the physical world, so I went to a store to make my purchase. The salesperson was helpful and knowledgeable — quick with information about technology and applications. The kind of verbal information that’s driven by content.
Content After The Sale
I made the choice and went with LG. And there was content to go along with that – “get started” guides in paper and on-screen format (since the TV is basically a computer).
Now, the bane of most people’s existence when it comes to TVs is having multiple remotes lying around. (Yes, first world problems, I know.) But LG offers a Magic Remote to go along with their Smart TV, which held the promise of consolidation. One remote. Very few buttons. Voice recognition! A light at the end of my long, dark multiple-remote journey.
But like most smart objects, there’s training involved. So I went looking for content – that’s content after the sale. And, frankly, this is where I started to become much less happy with my purchase.
The content was terrible. The LG website’s content about the remote was promotional — here’s all the great things you can do! (In happy, smiley language.) It wasn’t tutorial based. So that didn’t help me figure out how to work my DVR with the Magic Remote. A web search surfaced some LG tutorials buried on their site. But they were essentially longer form versions of the promo videos. (And if you watch more than 15 seconds of these videos without closing the browser tab with a thud of frustration because you’re being treated you like a 6-year-old, then you’re a better human than me.)
Two strikes. Time to turn to third-party content. Surprisingly, the LCD Buying Guide review also felt more like a commercial than a helpful piece of content. And the comment boards… well, we know how those go. Piece meal information at best. Strike three.
In the end, it turns out you really can’t easily control the DVR with the Magic Remote. So back to the three-remote set.
Anyway… more to the point: My pleasure with the transaction was greatly diminished by a lack of relevant, helpful, well-constructed-for-the-situation-and-audience content. (Also known as: Context.)
“Consumers don’t want relationships with you; they just want you to help them make smart buying decisions.” It’s true that I may not have wanted to have a beer with LG and share the stories of me happily watching my new TV. But I did want a relationship. I wanted a relationship that supported me not just before and during the sale, but after as well. You can make that happen with great content.
And, had I gotten that great content from LG in regard to this product, imagine how that might inform my next tech-buying decision? My on-going relationship with a brand? LG — like many other brands — are missing out on an important part of the transaction… the on-going buyers relationship.*
I don’t believe product and content can be separated. Content is as much a part of the brand experience as the product. Agree or disagree?
*As pointed out by my colleague Cait Smith when reviewing this post for me, there is another interesting topic in this paragraph: Content marketing tends to have a heavy focus on the buying decision point. In other words, once the money changes hands, “marketing has done it’s job.” Is helping people beyond the sale some other department’s job? But that could mean the brand fails miserably. So… Where does content marketing end? Coming soon to the Centerline Blog.
Watching TV as a kid, I used to run to the bathroom during the shows so I could make it back for the commercials. Those days launched me down a path that included layout and writing for the college paper; communications strategy for political campaigns; marketing strategy and graphic design for Gensler (a global design and architecture firm); and the implementation of new programming, animation and design techniques for Centerline. Today I specialize in content marketing strategy and building digital deliverables to execute those strategies. But it’s about more than just creating killer digital content. At Centerline, we help clients succeed in the digital marketplace using a three-pronged approach: strategic (message creation, brand strategy), tactical (design, development), and analytical (measurement and adaptation). This experience-tested approach allows me to build campaigns that are both well-designed and effective for clients like IBM, GE and National Instruments.