Wow Your Crowd: The Recipe for Creating Exceptional Content Experiences

Expert Tips for Creating Memorable Experiences Through Content Marketing

Have you been to a stadium concert lately? The big ones touring the country tend to pull out all the stops. It’s not just a singer on stage — they are usually supported by a giant jumbotron as backdrop providing flashy visuals, along with fog machines, laser lights, platforms rising out of the ground, special guest cameos… the works. 

Why is this? Because the bar has been raised. When fans plunk down the big bucks for tickets to see Drake or Carrie Underwood or The Rolling Stones, they expect more than seeing their favorite artists performing on stage. They expect an unforgettable experience that stirs all the senses.

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In content marketing, we see a continuing shift toward delivering full-on experiences. This emerging focus is evident in the steady growth of the term “content experience” in Google Trends over the past 10 years, and is now reaching a fever pitch as technology enables unprecedented sparkle and scintillation, while the shortening attention spans of our audience demand it. 

The theme for this year’s Content Marketing World extravaganza, as well as our interactive preview and the series of blog posts wrapping up today, all lead back to this crucial edict: elevating experiences and wowing the crowd. The good news is that there are endless ways to creatively approach this initiative, and today we’ll draw inspiration from CMWorld speakers who will be taking the stage next week in Cleveland to offer up some memorable experiences of their own.

The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth

3 Expert Tips on Stepping Up the Content Experience

#1 – Create Serial Content

It’s tempting to think about high-caliber content experiences in terms of pageantry and spectacle, but there are many simpler elements at play. Your audience wants content that it can contextualize, compartmentalize, and reliably look forward to. There’s a reason that almost every big Hollywood release these days is a spin-off, sequel, or reboot — viewers thrive on familiarity. For this reason, Jay Baer of Convince and Convert says serial content, steeped in quality and consistency, is a must.

“This aids in recognition and findability and taps into the truism that multiple exposures are often needed to drive behavior,” Jay explains. And he says another key is making this serial content as easy as possible for your audience to get to.

Ask yourself how your information and insights can be accessed with a minimum amount of effort or hassle for the consumer. – @jaybaer on minimizing content friction #CMWorld Click To Tweet

There are any number of ways to serialize your content. Maybe it’s breaking a big idea up into a series of blog posts, dissecting various components. Maybe it’s a run of videos mirroring the format of a TV season. And of course, podcasts are gaining fast popularity as an inherently serial form of content. 

At TopRank Marketing, we’re all about serial content. You can reliably find our Digital Marketing News roundups (both blog and video) every Friday. Recently we’ve been running a Trust Factors series, examining the vital topic of trust in marketing from various angles. And in fact, you’re reading the final installment of a four-part series right now! Check out the previous “Wow Your Crowd” entries below: 

#2 – Use Tools and Technology Thoughtfully

There are so many eye-catching technologies out there offering new ways to package and deliver content. But don’t be blinded by bells and whistles. Add-ons like interactivity only make sense if they actually serve a meaningful purpose. 

“The key for brands is to not just pursue these programs for the sake of doing it, or to ‘be cool,’ but to have a clear purpose and value-add,” says SAP’s Amisha Gandhi

For example, when scrolling through the Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth experience created by TopRank Marketing and Content Marketing Institute, you’ll be able to play games like shoot-the-duck and bop-the-clown. But these interactive gamification elements weren’t just thrown in for the heck of it; they’re meant to play up the midway/carnival vibes of the asset (and this year’s CMWorld conference).

A memorable experience goes a long way. – @AmishaGandhi on raising the bar for content experiences #CMWorld Click To Tweet

#3 – Measure and Optimize

The trouble with all this talk about content experiences is that they can feel difficult to quantify and report on. I mean, how do you measure audience delight? What is the ROI of someone grinning with glee while bopping clowns on their browser?

To some degree, the benefits of a great experience are intangible, at least in the short-term. But we can still measure the impact by connecting consumption metrics with bottom-line results. 

“I think of content marketing metrics in two dimensions: Business outcomes (how content is contributing to the business) and engagement metrics (a proxy for how much the target audience likes the content),” says Chris White of Capital One. 

He breaks them down like this: 

Engagement Metrics: 

  • Views
  • Total view time
  • View-through-rate
  • Percent of target audience (in relation to total viewers)
  • Comments
  • Likes/Reactions
  • Scroll depth
  • Pages-per-session
  • Bounce rate 
  • Time-on-site

Business Outcomes

  • Brand awareness/consideration
  • Remarketing audience size
  • Web traffic
  • Conversions
  • Customer behavior (e.g., retention, adoption rate, referrals, etc.)  

If you’re getting it right with customer experiences, you’ll see growth across all of these metrics over time. From our view at TopRank Marketing, engagement metrics and business outcomes (or proof of ROI) are among the seven essential elements for content marketing performance dashboard. Also included: benchmarks, goals, real-time KPI monitoring, traffic trends, and breakdowns by topic/persona.

Every initiative is paired with a specific business outcome to evaluate performance. Although we keep tabs on engagement metrics, they do not dictate success by themselves. – Chris White of @CapitalOne on measuring content performance Click To Tweet

Experience Is Your Content Differentiator

Turn content experience into your competitive advantage. Create things that amaze your audience and leave them yearning for more. Utilize new trends and tech when appropriate to elevate your content. And, at all times, validate your efforts by measuring the right things and letting your customers dictate your direction.

Is it silly to think about content marketing on the same terms as stadium concerts? I’d say it’s silly not to. 

We’re counting down the days until the grand experience unfolds at Content Marketing World 2019 on Sept. 3, 2019 in Cleveland. Before then, you can find plenty more guidance on taking your programs to the next level in our interactive experience, The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth.

The Experience Factor: It’s Time for Content Marketers to ‘Flip the Switch’

Flipping the Content Experience Switch

I’d love to tell you everything. But in the spirit of brevity and relevance, I’ll cut to the moment it all clicked.

While enjoying a lovely dinner with an old family friend last week, he relayed his version of a classic Maya Angelou quote to me:

“You know, you meet so many people throughout your life. And you never really remember what they said or what they did, but you always remember the way they made you feel.”

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For decades, content marketers have been tasked with meeting buyers along their journey, striving to create best-answer content that satisfies curiosity, encourages brand engagements, and paints their product or service as the solution buyers are looking for.

However, as technology and innovation soared, internet accessibility expanded, competition evolved, and buyer and consumer preferences changed, many marketers have felt pressure to ramp up content production and push it out fast to stay visible, engaging, and relevant; they’re saying and doing more than ever.

But the question every marketer needs to answer is: Is my brand delivering experiences that leave a lasting impression?

The Current Situation

Savvy and ambitious content marketers are increasingly insight-driven, leveraging owned and third-party data to inform their content approach. For example:

  • For years research has consistently shown that buyers conduct much of their research online prior to reaching out to a vendor. So, you aim to create best-answer content based on search demand and topical relevance.
  • More research and experience shows that buyers don’t trust brands, but they do trust their peers and industry experts. So, you partner with relevant industry influencers to provide wide-ranging perspectives and grow thought leadership.
  • Social media platforms are learning and engagement destinations; it’s where buyers spend a huge chunk of their time personally and professionally. So, you leverage social media as part of your integrated strategy to amplify content, engage in discussions, spotlight influencers, and more.

But the question still remains: Are your efforts making a lasting impact? Are you making customers and prospective buyers feel something?

It’s the age of experience, folks. Fresh research from Gartner reveals that 80% of marketing leaders surveyed said they expect to compete mainly on customer experience this year. A study by Forrester, which was commissioned by *Adobe, shows that experience-led businesses have higher brand awareness, employee satisfcation, customer satisfaction, customer retention, and the list goes on. Finally, Adobe’s Digital Trends Report reveals that half of brands will increase CX-related technology spending this year.

Understanding discovery and consumption habits and preferences is vital. They are key parts of building your content marketing strategy, and part of our own process for developing best-answer content. But it’s time for a shift; it’s time to flip the experience switch.

Flipping Your Switch

The examples in the previous section are still smart and relevant marketing plays. But the output may look a little different once you apply the experience lens.

The good news? Shifting your strategy to focus more on experiences largely comes down to mindset. The bad news? Shifting your strategy to focus more on experiences largely comes down to mindset.

When you flip your experience switch on, the data you seek, the conclusions you draw, and the strategic choices you make—from experimenting with new mediums such as podcasts and interactive content to innovative storytelling—will naturally evolve.

Creating compelling experiences with interactive content is one way to stand out, differentiate, and optimize for effectiveness. @leeodden Click To Tweet

But it can be hard to break free of the status quo—or convince other stakeholders it’s the right move.

A great first step is simply test something new. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should chase after the newest, shiniest tactic. We believe in being bold and breaking free of boring B2B traditions, but you need to be smart with your time, budget, and resources.

When it comes to getting stakeholder buy-in, you’ll undoubtedly have to provide data-backed rationale, examples, level-set on potential results, and outline the needed budget. But be confident in your recommendation. You’ll certainly need to be open to feedback, but stay focused on your end goal to prevent your plan from being completely watered down. As Tim Washer, a seasoned B2B marketer, keynote speaker, and comedian once told me:

“These days, there’s so little content out there that truly connects with people. So often we start off with a good idea, it goes through a committee where everyone wants to have a say in something, and the idea begins to soften. Then you end up with the lowest common denominator of something safe.”

So often we start off with a good idea, it goes through a committee where everyone wants to have a say in something, and the idea begins to soften. Then you end up with the lowest common denominator of something safe. @timwasher Click To Tweet

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Ready. Set. Flip.

As Shep Hyken—a seasoned customer service and experience expert—shared with us not long ago: “Customers don’t compare you to your competitors anymore—they compare you to other positive experiences they’ve had.”

Customers don’t compare you to your competitors anymore—they compare you to other positive experiences they’ve had. @Hyken Click To Tweet

Content marketers can play an integral role in crafting and advancing positive audience experiences with their brands. But it will require a shift in mindset for you, your team, and other key stakeholders within your organization.

So, start small by breaking out of your comfort zone and testing something new. If you don’t have the right tools, expertise, or internal resources, tap your friendly neighborhood content marketing agency.

Resonance is a key factor in creating content experiences that form audience connections. Get inspiration and insight from 10 seasoned marketing pros.