B2B marketers wax prolific about the concept of engaging their buyers and customers with content. But engagement isn’t really the end goal, commitment is. People who engage with your content are interested in the topic at hand. An audience that is committed is dedicated to embracing what you have to share with them and acting on that dedication.
The difference between an engaged and a committed B2B audience is action. It may also be the litmus test for content marketing effectiveness, which has reached an all-time low with the publication of the 2016 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends research from Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs.
Even more reason to consider the difference between engagement and commitment is the finding in the same research that 55% of B2B marketers say that it’s not clear within their organizations what an effective content marketing program looks like.
Engagement is often measured by surface metrics, such as clicks, shares, and views.
Measuring commitment requires more depth. The number of statements below that you can emphatically agree with (based on metrics, not wishes) will help you identify whether or not your audience is committed or merely engaged:
- Our audience spends enough time on the page to read the entirety of the content we publish – every time.
- Our audience clicks on the calls to action we include with every content asset.
- The data our audience enters into our forms is accurate.
- Our audience pro-actively reaches out to us for more information or to get questions answered.
- We can identify patterns of interaction with our content consistently to define progressive intent.
- Our sales team is able to accept, interact with, and qualify the majority of MQLs we send them.
- The contribution to revenues from our content marketing programs is consistently increasing.
My guess is that most of you can’t agree emphatically with more than half of those statements. There are a few reasons for this that you can correct to begin transitioning your audience from engaged to committed.
Address Audience Context
Your audiences’ needs vary depending on who they are (role, persona), what stage of the buying process they’re in and their preferences for the type of story you’re telling. For that last one, think about the difference between those who prefer carrot vs. stick content. Random acts of content will not address context. Context is purposeful. When your content addresses context, you can identify where your audience is in the buying process, as well as who they are (from a role perspective).
Context also enables you to create calls to action that are relevant and make sense as a next step for those who read specific content. Commitment is about action. Addressing audience context will help your content to drive more action that you want your audience to take. Without context, you leave your audience flailing around to find what’s next. Most of them won’t bother.
Decide What Content Should Inspire
A lot of the content published today is a one-off effort. Just publishing is not enough. Every content asset you produce should inspire a next step action that pulls your audience deeper into your “world” and helps them adopt your perspectives based on the expertise you share. A call to action in this sense is not “contact a sales rep” (unless that’s appropriate).
A call to action for most of your content should be about building commitment by asking them to do something that makes sense, given what they just experienced. Quite often this is made difficult because there is no documented content marketing strategy or you’re not using personas as active tools to inform the content you develop.
Unfold a Relevant Story
Content that doesn’t create commitment is usually not connected to a story that resonates with the audience. What’s the problem-to-solution story that your audience cares about? How can you break it down into chunks that give your audience not only the building blocks for the business case, but the confidence to take on the risk to embrace change?
If you’re telling a “story” over the long term, your audience will become committed to getting to The End. Think about the TV series that you tune into every week. Why do you do that? How can you replicate that type of serial storytelling to make your audience the hero of their journey to solving a problem?
Kick the Campaign to the Curb
Short term campaigns used in complex selling may engage some of your audience, but they will not inspire the level of commitment needed to take the action to buy. The reason is that they start and stop by design. Only they aren’t constructed to tell the whole story your audience needs to reconcile the perception of risk vs. reward.
These short term efforts don’t have enough depth to gain the level of buy-in needed to move most people to action. Campaigns also put you at risk of alienating your audience because you’ve stopped talking about something they were interested in and started talking about something else. However, only by getting to know your audience really well will you be able to tell a relevant story over the longer term.
Find Your Content Tilt
I talk about finding your distinct value in order to attain the commitment level I’m talking about here. Joe Pulizzi, in his new book, Content Inc., simplifies this in a way that makes it easier to grasp. Yep – I’m stealing it for you.
First you must find your sweet spot. This is the intersection of your company’s expertise with your customer’s pain point or passion. But that’s not enough. You need to find your tilt. A content tilt is your unique spin on the story you share. What makes the approach you take different than your competitor’s? What perspective do you bring that goes against the commonly held beliefs? This is the unique angle you need to run as a thread through all of the stories you share. It’s something not easy to duplicate.
Commitment is Different than Engagement
A committed B2B audience is something not easy to come by. But moving your audience from engaged to committed will make all the difference in the effectiveness of your content marketing programs because it’s focused on the willingness of your audience to take the actions you want them to. However, it’s important to realize that commitment takes…um…commitment. It’s not a once and done effort and it’s going to develop over time. But only if you stick with it.
Engagement will only get you so far. Commitment is the tipping point for content marketing effectiveness that contributes to revenue and growth.