Punching Beyond our Weight Class with Interactive Content

Justin Talerico, CEO/CMO, ion interactive

Justin Talerico, CEO/CMO, ion interactive

Using Interactive Content to Segment and Target using Marketing Automation

ion has 90,000 addressable prospects in its database. When I don my CMO hat, one of my primary challenges is to identify and surface which of those 90,000 people are ready and able to buy.

In my previous post, I showed an example from our Demand Metric Content Marketing Assessment. I spoke to how we capture insights from that interactive content experience and how we move those insights into our marketing automation platform.

Segmenting with Data from Interactive Content

ion relies heavily on its content marketing digital dialogue to provide reliable data points that can programmatically move the right people from one-to-many marketing to one-to-one account development. Prospects don’t want to waste their time speaking to someone about a solution that isn’t a fit for them. And our sales team can’t afford to squander time and resources searching for needles in a haystack. Marketing needs to do that for them—surfacing best-bet buyers rather than long shots who might be sold.

Our marketing is entirely interactive content driven. We generate leads with high-funnel best practices wrapped in interactive white papers, infographics, quizzes and assessments. We generate demand with mid-funnel tools and thought leadership. And we support our sales team with deep-funnel tools and content. Pretty much everything we do is educational and designed to inform and motivate buyers rather than put our account development people into situations where they are selling.

Each interactive content experience we launch is designed to fit into the buyer’s journey and to provide insights that help us answer key questions like:

  • Where are they in their journey?
  • How well do their needs fit with our solution?
  • Are they qualified to make a buying decision?

We use our marketing automation platform to programmatically evaluate the insights received from the digital dialogue that takes place within our interactive content platform. Simple rules in the MAP look for patterns in the data and segment people when those patterns are matched. There’s no rocket science there. But the underlying value of using explicit insights instead of behavioral inferences as the drivers of those rules is where the real advantage lies.

Relevance, Timeliness and Friendliness

We improved our segmentation accuracy and value when we moved from inference-based data points to explicit ones. Prior to using interactive content as the basis for a digital dialogue, we did a lot of guesswork based on what people clicked on. Since people tend to click on a lot, but engage very little, those behavioral inferences are consistently inaccurate. When we used guesswork as the foundation for targeting and personalization, we saw little upside. When we moved to using explicit feedback as our foundation, we saw higher engagement rates and increased funnel velocity.

Segment membership triggers messaging and sales communication personalization. Subsequent visits and conversations become more relevant, more timely and more welcomed. Those are significant wins when you consider that our mission is to provide marketing and sales as a service—delivering an educational experience that people actually want. When we do that, we generate inbound hand raisers who are much more likely to be near-term buyers. That’s the much-needed sales efficiency that eludes many sales-and-marketing organizations.

Here’s our example dataset taken further to show how we use interactive content insights to segment with marketing automation.

What our team needs before making personal contact are qualified prospects with addressable pain. When we deliver those people, everyone—sales, marketing and the prospect—is well served. Our content marketing assessment asks key questions that establish three things:

  1. The performance of their current content
  2. The reasons they aren't producing better, more engaging content, and
  3. Whether or not they have budget or management buy-in barriers that would impede their adoption of a solution.

We have three dynamic lists in our marketing automation platform that segment people based on their answers. (All of the leading marketing automation platforms can do this. The mechanics may vary, but the end game is the same.)

List One: Content Performance

The first looks at their answers to the content performance questions and segments those who gave themselves one or two stars on at least one of the evaluation questions.

The first looks at their answers to the content performance questions and segments those who gave themselves one or two stars on at least one of the evaluation questions.

List Two: Pain and (Dis)Qualification

The second list looks at their pains and segments those who have moderate to acute pain in any of the four solvable areas. That second list also excludes people whose pain ion cannot solve: lack of budget and lack of management buy-in. Remember, we are only seeking our best, most qualified prospects to surface to sales.

The second list looks at their pains and segments those who have moderate to acute pain in any of the four solvable areas. That second list also excludes people whose pain ion cannot solve: lack of budget and lack of management buy-in. Remember, we are only seeking our best, most qualified prospects to surface to sales.

List Three: Perfect Matches

The third list simply looks at the intersection of the first two lists and segments those who match both. Those who match both can then be marketed to very specifically, or better yet, engaged in one-to-one communication that picks up where the digital dialogue left off.

The third list simply looks at the intersection of the first two lists and segments those who match both. Those who match both can then be marketed to very specifically, or better yet, engaged in one-to-one communication that picks up where the digital dialogue left off.

We could have done all of this in a single segment or list, but by breaking it up we give ourselves more flexibility to combine segments with others from other interactive content experiences. We also ease maintenance and preserve simplicity that might otherwise be lost in deep layers of logic.

Re-donning My CEO Hat

Big picture, ion uses strategically sound, organic search-friendly interactive content to both attract and then qualify prospects. The majority of our traffic is free. Then, the explicit data that’s used as the foundation for segmentation lets the sales team stay small and deliver big. With my CEO hat on, I look at the cost for ion to acquire a customer and the velocity at which we can make that happen. So when most of the traffic is free, and the sales team can stay relatively small—we punch way beyond our weight class.