OpenView’s latest report looks at three technology companies that are successfully cutting through the marketing noise and engaging their customers with interactive content.

Engaging Customers with Interactive Content

If you’re a B2B company, chances are that you are (or at least should be) using content marketing to help generate leads. In fact, according to a 2012 report by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs on B2B content marketing usage, 90 percent of B2B organizations use some form of content marketing. The problem with the widespread adoption of content marketing, however, is that it’s become much more difficult to stand out.

The solution may lie in interactive content, i.e., content that allows users to have an experience by actively engaging with it. Engaging customers with interactive content can be as simple as allowing and encouraging commenting, or much more complex such as creating sleek assessment tools that solicit information and produce a customized output based on the response.

“Interactive Content: An Innovative Approach to Customer Engagement” examines how the following three technology companies are engaging customers with interactive content to great effect:

  • Salesforce.com’s CRM Advisor
  • The Social Business Mobile App by IBM
  • Instant.ly’s Presidential Poll

Although the Web is becoming increasingly saturated with content, interactive content is not yet a widely adopted practice and as such presents an opportunity for smaller B2B businesses that can do it well. With interactive content, companies can cut through the noise and spur much more meaningful customer interactions and conversations.

To learn more about engaging customers with interactive content, read on, or download a PDF copy of full report by clicking “Download” on the right.

And don’t forget to check out the other report in this series on online marketing tactics, “E-mail Marketing Tactics: Do Your Messages Measure Up?”

Interactive Content: An Innovative Approach to Customer Engagement

Exploring Three Technology Companies that are Effectively Leveraging Interactive Content to Cut Through the Marketing Noise

According to a 2012 report by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs on B2B content marketing usage, 90 percent of B2B organizations now use some form of content marketing. The CMI report also revealed that B2B marketers, on average, spend more than a quarter of their budgets on content marketing, and that 60 percent of those marketers planned to spend more on content marketing in 2012 than they did in 2011.

Unfortunately, those numbers are not necessarily good news for B2B startups and expansion-stage businesses that have long been committed to content marketing. After all, as more B2B companies begin embracing content marketing, the increased competition for customers’ attention will only make it harder for smaller organizations — with correspondingly smaller teams and budgets — to ensure their voices are heard.

To cut through the growing content noise, B2B technology companies need to think differently about how and why they create content. They must evolve and innovate, exploring new ways to engage and interact with their audiences.

The Emergence of Interactive Content

Interactive content allows its users to participate in an experience by actively engaging them. Examples include something as simple as the comments feature that allows users to post their opinions to their favorite blogs, or as sophisticated as complex assessment tools that solicit information and produce a customized output based on users’ responses. If done well, interactive content can be highly experiential and dynamic, making it more likely to not only capture a customer’s initial attention, but also hold on to it.

“Interactive Content: An Innovative Approach to Customer Engagement” is the second installment in our four-part series on online marketing tactics. It looks at three companies — Salesforce.com, IBM, and uSamp (one of OpenView’s portfolio companies) — that are using three different, innovative forms of interactive content to engage their audiences. The report covers the best features of different types of interactive content and highlights the ways in which those three companies are using each format to create a rich, unique two-way conversation.

“We live in an age where we are all being bombarded with more content than we can possibly consume. As a result, if you want your content to stand out and have an impact, you have got to find ways to make it as engaging and interactive as possible. Content that you simply read is forgotten or, worse, completely overlooked.” — Kevin Cain, Director of Content Strategy, OpenView

Interactive Video

When most companies create a video, they do so with one specific idea or topic in mind and deliver only relevant information that pertains to that issue. The problem with that approach is that customers might need to watch ten different videos to truly address a unique pain point or question.

Interactive video negates that issue by making your video content a dynamic conversation that incorporates features that encourage viewers to self-segment and redirect themselves to content that is more relevant to their particular needs.

Salesforce.com’s CRM Advisor

Salesforce.com, a leading salesforce automation tool, offers a great example with its CRM Advisor video. The target audience for this particular piece of content is a range of buyer personas (sales, marketing, and customer service) who are involved in the process of researching and purchasing CRM software. To address the very different needs, budgets, interests, and questions these customers have, a typical video would be created using either of the following formats: one long — and probably boring — video that covers every segment’s pain points, or a series of persona-specific videos, which could be cost-prohibitive and inefficient.

With its CRM Advisor interactive video, however, Salesforce.com avoids both of those issues, by instead creating a dynamic video that feels much more like a personal conversation.

The video begins with a narrator asking the viewer how many of their employees would actually use Salesforce CRM. From there, it lists six options that, when clicked, prompt the narrator to transition to more targeted questions and information that specifically pertains to the option selected.

interactive content marketing

The video is particularly successful because it creates an environment that:

  • Ensures its viewers stay engaged by only providing highly relevant content.
  • Gathers information from the user without seeming intrusive or overly pushy.
  • Presents very targeted, relevant products once viewers have segmented themselves into specific functional areas.

At the end of the video, a survey is presented to further engage viewers with a series of more targeted questions. While not everyone will respond, that feature is helpful and effective because not only will the company capture more information about its prospects, but it can also offer more targeted content or next steps for the viewer.

Mobile and Tablet Apps

According to comScore’s August 2012 mobile trends data, more than half of US mobile subscribers are using downloaded apps on their smartphones. Additionally, Gartner Research recently released a report that suggests enterprise tablet adoption will grow by almost 50 percent over the next year, and that mobile app development projects will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of four-to-one by 2015.

Those last two statistics should be particularly appealing to B2B software companies whose customers are often large enterprises. While every business would like to acquire a share of its users’ time on their mobile devices, the best B2B marketers are not simply creating mobile and tablet apps that mimic or reiterate their users’ computer-based experiences. Instead, they are finding innovative ways to make use of mobile platforms to facilitate richer, more interactive mobile engagement.

The Social Business Mobile App by IBM

Technology and consulting giant IBM uses its app, The Social Business, to target current and potential customers who want to better understand how the company is integrating social media into its products. Unlike the Salesforce.com example, its audience is relatively focused and targeted, which is reflected in the interactive experience the app delivers.

interactive content marketingThe app aggregates content from a variety of social sources (including less ubiquitous mediums like Tumblr, Quora, and SlideShare), using that information to address social topics that are relevant to its target audience, like crowdsourcing and social networking security.

One of the app’s truly interactive features is its “Picture Story” tab, which allows users to scroll through photos and captions, which serve as mini-case studies by illustrating IBM’s success at implementing social aspects into its various products.

The mobile app has been downloaded a few thousand times, which speaks to its effectiveness and popularity. The app is also complimented by a companion tablet app called “Ready for SB,” which allows users to continue their engagement in a new way on a different device.

The tablet app targets a similar audience to the mobile app, but takes the interactivity to a new level by offering a fun, light-hearted 20-question quiz about IBM’s social features. Upon completing the quiz, the app provides performance metrics that users can track and share with their own social networks.

Both the mobile and tablet apps are outstanding examples of interactive content, presenting potentially boring information about IBM’s social product features in a fun, almost game-like format.

Interactive Product Demos

Almost every B2B technology company offers its customers a product demo of some kind, whether through an actual downloadable version of the software, a Web-based test of some product features, or some other delivery format. Those demos are effective, largely because they allow customers to visualize how and why they might actually use a company’s product.

Interactive demos take that experience to a new level. They avoid the complication of potential customers having to fill in a product trial with their own information to see how the product works while still allowing for necessary levels of interactivity to showcase the value of the product’s features.

Instant.ly’s Presidential Poll

Instant.ly is a product offering from online market research company uSamp that delivers on-demand consumer insight by tapping into a diverse audience of nine million people in uSamp’s survey network.

Rather than showcase the benefits of its product with a typically generic product demo, however, Instant.ly provides an interactive experience that does not feel like a demo at all. With its 2012 Election Daily Insights Poll, Instant.ly subtly allows potential customers to visualize the product by displaying real-time voter sentiment information. The demo’s content and data are interesting and relevant, and it also clearly showcases the core features of Instant.ly’s on-demand survey.

interactive content marketing

To generate the poll, Instant.ly uses information that was culled from 700 likely voters who were randomly selected from uSamp’s diverse online and mobile panels, helping it accomplish two key goals:

  • For customers who are curious about the diversity of Instant.ly’s panel respondents, the demo provides survey statistics that are easily sortable by gender, ethnicity, age, and lifestyle (like Pepsi vs. Coke drinkers, for example).
  • For customers who are interested in how well Instant.ly and uSamp are able to represent survey outputs, it includes visually appealing graphs and charts that make the election poll data easily digestible.

Instant.ly’s page is an outstanding example of an interactive product demo because it illustrates the key features and benefits of uSamp’s products, without drowning potential customers in technical or salesheavy content. The demo is timely and exciting, and it encourages customers to share the page with their social networks or to sign up for a full-scale product demo for more information.

“The Instant.ly Daily Presidential Tracking Poll represented a great way to showcase how quickly companies can tap into consumer opinions. Today’s socially engaged consumers are more willing than ever to share their opinions online, and Instant.ly gives companies direct access to millions of consumers on demand, letting them literally ask any questions — such as how they plan to vote or what movie they might see this weekend — in real time. Live consumer sentiment from targeted groups of consumers is the future of interactive online content.” — Justin Wheeler, Vice President & General Manager, uSamp

Go Interactive

As companies continue to publish libraries of information, the Web will only become more saturated with copycat content. Creating interactive content, however, is not yet a widely adopted practice and presents an opportunity for smaller B2B businesses that do it well. With a little bit of interactive content, your company can cut through the noise and spur much more meaningful customer interactions and conversations.

While the scale and sophistication of some of the projects in this report — specifically, IBM’s apps and Salesforce.com’s video — might not be realistic for your growing B2B business, your company can learn from those examples and tailor its own content accordingly. With some creativity, your business can
put an interactive spin on almost any type of content, including whitepapers, podcasts, blog posts, and case studies.

The goal of interactive content is to provide a unique personal experience that your customers and prospects might not expect from more traditional forms of content. Again, that does not mean you need to reinvent the wheel. It simply means that you should consider incorporating new features that make your content more engaging and dynamic.

Download a PDF copy of the full report by by clicking “Download” on the right side of your screen.

Additional Reports on B2B Marketing Tactics

For more insights to help take your marketing strategy to the next level, read the other reports in our B2B Marketing Tactics Series:

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