Author: Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson is principal analyst and vice president of digital content optimization at IDG Connect, part of the world’s largest technology media, event and research company.

By bob-johnson published February 15, 2012

Content Ops – Power Pathing: Put An End To The Era Of Dead-End Assets

There are too many dead-end alleys that buyers wander down when they pursue digital content. In fact, at IDG Connect we find that over 25 percent lead nowhere. They fail to offer in-asset linkage to relevant content. Instead, buyers usually must back up to a navigation pane, review a non-descript list and play something akin to “go fish” to learn more.Continue Reading

By bob-johnson published October 10, 2011

Content Ops – It’s Time To Get Personal with B2B Buyers

A column about dynamic design and content optimization. 

According to our research at IDG Connect, B2B buyers complain the relevance of marketing content—defined by how well it supports their purchase decision-making process—has declined by 31% over the past five years. Marketers can’t fix this problem by churning out more content or wishing on SEO magic—though they continue to try. Neither will fix a content relevance issue that buyers say lengthen the decision-making process by almost 20 percent.

The answer is personalization.

Personalization means capturing profile information about your buyers’ interests, needs, behaviors and learning styles—and applying it to something other than the pursuit of leads. Personalization goes way beyond demographics—those “iffy” statistics you pull from registration forms (which buyers admit they fill out inaccurately up to 30% of the time according to IDG Connect’s buyers’ content preference research). You also won’t achieve it by asking odorous questions like, “Are you ready to buy?” No surprise, those responses are also notoriously inaccurate.

Your organization needs to ask questions that uncover your buyer’s role, business issues, buying stage, type and preferred content format—and use that information to create highly customized, effective buying pathways. The impact can be powerful. IDG Connect research shows personalized content improves email open rates by almost 42%.

If a 42% increase in open rates has your attention, take steps to make it happen. First, stop thinking about registration forms as something to score and pursue prospects. Think of them instead as profile forms, where the information provided can be used to tailor, focus and speed the process of finding relevant information.

The buying process is a measured, deliberate journey, not a sweaty sprint. You must build your buyers’ confidence slowly. Each time they visit your site or read your content, you should be engaging in a mutual exchange of value, balancing your desire for more information with your buyers’ reluctance to share. Be transparent: explain to your prospects why you require specific information and your desire to save them time.

Next, take steps to develop targeted content to improve your buyers’ experience. At the very least, you should customize your content by buying stage, buyer role (such as decision maker or recommender), and subject area (technical, business or financial). This type of assessment is critical. Otherwise you’re just engaging in what I like to call “random acts of content.”

Now it’s time for matchmaking (not speed dating).

Don’t forget to push your marketing automation and sales automation vendors to do a better job of managing buyer profiles and profiled content, automating its retrieval, customizing emphasis and even layout, and delivering it in the format and timing that match buyer preferences. The key goal that surrounds the idea of the semantic web is “content in context.” Give me content that is geared towards the tasks, objectives and needs I have as a buyer—and the revenue will follow.

Click here to examine IDG Connect’s research on content  personalization in email campaigns.

By bob-johnson published July 10, 2011

Content Ops – Let Your Assets Do the Talking

A column about dynamic design and content optimization. 

Hang on tight. We’re going to reframe many of your digital content beliefs and approaches through this column based on 15 years of studying how buyers choose and buy using the web. We’ll start by dismantling the traditional 4Ps of marketing. That’s right. Product, Price, Place and Promotion simply fall far short in the digital age

With more than 10,000 buyer surveys and ample best practices under our belt, the new 4Ps become clear to leverage into a better return on content. They are Profile, Personalization, Path and Purpose. First up is Profile. The days of dumb assets that cannot identify whom they intend to help are history. Going forward, smarter assets will shout their angle and focus for all to see. Ready?

If you look at the average piece of content on the web, it does little to help the user decide if it is relevant other than a catchy title or graphic. Content publishers expect their readers to make it through the opening paragraph to judge relevance. I believe—and our research at IDG supports this—that content producers must orient their content consumers much more quickly. On the cover and in your face. Gone are the days where you faced little repercussion for grabbing someone’s attention with a pithy title, only to lead the person on until page seven (when the reader is finally irked enough to toss or delete it, realizing it was not right for him/her). Using social media, those readers can now voice their frustration to thousands of others. Beyond the social conversational risk, you owe it to prospects and buyers to do better.

Content assets of all formats must incorporate profile information to make orientation possible. Orientation sits as a core principal of content optimization. You will need to evaluate your asset against some simple attributes. Those can be chosen from among buying stage coverage, target audience, buying role, buying focus and many others. But whatever you do, make sure the ones you select are used consistently. Also, display them prominently where the user can see. It’s always better to have someone not use an asset and instead move onto another one you offer that better meets your reader’s needs.

To test the power of profiling we surveyed buying team members and showed them a standard, traditional white paper cover and one that used the cover to offer additional profile information. The profile-based version was preferred by 72 percent and, more importantly, it increased their likelihood of positive activities by more than 20 percent to open it, read it, share it, use it in the purchase decision and view the sender positively. In other words, it can make a bottom line impact.

Compare your perception of profiled content versus your peers. Use this link to access a Profile Impact Tool,