The Most Powerful Content Marketing Lesson Learned (That Nobody Is Talking About)

In the last few years, of what’s being called online content marketing, what have we learned? When all the blogs, whitepapers, ebooks, podcasts and YouTube videos have been produced, what can we say we learned, took action on and improved? The single most important lesson learned for me, and in my research, has been how engaging customers should never be the goal. Instead, engagement is the starting point. It’s an open door to get customers to respond to you, your brand.

In the last few years, of what’s being called online content marketing, what have we learned? When all the blogs, whitepapers, ebooks, podcasts and YouTube videos have been produced, what can we say we learned, took action on and improved?

The single most important lesson learned for me, and in my research, has been how engaging customers should never be the goal. Instead, engagement is the starting point. It’s an open door to get customers to respond to you, your brand.

Engagement has so many of us so wrapped up that we’re failing to realize a key point: Engaging is merely a chance to enter into a journey with a prospect; a trip toward whatever it is they need, desire, hope for or need to avoid.

Engagement should be (if it’s to be effective) the start of a series of “fair exchanges” that guides prospective buyers toward, or away from, what you’re selling.

If it’s not? You’re just engaging for the sake of engaging. You’re not generating, nurturing and closing leads.

Be Provocative to Generate Response
Most marketers and sellers using blogs, video, YouTube, LinkedIn and such in their online content marketing strategy think of customer engagement as a goal. The finish line. But that’s not going to help you get customers to buy online.

Successfully engaging with customers is an opportunity to generate response from them. Actually selling on social media means being thought provoker-not just a thought leader.

You’ve got to get customers to do something-to begin a journey toward converting to a lead.

Think of it this way:

  • Are you giving customers a reason to talk to you on LinkedIn? A real, compelling reason.
  • Are your blogs so bold they provoke readers to call or email you or sign-up for an offer?

Is whatever you’re doing on social media provoking customers to contact you-so your sales team can help them more clearly understand the thought you just provoked?

Don’t Settle for Engagement
Do you have honestly new knowledge or a new product that can benefit customers in exciting, new ways? Then why would you settle for floating your thoughts out there and hoping to be dubbed a leader?

Does getting your content shared mean that much to you … more than getting leads does?

I realize for some of you the answer will be yes! To those readers I say this: Instead why not give customers a reason to act on the impulse your thoughts can create? This way prospects take action on doing something they really need and want to do … AND create a lead for yourself.

Tempt Prospects to Act
If you watch what I do in my online training business I’m always tempting prospects to trade their contact information for a better way… or tips on avoiding risks.

I’m teasing prospects into taking an action that I know they want to take.

For example, I like to reveal a small part of a hidden opportunity to them on my YouTube videos.

So … you can engage customers and hope that focused conversation gets going or you can cause it directly.

It all starts with realizing engagement is not the goal and knowing how to nurture a lead who isn’t ready to talk about your product or services yet.

So think of engagement as the first step to creating response. If you do you’ll start making social media sell for you more often.

Good luck and see you in comments below! Feel free to disagree with me, share your successes with this technique, etc.

Which Costs More: Video or Direct Mail?

What are the economics of producing and distributing a direct marketing video? And, how does it line up with costs for direct mail? If you’re a traditional direct marketer who has lived and breathed marketing costs, then running the numbers should come naturally. For this discussion, we’ll use direct mail as the comparison because historically it’s the distribution channel of choice

What are the economics of producing and distributing a direct marketing video? And, how does it line up with costs for direct mail? If you’re a traditional direct marketer who has lived and breathed marketing costs, then running the numbers should come naturally. For this discussion, we’ll use direct mail as the comparison because historically it’s the distribution channel of choice for direct marketers.

We’ve created a “Video Budget Checklist” that helps you itemize cost comparisons of creative, production and distribution between video and direct mail. If you’d like a copy, email me using the link in the left column. It’s free for our readers.

(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it)

Direct mail can come in all sorts of configurations. Low-cost postcards. A simple package of a letter and flyer inside an envelope. Or more expensive with multiple enclosures such as a letter, fold-out four-color brochure, lift note, order form, reply envelope and outer envelope. Sometimes the outer envelope is a custom size or has an oversize window, or there are expensive die-cuts on cards or tip-on elements that are outside of typical print configuration.

The fixed costs to create each of these packages by employees, agencies or freelance creative teams are pretty broad, from several hundred dollars to well into the five-figures when using proven, top-flight direct response creative professionals.

A wide range of configurations can apply to video production, just as it can to direct mail.

You can pop out a 45-second video using your Webcam or flip-camera and post it on YouTube. You just have to ask yourself if the poorly lit, distracting background, muffled or echoey sound of that presentation exemplifies your organization. Alternatively, the video could be purely voice-over with words scrolling along on the screen. Or you can make it visually more alive with photography images or stock video footage. At a more costly level, you might shoot testimonials or interviews in a studio or shoot on location to demonstrate your product. Of course, length impacts cost (just as the number of components impacts cost in direct mail). There are a lot of variables that go into video production, just as there are for direct mail.

The point is this: Start with a budget you’re comfortable with, talk with writers (ideally writers experienced in both direct response print, online and video), develop a video script and storyboard, and work with a skilled video editor. Don’t just be wowed by special effects on someone’s demo reel. Dig in and learn what results were produced from some samples or case studies. You might just want voice-over with images on screen. (See our last blog post for an example of a 3-minute video and details of how we adapted it from a direct mail package.)

If your personality is a draw, you can record yourself on a small camera that can fit in a pocket with a lav microphone for under $200, total. Make sure you have good lighting and background. Or spring $500 or so and get a green screen and lights. That’s the equipment we use to shoot our video for this blog. Be aware, assembling the right equipment and editing software is the easy part. Knowing how to use it all to your best advantage comes from training and practice—or hiring a pro.

Distribution Costs
For direct mail, you have list costs if you’re renting names, data processing, printing, lettershop and postage. The cost can range widely. If you’re testing in small quantities, you’ll pay more per piece.

Knowing the volume of prospects or prior customers to mail, the marketer calculates how many responses are needed to make a specific profit (or break-even) objective. Translate that number into a required response rate to meet your objectives—your allowable marketing cost—and presto, you can use the test of reasonableness to see if the numbers pan out.

For video, your distribution cost is driving viewers to your landing page. You might email your customer file, or rent a list, and give the reader a compelling reason to click to your landing page to watch the video, possibly opt-in for more information, or attempt to convert to a buyer then. You will need to include the cost to set-up the landing page and related items.

We suggest you begin with a budget where your objective is to create a video for the amount of money it would cost to produce a moderate to elaborate direct mail package (although video production on the cheap is possible—and might work).

Then compare the cost to print and mail a direct mail package versus that of emailing (whether it’s to customers at a low cost to email, or rent an email list at a higher cost). And add in the cost for developing your landing page. Chances are your cost per contact will be less for email and the landing page, but as we all know, it all comes down to the cost per sale or lead so bring your focus back to this metric.

One example worth mentioning is that of the Dollar Shave Club. Perhaps you’ve read about it. A big success for a 1:34 video that reportedly cost $4,500 and after a few days generated over 12,000 orders. The video has now been viewed over 4.6 million times.

Bottom line: just as you’d run the numbers to see if it makes financial sense to use direct mail, you need to run the numbers for video, too. And you just might be surprised how favorable the numbers look to reach out and explore video.

P.S.: Just out: comScore has released its April 2012 online video rankings data with a few notable metrics:

  1. 181 million U.S. Internet users watched nearly 37 billion online content videos in April.
  2. 85.5 percent of U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
  3. The duration of the average online content video was 6.4 minutes.