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Here’s the basic idea: your prospects have a limited daily appetite for videos, blog posts, and other forms of content.
That appetite has not changed over the last 10 years.
But, marketers now release hundreds of thousands of new pieces of content on a daily basis. They compete for the same keywords, use the same flashy headlines like “content marketing hacks” and lecture on the same principles of creating value first before making an “ask” of prospects.
Fewer clicks from competing keywords, less attention from website visitors, and more hesitation before opting into another e-book or email list.
Interactive content solves some of these problems by encouraging visitors to actively participate in the content. If they want information customized to their own needs, they can click a few buttons or answer a few questions and get rewarded with smooth animations and the specific information they would like to see at that moment.
It’s like the science of “active learning”.
Just like classroom teachers design exercises encouraging students to engage, interactive content grabs the attention of skeptical website visitors.
Until recently, one major barrier prevented agencies from adding this service to their offering: the need for development resources.
Most clients balk at the timelines and cost associated with manually coding an interactive ebook or landing page.
It’s tough to sell the ROI.
“When we looked at what kind of content we could produce cost-effectively, we tended to settle on a whitepaper most of the time. Even when I say that, I get a shiver down my spine. Although the content is great, I wished there was a better way to deliver it.”
“We were trying to figure out how we should pitch our latest e-book idea to a client. Finally, we looked around and said, “‘It’s an e-book. So that’s what we will call it’ That’s when we knew it was time to try something new, so we began looking into interactive content.”
Fortunately, there are now a few tools that allow designers to create interactive assets that don’t require a developer.
For example, Ceros allows designers to build interactive ebooks, landing pages, and quizzes in an environment similar to Photoshop. Once finished, they add the final code snippet to the agency or client’s website to publish it live.
See full Future of Work example here
We interviewed agencies that have deployed interactive content to learn about their workflow and the reaction of their clients.
Among the topics we talked about were:
Before we dive into that, let’s first settle on the definition and common use cases for interactive content.
Interactive content is any type of content that requires user input to deliver its full experience. User input could mean a click, an answer to a question, or a scroll through a specific modal.
Some early entrants to the space, like Uberflip, Typeform, and LeadQuizzes, pioneered interactive calculators, quizzes, and surveys. Although those certainly grab the visitor’s attention, there isn’t a strong visual component. Without one, they don’t help build a company’s brand or tell a more compelling story.
David Doughty from Marsden Marketing has enjoyed his experience with tools like Uberflip but needed a way to take it further.
“We have done Uberflip etc., in the past to build interactive calculators. I like those tools and the clients do too, but they have limited use cases.”
With the next generation of interactive tools like Ceros, designers can now build full experiences like landing pages or ebooks.
Most marketers have not had the luxury of thinking about the “experience” of reading an ebook. They only ask their design team to put together an attractive template and trust that the design will be enough to motivate readers to engage further.
Tasha Gideon from Verrah believes that the slow, rich experience provided by interactive content is a welcome break from the overwhelming amount of marketing content.
“How can we distinguish ourselves in a world where marketers are pushing out new content every five minutes? We wanted to use interactive content to slow down marketing and make it more thoughtful.”
Interactive content can be used across the following channels:
Here are a couple ways that agencies are using it today.
See the live version here
Landing pages are probably the most popular use case.
On a normal landing page, a user can read a bit of copy, see a featured image, and make a decision about whether they want to share their email in exchange for the content.
But, an interactive landing page creates one seamless experience. The initial landing page transitions into the full content of the ebook or whitepaper after a quick preview.
“We are seeing the traditional landing page model go away, where the user gets no content before filling out a form. We are using Ceros to offer a taste of the content, then present a way to unlock the rest of it with the embedded forms.”
See the live example here
“A microsite is similar to a landing page, except it is strictly meant to create an experience for the visitor. A landing page is a little more transactional, it has a little less meat. A microsite is meant to be an enjoyable experience itself, without the need for a lead capture form. It is more common in B2C.”
Ink & Ivy
Interactive e-books come in one of two forms. They can either be turned into a full landing page experience, as you see in the first example. Or, they can be embedded within a static page, which is closer to a traditional ebook.
Many social media marketers use GIFs and high-quality images to engage their audience. However, if you are trying to capture leads from your social media efforts, the visuals may not encourage your typical social media user to click your link and read a long blog post.
Interactive content can provide an easy next step for encouraging your followers to engage further.
“The whole role of social has changed. Likes are not enough. Now we need to think about where we can send them if they click. That is the other need interactive content is helping to fill.”
See the full newsletter here
You know that email design your team spent hours building?
Well, your prospects will probably receive 10 others just like it. Interactive content builders allow you to make those emails interactive and feel more personalized, and therefore stand out from everything else in your subscribers’ inbox.
Rather than asking members of your list to click a link to dig in deeper, you can use interactive modals to encourage curiosity within the email itself.
Note: they will still need to click a link in a normal email to see this interactive email. Unfortunately, you can’t provide an interactive experience within an email client.
After spending the time to create interactive content across various marketing channels, you’ll want to track engagement and measure overall effectiveness in getting visitors and readers to engage further.
In most cases, interactive content will take more time to produce, therefore, it’s even more important to have a KPI in mind in order to gauge success.
What are others tracking?
After speaking with a number of agencies, most seemed to agree that time-on-page is the most logical success metric (you can measure this in Google Analytics.)
Since most of these agencies were using interactive content for B2B clients, they also agreed that greater time-on-page should also translate to more conversions, which is the ultimate goal.
“Our clients can’t always say exactly why they like interactive content when they see it. But they just know they like it. They can see how it would translate to more leads”
In other words, if the client’s prospects are spending more time on the page, they are more likely to enter their email address to get the remainder of the content.
When agencies use interactive content in their email newsletter, they are not as focused on time-on-page or any equivalent of that metric. Instead, the agencies we spoke with mentioned the concept of “branding” when trying to measure the ROI.
But what is a quantitative measure of branding?
“People I don’t even know have reached out to us and complimented on how dynamic the newsletter is. Members of our list forward it to their friends or professional colleagues.”
Verrah uses interactive content in their newsletter that they send to their prospects.
This one can be a little more tricky to measure, but these agencies felt that if they wanted to be viewed as leaders in the future of marketing, they needed to use new technology in their own communication.
Introducing interactive content into your marketing mix is an investment of both time and money, and if you’ve made it this far, likely a smart one worth experimenting with.
So what’s next? Where do you start?
First, you’ll want to start evaluating the different tools out there, specifically the ones that don’t require any development help to set up or use.
Once you’ve found the right platform, here are the steps that your agency will need to take in order to release your first piece of interactive content. (It’s similar to launching a new page on a website.)
First, you need to settle on a buyer persona with your client. Then, decide on the need that you want the content to address. After that, you can let the designers build an early version of the interactive whitepaper, ebook, or landing page.
After you are satisfied with the early parts of the content, you can share it with the client for feedback.
It’s usually at this point where you’d hand a mockup over to the development team to build out. Since no developer is needed, this preliminary version gives you a great foundation for the rest of the design. You can simply continue to build on top of the first version.
“We estimate that we cut our development time in half by using an interactive content tool. Now, we don’t need to build the content once in a mockup, then rebuild it in code. It is one seamless process.”
Ink and Ivy
This also eliminates the painful back and forth between developer and designer. Usually, the designer mocks up a few concepts that the developer cannot build in a reasonable amount of time.
So the designer must return to the mockup to sketch out a new design. But in this process, the designer has full control, so there is no confusion on what is feasible or not.
You still need to educate your design team on how to use the tool, but there is much less risk and uncertainty on timelines since it only involves one team.
Some agencies prefer to test out interactive in their own marketing, while others immediately begin using it with clients.
If you are looking for examples of all of your options in the development process, check out these pre-made templates from Ceros. You can shorten your learning curve and see how the early adopters build their content.
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