What if you owned the most important new marketing intersections for your brand?

A friend of mine used to print menus for The Waffle House restaurant. The 24-hour breakfast chain that started in the Southeast now sprawls from the Midwest to Arizona. One day he explained to me how that company bolstered its balance sheet with more than tasty waffle batter and “scattered, smothered, and covered” hash browns. Their secret: They foresaw the value of intersections. Specifically highway interchanges.

So, many early locations for both company and franchised restaurants were strategically placed at highway interchanges. They did this to make it easy for weary and hungry travelers to find them. They also did it because the property the restaurants sat on, the intersection, was a good long-term investment.

Owning intersections is good business for marketers too. There is a new class of intersection coming, and savvy brands will soon be scrambling to have a presence there, or even attempt to own these intersections. They are busy intersections, as most of the people who buy products or services will travel through them.

Your buyer is starting to think about what you sell. At some point in time on their journey to make a purchase they will have a need. It may be the moment they first consider remodeling the kitchen, or planning a trip Africa, buying a home, swapping healthcare plans, or taking up golf. As they are ‘driving down the road to a purchase’, and they first realize this need, or curiosity, that need or curiosity will most be likely be the desire to learn more.

 

 

What if you had a billboard half a mile from the turn onto ‘the road to a purchase’ that said, “Want to learn more?” What if, at the precise moment your buyer comes to the realization that they have this need to know more, you are able to develop trust, position your brand as the best option, communicate your subject matter expertise, share why your product or solution is best, and get their uninterrupted attention for long enough to accomplish all of that?

What if you are the first to teach them what they seek to learn?

The Desired Future State of Marketing

The desired future state of marketing is recognizing the exact contextual moment when a buyer first enters a brand’s category, and being able to take ‘the next best actions’ by delivering high-quality, perfectly relevant branded educational content to convince them that you are the trusted partner and subject matter expert that can best help them on their purchasing journey.

Two things are required:

  1. The right automated systems to collect the inputs from multiple data sources, then predict and deliver the optimal time, channel, and content to engage the buyer and help them along on their purchasing journey.
  2. Great content.

First, the Systems …

Achieving this desired future state requires a confluence of Marketing Automation, Predictive Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and in some cases Machine Learning. Interestingly, one of the best positioned solutions we bench marked received only a casual mention in Gartner’s 2016 Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs. However they have been ‘top-right’ quadrant leaders in the iBPM (Intelligent Business Process Management) suites report for years.

That company, Pegasystems®, is also out front in The Forrester Wave™ for Real Time Interaction Management (RTIM) along with industry leaders like SAS®, Adobe®, IBM®, and Terradata®. RTIM is really the key to how all this works. We’ll pilfer a working definition of RTIM from Forrester’s Wave report (Available Here).

RTIM solutions extend marketing’s goals for contextual relevance from advertising and marketing channels to ensure consistency with eCommerce, sales, service centers, [web sites, social media, SMS/MMS, POS, kiosk, ATM] and mobile or location-specific operations.

 

Pegasystem’s new marketing suite leverages their unique experience with CRM (Customer Relationship Management), BPM, (Business Process Management), and RTIM. They know data, business process, and predictive analytics, and applying those capabilities to the marketing function has led to a unique approach referred to as “Next Best Action”. The short whiteboard video on this page does a great job of explaining it (2:35).

We could spend 15,000 words and a host of cool graphics taking a cursory glance at how this all works and who else is doing it successfully, but suffice it to say it does work. By analyzing little data, big data, and even metadata (data about data) systems can deliver insights such as when potential customers start to look for information about your brand’s category, and what information they’re looking for. With these insights marketers can deliver the right offer, the perfect content asset, or the promotion best aligned with the customers’ specific position along their purchasing journey.

The Second Half of Marketing Nirvana: Great Content

Being a content marketing and a learning advocate, I am guilty of drinking my own Kool-Aid®. So, we’re just going to look at the value that RTIM and Marketing Automation systems deliver as related to content. More specifically, branded educational content.

Over the weekend I voraciously consumed 9 Educational Content Marketing Strategies by Mark Addicks, former CMO, General Mills. I came across it on The Big Know’s platform. The Big Know truly gets the future role of learning content as marketing content. They are part technology platform, part creative shop, and part learning studio. Plus, they coined the phrase “branded educational content”, which I have unabashedly stolen and inserted into my vocabulary as if it were my own vernacular. Thank you.

 

I went through Mark’s course a second time. Yeah, it’s that good (plus … I may have taken lousy notes the first lap). He makes a compelling business case supporting the ongoing growth of the almost $100 billion global learning economy, and why it will continue to be fueled by brands that create their own educational content.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • People spend more time with content when it is delivered in a distraction free environment
  • People have more control over what they consume, and they are exercising that control
  • Paradigm shifts in the way people learn are underway
  • People may experience advertising, but they don’t always respect advertising (advertising is intrusive)
  • 73% of adults consider themselves lifelong learners
  • Learning is core to how consumers actually see themselves
  • 56 million people will take a non-degree online course in 2017
  • One-third of Millennials say that How-To videos influence the products they purchase
  • The average time spent in The Big Know courses is over 50 minutes (200 x 15 second spots)

“You need time with your audiences to build relationships, and tell more meaningful stories. You need time with your audiences to connect, and show why you’re the true experts, and why you’re superior to your competitors, and teaching is the natural way to get that time.”

Mark Addicks, former Chief Marketing Officer, General Mills

This powerful fact is also reinforced: LMSs (Learning Management Systems) are marketing data gold mines.

  1. Feedback on instructors and course content
  2. Embedded surveys
  3. Patterns in blog posts and interactions
  4. What lessons are shared the most
  5. What segments are replayed the most
  6. What resources are being d-loaded
  7. What links are being hit

“Neither individuals or accredited institutions have the have the resources or budgets of leading companies to push the quality of content needed to entertain, and engage the power of storytelling.”

“Branded education is the next evolution of Brand’s role in culture.”

 Mark Addicks

 

Educational content developed and delivered by companies is the next content marketing frontier. New partnerships between SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), influencers, and companies will be formed. Courses that are thoughtfully scripted, professionally produced, and delivered on platforms that collect and assimilate rich data about the learners, and what they want to learn next, will be become the norm.

Why is this inevitable? Because people remember those who they learned from, and we inherently respect our teachers. More on that via Put The Fly Down. Pay Attention. (Just trust me, it is actually about how great teachers have lasting impact.) Also, because learning is not an interruption. People invest time in learning. Learning, in contrast to advertising, is sought out.

The relationship with the customer is deeper when you teach, than when you tell.

How to Own the Intersections

Buy them. Invest in this new strategy. While your competitors are tripping over themselves to drive a few clicks via PPC, or blurting a pop-up into their prospect’s social media experience, or conditioning them to wait for an even better deal via discounting and promotion, switch to the long game. Earn the buyers trust by teaching them something. Own “the learning destination” on the buyer’s journey. It is valuable real estate.

 

 

One of the 9 Educational Content Marketing Strategies that former CMO Addicks defines is, “First Mover Advantage”. That is where the systems piece comes in. Correctly deploying the right technologies is like buying up the traffic signals and signs at the intersections along the buyer’s journey. Not only do RTIM and Marketing Automation give insight as to when the exact moment of “curiosity or need” will occur, but they can then direct the buyer to the learning destination that was specifically designed to satisfy that curiosity or need.

Owning the intersections along the buyer’s journey and the branded educational content destinations they seek is powerful. And not just as a tactic to test next quarter, but a sound long-term strategy that builds trust, and evokes brand evangelism.

“The brands and products that step forward and meet the audience at these moments of curiosity or need, and who see the bigger picture, they’re winning by becoming the trusted guides along the path.”

Mark Addicks