To see the greatest return on investment, it’s necessary to continually improve our content marketing. But in order to boost our efforts, we first must understand our marketing objectives and how these differ by journey state. In this episode, we explore the best ways to deliver content, measure engagement, improve, and successfully optimize our content to the ‘Think’ state. This audience includes people that are thinking about our product, but aren’t currently in the market to make a purchase.
The Objective with ‘Think’ Audience (01:45 – 7:50)
- ‘Think’ state is the audience that is qualified but hasn’t made a commitment, nor do they have a timeline to purchase
- Our objective with the ‘Think’ state is to be a resource and help guide them as they proceed through the buying journey
- We can use meaningful and relevant content to aggregate and establish a means to inform the ‘Think’ audience
- Even though the ‘Think’ audience isn’t ready to make a purchase, keeping them educated will influence their decision
- ‘Think’ state is where a gracefully executed sell message begins
Measuring Effectiveness Based on the Objectives (07:50 – 11:00)
- Our content marketing goal is to increase engagement , improve close rates and decrease the length of the sales cycle
- If multi-touch attribution is established, we can look at the number of conversions that were influenced by ‘Think’ state content
- Other metrics to measure the effectiveness of content include:
- Time on site or time on page
- Dwell time
- Scroll depth
- Length of video views (how long did they watch?)
- Contacts (if gated)
Charity of the Week: (11:20 – 12:00)
How To Target ‘Think’ State (12:20 – 36:55)
- The PESO model, established by Gini Dietrich, helps marketers identify new opportunities to integrate channels into a new or existing content marketing program. It updates the Paid, Earned, Owned model of marketing to include Shared.
- Paid– buying an audience to increase awareness through native advertising via Facebook, LinkedIn, pay-per-click, Twitter, display ads and retargeting
- We are looking for:
- How to best reach our ‘Think’ audience on each of these channels
- Tips to achieve:
- Understand which pieces are contributing to revenue
- Choose paid media channels and structure media buys in a way that allows us to continuously market to the same qualified audience
- Retarget the audience that we acquired with our See state content to identify where they are in market
- To iterate on paid media we must:
- Pit different media channels and targeting methods against each other
- Put more effort in testing the creative that draws the audience to the content
- RESOURCE: Episode 30: Continuous Improvement in Paid Media
- We are looking for:
- Earned – trading the value of our content in exchange for access to a third-party audience by utilizing influencer marketing and traditional PR. In both cases, we are measuring the quantity and quality of audience we are able to acquire.
- We are looking for:
- Where can we get semi-commercial messages reinforced by third parties?
- New product released
- Awards or recognition from a third parties
- Example: IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) Top Safety Picks = Chevy
- How can we build awareness for our other Think state content using third-parties?
- Which media outlets and influencers drive the most qualified traffic?
- Where can we get semi-commercial messages reinforced by third parties?
- Tips to achieve:
- A/B test pitches — What types of content resonates with our audience?
- Look at which media outlets and influencers drive the most subscribers, repeat visits and engaged visitors, hen focus on the influencers and media that have the greatest impact
- We are looking for:
- Shared – amplifying our content by getting non-influencers to share our content with their networks. This is attained through our own social media presence and providing sharing mechanisms on the content itself
- We are looking for:
- The sharing that is taking place via dark social
- Dark social is the sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured with web analytics programs, like email and text messages
- Tips to achieve:
- Provide multiple, prominent opportunities for your audience to share it
- Make sure your sharing tools include dark social sharing mechanisms through ShareThis, email or WhatsApp
- Include branded information on the materials themselves
- To iterate on shared media we must:
- Test different social posting formats to find which types of headlines, lead-ins and images result in the most shares with different audience segments
- Test placement and prominence of sharing buttons to maximize sharing from our site
- We are looking for:
- Owned Media – to achieve this a body of evergreen content needs to be developed that will be sought out by the target audience. Obtain links to this content to drive inbound traffic and search engine ranking. Then, retain and stay in front of a subscribed audience with relevant content.
- We are looking for:
- Are we driving up lead score and engagement with our subscribers?
- Metrics to watch include clicks, dwell time, downloads, form submissions and an increase in lead score
- Are we driving up lead score and engagement with our subscribers?
- Tips to achieve:
- Leverage marketing automation to nurture audiences who indicate they are in ‘Think’ state
- To iterate on owned media we must:
- A/B test email subject lines and body copy
- A/B test HTML vs. plain text email
- Watch unsubscribes and flag content/emails that result in spikes in unsubscribe rates
- Never compare open rates across lists or sends
- We are looking for:
Summary (37:00 – 38:50)
- Using content to market to our ‘Think’ state audience takes different approaches and tactics depending on the buyer’s journey
- CPG (consumer packaged goods) ‘Think’ state is the period between when someone runs out of a product or service and when they purchase another
- B2B long-sales cycle process ‘Think’ state could be a year or more for a buyer and could involve multiple stakeholders
We hope you want to join us on our journey. Find us on IterativeMarketing.net, the hub for the methodology and community. Email us at [email protected], follow us on twitter at @iter8ive or join The Iterative Marketing Community LinkedIn group.
The Iterative Marketing Podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste.
Onward and upward!
Steve Robinson: Hello, Iterative Marketers! Welcome to the Iterative Marketing podcast, where each week, we give marketers and entrepreneurs actionable ideas, techniques and examples to improve your marketing results. If you want notes and links to the resources discussed on the show, sign up to get them emailed to you each week at iterativemarketing.net. There, you’ll also find the Iterative Marketing blog and our community LinkedIn group, where you can share ideas and ask questions of your fellow iterative marketers. Now, let’s dive into the show.
Hello everyone, and welcome to the Iterative Marketing podcast. I am your host, Steve Robinson. And with me as always is the sparkling and charming Elizabeth Earin. How are you this morning?
Elizabeth Earin: I am good, Steve. How are you?
Steve Robinson: Good, good. We have to go through the car buying experience again here.
Elizabeth Earin: Now, we have talked about this before. You had a – was it a Jetta before?
Steve Robinson: Yeah, I have a Dieselgate Volkswagen, diesel wagon that I love, but I’m not allowed to drive anymore, so I’m turning it back into Volkswagen and getting probably a Mazda.
Elizabeth Earin: Oh, exciting. That will be fun.
Steve Robinson: Yeah, I got to put three car seats in the back and it’s surprising how few vehicles actually work for that.
Elizabeth Earin: Yes. I don’t have that problem, so…
Steve Robinson: That’s not recommended. I’m telling you to stop at two. Your life’s way easier.
Elizabeth Earin: I’ll keep that in mind.
Steve Robinson: I love my daughter, but…
Elizabeth Earin: Three is hard.
Steve Robinson: Three is hard. So what are we talking about today?
Elizabeth Earin: So today, we are talking about content marketing to the “think” state. And if you listen to last week’s episode, we talked about content marketing to the “see” state. This week, we are talking about how we are — that intersection of Iterative Marketing content marketing comes together when we’re specifically talking about those people that are in market for our product and are thinking about our product but are still not quite ready to make that purchase.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. So we’ll go through — just kind of like we did last week, we are going to go through the goals and objectives of targeting content at the “think” state because it’s a little bit different. We’ll talk about what — how we measure success and we’ll talk about how we iterate on content within “think,” because it’s — all of these are just slightly different from “see” because our objectives are different. So you touched on it briefly, but can you remind our audience of what “think” state means and what the difference is there?
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah. So our “think” state audience is our audience that is qualified and they are thinking about buying our product or service but they haven’t made a commitment or they don’t have a timeline for making that purchase. So if we are talking about you and your car, are you in “think” state right now or are you in “do”?
Steve Robinson: I am in “do.” There’s a definitive date here. Sometime in the next two weeks, I’ll be turning in my Volkswagen and purchasing a new vehicle. So I have made a commitment to myself and I have actually talked about it with my wife and others, so we are committed to purchasing a new car. So I’m definitely in “do” state, but when Volkswagen first announced that I could either get it fixed or I could get it – I could turn it in and buy a new one, I would have been in “think” state for a little while, while I tried to figure out what my next steps were and where I was going to go with this.
Elizabeth Earin: And I think that’s important to notice that “think” state — the length that you are in “think” state is going to be impacted obviously by your own personal customer journey, but also your products. Some products and services are going to have a much shorter “think” state than others are going to have. So it’s not like you are only in “think” state for two weeks or you are only in “think” state for six months. There’s a few different factors that are going to impact how long you are in that journey state for.
Steve Robinson: So because “think” state is distinct and it’s different from “see” and “do,” our objectives are a little bit different. Do you want to talk a little bit about how those objectives are different?
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah. So one of the first ways I think that they are different is that “think” state is allowing us to identify who’s in market but not yet ready to buy. And I think that’s a very important distinction because these people are silently lurking. They are not ready to respond to your “do” state creative that you put out there, but they are definitely more committed than someone who would be in “see” state. So our “think” state content is going to help us figure out who those people are so that we can make sure that we deliver the right message to them.
Steve Robinson: Now your “think” state audience is never talking to a salesperson. That’s the last person they want to talk to at this point because they are still trying to figure out what’s what and they really don’t want to talk to somebody. They also don’t want to fill out forms on your website inquiring about a product, nor are they going to really add things to their cart. They are really at the point where they are just trying to figure out what they want to do, where they want to go next in their journey. So in addition to using “think” state content to identify those people, we can also help them on their journey, right? We can be a resource and give them the tools and the information they need in order to move forward into it into “do” state.
Elizabeth Earin: And we really see it different here with our “see” state content. Where in “see” state, we are really focused on building brand awareness and brand affinity. And we are still doing that. And we’ll talk about that in a minute, but here is where they are open to our message. They are thinking about us. They are engaging with us and so we have the ability to help try and influence that decision. We have the ability to educate them. They are going to be more open to that type of messaging and we want to take advantage of that.
Steve Robinson: Exactly. “See” state content is content that is desirable to the audience regardless of whether they’re in market for your product or service at all. So they could be so far from buying your product, they are qualified but they are not anywhere near buying it. And the idea that if you are producing good “see” state content, that’s content that’s still of interest to them. “Think” state, here we get to introduce that commercial message. We get to start to actually sell just a little bit in our content because, as a consumer, our audience wants that at this point. They want to be a better-informed consumer so that they can make a better buying decision, so they know what they should be looking at or looking for and we can help them along the way and along that path. Hopefully, we guide them to be looking at the right things and looking for our product, right?
Elizabeth Earin: Correct. And if you are doing a good job of educating them and giving them the information that you need, you are also building up that affinity with your brand or your product or you services. And so, even though, again, they are not ready to buy right now, they don’t have that commitment, you have become a resource in their mind. You have become an invaluable resource and that is worth so much when it comes time to make that purchasing decision.
Steve Robinson: Now, we have talked a lot about what this means to the consumer, to our audience, right? But to us as a brand, there’s also kind of a goal here, right? Our objective as a brand is not so much to push people across the threshold and move them from “think” to “do,” because people don’t want to be pushed. They want the skids greased, right? They want to make this as seamless as possible, but they don’t want to be pushed. So our goal as a brand, instead, is to do just that. It’s to grease those skids. It’s to ease that process and we are going to see that come back out on the other side in the form of higher close rates. We are going to see that come out in shorter sales cycles. And so our goal as a brand, as the advertiser, the person producing this content is to improve that process for the prospect for our audience and reduce the amount of time it takes, reduce the amount of friction and ultimately improve the percentage of close.
Elizabeth Earin: Now, it’s important to note that, to be able to do this, you need a lot of data to be able to validate this. And so you are going to have to make sure that you have got a program set up. You have got to let it run for a while so you can collect that data. And then you have to analyze it. We kind of skipped over this at the beginning, but if you’d like sort of a deeper dive into “think” state, we do have Podcast Episode 27 which really gets into the meat of it for about 20-25 minutes of your time. Or if you want more of a high-level overview, you can check out Episode 16, or Steve got a phenomenal blog if you like having a written reference, and it’s called “See, Think, Do – A Framework for Understanding Your Prospect State of Being.” And we’ll link to all of that in the show notes.
Steve Robinson: So, when we look at “think” state content, how do we know whether our content is working? How do we know if we have good content?
Elizabeth Earin: I think it all comes down to measuring it. What is the effectiveness of our “think” state content or our “think” state targeting? And the thing that I think is important for us to keep in mind is that we are trying to be their guide and their friend as they move through their journey. We are trying to engage them with our content. And so again, there’s that sort of a thin line. We don’t want to be too “salesy,” but we want to be informative and so looking at that engagement and monitoring that engagement rate is very important.
Steve Robinson: In a perfect world, we have a beautiful attribution model set up where we know exactly which touch points are contributing to which sales. And we can say, “Well, if they touch these three pieces of content, then their close rate will increase by 20% and their time to close decreased by two weeks.” The reality is: Very few of us have that set up, and even if we do, depending on how long your sales cycle is, it could be a year before you have actionable data. And by then, you are not even running the same content. So we have this utopian vision of being able to have perfect attribution. The reality is: We are going to have to use some other metrics to know whether or not our content is contributing to that success. And so to your point, Elizabeth, this is where we fall back to those engagements metrics. And I think some of the best engagement metrics are things like dwell time. How long are they spending on your individual page or piece of content? You want to look at things like scroll depth to see, are they going to the bottom? Are we keeping their attention and are they deep diving into this content? Because that’s what really builds that affinity. That’s how you know you are providing value and utility. If it’s something that’s downloaded, we just look at the downloads or the form fills to get to that download. If it’s video, we look at how many seconds did they watch? Where did they drop off? What percentage of people completed this video? You can also look at sharing, although we’ll talk in depth about how sharing is kind of challenging within this audience. And then you are also looking at: Are we able to increase our – get some new contacts that are in “think” state or be able to add data to our database for those context we already have? A lot of marketing automation systems will let you increase the amount of data you have on each contact with every form fill. And so sometimes, one of the beauties of high utility “think” state content is that it can really help you nurture your database and take your existing contacts and add more information. So when they become sales-ready, they are more complete.
Elizabeth Earin: So those are great metrics. Again, keeping in mind where it’s all focused on engagement, it’s about engaging them, being their guide, being their front as they move through the customer journey.
Steve Robinson: So I think this is a great point for us to take a quick break and go help some folks. So without further ado, let’s go do that.
Elizabeth Earin: Before we continue, I would like to take a quick moment to ask you Iterative Marketers a small but meaningful favor, and ask that you give a few dollars to a charity that’s important to one of our own. This week’s charitable cause was sent in by Stacey Kendrick of Missoula, Montana. Stacy asks that you make a contribution to the Loyola Sacred Heart Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting the long-term financial stability of Missoula Catholic schools and to ensuring its accessibility and affordability to the Greater Missoula region by inspiring donors to invest in high-quality Catholic education. Learn more at missoulacatholicschools.org or visit the link in the show notes. If you would like to submit your cause for consideration for our next podcast, please visit iterativemarketing.net/podcast and click the “Share a Cause” button. We love sharing causes that are important to you.
Steve Robinson: And we are back. So before the break, we went through what “think” state content means, what we are trying to do with it, how we measure it. Now let’s break down how we distribute that content, how do we get it in the hands of the audience that we are trying to reach? And with that, what changes when we go through different channels to distribute our content? And to do that, I’d like to reintroduce, like we did last week, the PESO model.
Elizabeth Earin: So we talked about the PESO model in-depth in Episode 35. So if you are not familiar, definitely go back and check it out. I think it’s a really unique way to look at or re-evaluate your marketing and sort of stepping outside of your comfort zone with what you are typically doing. But the PESO model focuses on four types of channels: Paid, earned, shared, and owned. And we will go into a very quick recap of what each of these are before we go more in depth into them. So paid is when we are exchanging money in exchange for our audience. This is when we are going out and we are buying our advertising. Earned, we are trading the value of our content in exchange for access to a third party audience, and so this is typically done through PR, through influencer marketing. Shared is when we are leveraging our own audience to amplify our content and messaging. So this is where our social media channels come into play. And owned is when we are building our own audience and serving with valuable content on mediums that we own, so our website, our blog, things that we have control over.
Steve Robinson: We look at paid in the context of “think” state content. We are talking about paid advertising, things like native advertising. Facebook plays a huge role here, LinkedIn to some extent. Pay-per-click, pay-per-click doesn’t really have as much to do here, although you can do it with our — let’s say display ads. And really, a lot of this stuff is retargeted content. We will talk about that in a minute, but it’s paid media where you are paying to get the content that you have produced in front of the eyeballs that you know are in “think” state.
Elizabeth Earin: And what we are looking to do with this is really figure out the best way to reach our “think” audience on each of these channels: Paid, earned, shared, and owned.
Steve Robinson: To set ourselves up for success, we want to have some measurement. And ideally, like I said, utopian world, we are able to track each individual piece of content back to increasing sales. And if you have a short sale cycle, that’s not that hard to do. If you have short sales cycle and you are all digital like a SaaS product or something, it’s actually relatively easy to get the data that you need or be able to support this. But if you are B2B and you have an offline sales process and a 1-year sales cycle arm, it can become almost impossible. But if at all possible, track which pieces of content people have consumed when they became customers so that you can go back to know which ones are having the biggest impact.
Elizabeth Earin: Also important is making sure that you are picking paid media channels and structuring your buys to make sure that you are continuously marketing to the same qualified audience. Remember, we are trying to engage them here. And part of engagement is repetition. And so we want to make sure that we have got solid retargeting and this is a huge part of it. And Steve mentioned it earlier, but we have got solid retargeting. So once we pull them into our owned channels that we are able to stay in front of them and we are not having to go out and rebuy that audience over and over and over again, and so, this is really going to help us to identify when they are in market because we started with them in “see” state or maybe they haven’t joined us until they are in “think” state, but we have this opportunity to watch them engage with our content and determine where they are in that buyer’s journey.
Steve Robinson: Remember, your “think” state content is semi-commercial in nature. So that means that in order for your audience to really engage with it, they have to have some degree of trust for your brand. Otherwise, they are going to look at this as another advertisement, right? And that someone is trying to sell me something, but if they already have some trust or some affinity for your brand, then this becomes utility and you are helping them through the buyers journey because they see you as a friend and they see you as somebody who’s helping them make an informed decision, not somebody that’s trying to sell you something. So if you go outside of the “see” audience that you’ve been nurturing with your “think” content, then you are hitting a bunch of people that may not know you from Adam or may not trust you. So it’s a good practice to try and continue to nurture that same audience. And then to your point again, Elizabeth, retargeting becomes key here because if you can detect those signals of that audience that is maybe considering your product, they are looking at product pages on your site. They are looking at pricing pages on your site,. They are spending time engaged in other “think” content, then you know they are in “think” state and you can come back to them with more “think” content to help them further on their journey.
Elizabeth Earin: So, how do we iterate on this?
Steve Robinson: Similar to how we iterate on “see” state paid content, we are going to take a look and pit different media channels and targeting methods against each other to see where we are getting the most uptake here. Now, it’s going to take more time because our “think” state audience is a lot smaller than our “see” state audience. So it’s going to take a lot more time in order to capture which channels are most effective or which content is most effective. But if you can capture that data in, I think our target is about an eight-week period where it starts to become not so solid data, you can measure which channels have your highest engagement rates or have your highest click-through rates, have your highest form fill rates, if you have got gated content on the other side of that click.
Elizabeth Earin: Now, you said you would be driving less traffic but I think it’s important to note that this is going to be higher quality traffic than what we generated in “see” state. These are more engaged people, and so one of the cool things that we can do is: As we are running these experiments and we are testing these different channels, is that we can use the results of our “think” state experiments to improve our “see” state targeting.
Steve Robinson: Absolutely, because when you are running “think” state content, the only people who would be engaging with your “think” state content is somebody who is definitely qualified. They are definitely right fit because you are not going to be looking at a semi-commercial message. You are not going to be looking at utility that helps you buy if you are not qualified to buy, at least not generally, although there are those of us that are a little bit aspirational about what kind of car we are going to drive someday. But in general, you are not going to be engaging with this “think” state content unless you are qualified. So if you take the results from your tuning of your “think” state content and then apply it back to your “see” where you have less of a direct response, less qualifiers, to make sure you are hitting the right audience, you are able to improve the “see” state targeting over time.
Elizabeth Earin: If you are doing paid media and you have not already gone back and listened to Episode 30 which is continuous improvement in paid media, I definitely recommend it. It is a phenomenal episode, if I do say so myself, but it has some really great information and really goes more in depth into this topic, and this applies across all of your advertising. So definitely worth the listen.
Steve Robinson: Let’s jump into earned for a moment. Do you want to remind our audience what earned is?
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah. So in earned, we are trading the value of our content in exchange for access to a third party audience. And we do this through influencer marketing, traditional PR. And in both of those cases, we are really measuring the quantity and the quality of the audience that we are able to acquire.
Steve Robinson: The big difference here from the “see” state earned is that in “see” state earned, you are really just looking for mentions. You just want your name associated with a trusted news source or trusted influencer. When we get to “think,” now we are looking to get actual messaging out that would help somebody who would be considering making a purchase. So here, we are looking for more placements of actual individual content. So things like a product release or maybe a award that you achieved, these are good things to get out there into to your audience via established media channels and influencers.
Elizabeth Earin: We have a great example of this: Is when we were talking about this episode and talking about awards and recognitions from the third party, and wanted to give an example and it popped up: the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Their top safety picks. And I’m not in the market for a car right now and I am like, yes, there’s brands out there, I know. They talk about it, just can’t remember and you could name them off right away because you are in market. You have been paying attention to this messaging, and so because you are in market, that stood out to you. Because I’m not in market, it wasn’t sort of the back in my mind that maybe I had seen it somewhere but I couldn’t recall the brand. I didn’t know a model that it went with. And so that’s the difference there between our “see” and “think” audience.
Steve Robinson: The other thing that you can do with “think” state earned media is you can build awareness for other “think” state content that you have produced. So if you produce a really awesome infographic, getting that out through your influencer channel can be really helpful. If you produce this tool that provides a lot of utility for those people that might be in market, you can get that out through your influencer channel, and by doing that, you are able to bolster your owned efforts with now earned efforts.
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah, because it’s coming from a third-party, it’s got this sort of extra level of authority that you are not necessarily going to get through some of your paid channels. At the end of the day, though, it’s always important to take a look at the different media outlets, the different influencers, and see who’s driving the most qualified traffic. Just because it’s earned doesn’t mean that you can’t iterate on it. And we are going to get into that in just a moment here, but the key is making sure that you are really reviewing the type of traffic that you are getting from each of these placements.
Steve Robinson: You mentioned iterating on it, how do we iterate on it?
Elizabeth Earin: So one of the things we want to do is really look at testing our pitches. And I know you hate using that word, it’s a bit archaic in the industry, but really looking to see what type of content resonates with our audiences. And this is where having a better understanding of the type of quality of traffic and the type of traffic that’s coming from these different outlets and influencers can be really important, because you may find that you have got this blogger over here and there are audiences responding to tools and you have got this audience over here and the audience – or this channel over here and their audience is really responding to maybe it’s testimonials or case studies or real life stories of someone who’s used your product. And so having an understanding of that can help you to sort of alter that pitch in a way that’s going to help you get content that resonates best with that industry or with that audience.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. And since this is semi-commercial content, not every pitch is going to resonate with every blogger either because you are trying to figure out how can we put our product or service or brand in the best light for those that are in market and help guide and inform their purchase decision? That’s content that edges the type of content that influencer and media outlets don’t really want to run because it can sound salesy in spots. And so it’s walking that fine line and figuring out how can we get this content that effectively does both and that requires a lot of testing and trial and error of different types of content with different types of media outlets? Eventually, you find a groove and a fit there, and then once you have that in place, now it’s a matter of iterating on it and trying to improve the quality of the traffic that you are getting. So when we get a placement here, how does that increase the amount of people searching for our brand online? When we get a placement with this particular influencer, media outlet, blogger, etc., how much traffic does that generate to our site through referrals and what is the quality of that traffic? Is this high quality traffic where they are engaging in more “think” content, maybe even some “do” content or is this people who are just trying to figure out who we are and then they are bouncing?
Elizabeth Earin: The S in PESO is for shared. And here, we are amplifying our content by getting non-influencers to share our content with their networks. And it’s important, I think, to note that there’s some overlap here with the earned media as well.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. You kind of have that spectrum of who is just part of our audience, part of our consumer base and who is an influencer. And there’s gray area in between there as well, as you are looking to have that earned media also amplified and shared and so that makes it kind of muddled. But in either case, we are looking to get people to take our “think” state content and share it through their own social media presence. So they are through their own Twitter, through their own Facebook, etc., And our goal, as marketers, is to provide them the mechanisms to do that and get the content in front of them in a sharing context, meaning get it into their feed so that they can share it directly from their social feeds.
Elizabeth Earin: Now, while we are still looking for what is most shareable, it gets a little bit tricky here. And you alluded to this earlier in the episode, and that’s because the sharing is taking place via dark social. Do you want to talk about dark social? It sounds so scary.
Steve Robinson: Dark social. So, most social media is fairly measurable. We are able to take a look and see through various social media monitoring tools what’s getting shared. We can take a look at the individual shares on our own post. We can count the sharing button clicks on our website, but what we can’t see is when I text something to my wife and say, “Hey, take a look at this.” We can’t see when a PDF gets emailed around the office. This is all dark social activity and it comes up in our analytics, if it comes up in our analytics at all, as direct traffic because it’s coming off of an email that somebody sent. It’s coming off of a text message that somebody sent and there’s no way that Google Analytics or any other analytic system can track where that click came from. And so, it’s called dark social because it’s kind of in the dark, in the shadows. We can’t see this activity but we know that it’s happening because our direct traffic is going up because we hear the word of mouth coming back through our sales. So when we do this, we want to make sure that we are encouraging this dark social traffic to occur and encourage people to share, knowing that we are not going to be able to measure it on the other side.
Elizabeth Earin: So when we talk about putting our best foot forward and knowing that dark social exists, that doesn’t mean that we want to ignore sharing mechanisms that we can see. And so we want to make sure that we are providing multiple and prominent opportunities for our content — on our content for our audience to be able to share that through the ways that we can measure. But then we also want to make sure that we are using those sharing tools that includes some of the dark social sharing mechanisms. Do you want to talk about how we can do that?
Steve Robinson: Yeah. So if you go to ShareThis, and sharethis.com is one of the, I think, the most popular sharing button tools that you can embed sharing buttons on your site. The default ones are like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, but there’s also, if you dig into the tools a little bit more, that you can add an email button. You can add a WhatsApp button. Now WhatsApp is going to come again through as a direct link on the other side because it’s coming out of another app. So these additional buttons allow you to track when some of that dark social sharing activity occurs as well as encouraging it, because Think state content is not the kind of thing that I think that all of my Facebook audience is going to be interested in, because they are not in market for the same thing that I am. However, my wife is going to be interested in it if it comes down to the safety rating of the car that we are about to buy and put our three kids in, and my coworkers are going to be interested if it comes down to the tool that we are going to be using. And so having an email button prominent on the site will encourage me to share that content with other influencers within my organization or with other influencers within my household.
Elizabeth Earin: And then one other thing you can do, which doesn’t necessarily help you track what’s being shared but it does help it make sure that you are building up that brand awareness and brand affinity, is making sure that you are including branded information on the materials themselves. If you are writing a whitepaper, make sure it’s clearly branded. If you have got a case study, make sure that that is clearly branded. If you have got an infographic that’s going out there, again, you want to make sure that they know who it is that has provided this very valuable content. They may be paying attention to it. They may not be paying attention to it, but at the end of the day, seeing your logo, understanding what it is, what value it is that you are providing is going to help them to build up that awareness and build up that affinity with your brand.
Steve Robinson: You can’t count on them having come through the same channel that the first person did to get that content. Once it’s shared, it’s going to be stripped away from the landing page that it was on. It’s going to be stripped away from the social posts that brought the people there. It now has to stand on its own. Once that drops into somebody’s email inbox, they are going to be looking in the context of their co-workers email. Or if it pops into somebody’s text message, they are going to be looking in the context of their sister’s text message, not your landing page, not your social posts. So make sure every piece of content can stand on its own if it’s something that you are expecting to be shared in that way or even could be shared in that way. So how to iterate on this? How do we continuously improve in our shared media for Think state content?
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah. So I think the first thing we can do is look at testing different social posting formats to find which type of headline or lead-in or images or combination of those two or three items gets the most shares with different audience segments.
Steve Robinson: And we need to be careful here. A lot of stuff are not going to be rocking the share charts here. You are not going to see hundreds of people who have retweeted these tweets, partly because you are not going to have a broader distribution. Some of the stuff is just going to be retargeted at your existing audience. We have paid channels, but second of all because, again, not everybody is going to share this content because they don’t think that everyone else is in market for the same thing that they are at this point in their journey.
Elizabeth Earin: And finally, testing the placement, the prominence, etc., of sharing buttons to really maximize sharing from our site. And one thing to keep in mind here is that this is going to be site-wide. We are not going to have different placement of buttons for someone in See state that we are going to have in Think state versus Do state. It’s going to be the same across the board, but again, we can test that. We can apply that over and apply it to the entire site.
Steve Robinson: So you are telling me that when we go through this again for Do state content, we get to talk about a button test again?
Elizabeth Earin: We do. I know how much you love them.
Steve Robinson: Yeah, we are going to literally push my buttons again.
Elizabeth Earin: Oh! Goodness. All right. I think, with that, we need to head into our last and final model here.
Steve Robinson: So, the O in PESO is Owned. And this kind of brings it back home to the channels that we control. So here, we are trying to stay in front of that subscribed audience, the people that have already bought in. And generally, our distribution of this audience is free. So it’s occurring via email. It’s occurring via text message or some other thing that we can do where we are not paying some other entity either in the form of content for earned or in the form of money in the case of paid to get that content out.
Elizabeth Earin: Now you mentioned email and text messaging. Ibviously our website is part of this, but marketing automation, we haven’t really talked much about that, but this is another great place that marketing automation can come into play.
Steve Robinson: Right, because your See state audience, oftentimes, they are just going to be getting the same content as the rest of the See state audience. So that’s an example of, like, your e-mail newsletter is just fine for your See state audience, but when you start getting into Think, here people become a little bit more specialized in the content that they want to see. And so having a solid marketing automation platform set up for you can really be to your advantage, because you are able to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time when they are in that Think state. So it’s different from See where a badge and blast like a Mailchimp is going to be just fine. Think state, you are going to want to, if you can invest in marketing automation system to really get that content out there.
Elizabeth Earin: And this ties into what it is that we are looking for and that we really want to know if we are driving up lead score and engagement with our subscribers and marketing automation and email marketing. Those are two ways to really support that.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. So again, coming back to engagement, we want to know not just people are clicking on our content but also what is our dwell time when they get there? How many additional form submissions are they willing to submit in order to get there? Because if I’m willing to submit a form, that means that I see value in that content. And so one of the great ways to gauge whether your Think state content is actually adding value or utility is are people willing to give up some contact information for it? And if they are, then you know that you have provided some content that is not only helping them in their journey as far as influencing their decision to buy from you, but you are also providing that value, that utility on the other side.
Elizabeth Earin: And again, we are looking for that increase in lead score. We are looking at that engagement over time. It’s not just engaging with one piece of content. It’s what other actions have they taken on our website. And that lead score is a great way to help keep track of that, and as we work with our sales teams to help identify who it is that is in Think state or maybe ready to move into Do state, who we want to start picking up the phone and talking to based on what they have been engaging with and the actions they have been taking our website.
Steve Robinson: To be most successful with Think state content when you look at your owned media, the key here is to leverage that marketing automation system to nurture somebody over time. So in order to do that, you have to have a couple of things in place. First, you have to have more than one piece of content. The beauty here is that most Think state content is essentially evergreen because if you are using marketing automation to deliver it, the only people that are going to get it are the people who are in market, and marketing automation will make sure that they aren’t getting it more than once. So if the content is still valid and valuable and accurate, you can keep that same piece of content indefinitely and just make sure that you aren’t redelivering it to the same people over and over again. So that’s really where having that marketing automation system can be invaluable in building an arsenal of Think state owned content to nurture a Think state audience.
Elizabeth Earin: And finally, and as we wrap up our Owned channel, how do we iterate on this?
Steve Robinson: Here, again, it comes back to A/B testing. And you are really looking at A/B testing things primarily in that email channel that you are delivering it, so A/B testing subject lines, A/B testing with a plaintext versus rich text or HTML email is more effective method, whether it should come from a sales rep at this point or BDR or whether it should come from the brand or maybe from the owner or founder of the company in the cases like a B2C type thing. Testing that stuff out, and it might take some time to test it out because it’s not a big batch and blast of email. It’s come trickling out over time if you are using marketing automation, but you can still execute an A/B test even if it is trickling out over time and monitor which version over time produces a better response.
Elizabeth Earin: You are also going to be wanting to watch for unsubscribes and flagging any content or emails that are resulting in spikes of unsubscribes.
Steve Robinson: You are going to want to never compare your open rates or your click-through rates between two completely different pieces of content. Or if you are using batch and blast two different sends of the same content, because if you aren’t spreading this out over many, many, many sends, then you are going to have variations between what we sent last week and this week if you are sending two big batches. If you are using marketing automation, it’s over many, many different sends, that’s fine. It all kind of comes out in the wash and you can compare open rates and click-through rates between version A and version B over time, but if you are doing batch and blast, you never just want to say, “Well, last week, the open rate was 10% and this week the open rate was 30%. Obviously, this week’s was better.” Well, no, last week, everybody was focused on the election or the game or this, that, or the other or whatever, and this week, they are actually paying attention. It could be completely irrelevant to your content.
Elizabeth Earin: Great point.
Steve Robinson: One thing that I just want to hammer home before we close out this, again, very long episode is that See state is pretty straightforward. You are providing content that is valuable and of interest to a broad audience, regardless of whether they are in market. Do state, when we get to it, is pretty obvious. You are providing content that helps somebody close a deal, right? So you are helping get them across that threshold so that they can actually buy. But Think state is completely different industry to industry, brand to brand because how long somebody is in that Think state, what their state of mind is in that Think state is completely different. So to kind of bring this home, if you think about like an impulse buy, has basically zero Think state. Whether you buy that Snickers bar at the checkout line is not something you are going to think about. As a matter of fact, if you do stop to think about it, you are probably not going to buy the Snickers bar at the checkout line. And you think about consumer packaged goods, my Think state for toothpaste is the time period between when I run out of toothpaste and I have more toothpaste in my cart, right? That’s my Think state. That’s very different of like a B2B thing where I am trying to decide who is our new accounting firm. That’s something that could take months in order to narrow down and define with multiple stakeholders, and that Think state period of when you are frustrated with your existing accounting firm but you haven’t decided your actual formal search that could run for a year or more. So Think state is very different based on your audience and your product, your market, what you are selling and everything we said in this episode, you are going to have to adapt to your individual circumstance.
Elizabeth Earin: And by “adapt,” we mean, content may be different. How you are delivering that content, how you are testing that content, how long someone is in your Think state, these are all things are going to be impacted by what it is that Steve just mentioned.
Steve Robinson: So I want to thank everybody for making some time for us today. I know that I have got a bit of a cold and had a hard time actually talking. I appreciate you bearing with us. As always, if you like what you hear, please go out and leave us a review. That helps other people find this valuable content and encourages us to continue to produce it. Otherwise, until next week, onward and upward.
Elizabeth Earin: If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on YouTube or your favorite podcast directory. If you want notes and links to resources discussed on the show, sign up to get them emailed to you each week at iterativemarketing.net. There, you will also find the Iterative Marketing blog in our community LinkedIn group where you can share ideas and ask questions of your fellow Iterative Marketers. You can also follow us on Twitter. Our username is @iter8ive or email us at [email protected] The Iterative Marketing podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste. Our producer is Heather Ohlman with transcription assistance from Emily Bechtel. Our music is by Seastock Audio Music Production and Sound Design. You can check them out at Seastockaudio.com. We will see you next week. Until then, onward and upward!