Several years ago (in internet years, anyway) it became clear to some marketers that one of the best ways to capture market share was through creating amazing content. Whether through blog posts, ebooks, social media, cartoons, videos, whatever -- helpful, educational, and interesting content was the name of the marketing game.
Today, I think it's fair to say that not just some, but most marketers are on board with this whole "content-is-important-for-marketing" thing. Our 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report, for example, showed that the average budget spent on company blogs and social media increased from 9% in 2009, to 21% in 2012. Furthermore, over 81% of marketers in the survey named their company blog as "useful" or better to their business. And LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter were considered "useful" or better by over 60%. Cool, so it seems like a good chunk of us are on board and rocking it with content. So ...
... What next? For a while now, the industry has been leading up to the next phase of marketing that is finally here in full swing -- context marketing. Whether you know what that means or not (no worries, we're about to tell you), I think you'll find that it's something you've either dabbled in, or wanted to dabble in, for some time. But now, there's actually plenty of technology available to do more than just dabble in it! So this post is going to introduce you to the concept of context marketing, and show you just how powerful it can be if you incorporate it into your marketing strategy.
What Is Context Marketing?
Context marketing is using context in your marketing.
Okay, I'm being a little silly with that definition, but that is what it is. Actually, my favorite definition of context marketing is delivering the right content, to the right people, at the right time. Let me explain what I mean by context a little more, though.
Context marketing is like a spelling bee ...
When you have context around something, you have a larger, more telling picture -- you know, those little details that help lend more clarity to things that would otherwise be pretty general, unspecific, and, well, uninteresting. Let's use a spelling bee as an analogy here. If a judge asks a kid to spell the word "pour," he might want to ask a host of questions to get more context before answering. What's the part of speech? What's the definition? Can you use it in a sentence, please? Answers to those questions all provide context that helps paint a clearer picture of the word he's trying to spell.
And it's important context, too! Why? Because the word "pour" is different than the word "pore" -- or "poor." Without getting more context around what the judge is asking, how could that kid possibly provide an accurate answer? Getting more context around that word would be pretty useful to helping our kid become a spelling bee champ! And the same goes for your marketing. Do you want to be a marketing champ like our spelling bee friend? Or a marketing chump who sends emails about pore cleansing strips or poor lost puppies instead of new water faucets that pour ionized water?
Context Marketing Champ, or Chump?
The marketing champs in every industry are the ones who are leveraging context about their audience, leads, and customers in their marketing. For example, a marketer using context would know more about a lead than whether she's B2B or B2C, and her first name. They might also know what industry she works in, what kind of content she likes best, through what channel she prefers to consume content, whether she's currently using another solution to meet her needs, and whether her company has budget at this time of year.
As a marketer, if you were asked to "market" to someone, and all you were given was a first name and that she works for a B2B company, wouldn't your first question be ... what else do we know about her? Probably, if you want to do your job way better. That's the idea behind context marketing: Using what you know about your contacts to provide supremely relevant, targeted, and personalized marketing.
Why Is Context Marketing Important?
Context marketing is important for many reasons, but here are the two that I think trump them all:
- When you have context around your relationship with a contact, you're able to provide more personalized and relevant marketing content that's targeted at their needs. Personalized and relevant marketing is the foundation for creating marketing people love! What's more, personalized and relevant marketing is typically not the kind of marketing that annoys the living daylights out of people. Win-win!
- When you're creating marketing that's targeted at people's point of need, it stands to reason that marketing will perform much better for you, because you aren't delivering marketing content that's misaligned with their interests or stage in the sales cycle. Think about it: If you know that our B2B lead from the previous section is getting new budget in January, she's downloaded a couple buying guides in the past two weeks, she's visited your product pages, and it's December, you're able to send her insanely targeted content that addresses her needs -- like, say, an offer for a custom end of year demo of your product with a rep that specializes in the finance industry -- content that she's pretty likely to convert on.
Why not use the context around your relationships with your contacts to create marketing that they 1) love, and 2) convert on?
How Would One "Do" Context Marketing?
Alright, these ideas all sound lovely, but how does this "context marketing" theory manifest itself? What would it look like for you, as a marketer? With the help of integrated marketing software, here are some examples of where you'd actually use the principle of "context" in your marketing.
1) Dynamic Calls-to-Action
You have a bunch of offers that you want to use to convert traffic into leads, leads into qualified leads, and qualified leads into customers. So it'd be kind of a bummer if you went to, say, a case study web page -- typically an action performed when you're further down the marketing funnel -- and you saw a top-of-the-funnel CTA, like an educational tip sheet.
However, not everyone who visits a case study page on your website is necessarily ready to talk to a salesperson. You don't want to turn them away, either, by offering a CTA that's too bottom-of-the-funnel. This could be perceived as a conversion nightmare, but with dynamic CTAs that adjust depending on who is visiting the page, you can actually surface a CTA that automatically aligns with the visitor's stage in the sales cycle ... or any other host of criteria you want to set! Think industry, business type, location, past activity/behaviors, that type of thing. Dynamic CTAs ... pretty cool, eh?
2) Dynamic Email Content and Workflows
Your forms aren't the only things that need to be smart as a whip. Your email database -- especially if you want to maintain your space in people's coveted inboxes -- needs to be segmented into highly targeted lists. But you already knew that. Beyond killer segmentation, your email lists need to be smart enough to know when to pull in a contact, and certain information you have in your database about that contact, into your email marketing. Remember, a great context marketer delivers the right content, to the right person, at the right time. So to send emails that are contextually relevant, you need the power of workflows -- the tool that will put the right person into the right list ...
... And the power of dynamic email content, which will make your email content personalized and relevant for each recipient!
3) Smart Forms
So you want to be a context marketer. You want to be lovable. You want to see higher conversion rates. Let me introduce you to your new best friend ... smart forms! They're just what they sound like, forms for your landing pages that are wicked smart. So smart, in fact, that they know if someone has already filled out the form fields you're asking for in the past. Because they know that, they don't make your site visitors fill out the same form over and over again, and can help you glean more new information about your leads, instead of just more of the same stuff. We've started implementing this functionality ourselves, because we agreed that filling out the same form over and over again was a huge bummer! Smart Forms: Using context to be more lovable, improve conversion rates, and get you even more context about your visitors, leads, and customers!
How are you leveraging context, not just content, in your marketing?
Image credit: Thomas Hawk
Originally published Dec 4, 2012 1:08:00 PM, updated August 27 2017