While their importance pales in comparison to many other things taken away by our society’s ongoing lockdown, I do find myself missing sports. Going without them during a difficult time causes me to appreciate the comfortable routine and reliable distraction they provide all the more.
Those who know me will not be surprised to learn that I’m longing for baseball especially — everything from strikeouts and singles to slides and steals. But there is no part of the game I miss more than home runs.
Home runs are among the most satisfying individual achievements in sports. When a batter goes deep, he takes care of everything, going from home plate to home plate and putting a run — or more — on the board single-handedly. It is the literal representation of “covering all your bases.”
With baseball and many other cherished forms of entertainment amiss, content marketers can help fill the void by focusing on experiential content, which is characterized by its ability to pull in a user through immersive, interactive, impactful elements. These kinds of deeper digital experiences are also more valuable from an engagement and awareness standpoint, at a time where in-person events are off the table.
“Because people are figuring out how to thrive in an almost entirely online world, their expectations towards a brand’s digital experience [are] also changing. It’s no longer about clicks, downloads, and impressions,” writes Diginomica’s Barb Mosher Zinck in recapping Mark Bornstein’s chat from the Discover Martech Virtual Event last month. “It’s about engagement. It’s about experiential marketing.”
With this context in mind, how can marketers hit a home run with experiential content, covering all the bases for both their audience and their business?
Covering Every Base with Experiential Content
Reflecting the baseball diamond, I see four key aspects of knocking it out of the park with experiential content, at a time where doing so might be especially beneficial for marketers.
Base 1: Entertaining and Effective
The proverbial square one (or first base, in this case) is that experiential content needs to be compelling and engaging. If you aren’t getting someone’s attention and piquing their interest quickly with the content, you’re out before you’ve left the batter’s box.
Technology is always offering new ways to increase the allure of experiential content, including tools like virtual reality, augmented reality, feature integration, and interactive functionality. Small touches like the animations and clickable elements in TopRank Marketing’s Break Free of Boring B2B infographic, for example, can go a long way. The more you bring the user into the experience and make them feel like part of the story, the more successful your content will be.
It’s not just about the entertainment factor. That second word — effective — is equally important, if not more so. Your content should effect the person consuming it, be it emotionally or attitudinally. Ideally, the person consuming this experience will feel something, and come away thinking differently about its subject.
Once you accomplish this, you’re rounding first base and heading into second.“If you aren’t getting someone’s attention and piquing their interest quickly with the content, you’re out before you’ve left the batter’s box.” @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet
Base 2: Educational and Informative
Most marketing content is designed to inform in some way, satisfying the curiosities of its audience while intertwining a distinct point of view. The experiential dynamic is particularly valuable for this purpose. As the old saying goes: “Show me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll learn.”
AT&T is one example of a company that’s using emerging experiential technologies for employee training purposes, taking advantage of the heightened ability to make information stick. As you plan a content marketing initiative, think not just about ways to entertain your audience, but also ways to memorably imprint the messages and revelations you want them to take away.
By this point, you’re already halfway home.
Base 3: Collaborative and Orchestrated
Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a solo home run. But the feat is far more exciting when there are runners on base to drive in. Teamwork comes into play in multiple ways when it comes to maximizing the value of experiential content.
First and foremost, your efforts should be strategically orchestrated throughout the organization. While marketing drives the bus, plenty of others ought to be riding along. By nature, experiential content is intended to address a nonlinear customer journey in which B2B buyers average 17 meaningful interactions on the way to completing a purchase (per SiriusDecisions). How do all those interactions come together around your experience in a consistent, unified, personalized way? How will you ensure that every customer-facing function is aligned?
Secondly, there is the importance of collaboration within the marketing department itself. Generally speaking, a great piece of experiential content is shaped by many different talents and skills: writers and strategists shaping the content, designers and artists bringing it to life visually, search and social specialists making it easily discoverable, etc.
And finally, there is the influencer aspect. While not always a fit, influencers can usually power up experiential content in profound ways:
- Adding unique insight and perspective from their expert point of view
- Bringing built-in credibility and trust with their own established audiences
- Amplifying promotion of the content through their own networks
One example of interactive influencer content in action can be found in the self-guided experience around AI and finance that TopRank Marketing put together with Prophix. The asset beat engagement benchmarks by 642%.“Great experiential content is shaped by many different talents: writers and strategists shaping the content, designers and artists bringing it to life visually, search and social specialists making it easily discoverable.” @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet
Bringing It Home: Impactful for the Business
The three components above all focus on making experiential content valuable to the audience. This is a worthy point of emphasis, since strengthening relationships and building trust are essential objectives for modern brands, especially in our current climate.
But of course, investing the time and resources into creating a high-caliber content experience also needs to be justified by bottom-line business impact. The good news is that bringing users into the experience lends itself to driving action; for example, statistics show that interactive content generates twice the conversions of passive content.
At all comes back to the overarching strategy. What specific business results are you hoping to achieve? How will you facilitate them in a user-friendly way that nurtures trust and builds momentum in the customer journey? Which other tactics will support these goals?
It’s important to think about setting up positive outcomes beyond the direct conversion. A person interacting with your content may not be inclined to fill out a form at that moment, but if they remember the experience, and the way it altered their thinking, and it brings them into your marketing funnel weeks or months later, that’s a win. This reinforces the value of getting it right with items one and two on this list — effect and educate.
Make Your Experiential Content Campaign a Round-Tripper
We may not have sports, but we still have sports metaphors. I’ll keep seeing to that. And the home run serves as a perfectly fitting allegory for experiential content, which can produce so much value for a brand on its own, with one swing of the proverbial bat.
When you combine immersive entertainment with memorable learnings, collaborative clout, and measurable business impact, you’ve got yourself a marketing moonshot. All that’s left at that point is the bat flip.
For more practical tips and guidance on this subject, I encourage you to check out Joshua Nite’s recap of the B2B Marketer’s Journey To Experiential Content presentation from B2B Marketing Exchange in February.