What is the goal of creating marketing content? Is it to be read? Is it to move someone down a funnel? Is it simply to elicit a click of the mouse?
Many would say it is to help create a brand. But what then is the goal of the brand? The answer is to sell more things, make more money, drive more donations, increase membership, generate more of whatever it is that ultimately keeps the lights on and puts food on the table.
So then the goal of content is to sell. The goal of the click is to sell. The goal of branding is to sell. And selling means buying and buying is the get-down-on-one-knee moment in the relationship between brand and consumer. It is the moment when a consumer turns into a customer. For the brand this is a click; for the consumer, it is a decision. Some serious deliberation is involved. It’s not just a question of do I want to buy this, but do I even need this thing? And if so, are you really the person I want to buy it from?
Buying is an introspective deliberation. However, this does not describe the experience people have with the majority of the content out there. And that’s a problem. That’s why the percentage of people who actually “convert” on our high-value pages is often below 1 percent.
Buying is statistically the least likely thing people are doing when presented with the option to “buy now.”
That’s because digital marketing often focuses on the technicality of the relationship, not the human experience. Content is design to be scanned; social media posts designed to be clicked; pop-up modals designed to interrupt. Of course we want all these actions, but that is not why we created the content in the first place.
The goal is not to just get someone to the conversion page; the goal is to get them to convert.
Would You Do Me the Honor of Clicking on This Button?
Clicking a button is clicking a button is clicking a button. But that’s not what we’re talking about. The physical act of clicking “like” on social media and clicking on a “donate now” button to give $200 to feed kids in need is technically the same thing. However, unless we’re marketing to bots, we’re not “technically” speaking. The “click” is just a grossly over simplified manifestation of a complex internal deliberation.
It’s not just a matter of making your checkout page easier or quicker to process. If an additional click or scroll is the thing standing between you and a sale, the person never really wanted what you were offering in the first place. Content needs to trigger activity in people’s minds, not their mouse.
When someone lands of a conversion page, they need to have a reserve of fairly deep rooted associations available to answer all their questions, assuage their second-guessing, and assure them that they are making the right decision. That is why we create content. That is why we build brands. That is why we view the conversion of consumers as a milestone in a relationship that starts long before there ever is a decision to buy.
This requires content that supports experience rather than prescribes action. Prescriptive actions move people closer to a point. Experiential engagements give people the assurance that they have gotten to that point on their own accord. This mean they have had an opportunity to deliberate on every step of the way, so that when they do land on a checkout page, a purchase is in fact no more than the click of a mouse.
But how do we create these experiences? We have to create content, write words, create videos, craft podcasts, and manage social media channels in a way that encourages thinking, not just clicking. People need alone time with their thoughts. And we need to create the space for that with our content.
Learn How to Harness the Power of the Written Word
In her book, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, Maryanne Wolf literally tells you how your brain is processing the words you are reading as your brain processes the words you are reading. Now there is a difference between reading and the processing of what was read. Without the processing, the ideas don’t stick. And “sticky” is a buzzword that should catch any marketer’s attention. Stickiness begins only after ideas are effectively transferred from writer to reader. This is when the reader takes ownership of those ideas and makes them their own.
“We feel quite truly that our wisdom begins where that of the author ends, and we would like him to give us answers, while all he can do is give us desires.”
“Proust’s understanding of the generative nature of reading contains a paradox: the goal of reading is to go beyond the author’s ideas to thoughts that are increasingly autonomous, transformative, and ultimately independent of the written text.”
Let’s take a quick second to remind ourselves what “generative” means.
: having the power or function of generating, originating, producing, or reproducing
“Generative content” is not a concept, but it should be. This is content that sparks new thinking, imagination and aspiration in the mind of the reader, watcher and listener. The content we create is not the end in itself. It’s the beginning of our brand’s character development in the story of our audiences’ lives.
Generative content provides a launching pad for people to “go beyond the author’s ideas to thoughts…ultimately independent of the written text.” These types of experiences are the only way people will come to their own conclusions about what you have to offer. It is those conclusions that make the final purchase easy and rewarding for our buyers.
I talked about this in a previous blog, The Marketing Word Kill List:
“Don’t tell people what to think. Create an environment that allows them to think it on their own. Customers don’t want to hear us call something “fancy.” They want to be the deciders of fanciness for themselves. Our job is to break “fancy” down into identifiable bits and pieces so that when a customer reads it, or sees it, it’s “fancy” that comes to mind. And it is they who said it not some marketer.
These bits and pieces are the building blocks to generative content. Generative content is how we make a conversion page just another step on a customer’s journey to getting that thing that is going to make their life better in some way.