Content is a filter to drive quality traffic to your site.
StackAdapt sat down with Jesse DeBear, Vice President of Digital Strategy and Client Success at MuteSix for a Q&A on the importance of content marketing for complex products.
StackAdapt (SA): How does content marketing fit with native advertising?
Jesse DeBear (JDB): In general, people don’t understand how a native ad strategy should work. The purpose of content marketing is to drive readers to an editorial and/or advertorial, to educate them on a specific topic or product. In many cases, you cannot really get a full story across in a video or static ad—so you need to drive the viewer to a place where they can read more and get additional information about a product. Naturally, native advertising works well because it is meant to inexpensively drive users to a page that provides the extra explanation needed before making a purchase decision—content and native naturally go hand-in-hand.
SA: Can you provide a use case for content marketing?
JDB: Realistically, there are several products that fit, as long as we are dealing with one that is complex and needs more explanation than a small ad unit could provide. That said, one of the best examples would be a digital product or a software service. New technology that enters the market often needs to be explained in some way. Consumers want an explanation of what it is, why they need it and what value it adds to their tech stack. And especially with technology, often the language is hard to understand. Software services can sometimes be complicated and what is being sold is often options for use, not a tangible product. So before your potential customers abandon the funnel or start researching elsewhere, you want to try and get them to understand your product through the content pieces you provide.
SA: How is native advertising, with content marketing, different from paid search?
JDB: This is definitely a different strategy from paid search. They might work together in some capacity, but fundamentally they are not the same. With paid search, the user queries a topic, and is given a number of organic results, with some paid ads at the top that are also related to the search terms. With native advertising and content marketing, the user browsing the web is served an ad that may not necessarily respond specifically to the information they are reading or looking for, but speaks to their interests. Moreover, the ads don’t drive them to a page to immediately complete a form or sign up, but rather sends them to content that will educate them on a product or topic, but there is not necessarily a conversion. I, as the marketer, can even have a tag on that page to remarket this user and follow up with additional content. Now they’re seeing supplemental branded content and become interested to learn more. This is when you would drive them to a secondary piece of content that might be hosted on a landing page or blog or content page on website. You cut out the interstitial—the 3rd-party content from the first part—and go directly to your site. It’s a bit more aggressive, but you get them further along in the funnel and the chance of conversion is significantly higher. This approach is different from paid search, where you just hope to get your ad on the top of the search query before anyone else with the same message does—or your competitors for that matter. With content marketing, you are nurturing the consumer through the path mentioned, instead of just sending them to a traditional website that simply responds to their search query.
SA: Are there specific verticals this works best with?
JDB: Travel comes to mind. You could have an article about 5 great brunch spots in New York, sponsored for example by United Airlines. Then you can target the viewer with a United Airlines ad that offers cheap flights to Brooklyn—all the while targeting people in California. You haven’t necessarily responded to a query, nor are you advertising a product in their geo—but you’re offering information related to a city they might be interested to visit.
Healthcare is also a big one. A lot of brands that are supplemental to conventional insurance need to provide more information before the consumer is comfortable to purchase or subscribe. For example, there are a lot of new age doctor visit experiences that are membership based. Their offices are typically in shopping malls and you get quite a different experience than from a conventional doctor’s visit. It’s a holistic check up—not just sitting with the doctor to address one specific concern. These companies use sophisticated technology and you spend a lot longer with the physician for a full assessment. The challenge here is convincing someone who already has a trusted healthcare provider to spend $2500 annually on this new service. Especially young people who will be asking “Why do I need this?”. Therefore, this type of company needs to get a lot of information across: why the cost seems expensive but is not, what the benefits are, maybe a scare tactic or two. You can’t get across what you need to with just an ad. You need content to explain the benefits, and you need to be prepared to do a lot of follow-up messaging. People who have endless cash might be quicker to pull the trigger, but that younger audience needs more time to understand the benefits and why they should spend the money they have on it.
SA: So, how do you find the right audience?
JDB: To find the right audience, you need to find the right medium. This might be more challenging with clients who are focused on performance and want results immediately. Consumers need education and nurturing, and there needs to be a balance where the discovery occurs and where the touch points are happening. The conversion time is generally longer, and budget needs to be dedicated to some upper funnel campaigns to introduce consumers to the brand and actually get them into the funnel. There’s a lot of tracking that is needed as well. But with enough experimentation and patience, the payoff can be quite rewarding. There are a lot of testing and levers that need to be pulled to define the right steps and to reach them. You have a few options to do this, including native media buying platforms, Facebook, even tapping into online influencers with large followings works well.
SA: If you could offer one takeaway, what would it be?
JDB: Content marketing is essentially just a filter to drive quality leads to your site. If you can get millions of inexpensive clicks from a native ad to drive to your content, that’s great, but only the people who are interested are going to want to read more and go further into your conversion journey. You have the option in native networks to get the impressions and traffic at a much cheaper rate and get the quality traffic you want going to your post—which is really the best of both worlds—so why not use it!
For more information on content marketing and native advertising, check out our CMO’s Guide to Content Marketing and Native Advertising.
Be sure to check out Part 2 of our Q&A with Jesse here: StackAdapt and MuteSix—Part 2: Content Marketing in Highly Competitive Markets