WriterAccess Webinar Archive

Hungry Customers Drive Sales

Thursday, February 28, 2013 – 3:00 PM ET

We all know that getting the right content to the right people at the right time is the key to turning browsers into believers, and believers into buyers. AB and Multivariate testing seem to be the gateway to success. But as it turns out—that may be the wrong gate you're entering.

The problem with testing is that the novice marketers are trying to "bake" up higher conversion rates by focusing on the ingredients. They are led to believe that by artfully mixing page elements and stripping the page down to the core elements conversion rates will soar and sales will increase: guaranteed.

As it turns out, the conversion cake bake method is not necessarily the right solution to the problem. What's the right answer? Make your prospect customer hungry. That's right. Hunger is the secret to earning trust and driving sales.

Join Byron White and special guest Matthew Grant who will guide you through the process of how to make customers hungry so they buy more, and more, and more, and more.

Slidedeck Download

The slidedeck from this webinar is available for download.

Video Transcription

Byron: We're very excited about today's presentation. Our guest today is Matt Grant, the managing editor of Marketing Profs. Matt, welcome

Matt: Thanks Byron, very much looking forward to it.

Byron: Right on. We're taking on a very difficult and challenging topic today, namely how to motivate and engage your customers to take action on your website or marketing material. I hope everyone enjoys the many laborious hours it took me to come up with this visual. It’s on our home page, the first slide. But overall this is a very serious topic and one that I think will be riveting for you. Hopefully if I’ve done my job and Matt has to try to help acclimate you and educate you on some creative ways to help you turn browsers into believers and believers into buyers, which is really what we’re talking about today.

First, a couple of general things to point out. Number one, we love questions. We’d love for you to use your question tab in GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar to ask us questions related to the proposals we’re about to give. We’ll probably wait until the end of the actual presentation itself to get to all the questions. I’ll rifle through them and Matt and I will answer them accordingly. I’ll also type some answers back to you while Matt’s speaking so you will hear from me and Matt is welcome to go in and answer questions that people have throughout my presentation just to communicate and connect with people so, thanks for that.

If you want to get a hold of us you’re able to do that as well, I’m going to give you some information on Matt and I right in front of you. Matt and I love getting tweets on how this presentation went. That way, we have an archive of live feedback on the presentation. We appreciate any tweets, tweet-love you can provide throughout the presentation. So the rules are I’m going to talk for a little bit here, and I’m actually going to take this and move this over. That should help. Some of my colleagues just told me to do that, I’ve got a team of experts apparently that we need to get this webinar to work today. I’m going to be looking for feedback or comments throughout the presentation. Without further ado, let’s dive into this topic and take it away.

These kind of marketing webinars that I run, I love quickly spinning you through an explanation of what content marketing is. It’s about 7 or 8 slides that will give you a topographical overview to give us a good formula to decide to learn what we are going to be talking about today. Next we’re going to go into what I call mixing the conversion ingredients, which I think is some of the problems that we’re all experiencing and facing now with regard to conversion enhancement. So, we’ll dive into that and I’m going to hopefully show you how to make customers hang hungry in an innovative way. So without further ado....

What is content marketing? It’s clearly the art of listening to your customer’s wants and needs. I love this as the debut slide for what is content marketing. Primarily, because this is the area that I think we need the most help. I look for some advancement in both technology and research and other tools we can use to find out what our customers' needs are. But, that’s what is really holding up this momentum of quality content at the moment. We’re learning more with analytics, but I think there’s some other things that we need to chime into to learn more about how to do that. Of course, the science of delivering content to them in a compelling way; we’ve seen a lot of new channels open up as I’m sure you’re all well aware of. Of course, this is catching customers that are orbiting at high speeds with things like downloads and loves and likes and geo-target offers that are much more personalized and that’s what we’re sort of seeing in this next wave of content marketing that’s rolling out.

Of course, it’s connecting with information that they want and need, that’s perhaps the distinguishing characteristics of content marketing versus more traditional marketing.  We are able to create content that does address the pain points in these customers and that’s really the secret sauce. Naturally testing campaigns to see what works and what doesn’t work there is a lot of testing going on these days. I can assure you led by some companies I’ll be talking about. Of course, I think finding the most efficient path to conversion. That means analyzing the conversion path itself and scoring engagement and how you really correlate an asset to the sale itself.

Of course, it is a monstrous process and this is our own diagram that we used for many years when we were a full-service content marketing agency. It does start with planning which I have really been a fan of. We’ve done huge monstrous plans for companies like SalesForce and Iron Mountain as well as retailers and larger brands. When you really dig deeply into planning, it becomes really the catalyst to figuring out how much content you need, how good it needs to be and what channels you need to distribute to. Most importantly, what impact it will have on your business. This of course relates to the last tab you see which is content performance.

Customers are demanding an ROI from their investment these days and it does take a strategic process of strategy like this to make it all work. Of course, tracking the performance is what it is all about and there are a variety of simple ways to do that including listing positions and conversion rates. But also, even time on the page, studying user acquisition cost the influencers of that, how many leads you’re bringing in, what the quality of those leads are. A lot of different ways to track success, and that’s a big thing that has been worthy of many webinars that I have done.

Let’s talk about mixing conversion ingredients because that’s really what this first challenge is all about. What we study closely if we’re trying to “improve conversion rates” which is really what the goal is. You know, to take visitors to your websites for example and improve the number of people that sign up to take action, download something.

When we look at that as a sport, if you will, that’s probably a good way to describe it; certainly as a science. You do a search on Google for improving conversion rates and you get all kinds of interesting reports and data and what you really learn when you dig in that this Dave Child is a number one listing position in Google for increase conversion rates. Once again, we hear methodology from Dave and everyone else out there. Here’s some of the bullet points that Dave has to say.

You can read these bullet points yourself, but, there seems to be this sort of formula for a page. I did some wonderful diagrams and other elements that I could bring into the mix here, but you get the idea. There seems to be this concept where you take the elements of a single page and you test those elements individually. The number two position is Eric Tsai, who has another approach. He’s got a slightly different list but really saying the same thing. Few of his actual comments, interestingly enough, relate to the reader. I’ve highlighted a couple of them, “cater to online reading habits”—that’s interesting. “Create compelling copy with clear headlines”—ok, thank you!

Certainly that’s good advice, it’s topographical and he gives some detailed explanations to go take a look at his post. It’s all good. My point is that it’s really focused on these elements. We learn what we think is a recipe, we go study the competition and we create a formula. This is an actual test running at Writer Access right now. I followed down this path like everybody else. I believe in AB testing and multi-variable testing. Here are two versions of Writer Access running on the web, but we literally, right now as we speak, we completely redesigned a page and wanted a total “b” test with different copy, different headlines, different everything.

We go out and we choose our weapon to basically deploy our test. We happen to be using Visual Website Optimizer for our test but there are a lot of great ones. Some are free, some are paid. Naturally, we let the technology choose the winner. That’s the big breakthrough that we’ve seen in the last ten years, no longer do you sit in a room and look at three comps that a design firm has come up with and say “ok eenie, meenie, miney, mo,” which one does everyone like? Everyone’s like “let’s go.” Those days are over, you let technology determine the winner and that’s exactly what we’re doing here.

But, my concern with all of that, of course, you can not only look at the actual page itself, you can look at the influences of other pages and you really need to look at those other influences as you track through and study what is having the greatest influence. In this case, we’re looking at not only the conversion rate of the control page versus the variation, but, what other pages do people go to. When they went to those other pages, did it have the probability of improving their chances for conversion? The answer was definitely yes so far when it came to other control pages. We did have a positive influence and we can talk more about that later.

But, we’re talking about science. The problem with all of this, what’s wrong with this testing and mixing approach and the typical answers that everyone says are okay—there’s a glass ceiling, there’s only so many changes I can make, there’s only so many headlines I can come up with and different images.

Other challenges are there’s a longer purchasing cycle, it might take six months before someone converts finally. If you’re selling a hundred thousand products, they may visit your site a hundred times. When they finally make the conversion and make a purchase from you, for a longer purchase, do we really know what influenced them? Can we study everything they’ve read on your site? How do we bring your blog into style of your blog content into their decision-making abilities? Do we really learn why customers buy when we look at this pure single page mixing approach, even when we bring in other elements? Of course, seasonal purchasing habits can vary from winter, to summer, spring, and fall; even in the time of day. Of course, localization and personalization is often not considered in these broad tests that we do. Of course, as you complete, as you redesign your site and revamp it, is there a potential turbulence problem with your brand moving all over the place as far as the look and feel is concerned?

What I would argue is there is another way to look at this. I would suggest that the problem you really need to isolate is pin-pointing the problem. I would suggest that when it comes to creating engaging content to motivate the customer to buy, we tend to list all the ingredients of the page just like we talked about, we study examples of what the competition is doing and we pick the winners. We’ve been studying what our competitors are using for advertising with pay-per-click for examples to lead them to the pages.

We’ve gotten really good at artfully combining all of this data and all of these individual ingredients, mixing them up, and baking them in the oven and assuming that the cake will be the greatest return on our investment. It’s all about these great ingredients we have in the arrangement on the page or the headline that wins or all these other secrets. I would suggest to you that that’s really not what it’s all about. The ingredients and how you bake the cake is the wrong approach. Instead, it’s about how you make that customer hungry with information they want, need and love. Don’t you just love this shot Matt?

Matt: Be hungry, Byron.

Byron: Let’s go into some phases: I have a three phase approach to telling you a little bit more about how to potentially do this. First of all, we’re going to talk about great stories: What they are and why are they contagious; why do they get spread? Next we’re going to talk about great writers: What are the characteristics of the writers who can put these stories together that motivate customers to take action? And, let’s look at some tips and advice on how to get better results from creating this content once you see this flow.

The first thing you really have to wrap your arms around is (a) do you believe in the storytelling, do you believe there is a story behind every one of those Super Bowl ads that you saw that were not related to the products and services that those companies are selling? Do you believe in the storytelling? I hope you do. Here’s a contrast between information versus a story. You can read it yourself but I would argue information is flat; it’s promotional, it’s getting as bad a cold call. It’s interruptive, it’s disruptive, and it’s really not getting to what motivates people to take action in my opinion. Whereas the story, as you can see, is emotional and it touches your heart, it is compelling and it is probably something you want to share. Speaking of which, I’ll talk about that in a second.

What are characteristics of a story? They tend to introduce great characters, they’re contagious, they focus on what happens next: And, that’s the real key by the way, is what happens next. When you look at any good story, it tends to not open with telling you everything that you’re about to read. But, it intrigues you and it brings you into the story, and that’s what people really focus on. They want a story, they want to learn what happens next. They don’t want a diary upfront of everything that’s going on.

Of course, great stories also teach us to be smart and they offer some surprises and delights which we all know is a welcome relief from the monotony of the day that we go through, answering our emails all day, every day. What do stories deliver that we want and need? I would suggest credibility, belief and logic. If you think about your company, by the way, as you go through this checklist, you start thinking about your company in a much different light. What are you doing on your website to build credibility, belief and logic? Are you exposing you readers and your primary customers to some brave new world? Are you touching their hearts with humor or some emotion that connects with them? Unlikely you’re bringing intimacy, mystery or bravery into it, but it is possible to do that and certainly, those are stories that people will tell over again. It leaves springing in surprise and delight: Are you doing that on your website? The chances are probably not. Maybe a few elements of these and I would argue that needs to change.

There’s a great study done by the New York Times, Customer Insight Group, which dug very deeply after extensive research and review on why people share. It is pretty interesting because I think stories get shared for these very reasons that we’re going to go over here.

We share to bring valuable entertainment to others. Certainly on Facebook…  I’m a big fan of Matt's Facebook posts, he always entertains us and enlightens us with things that are real but also clever. We also share because we wanted to define ourselves, and define ourselves with other people online and align with them and comment on them and stand behind them, then reciprocate when they’re commented on. We want to comment with them, and by associating ourselves with them, with other people, we’re really defining who we are. We certainly want to share because we want to help our friends and our fans grow and we want to nourish relationships we have, especially online. We want to exhibit a connection to the world; we want to show that we want to chime into a conversation or you know a conversation happening that we’re connected. That was hard to do prior to Facebook and Twitter, all these other social interactions, we needed other outlets to do that but now, it’s here. We also share because we want to show support for a brand or a cause. And I think that’s really enlightening here when we think about sharing and the importance of sharing these days and why people share. I think people are willing to get behind brands but, only if those brands are doing things that are innovative, clever and reflective of who they are. So that’s my thoughts for you.

The second thing we’re going to talk about is writers. Writers are certain the people who put stories together. They understand how to look at web readers differently than just normal readers. Web readers need specific things, they are in a hurry, they love personalization, and they crave advice from authorities, they want up-to-date, relevant and straightforward information. Understanding of readers is certainly a piece of this puzzle. They also know how to shape perception and the best writers really understand the answers to these questions: What’s worth living for, what’s worth dying for. These are the questions that good journalists live and breathe and die for. They want to get that story; they want the story to shape some perception for their audience. By finding those elements of the answers to these key questions, they’re finding the stories that will get passed on. Great writers also understand the paradox of choice. There’s a great book called The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, I highly recommend it. In that book, he really talks about walking down the aisle of your average grocery store these days and realizing how many different variations there are for chips, or laundry detergent. This is an expansive age, it’s getting more and more expansive. On a total side note, I believe in the whole micro-manufacturing concept that’s sweeping, I believe, the US these days in having smaller run sizes, smaller businesses producing phenomenal products that far exceed what you can buy with mass production in places like China. So look at this, I think that expansion is getting even greater as we’ve seen in the beer industry with micro-breweries, brewers brewing beer in local neighborhoods these days.

It’s getting more and more interesting, and also the decision map is getting more complex. There really is a whole new methodology out there for buying decisions and that becomes part of the storytelling process; in trying to find that simplicity, with this art of creating content to connect with your readers and really pinpoint this. The other thought is knowing how to appeal to different readers, that’s a real challenge and to be able to speak to different audiences, dig deep when you need to. You get the concept of this; knowing how to find new meaning, this is really the biggest challenge. In the world we play in at Writer Access, it’s a challenge. Our writers are often given just small bits of information; they don’t really have a sense for what new value would potentially in a product or service. It’s hard to communicate that; they need to take chances and risk themselves.

How can you, as a client, directing a writer on what to write about. How can you answer these questions, what is the unique selling proposition, perhaps, of my product or what new value could my new product take on. This is often finding out what new ways that products can do things that are radical or even very creative. My favorite example of that is the blender guy; he puts an iPhone and blends it up to show the power of the blender. That’s finding new value in products; it’s not just what those products were meant to do, but finding new ways to do that. That’s the story line, and that’s what good writers know how to do and these are some good examples of that. Of course, good writers know how to think like an actor, get under the skin of the target audience, learn the lines, learn the right keywords to use, and revise the script with split testing and perform flawlessly with improved conversion rates all the time. The characteristics of these storytellers, they tend to be well-traversed, I think that’s a good experience. Not necessarily well-traveled, but well traversed with their experience. They have a curiosity for everything; they have a good wit and sense of humor. The more I think about this, this is a good description of Matt. I’ve known Matt for a while and he has all these characteristics. There are characteristics of these writers, and that’s the important thing and these great storytellers, find them and align yourself with them.

The story itself: Here’s some tips and advice on how to really put this together. We all know what a Haiku is, but I think the goal is to try to create a style; a writing style and a story style, that will help you create this content that I believe will increase conversion rates and sales. I think there is an art to this. There is a style that I think you need to develop and repeat over and over again to be consistent with how you are presenting your content. Really, you need to dig down and find out what your company’s DNA is all about. Guy Kawasaki, the Art of the Start talks a lot about that, forget about your mission statement which tends to be generic and driven to the interest of your shareholders and/or investors. Come up with a mantra, and that mantra can be your story line and carry your business in your stories through the future with a theme that can resonate well throughout. It doesn’t mean that you have to have all your copy throughout talking about saving babies, in the case of March of Dimes, but that cause becomes the catalyst for what you do in the streets, what you tell to your target audience.

Next, I would say take on risk: Take on creative risk and try to empower your writers and your storytellers to make teeth chatter. Probably unlikely but certainly to make people laugh and to touch the heart and there’s some very creative ways that we’ll talk about how you can empower them to do that. You need to find the story within your company and that’s one of the elements I was just talking about. So get circling, go to your search box then find out what people are searching for, look at the frequency of those searches and you can try to get a list of frequently asked questions from your customer service. Find out the pain points of your customers and create stories around those pain points. You can look for a discussion with customer service reps and talk with them about the emotion that might not come out in any way that cold list of questions that might be something that resonates through them on particular interactions they have had with customers who were passionate about something. Talking with customers of course as well, and even cuss words that leave you, or make decisions to move on about what they didn’t like about you. Those are great stories to build answers about those stories and other potential obstacles.

So I like these bullet points, see this big sheet from PR Web. I did a webinar with PR web and here’s the sheet right here {showing visual}. This particular slide got a lot of…I was asked by PR web to do an idea board about how we can find stories within our company. In the left column, you’ll see your standard list of assets, content assets that you create for a company but the other two columns were just some creative ideas that I thought were interesting that just popped in my head in preparing for this webinar that I did to a really big audience over there.

Are there creative initiatives in your company? Do you have any employees that have remarkable stories? Do you have some policy that’s really interesting about your company? We’ve heard about beer carts over at Yahoo!, and other creative elements that become stories with employee; crazy sales managers or other people in the company that are fun to party with. Those are stories that are told among your employees, why shouldn’t they be told to prospect customers to get a feel for your company and what you do. Even record sales and things to get excited about, military service of any of your staff, you need to find those stories that are potentially stories that could be shared, that’s really the goal and that’s the element that makes your company great so these are some classic, spin-selling techniques that I’ve been preaching for many years. But, how can we turn these spin-selling techniques into storytelling.

One of the spin-selling techniques is looking at this funnel. The preliminary funnel when someone is coming in and the first impression so look at headline architecture first. What if the headline were “hey you’re scared, you’re not alone, other customers have been scared at looking at this page” but let us tell you how we got over that. Connecting with people and presenting stories to them. These various elements are quite interesting for you to consider I believe. I just bullet pointed a few examples there that you can read on your own.

Sharing stories: How do you do that now? You need to have a very creative way on your site that you can share these stories that people are reading and picking up on and enabling those stories to be passed around. I love this quote, because you really do need to hire great storytellers and I would bring you to a quote that I’ve brought back to life anytime that David Ogilvy said, that is namely, if we hire people smaller than us, we will become a company of dwarfs, but if we hire people that are bigger than us we will become a company of giants. If you think about your storytellers, I would argue that you hire really tall, big storytellers which fits perfectly with Matt who’s a very tall guy. That’s the end of my presentation everyone, I want to turn things over to Matt. You can go to idealaunch.com/101 to download a quick, free copy of my book if you haven’t already and I will leave Matt with a wonderful template which is a couple of quotes here that you can read real quick. Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. The point of these two quotes is writing is challenging, it is difficult. So let me turn things over to Matt who will tell us from a writers and editors perspective and a guy who manages lots of content what it’s all about from that perspective. Without further ado, I’m turning things over to you. Thanks for joining us today.

Matt: All right, and thank you Byron for inviting me to join this call and thanks everyone for tuning in today. Picking up on what Byron was talking about, and following through on this making your customers hungry concept, I’ve put together some thoughts on whetting your customer’s appetite. Before I jump into that, just a quick, 30-second commercial on MarketingProfs if you haven’t heard about us, we’re an online resource serving hundreds of thousands of marketers with tons of articles and stats, podcasts and slide shows and graphics. Everything you need in a very practical way get better at what you do as a marketer. I wanted to point out one other thing on this slide. When you go to MarketingProfs.com, you’ll get greeted with this “what’s new on MarketingProfs”. So, we lead with questions and so my very simple big or small idea today is the way you whet your customer’s appetite is with questions.

Human beings, we are programmed to respond to questions. When we hear questions, we want to answer them. I think the way to think about this, and I’m going to refer to Daniel Paine’s most recent book, To Sell is Human. He talks about the questioning pitch. A lot of times, people want to go into a pitch where they say we’re the greatest, we’re the fastest we’re the biggest whatever is appetizing. He suggested that it sometimes can be much more powerful to pose a question. His example was when Ronald Reagan was running, maybe before some of you here’s time, but when Ronald Reagan was running against Jimmy Carter one of the thing she continually hammered away at was this one question “Are you better off today than you were four years ago”. Now he knew, that most people would say no. The economy wasn’t doing that great, people felt they were worse off. But, just by posing this question, it immediately gets people thinking about the answer and kind of filling in the blanks for themselves. You should never underestimate the power of questioning. On the flip side, the power of provoking questions within the mind of your audience; one of the things to keep in mind about your content and to try to figure out how your content not only piques people’s curiosity, but draws them in. Draws them into your sphere, makes them want to explore, makes them want to discover more of what you have to offer. You need to think about what is my content doing to provoke these questions. The most obvious question: How do they do that? You show them something amazing and you get them to think about how did they do that. Picking up on what Byron was just talking about, what the story was, just getting people to ask what’s the story here. Humans want to know what’s happening behind what they’ve just seen. Show them an image of something that doesn’t make sense. You go around your office and you take pictures of new equipment that you have and get people to guess what is this? This is something that is going to pique their curiosity and whet their appetite and get them to want to know more about what you have to offer. What’s the story here—they’re so curious, they want to know. The final thing of course and the kind of question you want them to be asking when they’re looking at your content and thinking about your company and your products and services is how can I do that. You want to suddenly become part of their story, of their narrative. Wow! This company just gave me an idea of what I could do differently, how I could get better, how I could improve my relationships with others, how I can improve the performance of my company, by showing them ideas of what they could actually be doing with your product or service.

OK that’s a lot of words Matt, let’s see something.... I have been very focused lately and have been thinking a lot about some visual storytelling. So I have some examples here to show you how this provocation and this invitation to questioning and this piquing of curiosity can play out. Here’s an example, my first example:

L’Oreal, you may have heard of them, they're a gigantic cosmetics company. They have a product called “Derma Blend Pro.” Derma Blend Pro is a covering, I guess they used to call it vanishing cream. It’s a cream that helps you cover up things like a birthmark, a prominent birthmark or if you have a scar or something from surgery and you are trying to wait for it to heal and you’re trying to obscure it for the time being. Initially it was recommended by people two people from their dermatologist. L’Oreal wanted more and more people to know about this product. So, they worked with their agency to produce a video. The video starts out with this fellow. Of course, you can tell looking at him that he might be a little bit of a hipster, he’s got the nose ring and nose bridge piercing but, anyway, he’s just a normal hipster fellow you might run into in the East Village. What they do over the course of the video though is they slowly rub away his skin so that you see underneath he’s actually—this person—and I sort of gave it away with the zombie board. He’s actually tattooed over his entire body. Kinda weird, creepy tattoos; his face is a skull with an exposed brain, things like that. But, what this does, is it is a very powerful way of telling a story visually about what Derma Blend Pro can do. First of all, you start seeing this thing and you’re like woah! You’re nothing but questions. Who is this guy? How does he live this? How long did it take to do these tattoos? Who designed it? What is he doing? And, in fact, they did a spinoff behind the making of this video and things like that. More importantly, you want to start asking like wow, what could this stuff, what could Derma Blend Pro do for me? Thinking if it can cover up these insane tattoos all over this person’s body so when I first look at him I don’t notice them at all then what can it do for me and my much less extreme physical features that I want to be changing. This was a way of taking mystery, and starting with this is what the person looks like to like wow this is something I wasn’t even expecting at all and trying to draw people into the sphere of your product, thinking about your product, thinking about what it can do and what it has done in this case; what it can do for them.

Now, let’s go to another extreme. Now it’s not all about hiring post-apocalyptic zombie boys and painting them over and showing you know they thought they were normal. There can also be a way to whet your customer’s appetites to just use the tried-and-true sort of teaser. Just to show you an example, a “writerly” example, we can look at this Pinterest board at the Wall Street Journal. Now, I don’t personally nor had I thought about Pinterest in terms of the Wall Street Journal. I think, for right or wrong, I think of Pinterest as a place where people put up pictures of their home, shoes, or food? The Wall Street Journal actually has a number of Pinterest boards but the one I thought was most pertinent to our topic today was this one. Wall Street Journal quotes. This is a very classic scenario. You give them one teaser quote, get people’s minds thinking what’s the story behind this. I want to know more and then you can click through. So, for example, you know the big Libor scandal where UBS was setting rates and gaming the system and people getting rich. So, they put this quote “Mate, you’re getting bloody good at this Libor game, think of me when you’re on your yacht in Monaco”. Already, you’re like wow, first of all, I’m thinking man the Wall Street Journal actually got into people’s emails, and stuff like that, they’re really going to give me the story behind us. Sure enough, if you click through it takes you to the Wall Street Journal page online. Of course, you have to be a subscriber to look so now they’re actually trying to get you to do a conversion. But, even what they say here is something that continues to pique your curiosity. Get the full story. That’s really what human beings want, we want the whole story; we want to know the whole deal, especially when we’ve been shown just a little bit of it, just a teaser portion. I think, what’s interesting is you can actually use this questioning approach as the centerpiece of your content marketing strategy. In fact, even your content business if you want to think about it that way.

There’s a website that you can check out called “Which Test Won.” They’ve actually built into the name of their publication that questioning piece of it – Which Test Won. The concept, and this also kind of goes back to what Byron was talking about, right off the top in terms of conversion and testing and everything. This whole focus is people want to know how to do it and how to do it right.

This is something where first of all, testing in general, everyone feels like they should be doing it, everyone feels like they’re not doing it right or they're getting it wrong or they're doing it in a way that doesn’t make sense. They know it’s important, but they feel like they’re not doing it well and they want to know how to do it better. In a sense, this whole site plays into that curiosity, that need on people’s part. At the same time, I think, people are always wondering, do I actually need to test at all, couldn’t I just go on my gut? I know what’s going to work and I know what doesn’t. So, all these elements come together on this one website. Frankly, I think you can see them on this who page. First of all, it’s Which Test Won. Frankly, as soon as we hear that question, we want to know. Yes, which test won—we don’t even know what the test is but we want to know.

The whole site is devoted to looking at AB and multi-variate tests and answering a very simple question: Which test won. And they use tons of questions to pull you in. So, first of all, the bullet copy test—it’s classic. I just want you to put in your locations so we can figure out where you are so we can serve up the right content to you. The bullet copy test, which you can read right here, which got 13.4 percent consumers to complete the form on the following page. So we already know so now we’re curious “oh so one of these actually did perform better. We know the outcome in effect. As I was talking to Byron earlier, we know at the beginning of a mystery that someone got killed. That’s not a mystery. We know that happened, but how did it happen, who done it? This is what this website is actually playing into. Your natural curiosity to find out who done it. Which one won? They do another very interesting thing here though I think, which is they also know that people are very curious about how well they stack up against other people. Human beings are primates, we’re very status driven and we’re very sensitive to where we are in the group standing. Of course, we want to be in a higher level rather than a lower level. We want to be better, smarter and so they play into this. How good is your gut? And you can vote then which one you think was better. Then they get to show you, of course click to vote, they say click to see results without voting if you don’t want to test yourself. But come on, you want to know if your gut is as good as the test. Sure enough, then they show you. In this case, it was version B, there were some very minor differences but it was interesting what they do even with the copy here. They tell you exactly what happened, and which one won, and why they think it won. I think they may also try to tease out for you some of the applicable learning that you might get from the test and the results. But, they also show you of course, how site visitors voted so you can even see yourself. I was in version B, and sure enough, version B won. Sometimes, as will often happen in this case, the gut is totally wrong and the test is right. Then, if you’re in the 40 percent that were right, versus the 50 percent that was wrong, now you suddenly feel better about yourself, it helps our status: I’m smart, my gut is almost as good as the test, etc. As Byron said, now we’re letting technology decide things but of course, everyone wants to know. Can I beat the system, can I beat the computer. Which Test Won is like a living example of all the things I’m talking about here.

This is a living example of what I’m talking about here. How you can use this questioning to pique people’s curiosity and play on their natural tendencies and inclinations and slowly draw them in. The next thing that happens here, if you click on any of the three events or you want to see their case studies, now suddenly you have to pay and we have to pony up some money and say oh yes, I have to pay some money but your curiosity is already piqued, you’ve already seen this as valuable. We have this urge to know, which is step one so it pulls you on further.

The last example that I have here has to do with Getty Images and this has to do with the question I originally posed which was one of the three that I said you should be trying to provoke in your customers which is how can I do that. Now, Getty Images – everyone has to use stock photography and everyone knows what it’s like to browse through the Getty Images looking for the one you can buy, the cheaper one that really gets your message across and that doesn’t look to stocky and whatever. In effect, we also have a sense of stock photography looking kind of cheesy or corny or something we don’t necessarily like. What the people at Almap BBDO did for Getty Images was they went through 7,000 Getty Images and ended up putting together (I’m not going to show you the video I encourage you to check it out on the YouTubes) was they ended up taking all these still shots and made an animated film that actually shows the whole course of life of two people. Of course, they’re chained from stock photography but you hardly even notice. First, you have these people meet, eventually they are courting and then married. Then of course they’re consummating their marriage, and then we have a little baby. And then it goes on and the baby grows up and the people grow old and one of them dies, and all these things. It’s really crazy, something I’ve n ever seen done with Getty Images, all still images. The beauty of this was that you take something that everyone has to deal with, marketers in general, we all deal with stock photography, we’re all sick of seeing the same images. We’re all sick even of what we do with images. And now, something comes along that does something totally unexpected. Something that we haven’t seen, with a very common product or service and then it gets us to thinking “wow, I’d have never thought about that, I never thought about how I could do that, I never thought of all the ways I could be using Getty Images to tell a story, to engage my visitors, to get them to think about “wow how did they do that”, “I never thought of doing that” or “man if I worked with them maybe I could do that too”.

Long story short, curiosity may have killed the cat, but it will win you customers. So, I think one of the key things when you’re developing your content and thinking about what you’re trying to do with your content, and thinking how your content can whet the appetite of your customers is to focus on these questions. The questions that you, yourself pose, get your customers thinking, and automatically wanting to engage with you. But, even more than that, the questions that your content can provoke in your customers where ultimately the answer to that question is you and your company, your products and your services.

First of all, thanks, and second of all, I think I hand this back now to Byron.

Byron: Although I love your cat shot, {garbled} specific approval.

Matt: you can’t have a presentation now on the web without a cat Byron, it’s in the by-laws of the web

Byron: Well, perhaps if you did a survey and everyone with a dog, this audience, I don’t know

Matt: Connected audience first!

Byron: Matt, I have a question for you. Really great presentation by the way, fantastic. Examples were amazing and your insights and the whole theme of curiosity and Socratic techniques and questioning, really interesting.

My question for you... Of course, a wonderful, small little book called the Elements of Style. Writing clearly has elements of style in it. My question for you is what’s really more important when you when you think about that as concept: Elements of style, is it the elements, or the style when you’re writing

Matt: That’s an interesting question and a very unexpected one. I would tend to think that it is the style. And I think you can view it in this context: Style speaks to something – like – brand, voice or what is the image of your company you want people to take away. What’s the feeling you want people to have about your company? Especially: How does your company make them feel? I think that focusing on making it ….

Byron: I’m going to interrupt you a minute I’m going to make you the presenter so we can go back to your cat shot which cooler than my green screen…So if you’d put your cat shot back up that would be cool.

Matt: I will put the cat shot right back up. … so basically, to make a long story short, it’s the style. It’s really the elements, because I think ultimately, in this day and age, everyone has essentially … we all have access to the same elements. In a way, the Getty Images example is the perfect example. Everyone can go to Getty Images and pick them out. And, everyone does. But, it’s how you put them together in one like Almap BBDO did it, their style blew everyone else out of the water. So, that also comes down to when you’re hiring writers, when you think about writers who are really going to express who you are as a company and find your stories, this writer’s style and their ability to create that voice, which is really what you’re looking for.

Byron: On an interesting side note to that Getty Image story, that really makes a lot of sense they’re using their product to tell a story and wow, super powerful. There’s another stock photograph company that runs an ad, typically on the inside back cover of Communication Arts every month, and they do not show any photos. They just have a story and really big, thick custom typeface that has a total edgy attitude to it. It typically has at least one swear word in it and kind of poo-foos Americans. It’s a European stock company, its brilliant. But, there’s an example of a stock photography company that’s taken their own product out of the mix completely and is not showing any images. Instead, they are using the story. Literally, one of the first things I do when I buy CA, which I have done for many years now, subscribe to it, is I just want to go read that because it’s going to be fresh, it’s going to be creative, and there will be another little story that makes me smile; it’s going to have an edge to it, really interesting.

Matt: What I also like about that and that also goes back to your main point, which is with content, and I know I had a lot of visual examples, but I think it is content across the board; you need to lead with story. Even though it’s a visual thing, they started with a story. Maybe, it also points to how even if you’re telling all these stories with your content, they’re always going to start out with the oral tradition. Someone tells a story. We don’t repeat a story, or build a story, you tell it and write it and that’s where it starts. But then, of course, what you want to do is figure out what are all the different ways I can illustrate the story, or bring the story to life through images, through sound and through some kind of experience if I can bring it into say a retail environment. But, to your point, and as an example like the stock photograph company, I think that it’s critical that you lead with story.

Byron: I was on the phone yesterday with someone extremely high up in the Hearst Corporation. They were trying to talk with some companies like us, Writer Access, regarding where’s the writing industry going, where is the marketplace going, what is the future of journalism? What’s happening, are we going to see a transition citizen journalists where we want news local and live and as good as it can be or is there an arch in journalism? Where is it headed?

We had an interesting discussion about lots of things but one of them was actually, I think journalists are some of the best writers and they understand storytelling more than most writers. They should be prospering in this content marketing revolution going on. I think the challenges are, are companies willing to absorb that risk, again, not just to talk about the features and benefits of the elements of their products and services but, instead, finding that story within. What are your thoughts on that Matt and how it relates to journalism in general? And how, perhaps you’ve seen some examples of popping journalism into a company, and a corporation, as you’ve done over the years?

Matt: I have a few examples that immediately pop to mind. First of all, as you were talking, I wrote down “how do we find our stories”. Of course, you have slide dedicated to all the places you can look for the stories. But, I do think one of the things you need is someone in your organization who has a nose for a story and that’s what journalists have. That’s how we know, he has a nose for story: Perry White became Superman on the job, or Jimmy Olson, I forget how that worked. But I think a journalist brings to content marketing exactly what the public wants. Companies who want to think of themselves as publishers need people who have a nose for a story and can actually write a story. And, there are organizations certainly that have already done this.

Alcoa? (garbled) famously hired Jesse Williams who once worked for the Globe, and hired him as a brand journalist. He was internal, full-time staff, journalistic background, writing for the company. Similarly, Adobe for example, they have CMO.com which is an Adobe publication which people may or may not know. But, it’s run by people with a journalistic background, so they hired journalists to take over the thing and actually have the kind of autonomy from Adobe. In fact, I didn’t actually know or had forgotten it was actually an Adobe publication when I met the Editor in Chief. I think if you actually have your content run by journalists and written by journalists and with that kind of journalistic sensibility, it helps it stand on its own. So, people never confuse it with some kind of ad for the organization.  They see it as something that is valuable in and of itself. That value, I think ideally reflects back on the organization that is essentially underwriting it. IBM, with their smart planet, IBM has done a lot of stuff along that line—again, hiring journalists, helping them create blogs focused on ways that people are using IBM products to build a better world, things like that.  It does reflect positively back on IBM, certainly it does.  Are the stories interesting, in and of themselves?  Ideally, they are, and they certainly are when they're written by professional journalists.

Byron: There's a question that came in, Matt, I want you to tackle this with me.  First of all, someone asked a quick question, what was the magazine I mentioned—it was called Communication Arts Magazine.  Probably the greatest and most popular magazine with graphic arts professionals, designers, illustrators, photographers....  It's the Bible.

Matt: Plus, it's a beautiful publication.

Byron: It's pure happiness, that's the way to describe it, and it arrives every month.  I'm just like...wow, the ideas that can be generated from the ideas that you see, and the commercial work printed is just amazing.  So please, become a fan of that if you're serious about marketing in general.  But Jeff had a really good question: "Should the stories move the buyer through the sales fall, or should it be geared toward the end result?  We are a residential, new home builder, so it takes a long time for them to make a buying decision."  Do you have any creative thoughts on that, Matt?

Matt: I would say—especially in any situation where you have a long buying cycle—that, ideally, you want it to be moving people along the funnel.  Sometimes it's hard to have things really work in that kind of linear way.  Plus, once people know your content and they get your e-newsletters, stuff like that, they're going to read stuff that's of interest to them, and not necessarily the thing that you thought was the next step.  But the key part then, I think, is to keep them on the line.  It's to keep them engaged.  Your whole content plan has to be constructed with this end state in mind: I want them to purchase from me.  And you also want to map out what you can sometimes, but sometimes you only can retroactively.  You can find out the person who downloaded this pricing information, or they downloaded a buyer's guide that compares different products in your state...I know that when they buy that, it's really from the people who bought the top of the funnel content—what is this thing?  So, yes, your content has to have that end goal in mind.  Yes, sometimes the different pieces of content, when your customers engage with it, will indicate whether they are in the funnel, if they get closer and closer to purchase.  But I would say, ideally, once you have that scaffolding and flow in mind, you then have to focus on making sure that each individual piece of content is actually engaging and valuable in and of itself, that they got something out of it whether or not they made it to the next step or not.

Byron: Matt, it's been a pleasure being in this session with you!  Thanks so much for your great ideas, and the time you put into the presentation.

Matt: Thanks very much for inviting me on, and thanks everybody for tuning in, and sticking around to the end.

Byron: Matt, how can people get ahold of you if they need to get access to your rich information over there at MarketingProfs?

Matt: First of all you can go check out MarketingProfs.com.  You can get in touch with me, I'm Matt G. at MarketingProfs.com.  I also do a weekly podcast, talking to marketers about a wide range of marketing topics, called Marketing Smarts.  You can check that out at MarketingProfs.com, or in iTunes.  Or, as Byron pointed out at the very beginning, on Twitter I am @MattTGrant.  I try to share as best I can on the Twitterz.

Byron: Right on.  Hey, thanks again for tuning in, everyone, until next month.  I hope this made your marketing life a little smarter, better, faster, and wiser.  Thanks for tuning in.  Cheerio!  Thanks, everyone, bye-bye.