Stop Being a Transactional Content Marketer

cash register
Free white paper! Free webinar! Free eBook!

We’ve all seen the promotional emails, banner ads and Tweets. It’s Free! It’s Free!

The fine print: we will send you weekly emails with more content you didn’t ask for. We will also give your information to our green sales team and tell them to go close the deal now Now NOW as part of our commitment to make it as easy as possible for you to buy.

In B2B marketing and many high-ticket B2C categories, this is the way content marketing often works today. Everything drives towards that initial information exchange, the transaction where you give up your information in exchange for the carrot the marketer offered.

Transactional Content Marketing

White papers and webcasts are transactional. So are books. You give me this and I’ll give you this back.

The result isn’t the content marketing you hear preached from the content marketing pulpits. Instead, it is a gateway to the same interruptive marketing tactics we’ve been using for years.

A couple of years ago I requested a quote for a car through the manufacturer’s website. Suddenly, I was in their database, or more accurately, multiple databases. But I didn’t want the barrage of emails and phone calls. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to unsubscribe from all the lists I had been added to, I finally resorted to using the spam button. Make it stop!

This was a perfect example of transactional content marketing. I wanted a data point (a quote, if I recall) and gave my information. That was the transaction, and I would have been happy to end it right there.

The Alternative: A Continuing Relationship

Continuing relationships aren’t about a single transaction or piece of content. They aren’t about one single event. Instead you offer up your existing content as evidence of the value of what you provide. Common examples include:

  • A newsletter is a classic relationship. Or at least it is the few times the recipient specifically requested it.
  • A blog subscription is another classic relationship.
  • Following someone on social media also sparks a continuing relationship (although it may initially be a pretty weak one).

Why does it depend so much on what your audience does? Because in this relationship, your audience wears the pants.

Establishing the relationship requires showing consistent value so they will want to hear from you again.

It Is Time For A Relationship Mindset

Do you want a database of sometimes reluctant members, or an audience that wants to hear from you?

It is an easy question to answer, yet many B2B marketers continue to focus their efforts on building a bigger database of people who just want to find a way to make the emails and phone calls stop.

What keeps you focused on transactions in your content marketing and when will you be ready to make the change? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@wittlake).

Photo Credit: Steve Snodgrass via Flickr cc

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  • Eric, I am sure many people share your opinion. Who has not been flooded with a flurry of ads in ‘content’ clothes? Or a series of emails with unappealing, un-engaging content, full of “X Tips to …”
    Being a marketer myself, I know it is hard though not to fall into this “transactional” trap. Because those tactics will deliver some solid numbers: Shares, likes, etc. are easily boosted by interruptive content tactics. At the detriment of relationships of course. But relationships or respect doesn’t show up as a KPI in a spreadsheet which will be delivered to mgmt. They only become visible much later, when the relationship comes to fruition.

    • Thanks Bart. Yes, those vanity numbers can be very distracting. But try segmenting your database between people that asked for information from you (relationship) and people that gave up their information for a piece of early stage content (transaction), or worse, on a purchase list. You will see much higher ongoing engagement rates and lower unsubscribe rates from the relationship segment and you will start to have results in the spreadsheet you can point too.

      • LOL – coincidentally, that is exactly how it is set up now. Great to see confirmation. Thanks Eric, great posts by the way!

  • Avinash Nair

    Hello Eric. I am student of International Business from Germany. I am going to do my thesis in Digital Marketing for B2B consulting firms and how it can help them generate more business. Can you please provide me as which articles or books shall I refer for better understanding of this concept especially for an IT consulting firm? It would be really helpful from your side. Thanks a lot.

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