Episode #33: Why Context is the New Content

Grad Conn

December 13, 202011 min read

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The average B2B buyer receives more than 100 email a day. They switch between tasks 300 times a day, and use 56 different apps or websites. Let’s face it, we’re overwhelmed with content. Economist and social scientist Herbert Simon put it best when he said, “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” Wise words for all of us content marketers. So how do we rise above the noise?

In a word: Context.

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Content, content, content. We’re going to talk about content today, and particularly how content feeds into CXM. For the CXM Experience. I’m Grad Conn, as usual, the CXO at Sprinklr. And we’re going to just kind of have a bit of a wide ranging discussion on content in general. So this… I’ll tend to ramble from topic to topic, but just bear with me, it’s only 10 minutes. So it’ll be over soon. And just shut your eyes and think of England.

Alright, so, I want to talk a little bit about someone I’m going to be talking to on the podcast next week, Katie Martell. Katie is a fantastic B2B marketer. I met her through a broadcast that we did on for Oracle about a month ago. And she works with TriComB2B. And she’s got a new ebook out, called “Trust Me B2B, Building and Keeping Trust in an Age of Skepticism and Noise.” And the noise comments she makes is a great one. She’s got a great stat: 91% of companies are running content marketing programs now. Content marketing now a common practice in 91% of B2B companies. That’s incredible. And 38% of those companies are planning to create more content in the coming 12 months.

So there’s this great quote, she has in the book from Herbert Simon, from a book called Attention Economics. And the quote is: “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” And in a way, distraction has become the new normal, I’m going to keep quoting Katie for a minute or two here. This ebook, by the way is fantastic because it’s just so chock full of great content. So in one day at work, the average B2B buyer receives more than 100 emails, check, looks at email or instant messages 40 times, check, switches between tasks more than 300 times. Oh, yes, check, check check. Uses 56 different apps or websites. Totally, I’ve got probably 56 tabs open in my browser alone right now. And checks their phones once every five minutes or 150 times a day. That I actually think I might be higher than that number. But 150 times a day, that’s a lot. And I’ve heard numbers that are even higher than that in terms of number of times that people check their phones.

And so up B2B buyers are massively over stimulated by tons and tons of content. And so you have to think about how do you get to them. And the thing I find most interesting when I talk to marketers, and investors and all sorts of different people is they have a very myopic perspective on the company, in that the company is the world that they live in. And if you’re familiar with my blog, which is Copernican Shift, Copernicanshift.com, my blog is all about these ideas of people switching from one perspective to another. So Copernicus very famously said, Hey maybe the world is not flat, and maybe the sun doesn’t rotate around the world, maybe the world’s around and it rotates around the sun. And that simple idea unlocked the entire scientific revolution and is the reason why you are listening to me right now on this podcast. Thank you, Copernicus.

And so what’s the Copernican shift that most companies need to go through? Well, it’s just a fact of life that you might think that your content is so super special, and so amazing, but think about the environment that your content’s in. If you take the shift, the shift is sit in the seat of the buyer. What is the B2B buyer seeing? And how many white papers are they being asked to download? How many ebooks are they being asked to download? Katie? How many different ways are they being asked to review information? And how often do they really do it? And how often can they really do it? Because at the end of the day you’ve got to do your job. And I don’t know about all of you, but the job’s a lot. It’s a lot of job. And it feels to me like 2020, the job got bigger. I don’t know why I think there’s more to do. It seems like you know… I think one great thing is that I don’t have to travel to meet with customers, which is awesome. One interesting thing is that I’m now doing those customer meetings via Zoom. And one like, wow, feeling is that those Zooms occur day and night. So this morning 3:30am on a Zoom, on a customer issue. So the day doesn’t really stop and it continues on. And so there’s a lot of job.

So insert into that content and reading materials that are not necessary for the moment. It’s really tough. And so what I want to do is talk a little bit about content, and then introduce a concept that is coming to us courtesy of Paul Herman. Paul Herman, if you’ve not met him is the VP for Product Marketing at Sprinklr. Paul is South African, he has a gorgeous accent. And he is a great wine connoisseur, but for only South African wines. But he knows everything you want to know about South African wines. And Paul’s a great, great friend, great person. Was, for many years, the Sprinklr lead at Nike, when I was doing the same thing at Microsoft. So we had a chance to collaborate across the Oregon Washington border several times. And he’s been at Sprinklr about a year longer than I have.

And Paul has this really great structure, which is, it’s not just content, its content, plus context. Content plus context. And content and context together at scale, is how you’re going to win. And so what I’m going to do is spend a moment talking about content, I’m going to spend a moment talking about context. But I am going to quote Paul one more time. And hopefully, he’s listening and is duly embarrassed. But he has this wonderful quote, he’s a wonderful expression maker, and content creator. And he’s fantastic at creating concepts that people can understand really well. Brilliant, actually, world class at it. And what he says is that content is king. That’s a quote we’ve heard before many times… content is king. But context is the queen. And if you play chess, Queens Gambit, if you’ve watched that chess show, if you know anything about chess, you know that the Queen always rules. The Queen has the most control on the board. Queen is the key piece.

So let’s talk about what context means. The trite way of saying it, and it’s so trite I’ve actually gotten to be slightly irritated by it. So all repeated all of you. But there’s this expression you hear, which is: the right content, to the right person, on the right channel, at the right time, with the right action. And that’s, I think, that’s almost become so cliche that people don’t even listen to it anymore. But let me give you an example. So this will be a personal example, actually.

So I’m recently engaged, planning to be married in about a year and a half, but recently engaged, which has been wonderful. It’s not my first engagement. It’s not my first marriage. And it’s not my fiancé’s first engagement, or her first marriage. And we’re reasonably close in age, although she’s very adamant, very passionate about noting that she’s much younger than I am. But we’re still in the same zone. Yeah. And we’re, I’m like later Gen X, and she’s earlier Gen X, let’s just put it that way. Yeah. What’s interesting is that we’re getting targeted by a lot of different companies. Our status is pretty open. We posted it on Facebook, and we’re probably shopping and doing some establishment of household things that look very similar to newlyweds or to a to a new couple. And so we’re getting ads for furniture, we’re getting ads for appliances, we’re getting ads for all sorts of the accoutrements of a new home that you don’t tend to have when you’re when you’re first starting out. And we’re getting a lot of ads for baby stuff. So now, without getting into a lot of detail… we’re not having any babies. And so it’s super irritating, actually, I’d say maybe even extremely irritating to my fiancé, who will actually send me these ads and say, bad advertising, all caps, you know. Sending me these specific targeted ads that she’s been getting.

And it’s interesting, I get how they’re targeting the behavior, but they’ve missed context. And it could backfire. I mean, if it was coming from a stroller manufacturer, well, fine, I’m not going to buy that stroller ever again. Well, I wasn’t going to anyway. But if it’s coming from a retailer who sells other products, or coming from some trusted source where we buy other things, it could actually really turn us off that trusted source, because the context is wrong. And so the key thing you have to do with content is not just have content. But you have to have the context right in a way that people want to read it. That is important to them.

And B2B, kind of switch gears a little bit there, because we’re going to be talking to Katie, next week, in B2B, I think a lot of the context is, what is your stack at your company? What are you planning on doing? What are your goals? What kind of business are you in? What are you doing with it? Where are you heading? Where are you? Where do you stand on digital transformation? Those are the kinds of things that are maybe a little harder to understand. But very rarely do B2B content creators think about those things. And the persona… most of the stuff that I get is not even targeted at the CMO persona, which is actually amazing. That’s not that hard for a marketing tech product, to think that CMOs might be interested in buying them. And they don’t even bother doing that. And so I think this persona, product and industry lens, with a secondary lens of where do you stand in your journey on digital transformation is really important. And something that we’ve got to think about a lot harder in the B2B industry.

Let me end with what I think is one of the more interesting things about B2B, which is, what are you in fact, selling in B2B? And I think that there’s a misunderstanding of what B2B really is all about. Most people think they’re selling a product, and speeds and feeds if you’re in computers, or weight distribution, and all these other things. But you’re not selling that. This is where context becomes really important. Every B2B sale is about one thing. It’s about career success. When you’re talking to someone about buying your B2B product, when you’re the vendor, they’re thinking, if I buy this, will it get me promoted, will I look good to my peers? Will I be able to get a raise? Will it allow me to support my family more easily? Will it allow me to achieve some of my personal goals more easily. Can I get that boat? Can I get that house? Can I retire? Can I be safe in my job? That’s what’s going through their brain. Sell that. And also remember, there’s a negative string going there as well. If I buy this, while I get fired? Could I risk my job by making this buying decision? So you want the fired to be really small. And you want the promoted to be really big.

There’s an old expression which is no one ever got fired for buying IBM. No one says that anymore. But that was an expression at the time… the 60s and early 70s. Try to think about making your company the company that people can’t get fired for buying your product because it was the logical, smart choice even if it goes south. People will still say jeez, you made the right decision it just didn’t work out. For the CXM Experience, This is Grad Conn, and I will see you next time.

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