“Content is king, but the digital marketing landscape could be a scene from Game of Thrones: The formats that work today might be beheaded tomorrow,” said Scott Brinker, President and CTO of Chiefmartec. At SMX East, he shared four tiers of content marketing to keep competitive and explained how you can flesh out a solid content strategy. 

First, Scott suggested the relationship between the tech and marketing departments is even more important than the relationship between sales and marketing departments. It may be “an uncomfortable or a unpopular belief,” but people prefer to engage brands digitally rather than talk to sales.

“67 percent of consumers say content is more important to their purchase decision than conversations with sales reps,” he said.

Does this mean the tech behind the site (and content integration) stands to have a greater impact than input from sales? Even this CTO admitted a potential pitfall of the rise of sites over sales reps: Content can’t LISTEN in the same way that sales reps can to address specific needs and have a dialogue. Moreover, consumers can easily become overloaded from the countless pieces of information available to read or watch before they make a purchase.

“You can only read so much before your eyes start to bleed,” Scott Brinker, CTO at Chiefmartec.

So how can content listen and create a dialogue? Brinker believes these four tiers of content move marketers closer to a healthy content strategy that truly engages web users.

1. Text pages with a search (audience) focus

The first wave of content focused on text for SEO. Businesses published keyword-rich web pages to be found via search. But this tier was traditionally geared more toward search engines than actual humans. Updating these pages to address user pain points creates a solid foundation (and as a Brafton success story shows, it can also yield bottom line benefits…).

4 tiers of content

2. The creative renaissance of rich content

Most brands today are part of the creative content marketing renaissance. More companies than ever before are investing in video and graphics  – all designed for the responsive web. While search engines eat it up, there are emotional nuances that clearly target the human end-user.

The problem: Consumers can only take in a fraction of all that is out there. Strategies to stand out live in tier three – and this is where tech gets involved.

3. Personalization for highly targeted content

In an attempt to help the right people find the right content, companies must use data about prospects and content analytics to predict what types of information is needed. This is a great place for marketing automation tools (like Marketo) to come into play – users can be segmented according to the actions they’ve taken as expressions of interest. Then, cross-format content can be tailored to individual user bases.

Brinker points out that these first three tiers, while essential, are passive: People read, watch or listen to this media. So the fourth tier takes the relationship between tech and marketing to a level where customers MUST engage (and not just by spending a certain amount of time on a post or clicking through a targeted number of pages).

4. Interactive content marketing with marketing apps

This tier of content marketing focuses on interactive learning experiences, using apps to power:

  • Quizzes

“Freemium content lives between free content and gated or paid content. It gives people more buy-in with your brand as an intermediary step.”

  • Games
  • Tools
  • Workbooks
  • Interactive graphics
  • … and more

For marketers, this type of content lives comfortably between free content and gated content. It requires more buy in, and goes beyond passive consumption without making the “ask” of a form fill or purchase.

Freemium content SMX east

He shared the example of an iOn marketing app-based quiz that invited marketers to guess which pages won in an A/B test. (Check it out here.) Just as great salespeople have excellent dialogue with prospects, this approach to content can help put content in conversation with users.

Ion interactive content example SMX East

As the model continues to shift toward marketing’s predominant influence over prospects, SMX experts predict interactive content will be essential to educating and engaging one-to-one users – and with the rise of interactive graphics and similar media, Brafton agrees.

What are the most impressive examples of “fourth tier” content you’ve seen? Share in the comments – and be sure to check out more of Brafton’s #SMX coverage.