Keep Your Audience Moving: An Interview With Ardath Albee

Keep Your Audience Moving: An Interview With Ardath Albee

The next time you’re browsing through a bookstore or Amazon looking for your next good or guilty read, chances are you’ll stumble upon a review that claims the work a real “page turner.”

Though you may unfortunately disagree with the statement upon your own read, the “page-turner” label for fiction, and even nonfiction, is usually a good measurement of success.

And while you may be hard pressed to get a customer or a prospect to make a similar, book-review statement (“Deeply gripping and thoroughly riveting!”) about your own marketing content, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for the same page-turning action. By this I mean, your content should always be moving your audience along, furthering them in their discovery.

So agrees Ardath Albee, CEO and marketing strategist for Marketing Interactions – a B2B consulting firm. Ardath uses her 20 plus years of business marketing experience to help her clients create highly-converting and customer-centric strategies. Her writing has appeared in B2B Magazine, Selling Power, and CRM Today, among others.

In this week’s Tuning Fork interview we, talked with Ardath about the importance and differences of relevant content and resonant content, the relationship of storytelling with marketing, and how you should be measuring success for your own campaigns.

What do you think is the difference between relevance and resonance? Do they overlap?

Relevance, of course, has to be there, or something’s never going to resonate. That step between “okay, it’s relevant to me – but does it resonate?” There’s a step in there that has to happen. So for example, I can know my vegetables are good for me, and I’ll eat them, but I’m not going to take a picture of them and share them. That doesn’t resonate with me. But it’s relevant, because I want to live a healthy life. Do you know what I mean? So there’s this difference there between relevance and resonance, but without relevance, you don’t have a shot.

As you work with your clients, is there anything that you try to encourage them to do, or that you’ve found is really successful to get that action, that next step to take place?

Sure. I think about it in storytelling. I teach my clients, if you will, turning the pages of the story – going from chapter to chapter. As you move forward, how do you get them to engage, to take that next step? And for me, the only way I’ve been able to figure out how to help my clients do it successfully was to go back to my storytelling roots and take the Hero’s Journey and rejigger it for a business story. And so you have to figure out – well, what are all the different components of this? What are their pain points, what do they care about, what are they trying to achieve? And then, how do you write a story about that that has momentum?

Quite often, marketers measure statistics. “Oh look, my post got a thousand views. Woo.” And it got shared 300 times on social media. Woo. Okay, so how did that contribute to the bottom line? Or the top line? Or whatever line. And if it can’t back into that, then we’re creating more waste.

Do you think that people don’t understand their audience because they’re not taking the time to create personas, or because the personas they’re creating aren’t effective?

Probably both. You know, I have yet to have a client come to me who says they have personas and been able to do a project for them based on the personas they have. One of the reasons is because either the information doesn’t have enough depth or it wasn’t designed to be useful.

Do you think that resonance could happen at any stage of the funnel? Or is it worth pursuing at any stage of the funnel, or is it more valuable in one area or another?

I think it has to be in every stage of the funnel. But I would say that the pre-buying information, where people are thinking about it – if you can become the content that resonates with them at that stage, they’re going to turn to you first, because you’re going to be the one that helped them get there. So if you can continue to resonate – you can get them to continue moving forward. If you only focus on resonance in some areas, then it’s kind of like hit-or-miss.

Have you seen marketers that are particularly good at getting buy-in on focusing on resonance?

I don’t think “resonance” as a separate concept is on the priority radar yet.  But let’s say you’ve gotten good at producing content that people will read. And you can say, “Look at how much more traffic we’ve driven. But we’re not getting the conversion-to-customer that we should be getting given those increases.” Resonance is what will help them respond, create empathy, get us to next step, and that creates the momentum we need to actually move to the next stage, which is taking all that traffic we built up, and all the engagement we built up, and actually turning it into business. So you have to base it on business.

I think it’s very rare that I talk to a client that doesn’t see a bottleneck in the middle of their funnel. Because they’re really good at top-of-the-funnel content, they’re really good at sales-stage content – but they’re not really good at how the people make the transition through the middle, because they don’t understand how to get them to keep moving.

So, I think that’s where resonance could make a play, and I think that’s how you would support it, is saying “look, we can have all the views in the world, and have all the traffic in the world, but if we don’t actually motivate somebody to do something, they’re not going to convert and buy from us.

Making that transition from relevance to resonance can then cause that response that builds that momentum of forward movement, that gets people to making the decision. I think that’s how I’d position it if I was trying to get buy-in for the concept.

That makes a lot of sense. I’ve been thinking a lot about if there’s a resonance metric – how we could think about the metrical impact of resonance, but I think it’s different for everyone.

Emotion trumps logic. You could actually do an A/B test, and write something with some relevance, that doesn’t have any emotional quality to it at all, and put it up against something that is really tied into the persona and the emotion or the passion they have about solving the problem, or whatever – and see which one will get more response.

One of the concepts we’ve been playing around with is the effect personalization has on a specific piece of content resonating. What do you think about that?

I only work in B2B, so we’re selling to a committee, but we’re also selling one-to-many. So we’re not doing the one-to-one stuff that the sales team gets to do, which they can personalize really well and specifically for that individual, with that team that they’re engaged with. As marketers, we can’t. We’re marketing to a list of 10,000 for a particular persona. To me, personalization is the commonalities across that flock of people that will enable you not only to be relevant, but also to create something that resonates. My job is to help my clients reach the widest group of that segment as possible, and get them to do something. Lots of companies I know – their idea of personalization is, “Hi Dave.” That kind of personalization isn’t going to help you with anything.

So I liked what you were saying about the difference between relevance and resonance. Do you think there’s a similar distinction between “valuable” and “resonant”?

I think that value and resonance are kind of the same thing. But the biggest difference is that value, in some cases, can be tangible. Resonance is never going to be tangible. And so, if resonance is value, then it can also be demonstrable, which gets toward that tangibility thing. I would say it’s hard to separate the two, because I think the more something resonates with you, the more valuable it’s going to be to you. And of course, it depends on what it is you’re talking about. I would say those are synonyms more than differences. But that is the challenge: how do you make it tangible?

Four Key Takeaways From Our Conversation 

  • Make sure you're measuring the right metrics – getting high shares or big traffic doesn't mean success if you're aiming for higher conversion.
  • Really spend time thinking about and pindown who your audience is.
  • Put yourself in your buyer's shoes and empathize with their painpoints.
  • Think of your content as telling a story in the buyer's journey, and always be aiming to keep your audience moving on to what's next in the story. 



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