James White
17th February 2020 - 6 mins read
S

ounds great, doesn’t it?

But the reality is, it is simplistic, outdated, rigid and even wrong and that’s why I think it is time to take a hammer to the funnel.

The big problem with the funnel is it doesn’t reflect the modern consumer’s experience or the way they interact with brands. And it is also prescriptive about where different content formats sit in the process, whereas it should be the content within each format that is the decisive factor – not the delivery method.

Just because someone is at the start of a process to buy a product doesn’t mean they need the same form of marketing content to take them further along that journey.

Everyone is different. When I have gone out to buy software, like Communigator, I have tended to go on YouTube and looked at ‘how to’ videos. I wanted to find out more about how you import data and how you create dashboards.

Most marketeers would argue that is the back end of the funnel, where you are really deciding what you are going to buy, but I used it right at the top.

The top of the funnel for me is about peer review and word of mouth. I am more likely to talk to people and ask how they do things.  Yet this doesn’t get a look-in in marketing funnels.

The other top of the funnel – the awareness piece - for me is people picking up the phone and calling me or going to a conference and seeing a good speaker.

And, I’m sure I’m not alone – different types of content appeal to different people at different times.

You simply cannot afford to put everyone in the same pot and say that just because they are at a particular stage of the process, they need that type of content, delivered in a particular type of way.

Let’s take podcasts as an example. These are typically placed in the ‘awareness’ section at the top of the funnel. But why do they need to sit there? Surely, they could also play a role in other stages, such as research and comparison.

You could have a podcast talking about the different types of automated marketing software and that would sit in the comparison section. Or you could have a podcast talking about pricing or ROI which could sit in the ‘purchase’ section of the funnel.

As I say, it is the content within each format that decides where it should be used in the process, not the delivery method.

So, if you are not going to base your marketing on the funnel, what should you do?

Well, you still need a process in place that gives thought to where different parts of content should be. And you still need a method or process for identifying buying intent.

Ultimately it is all about having good quality content that engages, convinces and compels your audience, regardless of whether they come to it at the start of the buying process or when they are about to make a buying decision.

You need to offer them something that adds value; that showcases your expertise and highlights what makes your brand different.

That is why at Thirty Seven, and our sister company Media First, we put journalistic principles at the heart of every bit of content we produce.

And that means we aim to tell the TRUTH.

By that I mean our content is:

 

T topical, of the moment, and something people are talking about

R relevant to a specific audience

U unusual. Not what people already know or expect

T trouble. Show how you are solving a problem. Or, if your story is not strong enough, a journalist will look for their own trouble angle

H human interest. What is in it for people? What impact will it have on your customers and the journalist’s audience?

 

The aim is for the content to include at least four of the five elements of TRUTH to create something meaningful.

But the human aspect is crucial.

The most common phrase you will hear in a newsroom is ‘so what?’ Journalists will look at a potential news item and ask ‘so what does this mean for my audience?’

At the very least they will want to know who the people are behind the story. Take a look at any newspaper, news website or news programme and you will find all the stories have a human angle.

The reason is simple – people are fascinated by stories about people, not policies, procedures initiatives and protocols.

As well as telling the TRUTH you need to say AMEN (no, this blog hasn’t taken a strange turn towards religious preaching). This means you need to ensure the content you produce is suitable for the target ‘Audience’; that you are clear on the ‘Message’ you want to get across to that audience; that you have ‘Examples’ (ideally human ones) to support and explain that message; and that you have considered any potential ‘Negatives’ that could be raised.

Unless you are working for a company with a huge marketing budget, and lots of people producing the content, the ‘topical’ element of what makes quality content is tricky.

The key is to balance timely content with content that is evergreen (not time-sensitive) and that can also be sliced and diced in different ways. At Media First, we have recently taken a number of blogs and used them as the basis of downloadable eBooks aimed at specific sectors.

Similarly, there is no reason why videos can’t be turned in to podcasts or why parts of a Whitepaper can’t be turned into an Infographic. Not only does this ensure your carefully crafted content is working harder, but you are also providing more ways for consumers to access content in the ways they are most comfortable.

The other key journalistic principle you need to use in your content is proof reading. You should ensure that your content is seen by three sets of eyes before it leaves your office. This helps to ensure your content meets its aims and objective and that those typos and errors that can undermine content are eradicated.

I mentioned earlier the importance of still having a process behind your content once you have moved away from the funnel.

That process needs to be flexible and it also needs to be something you are prepared to interrupt. At Media First, we would normally see someone downloading our content as a sign of a hot lead.

But recently we decided to interrupt that and call people before they reached that stage.  We called 135 people – identified by the pages they had visited on the website. 90 people got dropped, two were not the right contact and one was international, but we generated 34 proposals and eight hot leads – that is a ridiculous conversion rate for new business development.

 

It’s time to take a hammer to the funnel – or at least throw it out. There is a better way, and quality content lies at its core.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is a podcast or email marketing.

Marketing

Why simplicity is vital to content marketing

Adam Fisher 2nd February 2018 — 5 mins read
W

e can probably all recall investing time to read something that grabbed our attention with an enticing headline, only to find it was convoluted and tricky to follow.

Perhaps it is the quest to create something original and valuable that drives organisations to inadvertently opt for content which creates barriers to comprehension and distractions from the main message.

Maybe it is a fear that they will not be seen as an expert in their field that leads them on a path to complicated language and clunky phrasing.

Whatever the reason, it is hugely frustrating for both the reader and the author. Ultimately, if people can’t understand what you are trying to say they also won’t know how you expect them to act.

But this situation is solvable.

Simplicity is the key to understanding and therefore should be the foundation of all written content.

Newspapers and journalists know this.

The average reading age of the UK population is generally considered to be around nine years.

The Sun has a reading age of eight, while the more highbrow Guardian has a reading age of 14. That doesn’t mean they think their readers lack intelligence, it means they know where to set their writing so that the vast majority of readers can understand it.

But how do you make your content simple to understand while still producing something valuable?


Lose the big words

The important thing to remember about your content is that you are not producing it to impress your colleagues with your vocabulary.

And very few of us have time to reach for the dictionary when we’re reading. Invariably if we can’t follow what is being said we quickly give up and disregard that content altogether.

This means that when producing content we should always think twice about the more decorative words we could use and consider if there are simpler alternatives. For example, use ‘start’ instead of ‘commence’ and ‘near’ instead of ‘close proximity’.


Short sentences and paragraphs

One of the first lessons drilled into any young journalist is the importance of using short sentences.

At the start of my career I was told to keep mine between 20 and 30 words long and it is something I try to stick to now, 20 years later.

The reason is that long sentences and those with multiple clauses invite unnecessary complexity.

Similarly, long paragraphs can be daunting for readers and cause them to switch-off and lose interest.

Again if you look at a newspaper or magazine, very rarely will you find paragraphs consisting of more than one sentence.


Avoid the jargon

A regular frustration with much written content is that organisations often fall back on jargon to explain what they do and the messages they are trying to get across.

The problem is that often these words and phrases mean little to people outside that industry or particular company – instantly turning off readers.

But use of jargon in content also suggests that you don’t know the subject perhaps as well as you should or think you do. Remember the famous Albert Einstein quote - “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

It also implies that you have nothing new to say to the reader (in which case why should they read on?).


Stick to everyday language

The key with written content, even with the more formal style used in whitepapers, is to use the language that you and your readers would use in everyday conversation.

When I’m writing content I try to use the language I would use if I was explaining the point to a friend or family member in a pub or café – just without the swearing.


Reading out loud

One of the tricks I use to test the simplicity of my own content is to read it aloud. Sure, it generates some funny looks in the office, but it’s a good way of identifying words, phrases and sentences which may be confusing.

If I stumble over parts of it, or find myself having to reread certain paragraphs, then it is fair to assume my content isn’t as straightforward as I intended.


Test the readability of your content

There are easy to use tools you can use to test the simplicity and readability of your content. Word offers two useful measurements.

The Flesch Reading Ease score uses the number of words in a sentence and the number of syllables in each word to calculate how easy it is to read a document. The lower the score, the more difficult the text is to read and ideally you should aim for a score of between 60 and 70.

The second check, known as the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, is an equation which tells you how many years of education someone needs to understand your content.

The grade score is based on the American grade system and essentially you need to add five to your grade to find the reading age of your content.



As you can see, in the above image my reading ease is 60.3 and my grade level is 9.7, meaning a 14-15 year old should be able to understand it. It’s also worth highlighting that the average length of a sentence in this post is under 20 words.

To find your score, simply go to the ‘file’ menu, then ‘options’ and then on to the ‘proofing’ tab.

Under the ‘when correcting spelling and grammar in Word’ heading you need to tick the box which says ‘show readability statistics’.

Then when you run a spelling and grammar check you will find the two readability scores.

Simplicity is a very effective content marketing strategy. It is not about dumbing down or insulting the intelligence of your readers.

It is about ensuring your content is easy to understand for as many people as possible. And that takes skill. But, it is well worth it.

Steve Jobs famously once said: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”



At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Adam Fisher
2nd May 2018 - 6 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.