What is and constitutes interactive content that resonates? Is interactive content part of your business strategy? It’s not something that every brand does, but it represents a way that content and sales enablement has been done in the past to create experiences that better serve potential customers than static content.
Today’s guest is Isabelle Papoulias, CMO/Vice President of Marketing at Mediafly, where she oversees all of Mediafly's marketing efforts and works with its sales and business development teams to ensure continuous growth. She shares insights on how to break the sales and marketing mold using interactive content.
Ben: Hey, Isabelle. How's it going this afternoon?
Isabelle: Hey, it's going well. Thanks for having me.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. I'm really excited to have you on the show to talk interactive content. To jump right into things, how do you define what interactive content is? Because that seems like a really obvious question. I usually don't like to spend too much time just hashing out definitions of things.
But I think when we think about interactive content, people's minds could go to all kinds of different places. I'm just curious. How do you define it? Also, what are some common types of interactive content that our listeners might be familiar with?
Isabelle: Yes, great. I like that as a first question because I think that when people hear interactive content, they tend to first say, oh, it's animated. Sure, there's a role for animation, but we do, on Mediafly, make a distinction. I do make a distinction between animation and interactivity.
So interactive content is content that allows for navigation that helps create a very custom experience for the buyer, ultimately. Whether that is a self-guided experience, so content that they're consuming on their own website, for example, or content they have received as a follow up from our app after a meeting. Or whether it's content that a rep is presenting live in a meeting, for example. I'll get into those specifics.
Either way, it's the interactivity of the service of creating a highly engaging and custom content consumption experience that really meets the needs of the buyer. The second layer to that is the interactivity that helps garner the right content usage insights that then helps marketing teams enhance their marketing strategy on one hand, but also helps sellers understand the buyer behavior, what buyers are interested in when they're looking at the content, and then sellers are better prepared for the next interaction because they have insights from that.
So to better bring this to life, and that was your second question is what are some examples of that. An example of that could be, let's call it a sales presentation that uses a live meeting. Whether it's a remote meeting through Zoom or whether it's face-to-face, these days it’s more likely to be through Zoom, but it doesn't matter. If the presentation is truly interactive, then the seller can react to the buyer.
Let's say it's a first meeting. Let's call it a pitch presentation. I don't like to use this word, but there's a section on discovery, the rep is doing discovery, and then they may naturally move into—based on the challenges they're hearing—some highlights about the aspects of their product that will address the needs of the buyer, the challenges of the buyer.
From there, some examples of customer success stories like customers like you that had similar challenges and then click to that. So rather the seller going in with their linear static PowerPoint deck, essentially throwing up at the buyer in that meeting, and I think we've all been on the receiving end of that. I'll take you through the 50-page deck in that order because that's the way it is. They're not presenting the buyer.
They're having a conversation and they're pulling and clicking on the right places in the presentation that are relevant to the conversation, giving the buyer the experience the buyer wants. It's a highly custom interaction. That's one example.
The other example would be self-guided content. Let's say a buyer comes to your website and is looking at a case study, which I think is a very popular form of content. Whether they're looking at it on their website or let's say the rep sends them a follow-up case study after a meeting, but they're looking at it on their own—I'll give you a very tangible example for Mediafly.
We've done this for some of our customers. We've taken all of our flag one-pager case studies. Typically, the format is challenge, solution, and results kind of thing. We've turned everything into highly interactive content that the buyer can literally click on whatever they want. So there may be multiple challenges, but they're clicking on one area of the challenges that resonates more with them.
That takes them to the next page. They have the option to look at a video case study or to read the thing. When they get to the ROI section, there might be certain KPIs that they're more intrigued by versus others, so they may click on one KPI and go deeper into that.
At the end of the case study, there are recommendations through AI for content that's similar to that, and they get to click and go to another case study. I think it makes for a more enjoyable experience. I think in a remote world, especially, there is an aspect of edutainment. We want things to be highly visual, so I think that's important. But the second most important thing is again, as I'm consuming this on my own, I get to navigate through to what's most important to me.
The third piece is on the marketer side, the seller side, we get all the analytics. It's not just, okay, so they downloaded this piece of code on the website and that's it. That's not where it ends. That's usually content analytics. That's where they're at, web analytics. Now, because we use our own technology, we go deeper. We're able to see exactly how much time they're spending on each page, exactly where they clicked, where they went to next.
So we're much better prepared for the next interaction that way. We're also better prepared to serve them more content that's relevant to them. Those are, I think, the most important reasons why interactive content is important today and some examples. I hope that answered your question.
Ben: Yeah, that very thoroughly answered that question. Maybe to sum it up, really what interactive content—what it sounds like, what it really allows you to do, or what it allows marketers to do—is you can create an experience that is better targeted toward and is more responsive to the actual pain point that a person is trying to solve, in a way that like a more static piece is just not going to be able to do. Because with a more static piece of content, you've already assumed you know what the solution is in a lot of cases.
Isabelle: Yes, I like that. That's well said. A more static piece of content, it's going to be more generic.
Isabelle: One size fits all, I suppose. It's really tailored to you.
Ben: Right. It might be like, start your free trial when what someone really wanted to do was talk to an actual person. I think that makes a lot of sense. So when you think about brands out there or companies that a lot of marketers might be familiar with, are there any examples of recognizable brands that you feel do interactive content really well that you would recommend listeners go check out just to see and maybe experience for themselves how interactive content works. You can feel free to plug Mediafly as well.
But if I'm a listener and I want to actually visualize what is this type of content really, how does it function, who would you point them toward?
Isabelle: I'm going to have to plug Mediafly here because I have a difficult time coming up with brands because it's not something I see often.
Ben: Yeah, me neither.
Isabelle: The first brands that come to mind are actually clients from Mediafly that, oftentimes, frankly, I look to. I look at the content that we create for them and I feel like I want my content for my team to be like theirs like wow, I want even better. If we can do it for them, why can't we do it for us kind of thing? There's always a little bit of the cobbler's children who have no shoe situation, I think.
Pepsi and [...] are ones that come to mind. For me, regularly, some of what they've done with their sales collateral, the level of interactivity, and how they've taken things to the next level is working with us is very, very impressive. I will say, generally speaking, Another example of interactive content that we haven't talked about that's probably very common for people is the ROI calculators, benchmarking tools, guided selling questionnaires, and things like that.
I do find that more recently, I'm on the receiving end of cold outreach, emails that incorporate those kinds of demand gen tools. I think that's a good thing. Then there's a company out there that we're looking at right now. Another example of interactive content or demos, product demos that could be on the website, but they're not really your product.
Some of us CMOs call them deep fake demos. They're sort of created from scratch. It's not really your product, but it looks like it is. You can point, click, and navigate through. There's a company out there called Reprise that also helps create those, so that might be another one to check out.
Ben: Sure, yeah. For sure. I will go check them out myself, I know for sure. The reason why I asked and again, like the opening question to this conversation, it seems really, really basic, like almost silly to ask that question. But the reason why I asked is because like, you said, there aren't a ton of brands out there that necessarily really do a lot of interactive content, certainly not that many that are maybe known for it explicitly.
But I think that's great, though, just to give listeners some examples that they can go check out. I think that's really helpful. So if a listener wants to start creating interactive content, they're sold on the concept, they're ready to give it a shot, and make it something that they incorporate into their content strategy, where would you recommend they begin? What's the first thing you do before you write a line of copy, write a line of code, do anything at all?
Isabelle: This is what we tell our clients, usually, and how we recommend they start the process is to start with one content asset. Don't boil the ocean. You're not going to magically transition all your content assets, whether sales, collateral, marketing collateral, or training collateral magically overnight into interactive.
To start, pick an asset that is of huge strategic importance to you like maybe your pitch deck. Then start by rethinking the storyline. So is it challenge-based? Are you using a storytelling framework? We use close, challenge loss, opportunity, solution, evidence. Internally, that's our own, but there are others. You don't want to start with interactivity on the design and all that.
Start with the structure of the story, and again, it's a challenge-based. Then there is the design. So yes, you want things to look good. I think that's something that the marketers have always done well, the look and feel. You want the design to be at the service of telling the story in an intuitive way. That's where the interactivity comes in because in some ways, with interactivity, it helps to live the witness.
You're guiding them through the story that you want to tell hopefully. So I would say that's a starting place. Then the other two elements of interactive content development are, do you have a technology to serve that content on your website to your revenue teams? Do sales know where to find it? Can they share it easily with clients? Same thing for your account management teams, customer success, and so on.
Then does that technology enable the insights? Because ultimately, that's the most important piece. Because the common usage analytics is what helps you understand how to do more of what works and less of what doesn't, all the way through to, ideally, the impact on pipeline and health of the pipeline.
Can we assess the health of an opportunity based on the level of engagement we see with the content, not just the number of meetings we've had, the number of phone calls there have been, and email big change, but how are they engaging with the content when we're not in a meeting? What is the correlation to that into deals close? So then you recognize patterns of behavior and you can better guide sales teams to do more of what works.
Ben: Sure, yeah.
Isabelle: But in terms of the very first steps is pick one content asset that is the most valuable, challenge yourself on the storyline, and then challenging yourself on the design and interactivity of it.
Ben: Sure. So you can break it down to a three-step framework that way or just three questions you need to answer, put those in order. Yeah, I think that's a very concrete way to think about things. I think that's great.
Isabelle: If I may add here, that's also what we did on Mediafly. Again, we didn't just bite off more than we could chew, take all our content, and redesign it. We started with one and then we started to pick the other ones that were equally important. We went from there. There are some things that we've never made interactive because eventually, we're going to archive them, they're not as important. But start small, otherwise, you probably won't get it done.
Ben: Something that Isabelle talks about here that's just so important to reiterate is the need to know why you would create a piece of interactive content in the first place. It can be really easy to jump right into the execution of a new content piece and to get really excited about a new tactic or a new format. But without the right strategy, that new piece just might fall flat. If it falls flat, you might not get another opportunity to try it again. You might move on without really realizing the benefits that you're striving to attain.
So definitely take what she says to heart and start by first asking not what do you think that you can get out of interactive content for your own company, but how can interactive content solve your customers' problems better than whatever it is you might be doing right now? Asking that question first will help make sure that you get started on the right path and increase your chances for success later. Now, back to Isabelle.
Once marketers have gotten their feet wet with interactive content, they've maybe created a piece or two, and they're maybe starting to see some success with moving in this direction. What are some ways they can mature their practice toward interactive content or take their interactive content to a more advanced level, like you say, to not only do more of what works but to really amplify what's working?
Isabelle: I think it's about scaling. We touched on that a little bit. It's about scaling. So if you started with one, first of all, you're going to, hopefully, get some learnings from that and then make that even better. Inevitably, there's going to be some gaps or something you haven't done right, or maybe you over-animated. That happens all the time, by the way.
One next level is the piece that you worked off to begin with. How do you improve that even further? But then, based on those learnings, start applying that interactivity to other pieces. The next level up would be, do you have the technology that will bring to life your content in the most dynamic and interactive way. Because also keep in mind, there are many platforms out there that don't support a lot of animation interactivity.
So you might have the animation interactivity, let's say, in the PowerPoint, but when you upload in the platform, you lose a majority of that. Do you have the technology to support that? At that point, you're getting the best of both worlds. You're getting content that's amplified and lives on an app. Ideally, you're getting the most out of your technology investment because you're uploading content that's built for it.
So they're working harder together than they would if they were just working in a cell or your content was over here, it was completely static, and then the app was doing a different thing. The next level up is insights. Again, insights through technology and AI. Then the last level that comes to mind is, are you doing this for all your revenue teams?
Is it revenue enablement or is it just for the sellers and just for the sellers in a live meeting? Because if you're only focusing on enabling your sellers to interact with content and only focusing on the meeting, it's just the pitch deck, let's say. I don't need to tell you this. I think we all know now it's pick your stats, the buyer journey is primarily digital, fewer and fewer buyers want to talk to a rep, they're delaying that. Let's say 65%, 85% of the buying journey happens before they talk to a rep. Again, pick your data source.
So if you're only building interactive content to help the sales reps in a meeting, you are missing out on 80% of the ability to influence the buyer. That's another question I would ask myself, am I focusing my efforts on content that enables all my revenue teams, including marketing and post-sale? Is it beyond the meeting?
Ben: Yeah, definitely. What I love about that answer is you're really talking about really encouraging people to think not only about the nuts and bolts of how you create this content but really diving deep into why it even exists. Why would you do this? How is it performing?
I think that those are really important questions that people need to ask, really, when you're doing anything with marketing. But I think, especially, when you're taking on something that's new to you. Maybe this is an assumption on my part, but I think as marketers, as creatives, there can be a tendency towards shiny object syndrome. But I think the questions that you're advising people to ask themselves would really help them avoid that.
Isabelle: Because you said that, the other thing that comes to mind is how it seems like an obvious thing to do, but it's not something we necessarily think about as marketers. I'll be honest, we didn't really think about this until it became part of our business strategy for the company. So what happened was we acquired a UK-based company Presentify about a year ago, maybe longer. So we've had three acquisitions in two years.
The way we go about making acquisitions is we think of sales enablement because we're a sales enablement platform. But we think of sales enablement in a bigger way than most companies think about it. So it's not beyond the foundational elements of the content management system and readiness like LMS, which is usually what sales enablement is.
So many of the acquisitions, we may have been out of the box, if you want to call it that because we believe that sales enablement should be doing a lot more of that. So we acquired Presentify a year and a half ago. They're a visual communications company, and so that's what they specialize in. It's the creation of interactive content.
Obviously, now, they've been falling into Mediafly, in our platform and our portfolio, but that was the point at which we became more aware as a marketing team, us, obviously, because we knew we acquired this company, and then we started to use it to make our content more interactive. But up to that point, it wasn't something we had thought about.
I think as marketers, we spent so much time thinking about the content strategy, the personas, what topics are relevant, and all of that. We often forget about the delivery. What does it actually look like? Now we're building, again, an intuitive experience within the content piece itself. I don't think that's something we naturally think about.
But now that we do it, at least, we do it at Mediafly. I know for other customers, it's like, oh, wow. It's one of those where you realize, how come I didn't think about this sooner? Because it's really not that complicated.
Ben: Right, yeah. I will say, I definitely have more of those kinds of moments than what I would like.
Isabelle: Me too, by the way. That's just the only example because we're talking about interactive content. But unfortunately, again, I can give you plenty of others.
Ben: Yeah, but I mean, those flashes of insight are so valuable, though. I think maybe that's a good reminder for myself, I think for sure, but probably for people in general in this industry. Maybe it's not a bad thing when you stumble upon something where you're like, oh, why weren't we doing this yesterday? This is so simple.
Isabelle: That's part of what we do. Marketing is evolving and changing all the time, there are new technologies and new services. We're constantly educating ourselves. Certainly, I can't sit here and say, I know everything, not really.
Ben: Yeah. Not to call anyone out, but I think that sometimes there's a tendency toward people feeling like they have to project themselves being that way, though. No one knows. No one knows everything. Anyway, the last question I'll throw your way, though. You have mentioned, there are a lot of different tools out there, a lot of different platforms, and various different things that allow you to create interactive content in all different forms.
I imagine the answer to this question is going to be really context-dependent just upon what people are doing. But are there any particular tools out there that you would recommend listeners go check out that could help them with the content creation process for interactive pieces?
Isabelle: I would say, the ones I mentioned before in terms of technology. I'm sure there are others. The one I'm thinking about right now is Reprise for demos, Mediafly for interactive content. Agencies are a good place to start. Many marketers have agencies that they work with and they are interactive. There are content agencies.
Now they don't have the technology arm so they don't have the content activation arm and they don't have the analytics to go within all that, but that's a good place to start the first step that we talked about—pick your most important piece of content and up-level it visually and interactively. An agency is a good place to start, I think. It's likely within the marketing leader’s resources already.
Ben: Yeah. I think that's a smart answer because I imagine in a lot of cases, an agency is probably going to help you expedite just the ideation process and figure out your why, just having that strategic partner before you start jumping into things. Would you say that that's accurate?
Isabelle: I think so. I think that's accurate, and the storytelling. In fact, for many of our clients, we partner with our agencies because many of them have them and then we take the content that the agency has created, and then we make it even more interactive. So that does feel like a reasonable first step.
Ben: Sure, yeah. That does it for all the questions that I have prepared. But before I let you go, is there anything else that you wanted to add, anything we didn't get around to, or anything that you'd like to leave our listeners with?
Isabelle: Just the thought that definitely, the remote world that we're in, it feels like it has accelerated the need for interactivity and highly engaging content. I said it at the beginning too, so much of the buyer journey now is digital without a live person, without a rep that I know I'm definitely feeling the pressure of content needing to sell harder on its own. I think we've always had a challenge with content or as marketers.
It's never been easy, but I feel like it's harder than ever. What used to work again, flat static, has to be a thing of the past because things have become way too challenging. Another layer to this, and this is something that our CEO Carson Conant talks about, I like how he describes it. The B2B buyers are consumers and they're bringing their B2C expectations to the B2B buying process. He calls it the weekend versus the weekday experience.
We used to highly customize experiences in B2C. Netflix is one of the things that comes to mind. You go to the Netflix environment and there are callers and the menu is customized to you based on what you like and you don't like. You get to click on either seeing a preview or you get to see more information about the cast. Again, it's navigation.
You go to work on Monday, and you're researching the set of the other products for your company, and you have a very flat and unsophisticated experience with sellers most of the time. I think that's the expectation for B2B. How can B2B brands create a much more premium, inspiring experience for their buyers that are more aligned with what the B2C brands have done?
Ben: Sure, yeah. I think that's a great parting thought to leave our listeners with. If people listening to the show want to find you or they want to find Mediafly, where's the best place that they should go?
Isabelle: It's easiest to find me on LinkedIn. I'm not very active on the other platforms. So LinkedIn and mediafly.com, as well as our community within the Mediafly website. Also our thought leadership hub, it's evolvedselling.com. They can click on the community tab and get more information there as well, but mediafly.com is the main site.
Ben: Awesome. Very cool, great stuff. Isabelle, this has been super insightful. I really appreciate you taking the time to come on to the show.
Isabelle: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Ben was the Inbound Marketing Director at CoSchedule. His specialties include content strategy, SEO, copywriting, and more. When he's not hard at work helping people do better marketing, he can be found cross-country skiing with his wife and their dog.