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There is no doubt that by this time, you’ve heard of content marketing and the important role it plays in lead generation. In fact, in 1996 Bill Gates originally predicted and coined the phrase “content is king.” And he was right. But now it’s the 21st century and we are seeing profligate proliferation (two great words I just had to use) of blogs, emails, web pages and social that is emphasizing content OVER context.

Content Marketing over Context Marketing?

So what does this mean? First, let’s look at Merriam-Webster’s definition of context: “the parts of a [communication] that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning.”

Context Marketing vs. Content Marketing


The point is that to make a connection with your audience, you need to communicate with context – deliver the right message, to the right people, at the right time, using the right medium. Context marketing paints a picture, it personalizes the experience, it delivers value, it makes you more relevant to your audience, and it removes obstacles in the buying process.

But don’t confuse personalization as the be all and end all way you add context. Saying “Hi {Sarah}, Did you know {ABC Company} could be a leading {manufacturer} if you only had…” is great and it is more likely to make a connection than saying “To whom it may concern, did you know your company could be a leader in its market if only you had…” Personalization is essential but only the beginning. To do context marketing effectively, you need to have a few things in place first…

  • Personas. Who are you communicating with? Knowing their name is one teeny tiny piece of the puzzle. Knowing their persona – their job title, their location, their challenges, where they are in the buying cycle, the content they consume, what color their eyes are (well maybe not in B2B marketing, but if you were in contact lens sales that could be helpful.)
  • Documented Buying Cycle. Document the buying process. What questions does your audience need to answer throughout their evaluation process? When do they want to consume electronic information versus talk to a sales person? We always say the focus should not be on how easy it is to sell your solution, it should be on how easy it is to buy your solution. Be sure you think of this from a prospect’s perspective, not a sales person’s.
  • Channels. Where does your audience “hang out”? How do they like to consume information? Are you engaged in those channels? Do you have a way to deliver information to them in the way they like to consume it – electronic, social, video, bite-sized chunks, on mobile, in print, via email?
  • Smart Forms. You need a way to gather information from people who engage with your website so that you can constantly expand what you know about them, and your context marketing can become more and more refined. Smart forms are a way to do that. I’m sure you’ve been to those websites that don’t use this technique. You visit to download a white paper and fill in a form with a bunch of information – first name, last name, email address, company name, etc. Then you see something else you’re interested in, and on this form you have to fill out first name, last name, email address, company name, etc. all over again. What the heck? The company already has that information. It’s annoying to the visitor and it’s a wasted opportunity to gather more info. Smart forms understand what data you have and replace the form fields with other questions allowing you to capture more information. HubSpot calls this Progressive Profiling. Make your forms a powerful marketing tool that gathers deeper and deeper information.

What contextual, personalized marketing looks like…

Let’s say I am in the market for a time tracking system to use with my project management software, called PMRight. I go online and type in time tracking for PMRight. A number of results come up but one catches my eye because it says its integrated project management and time tracking. I didn’t even know that was an option so I click on it and it takes me to the PJTrack site and on the home page there is a Call-to-Action to download a white paper called “How Integrated Time and Project Management Tracking Saves You Money” – I click on this and download the white paper.

PJTrack should now know (and capture several things about me).

  • I came to the site on a search using the PMRight phrase.
  • I have a time tracking problem.
  • I visited the home page and then downloaded the white paper.
  • And most likely my first name, last name and email address (the typical top of the funnel questions).

Now I immediately receive a personalized email {email personalization tokens} thanking me for requesting the white paper and providing me with a link to it (and hopefully before that, I had a thank you page come up doing the same thing).

A few days go by, I have read the white paper, and I am intrigued. I want to understand more about this feature or maybe I want to see how other people have benefited. I go back to the PJTrack site, and the home page has changed {smart content} – at least my experience with it has changed because the company knew I already downloaded the white paper and they don’t want to serve up the same offer to me again. They want to give me more information that brings me deeper in the funnel. So now on the home page, I see a different Call-to-Action for a customer story. I click on that CTA and now they ask me to fill out a form, but this time, it has different questions {progressive profiling} than the one I filled out for the white paper. Now I am being asked about my industry, the number of projects I typically manage, the number of employees in the company, and what project management tool I am using. Again I receive a thank you page and a personalized email with access to the case study.

A few more days go by and I receive an email that says…”Hi Susan, Did you know that PJTrack has been used by more than 1,000 marketing agencies and in the last year the integrated time and project management tracking has saved 200,000 man hours in tracking and reporting in the last year alone!?”

A week goes by and I receive another email that says…”Hi Susan, As a busy agency owner we know how daunting it can be to think about moving from a project management system like PMRight – you have dozens maybe hundreds of projects, emails, and files; your team is trained; your clients are engaged. We get that. That is why we have a tool designed to move the information for you…”

Tell me you see the pattern…drip emails personalized using what they know about me – my industry, the barriers to me potentially buying, my name, my title (and hopefully full persona), their competition, etc.

Make Your Marketing Customer Centric
How context marketing could continue to play out...

  • Reengagement and Database Segmentation. Let’s say I get busy and don’t have time to look into a new system anymore. I stop opening emails, I stop visiting the website. If PJTrack is paying attention, then they could create a reengagement campaign. They can reference the fact that they miss me and noticed I wasn’t reading their emails. They could ask if I solved the problem or just became too busy to address it. They could invite me to a personal consultation to discuss how they can help make a transition smooth.

    If the company’s marketers are smart, they will take all the contacts in their database and segment them in different ways and try to move the contacts through the funnel. For example, PJTrack would want to create a different message and experience for people who are very active on their website but have yet to request a demo versus someone who requested a demo but never scheduled a time versus someone who had a demo but still hasn’t bought.

The key is to not only personalize the experience but to gather information and then use what you know to give context to the experience someone has with your company.

Free Download: 9 Things Your Website Is Doing to Drive Visitors Away

About the Author

Susan LaPlante-Dube | PMG Principal
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Susan LaPlante-Dube, PMG Principal

Susan LaPlante-Dube created PMG in 2002 and acts as one of PMG’s Principals. As a jack-of-all-trades in marketing, she loves digging deep on a topic and finding new ways to spin old ideas. While she would prefer having some high-tech voice software to record all of her blog thoughts instead of having to write them down, she loves the satisfaction of helping her readers learn something new.

 Tags: B2B Marketing Marketing Strategy and Planning Content Marketing

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