Funnel Vision

catherinemarketersnoteMarketer’s Note” is a regular column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. This week it is written by Catherine Oddenino, Analyst, AdExchanger Research.

I’m currently working on a new piece of research focused on how marketers distribute the content they create. Content marketing is agrowing focus for many marketers, so the number of content marketing vendors is also increasing.

Unprompted, most vendors I speak to bring up the marketing funnel. Some think content marketing is great for bottom-of-funnel conversions, while others believe it’s really only effective as a top-of-funnel marketing method. One vendor even claims that content marketing is the first form of digital marketing that can compete with television at the top of the funnel for marketers.

But when it comes down to it, each vendor I spoke to is trying to sell either branding and awareness or final click to purchase. The constant references to the funnel start to feel more like a crutch, rather than provide an explanation of what the services do.

It’s amazing how long it can take for some vendors to explain the value they provide to marketers and what differentiates them from the thousand other vendors vying for marketers’ time and dollars. Others are very clear.

Taboola, for example, is a “content discovery” tool that is used by many marketers to reach consumers. Its offering for marketers and value for publishers is clear even though the technology behind it is complex. Gannett expects to earn millions from its new partnership with Taboola over the next three years.

During my time working at Time Inc., I met with both Taboola and Outbrain as we started working with both to monetize our sites and distribute content. The value proposition was simple. After getting the necessary and extensive technology vetting done by our group, everyone – even the print team – was on board and pleased with the services.

For marketers, I imagine it can be intimidating when a vendor comes in talking about its proprietary algorithms and complicated technologies. Don’t be afraid to ask a potential vendor to break down their value proposition into more simple terms. Make sure that they can explain how their services will advance your business goals. Vendors may think they are selling you an element that is key to your customer’s “funnel,” but it may not actually improve your customer’s path to purchase.

You know far more about your customer than most of the vendors selling you their services and you shouldn’t let them intimidate you with jargon that’s not backed up by business success.

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