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Marketing Automation Management software from companies like Eloqua, Hubspot and Marketo has brought us tremendous insights into content.  We can now tell how many times a particular white paper, case study or brochure was downloaded.  And in many cases we can tell exactly who is reading it (When users register before downloading the content).   We can view statistics about the demographics of readers (title, industry, country) of different content pieces.  In fact, there is so much data about content downloads that it can be overwhelming.

However, we have very little insight into what readers think about much of the content they consume.  They downloaded it but did they read it?  If they read it, did they read all the way to the end?  What parts of the content did they find most interesting?  What parts did they re-read, highlight or bookmark?  We don’t really know the answers to any of these questions unless we call readers up to survey them – which would no doubt be an awkward conversation.

Some content formats like blogs allow readers to comment and discuss.  But for white papers, ebooks, research studies, case studies and brochures which are downloaded in PDF format, there is no real opportunity to offer feedback.  Social sharing buttons enable users to like, tweet, favorite or email the content to another reader.  But most people do not bother to share.

The situation is very different for electronic books, however.  eReaders such as the Barnes & Noble Nook and Amazon Kindle can and do track reader behaviors.  eBook readers collect data on the time spent reading and the last page you read.  They also can capture information such as bookmarks, highlights, notes and annotations, which are aggregated and stored in the cloud.  The information is shared with publishers and authors which use the feedback to make improvements to upcoming books.

Wouldn’t it be great if we as marketers could get the same types of insights for white papers, case studies, product brochures and research studies?  If users viewed the PDFs in devices like the Kindle and the Nook, the same types of data could be collected.  Take a white paper for example.  We could tell:

  • Which pieces of the white paper are actually being read?  Do the readers finish the white paper?  Do they skip over certain sections with any regular frequency?  White papers which are not being fully read either could be rewritten in a shorter length or discontinued.
  • Which parts of the white paper were most frequently highlighted?  We could take those excerpts to use as the subject lines for promotional emails.  And we could encourage content marketers to develop additional materials related to that content.

We marketers need to get more of our audience consuming content on eReader devices.  The device manufacturers could then provide rich analytics services to corporations that provide better insights into the usefulness and engagement levels of content.

Steve Keifer

Steve Keifer has led marketing and product management teams at seven different SaaS and cloud providers ranging from venture-backed, early-stage startups to multi-billion, publicly traded companies - including several that experienced hypergrowth, filed IPOs, and reached unicorn status. In Bantrr, Steve shares many of the best practices and lessons learned from building and scaling marketing organizations. Topics include new category creation, brand development, and demand generation.

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