The Jerry Seinfeld Approach to Adaptive Content

We know you must deliver the right marketing message, to the right audience, and at the right time, but why is that so important … and how do you ensure that outcome in your own business?

In this episode Chris and Tony reveal:

  • Why adaptive content is so important
  • The lesson we can learn from stand up comedians, and how the approach must differ when it comes to your marketing content
  • Which assets you need to gather, and how to start implementing this approach today

The Jerry Seinfeld Approach to Adaptive Content

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Tony Clark: This is The Mainframe. Welcome back to the final part of our ARC Reactor series, where we talk attraction, retention, and conversion, and the reactor is the automation process. This last topic is on adaptive content and is really too much to go into in one episode, so we’re actually going to break it up into three different episodes.

Let’s start off with introducing what adaptive content is, talk about the importance of adaptive content. How are you doing today, Chris?

Why Adaptive Content Is So Important

Chris Garrett: I’m doing great. This is a really important topic. We were talking before about how adaptive content isn’t necessarily a new thing. It’s the use of technology that makes it a new thing. A lot of people claim they don’t adapt the content to the audience, but I think most people do, right?

Tony Clark: They do. You’ll see this all the time, and it’s been happening since, you know, forever. Plays have been rewritten to accommodate the audience a lot of times. We see in the genre that you and I talked about a lot and love — sci-fi, fantasy, comic book kind of stuff — showrunners and directors and producers talk about how they don’t really listen to social media, or they’ll play off of it, but you can clearly see that they do. Some of them actually admit to it.

It’s nice that a lot of the Arrow crew will talk about how certain things have influenced them. Other times, they adapt the content to better fit the storyline that they’re trying to tell. They have these different metrics that they’re using both internally and externally that they use to adapt the content. Then, you have people like Zack Snyder who listen to the wrong people or don’t adapt to anything and just keep making the same movie over and over again and calling it something else.

Chris Garrett: Yeah. Listen to the fans, not producers.

Tony Clark: Exactly.

Chris Garrett: Yes. It’s something that happens all the time in creative content. You can utilize it to better serve the audience.

Tony Clark: We’re not saying ‘sell out.’ We’re not saying ‘be populist,’ because there’s a lot of negativity associated with — what’s it called? — ‘fan service’ and all those things. It’s like, “An artist or creator should be directed by their own inner demons, and they shouldn’t pander,” but in the world we live in, you have to serve an audience. You have to find out what they want, what they need and adapt accordingly. It’s not selling out. It’s serving the need.

I have difficulty sometimes when people say … I’ll give you an example: pop music. The fact that it’s popular means a lot of people don’t like it. But the reason it’s successful is because Taylor Swift is targeting her music to 13-year-old girls. If you’re not a 13-year-old girl, of course you’re not going to like it.

Tony Clark: Yeah, exactly. Also, a good point when you’re talking about that type of thing is how artists, especially in a situation like that, will tailor for the audience based on where they are. I’m a metal head, former metal head. I don’t get to concerts much these days. But as a teenager, I saw tons of shows. I would go to sometimes to see the same group up the coast of Florida. The Operation: Mindcrime tour of Queensrÿche, I saw it three different times in Florida.

Each show was slightly different based on the arena, based on audience, based on a lot of things. It told the same story, and they used basically the same set, but that’s a simple adaptation of content to fit what you’re doing. We’re talking more from a creative aspect here, but what we’re talking about on this episode and through the series is how to adapt content to better attract, retain, and convert, right?

Chris Garrett: Exactly. That means if you’re going to attract the right people, if you’re going to keep people interested, and then hopefully, they’re going to take up offers. You do have to tailor the content to who you’re trying to attract.

The people who think it’s selling out, try on being a starving artist. You can carry on begging under bridges. But at some point, you have to have something that’s commercially viable, which means attracting the right audience, keeping them loyal, and hopefully selling them something.

Tony Clark: That’s exactly what we’re talking about here. If we’re going to define ‘adaptive content,’ it’s basically the right content for the right audience at the right moment. Preferably, you’re creating the content one way and then slightly adapting it using different technologies to deliver that to that audience at the right time.

Think of it as marketing automation, but one step further. The thing that we see a lot with marketing automation is that it’s designed for a salesforce. Some salesforces use it really well. Other ones, like all the crap cold-call or cold email spam I get, use it really poorly. They basically are just doing follow-ups to follow-ups that have no real context to any kind of conversation. They end up being marked ‘spam.’

Even though you can use the technology to follow up on a sales lead, a lot of times, if you’re a content creator or your main focus is using content from marketing, you don’t have a sales team. The content becomes your sales vehicle. You adapt the content. The same way marketing automation would follow up with a lead and nurture a lead using a salesforce-type mechanism, you use adaptive content to allow the content to nurture that lead through the process, right?

Chris Garrett: Yeah. So what we’re talking about is basically going from a purely manual approach of just creating the right content for the right people to delivering the right content to the right people at the right time. As we said before in this series, a lot of it is as if the salesperson is right there, except instead of a high-pressure salesperson, it’s a salesperson that listens and is using the data that they collect as the conversation progresses to tailor the message so that it answers the right questions and it gives the prospect comfort to move forward.

The fantastic thing about doing this in a content way versus an actual conversation is that the audience is in control. They get to request more depth or more detail when they want to. If you consider a really long, complex sale, it could be that there’s an overwhelming amount of information. But by it being on request rather than pushed at them, that means they feel more in control. They get as much as they need, and they can go into detail on the stuff that really matters to them. On our site, as people drill down, you can see that, and you can measure that. And you can create more content, or you can direct them to existing content that’s going to help.

Tony Clark: That’s exactly right, because the idea of using technology in this automated process — we’ve been talking a lot about automation. Automation could be something as simple as personalization of an email to something more sophisticated that’s based on ‘if a customer does X’ or ‘if they’ve seen content Y, then they will like this.’ The benefit of using a content strategy around that is it allows you to adapt that content as a person. You, as somebody who understands your customer from these metrics, are now utilizing these automation tools.

You put the content in front of them in a way that best fits what they need at that point. It’s not this automated, robotic approach to delivering content and sticking ‘first name here’ in there, although that’s actually part of it. It’s more about looking at the overall picture of what your customer is trying to do from lead and prospect all the way to sale and then retaining that customer and making them a repeat customer.

We’ve talked a lot about the ‘buyer’s journey,’ and you need to look at how this person is mapped out through the process and then create the content in a way so that you can create it once, but you can segment it out. And you can adapt it using technology to better deliver that content at the right time for that customer.

The Lesson We Can Learn from Stand-up Comedians, and How the Approach Must Differ When It Comes to Your Marketing Content

Chris Garrett: Let’s go deep into how we can use the Jerry Seinfeld technique to really tailor our content assets to the audience.

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Chris Garrett: Stand-up comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, they wouldn’t just go on TV and do a big show with untested material. An element of this is testing. It’s going to small groups and seeing how they respond. Rather than a stand-up comedian, how can we do that with our content marketing?

Tony Clark: Using that same analogy, that if you’re doing something for a specific type of audience, you’re allowing the content to develop around that picture, right? What you’re trying to do using content marketing is you’re doing the same thing. You’re not a comic going in and testing material in small clubs to get feedbacks, see where laughs are before you go into your big show, but you’re using small bits of content through email channels, through social media, through pillar content.

We talk a lot about using cornerstone content as a way to gauge an audience, where your traction is coming from, and what is retaining them on your site and then leading them on to conversion. These are ways to test material, because each of those pieces of material — your cornerstone content, which could be the form of landing pages and your social and blog posts — what type of content is attracting what types of audiences, and what type of content is really sticking with them and helping them move further through the funnel? Because that’s what this whole concept is about.

Chris Garrett: Exactly. We’ve talked a bit about the customer experience. What you can do is you can use the techniques of empathy maps. So you can map out the prospect and then the environment that the prospect is in. You can do the customer experience journey, and you can map that out. You can practically storyboard it. A stand-up comic knows their beginning, middle, and end. They know the journey they want to take their audience on, but they’re going to be agile within that, and they’re going to develop that journey and improve it over time.

What we’re not saying is that this has to be this fully formed, perfect thing that you deliver to your audience, and they’ll just consume it. What we’re talking about is, all through the process, getting these content assets together — how they connect, how they connect with the audience — but measure all the way through. With a comic, if they don’t get a laugh, they cut that piece out. With your content marketing and your sales funnels, if you don’t move them forward, if they don’t take actions, then what is your plan B?

Tony Clark: That’s right, because what you’re trying to do is establish a framework here, just like you are not talking about having this entire thing completely mapped out. You want to have a basic framework. A good example of this type of content is in South Park, where they have a basic core, foundational structure. They have a set of assets that they use as characters and backgrounds and so forth. They’re able to adapt and create shows to better fit the current news, whatever the latest topic is, the latest gossip.

We’ve actually seen episodes where they’ve created an entire episode around a very newsworthy event on the fly very quickly so that they could deliver something that was very timely. They do that by creating a set of assets, storyboarding things out, creating a framework, so that you can mix and match and move things around to better fit that particular topic.

It’s the same type of thing you’re doing here. You have small, digestible content. You have more meaty, in-depth content that you have as far as blog posts, and then you also have sales type content that is landing pages. What you do is create a framework of those, and then you allow your adaptation — based on your testing, your tracking of who’s doing what where — to better fit that into the different channels. That’s really what we’re talking about: how to fit this into the proper place in the channel.

Chris Garrett: It’s the channels, and it’s where your prospect is at in the journey. Just looking at the attraction piece, they could be completely unaware of your solution. They might not be aware that they have the problem that you’re solving. But then, all the way through to people who are highly sophisticated. They’ve got an urgent need, and they know that you can solve their need, but they need convincing that they can trust you and that there’s proof and that the value is there. There’s a whole spectrum of people along that. Then, within each channel, they will be at different places.

You need to work out what content assets you’ve got and the appropriate channel it works in. For example, images work very well in Pinterest and Instagram, but images work very well in Facebook as well, with the addition that you can have text to go with it. But you don’t want people to be hanging out in your social media channels. You need something to bring them back home to your home base and into your funnel.

What’s the incentive going to be for those people? It’s no good giving an incentive that requires all these prerequisite pieces of information if they’re completely unaware of the problem and the solution. This is where a lot of one-size-fits-all content goes wrong. You’re either overselling to the wrong people, or you’re completely missing the target and 95 percent of your audience is left bewildered or frustrated.

Tony Clark: I think you nailed it right there, Chris, with the whole ‘wrong content at the wrong time’ is really what you get when you have a one size fits all piece of content.

By having different channels and different types of content, you can do two things. You can target your funnels and use various automation tools through email, through automation tools that are available on your website, to tracking in your analytics and metrics tracking to push people in the right direction. You also can create maps knowing where people are going to go on their own to allow them that ‘choose your own adventure’ thing that we’ve talked about several times, to allow them to pick the right content for where they are at the right time.

Which Assets You Need to Gather, and How to Start Implementing This Approach Today

Chris Garrett: To sum up this episode, start by gathering your assets. What assets do you have in terms of images, flowcharts, infographics, audio that can be transcribed, text that could be read out as audio? What can you turn into presentations, webinars? Gather those assets together. Work out where they fit in the buyer’s journey. Is it good information to attract people about the problem? Is it good information to help keep people interested? Is it something that you could sell or develop to sell? Work out what channels it works out best in, and then map it all out.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, you’re going to have a really good store of content that you just need to bring out. It could be two years old, but it could be brought out, polished, and put out and re-purposed. Then, look at how it maps to the customer experience that you want to deliver, the funnels that you want to deliver, and the customer profile fitted to the empathy map. What you’re going to be doing is developing a foundation of content that you can grow and build upon. Nobody’s expecting it to be 100 percent complete.

Tony Clark: Exactly. Now, on the next episode, we’re going to be talking about learning where your prospect or your customer is in the process and in the funnel so you can better adapt the content for them at the right time.