Explore the Strategy of Informational Marketing
"The more we understand about what it is you are looking for, the better we can respond to you.”
-Dr. Vinton Cerf, Internet Pioneer
Dr. Vinton Gray Cerf is perhaps one of the most respected experts in the field of Internet Technology, working first-hand with those who effectively created the web as we know it. The above quote above comes from a February, 2011 interview Cerf did with Fred Gleeck, describing why the search for information is such a powerful driving force in the way people use the Internet.
As information about our hobbies, interests, and purchasing behavior becomes more public, companies will grow more adept at giving us what we want. By providing useful data to audiences, companies encourage interest in products and services and improve their reputations with consumers.
In this article...
The main objective of an informational marketing strategy to catch the attention of those who are either already interested in what the product has to offer, or may become interested once they learn these new facts.
The Internet is dominated by informational marketing, but it’s not the only place to find it. Everything from brochures to billboards can employ informational marketing as a tactic to catch an audience's attention. The practice is more common on the Internet because of how easy it is to search for information about specific topics online. (See also Internet Marketing)
For example, a billboard for a tax preparation service might say, “TWO OUT OF EVERY TEN PEOPLE PAY TOO MUCH ON THEIR TAXES!” and that information will catch the attention of the occasional driver who may contact that tax preparer later. Similarly, a tax preparer's website with graphs and articles providing the same information will show up in the search results for anyone who seeks out information about taxes through a search engine like Google. In both cases, the information is what attracts the audience in the first place. Most importantly, the data the company provides to its potential customer creates trust between the customer and the business, increasing the likelihood that the customer will feel comfortable buying what the business has to offer.
In a long-term study of how people respond to advertisements, the Journal of Business Research found that informational advertisements were received most positively when the viewer not only viewed the data as rational, but also credible. It is very important to present informational content with a sense of confidence and authority.
Informational marketing takes many forms. Any method of delivering useful data to an audience qualifies.
For-profit businesses use informational marketing to demonstrate their expertise in their products. This not only makes them appear worthy of the customer's trust, it also makes the customer feel like he or she can make a more informed decision about any potential purchase. For instance, high-tech gadget stores often include concise lists of product specifications in their display cases so the customer knows exactly what a particular gadget can do. (See also Product Marketing)
Nonprofit organizations rely heavily on informational marketing to get their donors interested in specific causes and to drive their personal investment in certain issues. A hypothetical NPO dedicated to the banning of bubble gum could attract donations and volunteers with a website full of graphs and charts describing how many shoes are ruined every year from people accidentally stepping in bubble gum.
Many educational institutions at every level, from preschool programs to major universities and everything in between use informational marketing to attract potential students. It is rare for such an organization to not produce a brochure describing useful statistics like graduation rates and highlighting the program's facilities. For a good sample, study this page for prospective students at the University of Washington. The page provides data about the accomplishments of specific students, staff, and programs to suggest that anyone who attends the university can achieve great things.
In the mid-1960s, Trident brand chewing gum introduced an informational marketing campaign that became so popular and easy to remember, it became a cliché several of their competitors would mock in the early 21st century. Trident launched a campaign that famously said “four out of five dentists” recommended sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum. At the time, Trident was one of the only brands that offered a sugarless gum, so their campaign, in simple terms, strongly suggested that the majority of dentists approved of Trident. The conception that sugarless gum has a positive effect on dental health persists to this day.
The name of the game in informational marketing is simplicity; there is no need to over-think or over-develop strategic informational content.
One of the benefits of informational marketing is that it doesn't always need a target demographic. In many cases, those who would find information related to a product interesting make up a significant portion of the people who are interested in purchasing that product. (See also Shotgun Marketing)
If a campaign is supposed to be specifically directed at a target demographic, the first step is to identify what aspects of the product they would find interesting, and then create informational materials that clearly communicate that data. For example, the parents of small children are likely to be most interested in a car's safety features, while young, single people may be more focused on price or fuel efficiency.
The purpose of informational marketing is to attract customers with useful content that catches their attention quickly and with little effort. Whatever the information is, it should be straightforward and easy to read. The data summary, “More teens want chocolate” may be less accurate than the statement, “People between the ages of 13 and 19 tend to prefer chocolate over other common flavors,” but it is also much less cumbersome to approach. (See also Content Marketing)
All materials across a single informational marketing campaign should share the same tone and the same aesthetic. This consistency helps build a brand and keeps the campaign focused. The information should not seem random or unrelated.
Data about the effectiveness of the informational marketing campaign should be collected throughout the process and analyzed at the end to determine what about it worked and what fell short. This helps determine what most of the company's customers want to know about the product and what form of presentation suits the average customer's tastes.
All of the work in the specialized field of informational marketing can be broken down into three categories: Data, Presentation, and Organization. The following are examples from each category.
Throughout the process of an informational marketing campaign, data analysis is vital. Before the campaign starts, the data analyst researches and compiles the information that serves as the backbone of the campaign. The role shifts to recording the impact of the campaign itself after its launch, and then ends with a final assessment of the campaign after it concludes. This is a very technical position and it requires a keen understanding of math. High computer literacy is a must, as is the ability to express complex, technical data in simple, straightforward ways.
A data analyst should have a Bachelor of Science degree in math, business, computer science, or marketing. A graduate degree can open pathways to more senior positions early. Previous work experience in a computer or math-related field is highly valuable, though there are many data-focused positions at entry level.
With raw data as the building blocks of the campaign, content developers concentrate on perfecting the presentation of an informational marketing strategy. Creative content is how customers experience that data, engaging with facts and statistics through written, artistic, and interactive materials. This requires excellent written and verbal communication skills, knowledge of search engine optimization practices, a solid background in visual design, and/or website design experience.
Content developers can come from a variety of educational backgrounds, from English, communications, and psychology, to business, marketing, and design. A bachelor's degree is strongly preferred, if not required, at entry level. A portfolio of past creative work is a great asset along with a solid resume.
Any marketing campaign, especially one like an informational marketing campaign requiring so much coordination, functions best under strong leadership. A marketing manager must be able to understand every aspect of the informational marketing process and should be skilled in motivation and communication. As a management role, this job requires a good sense of time and resource efficiency to keep the entire marketing team focused on creating the best campaign possible.
Marketing managers should have several years of experience elsewhere on a marketing team, along with a bachelor's degree appropriate to that specialty. An advanced degree, like a Master of Business Administration, greatly improves a marketing professional's chances of rising to a management position.
Informational marketing is a key component of nearly every ad campaign and it has been a consistently effective strategy for the entire history of modern business. A good marketing program will provide an excellent education in informational strategies with more than a century of real-world case studies and plenty of hands-on experience creating new campaigns with cutting edge tools.
Typical coursework in marketing school covers every role in a marketing team, from data analysis to content creation and staff management. Early classes will cover topics like the principles of business, ethics, and finance, as well as computer lab experience with a wide range of business software for web design and data modeling. More advanced courses focus on specialized fields like web analytics and multimedia marketing. (See also Media Analyst)
Topics connected to informational marketing will pop up throughout a thorough marketing program, preparing tomorrow's professionals to dive into an increasingly content-driven, data-obsessed field. There is no better way to reach an increasingly tech-savvy audience that voraciously consumes content and craves new data.