Trepoint CEO Bill Carmody’s session at the 2016 Content Marketing Conference, “The Digital Path to Purchase,” was informative in an unusual way. Throughout both days of the conference, attendees had heard about tips and tricks to use to get past major obstacles or hurdles in their conversion efforts, but much of the focus had been on those maneuvers, rather than the culture that necessitated them. In a neatly-arranged hour, Carmody’s presentation made one thing very clear: in terms of purchasing hurdles, we – as a collective world of sales professionals – are not in proverbial Kansas anymore. The problems that marketers are so eager to simply climb over are the very ones they should be dissecting for clues on how to successfully proceed in their campaigns.

There’s No Longer a Clear PathIMG_3353

Before the internet grew legs and walked away from the desktop to the world of mobile, it wasn’t hard tracking down a customer’s origins. IP addresses and similar information formed a clear picture of who they were and what techniques would be needed to appeal to them. They could be dazzled with outbound marketing, a showcase of items unveiled for their viewing – and buying – pleasure. Today’s buyer is infinitely more complex and demanding, hopping from desktop to mobile to tablet to smartwatch, and their path could originate almost anywhere.

The problem then, is this: how do you “spruce up” a path that you aren’t sure your buyer is even going to tread?

Carmody explained that content must be used as an aggregator to drive commerce – in a business industry where polls find that 90% of Americans ignore digital ads and 40% of milennial-targeted ad spend is foiled by websites with ad blockers, inbound content-based marketing is proving to be the saving grace. While these coveted millennials might not actively seek out or shop for products, they’re definitely searching for solutions. If you serve up the right piece of informative or entertaining content at the right time, you’ve gained a valuable “in” that can be carefully walked towards a purchase, so long as user value is inherent in the relationship throughout the journey.

Your Buyers Have Trust Issues

As the speaker himself put it, “People still want to hear your story – just not from you.” Years of forceful outbound marketing and narcissistic tones have wrought havoc on customer trust, causing them to approach messages with more skepticism than ever before. When scaling this this formidable wall, micro-influencers can help your brand gain footholds. Look for industry-focused or industry-friendly consumers or content producers (bloggers) with 5-10k followers on major social networks. Using celebrities – a similar technique employed by big brands for years – has also worked, but it runs the risk of high costs or dents to credibility over the understood exchange of money-for-a-spokesperson.

Leveraging these micro-influencers alongside your commerce-coaxing content can form a one-two punch that customers – even your millennials – will find irresistible. Trust supported on several pillars, such as authority in your content, helpful guides and partnerships with trusted community micro-influencers, is more likely to endure the intense scrutiny of the skeptical consumer with the research power of the internet literally in the palm of their hand.

It’s Time to Bow to Mobile

Speaking of that palm-sized wonder the mobile device, Carmody stressed the need to respect it as the new center in the digital path to purchase. Through in-platform or in-app purchases, your customers may never even set a digital foot on your core website, which means that your marketing has to diversify accordingly. Traditional remarketing, which uses previous website visits to serve up “reminder” style ads to computer users, is lagging behind more modern smartphone-friendly methods – push notifications, SMS marketing and so on. Failing to recognize this shift is a costly mistake that will quickly see competitors gaining and surpassing a brand’s market lead: it’s a move that’s as much about defense and maintaining as it is about offense and gaining.

It isn’t to say this shift to mobile marketing isn’t without it’s conundrums: an interesting audience discussion towards the end of the session explored the thorny issue of disclosure-bound businesses, such as insurance, trying to compel customers in a limited character or size window while still adhering to regulations. In terms of development, business as a whole is only on the tip of the iceberg for platform-vs-requirement problem solving like this; on the downside, that’s a lot of grey area to traverse. On the upside, however? There’s a lot of room to steer that conversation, innovating and lending a heavy hand to the creation processes that marry legal requirements and marketing needs in mobile.

The audience of this session may have walked into the room knowing that marketing has changed dramatically in recent years, but they left the room knowing considerably more about the how and why, as well as their role in harnessing it for their respective brands. If you’re curious about attending engaging and informative industry panels like this one, don’t miss registration for the 2017 Content Marketing Conference in Las Vegas, NV, where a full roster of industry thought leaders, presenters and professionals are waiting to network with you.