Bryan Eisenberg and his brother, Jeffrey, need no introduction. They have written books with titles such as ‘Persuasive Online Copywriting: How to Take Your Words to the Bank’, ‘Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results’ and ‘Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing’.

In this interview, Bryan Eisenberg shares his opinion on social media, content marketing and customer-centricity, obviously from the conversion optimization perspective.

Let’s face it: there is a strong correlation between content, conversion, social and customer value.

First, I asked Bryan Eisenberg how, according to him, topics such as creating relevant content and improving conversion, that always were important (or at least, should have been) for all result-driven and customer-centric marketers, have been affected by the arrival and increasing adoption of social media.

Leveraging the voice of the customer: why consumers create content and trust their peers

Bryan says the most obvious thing is that social media have shown the content gap that companies have neglected for so long. An important effect of social media is that people now create content themselves.

According to “The Grok”, consumers create content for two reasons:

  1. The company failed to adequately answer the questions they have.
  2. Consumers are excited (positively or negatively) about the company’s offering.

Bryan Eisenberg : “That’s why consumers are more credible than the company. It is only because companies have spent so many years hyping up their ‘value’ that the consumer BS meter has gone into overdrive, and we count on advice from others like us that we can trust. The fact is companies that learn how to leverage social media or voice of the customer effectively can see increase their conversion rates”.

Bryan is of course right when he says that people increasingly count on advice from people they trust. And who trusts companies that spread BS and don’t open up in a relevant and valuable way instead of sticking to old ways of overwhelming people with irrelevant content that is packaged as “information” (if any attention to engaging and useful content was given at all, to start with)?

Influence: be a valuable friend

I told Bryan I remembered that in his book ‘Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results’ there was quite some advice on persuasion. Isn’t persuasion after all a big chunk of what conversion is about? So, I asked him what he thinks are the best ways to “persuade” social network and media users to become connections and, gradually, real relations (with loyal business relations obviously as the final conversion goal).

Bryan Eisenberg: “It’s the same secrets to creating any human relationship. Listen, be worthwhile to know, be a valuable friend. People should re-read Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’”.

Next, I asked Bryan why he thinks it’s still so difficult for companies to act customer- and visitor-oriented, paying more attention to the customer experience. After all, in 2005, he already wrote companies have to offer value from a customer-centric perspective, bur more than six years later this remains a crucial issue.

Customer-centricity: it is very hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle

Bryan Eisenberg: “People tend to believe that their customers are just like them. They aren’t. I was just with a client who was doing a good job marketing to 1, maybe 2, of their personas, when, in fact, they had six personas in their target market. It is very hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle. When you are inside your business day after day it can be hard to get the perspective you need to be truly customer-centric”.

Indeed, to have a perspective, you need to take some distance and talk to the people that truly matter, such as…your customers, for instance. It seems obvious, yet the saddening truth is most business simply don’t ask questions to their customers and target groups, interact with them and get their precious outside view.

This doesn’t mean you can’t try to have an objective view on what you do, preferably also using hard and actionable data, but it is not enough. You are not your (potential) customer, employee and other possible personas. There is a disconnect between your viewpoint and online behavior and that of your customers and visitors.

Content is like a mighty short skirt

I also wanted to know how Bryan thought about the evolutions regarding (the importance of) content.

Bryan Eisenberg: “The one main change has been the length of content has changed. We’re in a world that loves micro blogging and status updates. In the 60s, copywriters used to say that copy should be like a woman’s skirt, short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover the essentials. I think that skirt would be mighty short today”.

I guess that doesn’t need further explaining.

Finally, I asked Bryan about the role of content in one of the many channels marketers still often use, despite the rapid increase of other interaction channels; email. What is the main differentiator to achieve better conversion with email marketing?

Bryan Eisenberg: “Email marketing is the mule of Internet marketing. It may not be that sexy any more, but it continues to deliver results day after day. You should continue to focus on developing great content and make it easy to share”.

Content and sharing. Both require an action from your « audience », whether it’s on email, social, the mobile Web, etc. So: make sure your content is valuable and touches those little triggers inside people’s mind that make them want to share it and, from a conversion perspective, act upon it.