Landing pages versus apps – among marketers, this isn’t usually an either-or situation.

But for Justin Talerico, CEO of ion interactive Inc., a Florida-based marketing company, landing pages just aren’t giving marketers enough in return for their content marketing efforts.

“Landing pages, which were the backbone of our business for many years, are very sort of binary,” Talerico says, giving the example of a company that offers a whitepaper in return for a lead’s contact information. “Someone either converts or they don’t, and for those people who convert, whether or not they consume the content that’s often behind the gate of the landing page … The consumption of that content is completely unknown.”

That’s where marketing apps can come in, he says. For Talerico, the advantage of using apps is that they can track what content people look at and how they engage with it – and that yields a lot more information than a whitepaper PDF that gets downloaded and is never heard from again. That’s why ion interactive has launched four new apps geared towards marketers who want to track their lead generation efforts, without requiring them to know how to code.

Announced Monday and housed on ion interactive’s content marketing platform, these apps have been designed to help marketers guide potential customers through learning about what a company offers, whether their products will suit their needs, and how much they should expect to pay if they do business with the company. The idea is to allow these leads to do some “self-discovery,” gathering data and background information on their own before they pick up the phone and call a salesperson.

For example, the first of the four apps is the Interactive Storytelling app, which gives interested potential customers an overview of what a company does, what problem it’s trying to solve, and so on. Potential customers can then move onto the Solution Finder app, which asks them what their needs are – for example, if they’re part of the marketing department, it may ask whether they’re involved in early-stage branding efforts at the top of the marketing funnel, or if they’re looking more toward the end, when one of their clients decides to take action and buy something.

Then these potential customers can answer a series of questions on what kind of content they have. Based on their responses, Solution Finder’s logic engine can help them map out their content strategy for the future, helping them figure out where they should focus their attention and what kind of content they should create next. It’s basically akin to a content marketing crystal ball.

“What Solution Planner is doing behind the scenes [is looking at] the content they have today, comparing that up against a table of how interactive content maps to static content, and coming back to them with recommendations,” Talerico says.

“What’s cool is, that information goes into our marketing automation platform and to our [customer relationship management solution], and our sales team gets that information and if somebody calls in, or they call back the prospect, they can pick up the conversation right where the app left off.”

Potential customers who want to know more can even get cost estimates through the Pricing Calculator app. For example, ion interactive’s version of the Pricing Calculator app will ask leads about the number of whitepapers, blog posts, infographics, case studies, and webinars they’ve created. Based on their answers, they can then get a reasonable estimate of what they might pay.

The last of the four apps is the Implementation Planner, allowing a potential customer to indicate what kind of job they have. After that, Implementation Planner will ask them about their experience and familiarity with different tools and products, and then guide them in choosing the right training sessions to improve their skills with those tools.

Taken together, these apps make the whole process of self-discovery a lot more personalized – and they also help potential leads feel like they’re getting more than just a sales pitch, Talerico says.

“People want to learn more. They want to feel like an organization is more transparent before they speak to salespeople. This has been happening probably for the last couple of years, but it’s really coming to a head,” he says.

“The buyer is in charge of the relationship … We need to deliver what the buyer wants, and if they want self-discovery, the apps are going to help them do that.”

Pricing to access ion interactive’s platform starts at around $28,000 per year for a do-it-yourself, unlimited app deployment solution. However, ion interactive can also manage up to three apps for a customer, with pricing for that solution starting at $43,000 a year.

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