Full Transparency: Producing an Interactive Infographic

  Justin Talerico, CEO/CMO, ion interactive
Justin Talerico, CEO/CMO, ion interactive

Interactive Content: Easier Said than Done?

It’s easy for us and others to say that interactive content is better. It’s true that every metric and shred of research around this stuff supports the idea that static content has diminishing returns. But easy to say and justify doesn’t mean easy to execute. For many marketers still struggling with content, the idea of making that content do things is almost preposterous.

In the spirit of transparency, I’d like to give you my CEO/CMO view of how ion brings interactive content to market for its own use. For framing: we practice agile marketing in three-week sprints with an internal team of marketing managers, designers and writers. Content is at the heart of absolutely everything we do. Our own interactive content software platform creates experiences that capture data from our marketing dialogue with customers and prospects. That data is then used for targeting, segmentation and scoring in our marketing automation platform. Our internal sales team picks up one-to-one conversations where our one-to-many marketing conversations leave off.

Yes, we have an unfair advantage—we live and breathe interactive content. But that living and breathing works pretty well for us. So here’s a real-world account of a real interactive infographic. It comes with a real timeline and real people who spent their time bringing something engaging to market.

If you want more details around this story—check out our webinar: Behind the Scenes: Interactive Content.

The best way to tell this story is with an actual example.

Our recent 50 Ways to Engage Your Audience interactive infographic has been—and continues to be—a real interest and traffic driver for us. Infographics occupy a special place for people and interactive ones just seem to amplify that affinity.

This is the inside story (from my CEO/CMO perspective, at least) of how this particular interactive infographic went from the back of a napkin to the web—without even a line of code.

Early December — The Idea

50 Ways started as a pure customer marketing engagement piece. It began in our monthly customer marketing brainstorming meeting as a way for us to communicate some of our latest/greatest software features to our customers. This was early December and the intent was to drive end-of-year traffic to it. I believe it was originally ‘15 New Ways to Engage Using Your ion Platform’ or something like that.

A few days later — the idea grows from 15 to 50 ways and from customers to everyone

I think I was right in the middle of the scope creep that led 15 Ways to become 50 Ways. Actually, it scaled to well over 50, and our content team scaled it back to 50. At that point, the content was starting to look very exciting and we were simultaneously looking at unifying more of our customer and prospect marketing. By the end of the first week of December, our smallish customer marketing project had scaled into a full-fledged effort targeting our entire universe of about 90,000 prospects and customers.

Umm, but then there’s the party…

The unplanned wrench in our 50 Ways timeline was our annual ‘all-hands’ week. We bring all ionians together from around the country to our headquarters to glance at the year in review and focus on the one to come. There are meetings, town halls, science fairs and the ubiquitous parties. This year’s holiday party rocked late into the night of the 11th and by Dec 12th, all-hands week had consumed a good percentage of our 50 Ways momentum.

Closing email marketing windows—AKA damn calendar

Those of you who execute email and/or nurture marketing know that there are good times to drop and not-so-good times to drop. We definitely didn’t want to introduce something as good as 50 Ways on a less-than-ideal day. So the pressure was on. It was December 16th and we had to drop by the 18th or the email marketing window would be closed until the week of (gasp) January 5th.

Turns out 3 days isn’t enough time to create and launch a massive interactive infographic.

Despite content and design heroics, we couldn’t QA and launch something as massive as this in three business days. So we fell back to January 8th—settling on a day that we thought was far enough beyond the PTO hangover window.

The team behind 50 Ways to Engage Your Audience

Over the holidays, our in-house team of two writers, a product specialist and an art director created the interactive infographic. They ran concepts and interactive wireframes of the overall user experience up the flagpole for review. Then the content and graphics got poured into the structure. Everything went through QA and then up through the ranks again. A marketing manager finalized things with a bit of data e-detailing to capture, attribute and pass lead and behavioral data to our marketing automation platform.


The biggest gotcha we ran into was the responsive execution of the navigable table of contents. Navigating 50 items is challenging enough. But making a page like that elegantly usable across all devices—desktop, tablet and mobile—is an entirely different level. We ended up re-executing the table of contents a second time after the first one just wasn’t responding as nicely as we wanted it to. In the end we added a bit of contextual copy to the larger viewports and kept the extra-small (mobile) lean and clean.

Another challenge was that we were demonstrating 50 product features—some of which were for modern browsers but had to still play nicely on older devices or browsers. A good example of this is our video background. Our platform makes it easy to drop in video backgrounds (even responsive ones). It also makes it easy to drop in a static background, just in case the user is in a mode where the video background doesn’t render. So we just had to make sure that all of our t’s were crossed and i’s dotted when it came to testing everything across browsers and devices. The challenge there was purely scale—with fifty t’s and i’s.

In the spirit of full disclosure, our marketing organization is also the proverbial Guinea Pig when it comes to the ion interactive content platform. We get all of the latest, greatest features in ‘alpha’—long before customers see them. Some of the 50 really cool features were in alpha in early December—creating some interesting moments during 50 Ways’ early days. Of course, what was once alpha is now rock solid in general release, so all’s well that ends well.

What did it take in time and resources?

In the end 50 Ways to Engage Your Audience was an ‘interactive first‘ project. It was conceived to engage and communicate a deep feature set by showing rather than telling. If I take two weeks out for the holidays, it took about 3 weeks from concept to completion. During those three weeks, it consumed about 80 hours across four producers, a marketing manager and myself. I’ll stand by that number by chalking up our lost ‘alpha’ time as a wash with our internal expert proficiency with our own platform.

And, just to be 100% clear—no one wrote even a line of code to make this interactive infographic a reality. Non-technical creative people took it from the back of the napkin to front and center.

Again, if you want to see and learn more about how interactive content really happens, check out our webinar: Behind the Scenes: Interactive Content.

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