Why “Interactive” is not Synonymous with “Online”

A product manager was presenting his product’s features to a group of prospective clients at a live event, when his presentation suddenly froze on the large screen behind him. He apologized, saying “I’m so sorry, this interactive presentation seems to have lost WiFi connectivity. Please bear with me.” Slowly, his audience drifted away, while he attempted to restart the presentation, or re-connect to the web. Sadly, by the time he had his web demo back online, the prospects had dispersed.

While it’s a shame that his presentation had technical difficulties, his reference to the type of demo as “interactive” was interesting. All he was doing was going through a series of HTML pages, with some images and a text-based explanation of the product. What’s interactive about that?

This product manager’s use of the term “interactive” in reference to online applications or content is all too common. But it is actually a significant problem for B2B marketers.

Just because something is online does not mean that it is interactive. Similarly, an interactive experience does not have to be online.

Just broadcasting or presenting product features or marketing messages to an audience is highly inefficient, and actually results in misalignments in expectations and perceptions. Watching a video is not interactive. Even when the video is online. It’s a fundamentally passive process. An application that delivers relevant information (preferably visually, as well as using text) based on an individual’s specific input and responses during the “conversation” is an example of interactivity.

When B2B marketers think of engaging with their target segments, they should be thinking about a wide variety of interactive experiences, both online and offline. Why? Because interactivity is the best way to ensure that prospects and customers remember important information. When people engage interactively, their knowledge retention increases by a factor of three!

True interactivity is the process of engaging in a dialogue involving three primary dimensions:

1. Sensory experience: using any combination of touch, visual, audio, smell, and taste;

2. Emotional experience: developing an emotional response or connection to the experience, and

3. Intellectual experience: the exchange of information that is relevant and useful.

When an experience involves these three aspects of connection and communication, true interactivity has taken place. Interactivity is non-linear, meaning that specific responses are provided based on individual actions, resulting in a meaningful exchange of ideas and information. The user does not have to follow a prescribed sequence of events; rather, they create their own personalized path by exploring areas of interest to them, at whatever degree of detail is relevant.

For B2B marketers and salespeople, the goal should be to turn every encounter with a prospect or client into an opportunity for an interactive experience. Rather than use the iPad as a sales presentation device, for example, deliver the app to the prospect directly. When a user is engaged as they explore the iPad app that teaches them about how a new product can be used to solve an important problem, then there is an interactive path of dialogue and knowledge transfer – sensory, emotional, and intellectual experiences driving results.

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