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Marketing technology vendor Ion Interactive announced this morning that it is pivoting from providing general marketing tools to helping marketers create interactive experiences the company calls “marketing apps.”

These marketing apps could be calculators or quizzes, contests or configurators, and they’re delivered online.

“Jay Baer, author of Youtility, says marketers need to find a way to help people when they’re in the prospect phase,” Ion Interactive CTO Scott Brinker told VentureBeat yesterday. “Marketing is moving from the business of communication to the business of delivering experiences … not just shoving more content at people.”

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Content marketing has become more popular in the last few years as marketers focus more on inbound marketing: marketing in which prospects find out about a company via search or social, then read more about its products, and then — hopefully — eventually become customers.

But content marketing, Brinker says, is just not enough any more.

An example app built with the platform

Above: An example app built with the platform

Image Credit: John Koetsier

More and more content isn’t the answer, Brinker says, because people want to get entertained or get useful information without having to read a long white paper. And marketers want to deliver a more engaging, more interactive experience.

An example of the solution is a graphically-rich interactive app for fitness guru Jillian Michaels. It starts with a configurator-style quiz that quickly asks your goals and vital stats, and builds into an overall experience that lays out a plan and method for achieving that. It’s all built via Ion Interactive’s software-as-a-service application without the need to ask developers to program a one-off web app.

“It becomes easier for prospects to absorb these messages,” Brinker says. “Clients see much higher engagement rates and much higher conversion rates.”

When I asked for specifics, Brinker, who also runs the popular marketing technology blog ChiefMarTec.com, gave me the example of one customer, a business-to-business email service provider, who was an early beta tester.

“When you’re marketing into a B2B space, typically conversion rates hover around 5-10 percent,” he said. “This client’s 10-page interactive quiz got a 21 percent conversion rate … and that was at the very end of the funnel, people who filled out a content form. 50 percent of people actually engaged with the entire form.”

Other companies doing similar things include SnapApp and Wishpond, Brinker says, as well as companies like Offerpop that offer interactive contests and content via social and web channels. The key is engagement and interactivity in a topic that a prospect cares about, that also helps educate the prospect about what they need to do.

“As marketing takes more and more of the funnel away from sales, it’s almost an opportunity to behave more like sales used to,” Brinker says. “And engage with you in a consultative dialog.”

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