Answer this question with yes or no. Does content marketing, where you give your users and website visitors information and insights on how to achieve their goals more effectively, still work? Yes. And no. Unfortunately, many marketers focus more on creating great content machines than creating great customer relationships and authentic brands. And this type of marketing just doesn't cut it anymore.
Over the years, some brands (possible constrained by resources and time) have reduced their content marketing efforts to simply churning out new content - be it blog posts, ebooks, or white papers. Instead of thinking of content as something that can help you rank better, you need to think of it as an opportunity to satisfy your audience's needs and answer their questions. Focus on providing a great experience to your clients - one that emphasizes quality over quantity, builds credibility, and creates awareness about what your brand aspires to.
All content - from the blogs you write to the lead magnets you create to your posts on social media - should be part of an overall marketing strategy that's working toward building an enriching experience. This will set you apart from your competitors and make a remarkable difference in the connections you create with your audience.
Here are some ways you can go beyond simple content marketing to provide a holistic marketing experience to your customers and visitors:
1. Build a Brand Based on Authenticity
Of course creating good content is of vital importance, but your aim should be to build a brand experience that's so compelling, relatable, and trustworthy that customers don't wait for you to come to them, they go looking for you.
At the heart of every great brand is the question, “What change does your brand create?” Is it just a product or set of products? Or is it something more? The difference you make in the lives of your customers is what will make your brand meaningful. Your aim should be to create a brand that your customers can be proud to be associated with.
Consider McDonald's. This 63-year-old fast food chain has made a huge effort to address any controversies about the ingredients they use. They're open about the quality and provenance of their ingredients, and they were the first chain to post calorie counts on all in-store menus.
Their most recent campaign showcased the brand's desire to connect with their customers in an open and honest way. They invited people from around the world to ask them anything, and they committed to answering all of their questions. This helped solidify McDonald's brand as transparent, authentic, and trustworthy.
Pro Tip: You need to love your brand before asking your client to do so. Your marketing team should know and like what you're selling, and this genuine enthusiasm will definitely go a long way in winning your customers' hearts.
2. Know Your Audience
To learn what will resonate best with your customers, you have to learn what makes them tick. And how do you find that out? We have a rare, golden trick for you to use. Listening. Listening to your customers can be done through a variety of means, ranging from collecting feedback via online surveys to conducting in-person or digital usability tests to seeing what customers search for, the comments they write on your social media posts, and, of course, from listening to customer service calls.
Now let's take a look at Ikea. In response to a Facebook fan group called 'I wanna have a sleepover in Ikea,' which had over 100,000 members, Ikea actually hosted a sleepover in its Essex store for 100 lucky members! The winners were pampered with free manicures and massages, and even had a bedtime story read to them by a reality TV star! Ikea fulfilled their clients' wishes and, more importantly, established themselves as a brand that listens to its audience.
3. Get Personal
There's a popular quote by Maya Angelou that says, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The same applies to your audience. It's important that your visitors and customers feel that they're treated as individuals and not as numbers in a tally. Personalization might require a little effort, but it goes a long way to ensuring that your clients feel valued. Try using content that's interactive, strikes up a conversation, and directly uncovers their needs and problems.
Check out this quiz, for example. It's a great example of how directly answering your audience's questions (in this case, the audience consists of students who are looking for the best college) allows your business to garner their trust. It's simple, really.
All buyer journeys begin as a quest for answers, and your job is to answer them. Here are some tips on how to create effective interactive experiences.
4. Make Interaction Easy
You have to be accessible and easy to work with. It's important that your clients feel that you are there for them, and thankfully, there are a multitude of ways through which you can achieve this:
We all know that technology is a two-edged sword, so use it wisely.
The website of GrooveJar, a startup that works to improve website traffic conversion, (not surprisingly!) covers all of these points and more. They have a clean, navigable layout, easy-to-understand CTAs, and most importantly, they have all important information placed above the fold so that it's easily visible to their website visitors. The icing on top are components like the easy-access reviews in the bottom left corner and the chat box that provides instant information and assistance to visitors.
5. Under Promise, Over Deliver
As a marketer, it is vital that you follow through with everything you promise. When a brand follows through, it proves that they are authentic, and fosters trust and connection. The No. 1 way to do this is to keep your word. When you deliver and fulfill your promises, you earn the loyalty of your clients. Avoid making unrealistic promises to impress your clients or imposing unrealistic deadlines that your team cannot meet. Just be honest, and deliver.
A great example of this can be seen in Toyota, the world's largest automobile maker, and an industry trailblazer. They achieved this status by constantly coming through for their clients. With their brand promise that “nothing is so good that it cannot be made better,” the company has always strived, and succeeded, in constantly improving their output. Because of Toyota's focus on quality and relative affordability, customers tend to stick around for life.
6. It's about the Experience, not the Words
“You say it best when you say nothing at all.” Ronan Keatings sure knew what he was talking about!
True magic happens when brands put customers in an immersive branded experience. Via experiential marketing, you stir genuine positive emotions and get to connect with your clients in a big way. By creating experiences that are participatory, hands-on and tangible, you offer your clients a real-life invitation to engage with your brand.
Take a leaf out of Lean Cuisine's book. As part of its #WeighThis campaign, Lean Cuisine curated a gallery of "scales" in New York's Grand Central Station and invited women to "weigh in."
Here's the catch: The scales were actually small boards where women could write down how they really wanted to be weighed. And rather than focusing on their weight, the women opted to be measured by things like caring for 200 homeless children each day or being the sole provider to four sons. Notably, none of the participants actually interacted with a Lean Cuisine product. In fact, no one was really asked to do anything - the display was enough to entice people to stop, observe, and then, voluntarily interact.
By focusing on the experience and not the words, Lean Cuisine created an interactive experience that helped their audience focus on their accomplishments – instead of weight – while quietly displaying their brand's beliefs and aspirations.
Pro Tip: Create a branded hashtag that participants can use to share the experience on social media. Then, make sure you've integrated an online element that allows people to participate when they learn about it this way.
7. Be Proactive
Being proactive shows that you're always looking out for your audiences' best interests. Little things such as sending your attendees an agenda in advance of an event or asking for their input afterward is a great way to add value. You need to put energy into generating content and securing media hits, but also into making your clients feel comfortable and cared for.
Trader Joe's is a brand known for its great organic products and reasonable prices, but what's exceptional is just how far they would go for their customers. For instance - for a snowed-in customer in Pennsylvania, not only did the brand agree to deliver directly to the man's home, they suggested items that would fit perfectly with his special low-sodium diet. Despite the weather, the food was delivered to the customer's house free of charge in less than 30 minutes. Now that's service to remember!
Pro Tip: Your team is a strong component of your brand. From the marketing to the sales division, train your team to work together to create an overall positive experience for your audience. Every contact point is an opportunity for you to restate what you are all about and make them feel valued.
You can control the message that your brand cares about its audience, its products, and the world. You control how authentic you are, the quality of your marketing, and the value that the customers get from your product. The need to build a holistic marketing strategy that goes beyond basic content marketing is not an option, it's an indispensable need. Are you ready to start working toward it?
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