Sick of it yet? The endless repetitive recurring death of marketing meme. Marketing is always changing so we’re always going to hear “marketing is dead–long live marketing”. It’s a dramatic way of confirming how fickle and well-informed buyers are- whether they are b2b or b2c.
Search has clearly become the primary driver of purchase decisions. Additionally, the advent of social media has increased demand for content. People like to share content to learn something new and surprising or maybe just laugh.
Content you create or curate tells customers who your brand is, what you value, and how you relieve customers’ pain. To think of content as king or queen (or duke or prince) doesn’t provide much insight much anymore. Think of content as money –or at least a kind of currency–a digital cultural currency.
If you aren’t already, you will use content to get people to make an exchange. Prospects exchange their attention and patience to hear or see your message. How much patience or attention you receive is based on the quality of your content. Simple as that. You must make sure the exchange is fair to build trust.
Years ago advertising leveraged the mountains of currency delivered by scarce media programming to gain the attention of prospects. Advertise on a big TV show in the old days and if you were responsible, you could communicate a unique selling proposition very effectively. So don’t get me wrong. I come not to curse advertising, but to praise it. Advertising still does a very good job building awareness. Paid search is advertising, and should be part of any serious marketer’s tool set. I can’t imagine not coming up via paid search when a prospect searches for a competitor. Media programming and content, no longer scarce, requires genuine insight or entertainment in order to persuade.
But advertising isn’t enough anymore. If you want customers to respond to your message you must respond to theirs too. That’s what social media is for. Content value in social media is measured by its ability to facilitate customer engagement. When customers engage by sharing attitudes, interests, and opinions, they’ve invested their time in your offering and have become invested in its success. Create and share things that drive discussion. Learn what your customers need and how to best service them to gain top of mind.
You can borrow content–by syndicating or curating- or you can create it. The best content marketers do both. Borrow content (curate) to get frequency and build (develop your own content) to get focus and attention.
Who decides what content to build or curate and then where and when to post it is the content engineer. The content engineer determines how to use digital platforms to communicate the benefits of the brand by informing the purchase decision.
Take a minute with that phrase “informing the purchase decision”. Of course you want to persuade people to purchase your product or offering. You won’t do that without trust. Your offering is likely targeted to a market segment and not ideally suited to everyone. Embrace that. Develop content with an eye toward helping people self-identify and self-serve because they will anyway. Use your content to inform them of the options and compromises they face in their purchase decision. An educated prospect leads to a shortened sales cycle and thus lower sales costs. Informing builds trust.
Content does more than help your customers– it helps you too. By providing varied content (lightly or deeply informative, humorous, etc) in different forms (video, audio, text) you can understand better where a prospect is in their purchase cycle. People who spend a lot of time researching are generally ready to buy. Prospects who spend only a little time may just be starting their purchase decision or reaffirming a purchase made recently. Watching and tracking who is using your long-form deep content and comparing them to who is using your lighter shallower content will help you deploy sales resources better.
Often the toughest aspect of content engineering is goal-setting. Performance isn’t really about quantity. Content excellence is about enabling and providing incentive for your customer community to build content for you. You want the customer to sell the product through recommendation, endorsement and involvement. Online, consensus matters. Enabling and demonstrating customer consensus lowers purchase risk and grows brand equity.
Use content to build loyalty to the extent that your customers will like your product so much that they will actively assist in its sale. Not only is customer assisted sales conceivable, we are not long from a time when customer to customer communications will be essential to market share leadership.
Celebrity endorsements have been a reliable method of marketing communication for over 100 years. Now the criteria for celebrity has been forever altered. Certainly in your customer base you have “celebrities” or experts who are widely recognized in their field for having game-changing knowledge of issues that drive your customers’ businesses or preferences. Power users need to be identified and tapped as content sources to improve the credibility of your content and the claims you want to make about your offering.
For your content to be persuasive, prospects need to see their pain in the stories your customers tell them. Those stories/content can come in the form of testimonials, endorsements, case studies, or survey research. The more forms you cover, the more likely your content will be right-sized for your prospects’ need when you have the opportunity to get their attention
Stuck for content ideas? Here are few ways to get started:
Almost every competitive space has what we call the “elephant in the room”- that ugly reality that keeps people from seeing all the value they expect from a given purchase. This is true in both B2B marketing and B2C marketing. An example might be the trouble with LAN capacity for VoIP deployments or issues arriving from trying to entertain a lot of people who will invariably have widely divergent tastes. Finding customer pain and exploiting it as content inspiration is one of the secrets of a great content engineer.
When reviewing ideas for content stop thinking viral and just think sharable.
Search optimize all your content -make sure your search terms are well represented. But don’t make search optimization the enemy of compelling content. Do your best to balance terms with content that is easy to understand and easy to share.
To start the content merchandizing process, encourage your employees and vendors to start sharing content that they find valuable. Then inspire them to add yours to their mix. It takes a lot of work and focus to find the winning thread of content themes and an appealing tone. Once you begin to leverage your customers’ sensibilities effectively, however, you’ll bring more people into your community. That community, in turn builds the credibility you need to generate a new level of confidence in your brand.