Fischbach: Earn loyalty by making customers smarter
My mobile phone has become more of a need than a want. Anyone who loses or breaks a phone learns quickly how much of life revolves around a mobile device. Industry insiders report the average consumer unlocks their mobile device over 150 times per day.
Content marketing has become a great way for businesses to use this compulsion to their advantage. Instead of pitching products or services, content marketing delivers information that makes buyers smarter in hopes that consumers will respond by giving the companies their business and loyalty.
The key is getting potential customers to read and share your information. The following practices will give your company an edge:
Develop trust: Trust refers to the confidence the consumers have that the advertisement comes from a reliable source. Consumers are very reluctant to trust advertisements because they believe that deceptive techniques are used to manipulate consumers. And why shouldn’t consumers be wary? Recently, the Federal Trade Commission set guidelines for native advertising to protect consumers. Native advertising is the practice of blending advertisements with news, entertainment and other forms of digital media content. Some examples include in-feed units, promoted listings, paid search units and sponsored content. The list keeps growing. Being as open as possible with your consumers will protect the trust that is so hard to gain back once it is lost. Buying fake customer reviews and social media likes will only get you so far.
Find triggers: Triggers link one event in your daily routine to an actual purchase of a product. For example, when you think of coffee, you may think of Starbucks. When you think of a fresh burger, you may think of In-N-Out. The product and the company are linked in your mind. Marketing content and sharing works the same way. If the content you are reading triggers something to you, you will share it.
Be specific: If the content triggers to an event or someone in your daily routine, you will be more likely to share the content with them. However, the content needs to be specific. For example, if the content is about a stroller for a man and you know a stay-at-home father, you are more likely to share that information with him. The triggers are more effective when the content is specific to the target market. The amount of data we have on customers allows businesses to specifically target consumers. The adult consumers of the millennial generation (between the ages of 18-34) have exceeded the baby boomer generation in size and are very aware of the use of social media in their lives. They are also very open with their private information and anticipate marketers targeting them with advertising. Millennials appreciate advertising that is directed toward them by mining into their personal, and what some would consider private, online interactions. They expect it.
Think smart: For consumers to share the content it has to make them look smarter to their audience. They will share the information provided in an advertisement if they think it will make them seem smarter, more creative or funnier than if they kept it to themselves. There are tons of videos of funny cats online. Funny things are shared. But there needs to be something more, something that will gain them attention at the office, among friends or in a new encounter with a friend.
Tell a story: The need to create a story around content remains. Story development has been around in marketing since the advent of integrated marketing communications. Linking the story to the true purpose of the company and what the company sells to consumers is how you gain people’s attention. For example, Toms Shoes sells shoes and then donates shoes. That makes sense to consumers.
Content marketing is an ever-changing field and, thanks to our customers’ crowdsourcing, it makes it a very fluid environment. Building trust by creating triggers specific to the customer that will make them look smarter in a story is a great place to start. Never stop listening to your customers. They will help you guide your online conversation — and keep you on your toes.
• Sarah Fischbach is an assistant professor of marketing at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.