I met my husband on eHarmony. It appealed to me more than other dating sites because of the “back and forth” communication inherent in their platform: sharing information and stories, interacting and trying to form a connection with someone, rather than jumping in full-throttle, trying to force a relationship where there may be no common ground. After building the foundation of a relationship via consistent communication, we were married within 18 months.
So, what does eHarmony have to do with effectively communicating with customers? The same back and forth, tailored communication that helped me make the right match on eHarmony is what makes content marketing work for customer engagement. Many of today’s consumers want to feel connected to the brands they support. In fact, 79% of respondents in a recent Wunderman study said they only buy from brands they feel know and understand them. Content marketing is a strategic approach to creating, curating and sharing information online with the goals of:
- Creating interest, engagement and a connection between your audience and your brand
- Targeting and growing your audience
- Driving profitability
By offering information to your audience that addresses their needs, answers their questions and is interesting and valuable to them, you are inviting them to engage with you. The interaction you receive will help you understand what kind of information your audience wants, what to offer more of, and what kind of information is of little interest.
Pieces of a content marketing strategy
The strongest content marketing plans contain an ongoing variety of original and curated content covering topics relevant to the intended audience and delivered via:
- blog posts or informational articles
- informational downloads, such as eBooks
- social media activity
- curated content*
*When sharing curated content developed by another source, it’s a great practice to include your own analysis, context or “take” on the material, and invite your audience to share their thoughts on it as well.
For content marketing to resonate with your audience and lead to conversions, it must be authentic. In addition to offering valuable material that speaks to your audience’s needs, share insight to your organization and brand, and what makes it “tick.” Sometimes the most effective content is the kind that gives a behind-the-scenes look into a company, so weave some of those inside glimpses throughout your content strategy. This helps your audience form a more authentic connection to your brand.
How do I know what kind of content to create?
Two words: persona development. Personas are fictional versions of your ideal customers: age, education, income status, interests, challenges related to your product and/or industry, preferred ways of finding and receiving information and other relevant demographics. All of the content strategies Synectics Media develops for our clients are based on the personas we create for them by researching, collecting data, and interviewing our clients and their customers. Understanding who the customer is, what they need and how they want to be engaged is critical to creating content that speaks directly to them. Some of your customers may prefer in-depth analysis (blog posts, eBooks) and others may need short declarative sentences (infographics, listicles.) A well-rounded, successful content strategy is made up of several types of content that appeal to different personas within your customer base. This should include a selection of the following:
- Industry-related blogs, eBooks, and infographics
- “How-to” tutorials (These can take many forms such as listicles, infographics or video. Tasty videos are a great example of engaging how-to tutorials.)
- Current events with response or commentary (Choose carefully here; make sure you’re not inadvertently driving business to your competitors and only curate content that’s useful and interesting to your target audience.)
- Humor and inspiration
- Business growth and development
- Industry trends
- Brand voice
- Company culture
Content marketing sounds like a lot of work. Do I really need it?
Every industry can benefit from content marketing. Most people do not enjoy the “hard sell” and 81% of shoppers conduct research online before making a purchase. Most consumers want to feel like they are making the decision to contact a company rather than being told to. By using content marketing to educate your audience, your company is positioned as a leader in the industry demonstrating an authentic understanding of customer needs. You are sharing valuable information and trying to help your customer before asking for the sale. That is how you build a relationship.
Tracking and analytics are a critical component of content marketing. They will help you understand what kinds of content are getting the highest engagement so you can focus your resources on creating more of what is resonating with your audience, and eliminate what does not work. Analytics also help you hone in on your ideal customer and weed out those who may not be your perfect customer. (Face it, we all have an idea of who our perfect customer is and who they are not.)
A well-executed content marketing strategy will bring you increased online engagement and conversions if you remember these tips:
- Understand your audience. (Develop those personas!)
- Offer a steady stream of useful, engaging, valuable information.
- Be authentic. (No one likes a faker.)
- Track engagement and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Do you have other content marketing strategies that are working for you that we didn’t touch on here? Share your wisdom in the comments!