Why marketers often find the concept of branding confounding?
Branding as a concept is often misunderstood. It is because many believe that it is the visual elements of a brand that have an effect on the way people perceive it. They think of the logo design, the color combinations, the package designs, the taglines, avowed missions, patents, and intellectual property rights, etc. to define people’s relationship with a brand. The product matters a lot but it is the overall user experience and the service they get at individual touchpoints that create the perception.
The behavior of the employees at touchpoints, omnipresence, and interrelatedness of contact channels, the ease with which messages can be transmitted can all play a role in your branding efforts.
However, the essence of the coherent content marketing is not always realised by businesses. Many have not realised that their customers have changed and they expect personalised, bespoke services as well as content. The messages for most businesses still largely remain product-based. The content doesn’t clearly discuss the benefits or the attributes of the product vis-à-vis a particular customer.
Listen cautiously before you cast your content strategy in the crucible of intense competition
No content strategy would work unless it dispenses information or messages that your target audience want to hear. Don’t forget that there is intense competition in most domains for each and every lead and very often communication and customer relationship services become the only differentiating factor between competing products. In order to synergize your brand value and content strategy, you must know what exactly your audience/ prospects/ customers expect from your brand.
Your content marketing effort will never bear fruit if you channelise only what you want to say. You will have to know what your audience wants to hear. If you are a steel manufacturer, people would expect insights into the steel industry, how the prevailing market conditions are affecting it or how its products can help the customers. You can talk about complementary products or industries also. For example, the automobile sector could be your area of interest too as it may interest some of your stakeholders. But, you can’t do anything based on simple assumptions. You will have to identify the buyer persona, their expectations, beliefs and choices. Market research and analysis is the only way forward.
Why should the nature of content change?
The content has traditionally been product-focused. But, today the need of the hour is to create content that identifies and addresses the pain points of the leads, customers and other stakeholders. Content has to be highly targeted. You may have to create content for a very small group of people. You may even have to create messages and content targeted to a single prospect.
Today’s content has to address some key issues.
Deliver value: You will have to deliver value through your content as defined and expected by your customers. That is why defining clear buyer personas for your content, is considered very important today. You will have to use the concept of market segmentation. Break it down into small, homogenous groups with almost identical needs, expectations and aspirations.
Then you can proactively address the most common problem that is bothering your target group. You shouldn’t treat content as a tool for converting leads into customers always. It is a gradual process. You will first have to create a perceptible, highly differentiated brand before you can look for sales.
Today a brand is expected to empower a lead or a prospect. They will have to understand the emotional needs of a customer and continue to offer them a credible, always accessible support system that can be utilised by them through various stages of the sales funnel. You have to time your content perfectly also. Whether it is a blog post, a lead nurturing email or a social media post, the tenor and the voice of the message will have to be suitable to the stage of the conversion process, the lead is in. Your content will also have to anticipate some common questions and provide the answers even before they are asked. This increases customer trust as they are made to feel important and cared for. Content marketing can give you access to extremely crucial customer insight that can be used to tweak your content strategy, overall marketing strategy and the feedback can be analysed to create a product or a service that matches the exact expectations.
Your aim should also be to tell a story. Stories grab attention quickly. But, not all stories will work. Your story will have to solve problems without sounding patronising. You will have to offer them solutions and offer advice. You can’t dictate terms or drive them around. Also, don’t take your customers for granted. You will continue to evolve with time and come up with strategies that help prolong the customer life cycle. You will also have to try and become an expert in your space. Make your content well researched and original. Provide useful analytics and statistics that help your customers take better decisions. This will help you reinforce your brand value.
Create a ‘wow’ factor: You will have to consistently offer value and useful guidance through your messages and content. If you want sales and a healthy, long-term relationship with your business contacts, you will have to offer them awesome content. Make them wonder how is such a great piece of content provided gratis? Make them fall in love with your content and slowly they will start liking your other offerings as well.
Most importantly, if you can offer some expert guidance that no one else in your domain can, it would instantly help you get attention and enhance your “brand prestige”. Your content should be smart, useful, entertaining, educational and evergreen. Your content should be such that it can attract traffic a long time after it has been published. Your content should stand out distinctly from your product or service. Your content should in itself be a differentiated offering. This creates the perception of enhanced branding or heightened experience.
Create much fanfare and go viral: Powerful content can enhance the visibility of a brand by getting shared. It creates a community feeling among those who comment on the comment’s section of your blog, a web page, your YouTube or podcast channel or your social media pages and accounts. The more you content gets shared, talked about, discussed, your brand becomes stronger.
It also creates a strong bond among the supporters of your brand because they can support each other, answer questions, make strong referrals and also guide each other through every stage of the sales cycle. In short, they can become strong brand advocates. Sometimes, even famous influencers would want to get associated with your brand by sharing your content or creating content for your brand as it would rub on to their own image. You can get a highly active and receptive target audience and use them to streamline your content delivery further.
Create brand loyalty: One common mistake that many brands make is that they try to generate new sales leads and stop spending enough time to nurture the old customers and contacts. Generating new leads is not only expensive, it is also very difficult. If you can create content that offers the old customers insights that help them in their aspirations, you can easily prolong the customer life cycle and create a strong relationship. This enhances your brand because those who have already used your product or is familiar with your content structure, strategy and messages will more likely recommend your brand more willingly and forcefully. To become their trusted partners, you must be approachable and your content must provide answers whenever sought and in whichever step.
Organic search triumphs over SEM when it comes to brand building
SEO and keyword optimisation can be a great way to get a higher rank, visibility and traffic. But, if you can’t offer value and quality, you will keep attracting new visitors and also keep losing them. The bounce rate would be high and soon, your website or blog would lose domain authority. Hence, focus on creating value. Focus on quality rather than quantity. Only a small percentage of your content will create quality leads and aid multiple engagements.
Although it is important to create content at a regular interval, you don’t have to worry over the creation of content every day. But every time you do, make sure that it becomes popular. To make a piece of content popular, two forces will have to work in synergy.
Your marketing strategy must be drawn up at a time when the content is still in the conceptualisation stage. You must be sure as to which promotional channels or tools you would use, which target group you would channel it to and what kind of return you are expecting. You will also have to decide on the analytical tools to be used.
The other aspect is to look after the message itself. Will this create value or solve problems? Search engines like Google are slowly reflecting the changing nature of the market because they have started to penalise keyword stuffing. They want long-tailed keywords or phrases that somehow guide the audience to the piece that they would really find interesting rather than simply matching keywords and then taking them to a content which is irrelevant. Natural language is also being promoted. Also be subtle. Don’t praise yourself repeatedly or use grandiloquent language. This may come across as bunkum and hence reduce the value even if the message has merit.
A strong brand is created without loud or without blowing your own trumpet. If you create meaningful and precise content which reflects your brand voice and value, your audience would appreciate it and also take a favorable view of the brand as a whole.