Without Purpose, Your “Content Marketing” Is Just a Noisy Distraction

I go to a LOT of marketing conferences. Most of them are at CMO / VP-level, and deal with some pretty cutting-edge concepts when it comes to brand strategy and adopting to the ever-changing world. This year, the biggest discussions are around Brand Experience – and for many, that means Content Marketing.

At its core, Content Marketing is simply creating content to drive business awareness and leads. Pretty simple, right?

Of course the answer is yes and no. Here’s the issue I’ve been seeing with Content Marketing: A lot of businesses are jumping onto the content marketing bandwagon and producing content, but without consideration of just what the point of it is.

When I was at the GDS CMO Summit in Mexico in October, you might have seen me tweet “Marketing 2016: Let Me Entertain You.” That’s a pretty good summation of what I’m seeing, and for the most part it’s what I see modern marketing turning into – a desperate, unfocused grab for attention through entertainment as a way to get customers through the door.

The problem is, a lot of companies aren’t thinking their strategy through on this. In their excitement and eagerness to stay current, they are forgetting the important question of WHY?.
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Marketing a Single Product vs. Marketing a Service / Brand

A few weeks ago I released my second fiction novel. As far as I can tell, since launch I have yet to sell a single copy. It’s a common issue a lot of authors deal with, but to be honest, I thought I might be an exception to the rule. Having been a professional marketer for almost 16 years now, I thought I knew all the tips and tricks of how to market something. I built out targeted ads for Facebook and Google, announced across my social channels, and even did a few giveaways. But still, not a single copy sold.

Now, you could argue that the reason it’s not selling is because it’s not any good. It is entirely possible that I’m simply not a good writer – but I’m pretty certain that this isn’t the issue, as people aren’t checking out the product and having a negative experience. They’re not even getting that far. As of this writing, there are three customer reviews on Amazon (from people who got advance review copies) and all three are positive. It’s not negative word-of-mouth that’s hurting.

And so, I’ve taken a step back to see just what it is that’s not working and I have come to the conclusion that I’m frankly going about things all wrong. So far with the launch of the book I’ve been focusing on promoting the product. Getting it in front of the right people, hoping that once they come across it and read the marketing blurb I’ll get them to take the hook and make a sale. I’ve been taking everything I’ve learned in my experience and applying it to this new product to push it out there to people to get them to bite – and that’s where I’ve been going about this all wrong.
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The Post-Purchase Experience Matters Just as Much (or More) as Your Sales Funnel

I just finished up a few days in Austin with a group of other digital marketing executives at the GDS Digital CMO Summit, and as is usually the case after a few days immersed in discussions with other experts in the field, my head is overflowing with ideas. The one biggest takeaway from this conference though is that I really think marketers are starting to understand just what is meant by “experience” marketing.

For a while there, as the catch-phrase was starting to gain ground, it looked like there was a chance that experience marketing was going to veer off course and turn a bit more into a form of “gimmick” or “entertainment” marketing – but from the presentations and conversations this week in Austin it’s clear to me that many marketing executives are truly understanding the value focusing on the experience can bring to increasing brand value and loyalty.

This is why I was thrilled to see that a lot of the focus here wasn’t on prospecting or advertising, but instead on providing customers with a great experience throughout their lifetime. In my opinion, this is one of the most important things we can be focusing on as marketers today. As much as strategies and measurement have been traditionally built around KPIs like visits and conversion rates to determine what is an “effective” campaign, I think it’s much more important to focus on providing customers with a great experience throughout their lifetime engagement with our brands.

What this means is that understanding of customers, their behaviors, motivations and values is an area where we should be putting more of our focus as we continue to grow brands. Customers are more and more looking for engagement, truthfulness and brands that share a common sense of priorities with them. This, above all, means that it is key for us to be able to empathize with our customers and build out experiences as suited to them and their needs as we can.

Of course this all starts with getting the right message in front of the right people at the right time – and then providing a streamlined discovery, shopping and checkout experience – but it doesn’t end there. For too long the focus has been on closing that sale – getting that conversion. I propose that once you’ve done this, you’ve only just started.

As marketers, we need to concern ourselves with what happens after that sale just as much, if not more so, than what happens before. How are customers using the product? How can we help them realize more value from their purchase? What was the goal they were trying to achieve when they finally decided to buy from you, and how can you help ensure they reach that goal? If a customer is having a positive experience, how do we encourage them to share their experience with others and become an advocate? If a customer is having a bad experience, well then why is that happening, how can you fix it, and how can you make it not happen again?

We live in a connected marketplace where we are no longer the sole owners of our brand and message. Running some ads to drive people to your store to buy stuff just doesn’t cut it anymore (and I’d argue it never did – it just was “good enough” for some brands when customers couldn’t really demand more).

To succeed in today’s world, we need to connect with our customers in meaningful ways – and that means we need to understand them at all stages of their relationship with our brands. As we build those relationships and we continue to strengthen those bonds, build trust, and help our customers achieve success, we can build loyalty.

I’ve heard some people say lately that customers are no longer loyal to brands. That’s plain wrong. They’re no longer loyal to brands they had no choice about. Now that we can be mobile and agile in our relationships, we, as consumers are able to forge new loyalties and relationships. When we as marketers learn to connect with and understand our customers (empathize with them) loyalty is attainable.

Remember, in a world with so many choices, it may seem easy to jump ship at any time – and that’s definitely the case. But with all the different alternatives and decisions out there, customers also don’t want to be continually switching what they buy and from who. There’s decision paralysis out there too – and once you’ve build a meaningful relationship between customer and brand, there’s little reason for them to go elsewhere. They have more important things to worry about.