By the end of this day, hundreds of company brands will have forced themselves in your line of sight. It comes in all shapes and sizes, pushy and subtle: billboards, website banners, tv commercials, sponsored social media posts, product placement, and so on.
If you would be fully receptive to this staggering amount of marketing messages and notice all of them, you would go completely mad. So, why don’t you go mad with this extreme exposure to ads?
It’s quite simple. In this consumer age, where life is in the fast lane and many companies try to seduce you to buy stuff, your brain has learned to protect itself from an overload of stimuli. Modern consumers are wired to subconsciously filter out what’s important, and what’s not. Most of the time, you don’t even realize that your brain is selectively ignoring large amounts of nonsense to keep you focused on the few things that matter the most.
The question then arises: how can you, as a business owner or marketeer, effectively bypass this natural marketing filter that most people possess? What does it take to grab their attention and leave a favorable impression? In this article, I will let you in on what I think works best.
Start by listening
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way.
Before broadcasting anything marketing-related, you should take the pulse of the street. What is on people’s mind at the moment? Which demographic would be receptive to the subject you want to bring up? Without these insights you risk wasting your time and reputation by sending out marketing content that might not be noticed or appreciated.
Social media, online search and conventional news outlets are good places to quickly learn what’s currently trending among people. Read more about monitoring the public conversation in ‘Improving the eyes and ears of your company’.
Make it about them
When you have discovered who your target audience is, it is time to come up with an effective approach.
Some believe that traditional advertising (“Buy now!”) and one-sided brand promotion (“Look at us!”) are the quickest, most effective ways to meet their business targets. “The world needs to hear about my amazing products and my company’s extraordinary achievements. Today!” If this is the only marketing approach you feel comfortable with, then you are probably not maximizing your business’s potential.
Key to your success is to avoid the suggestion that you are primarily interested in making money. Your audience is smart enough to understand why your company broaches certain topics, even when you are not shouting “buy now!”
Therefore, stop talking about your product features and company milestones all the time. Instead, start talking about your customers more often. Step into their world. What excites them? What keeps them up at night?
People are more willing to grant you some of their precious time and attention when you bring up a subject that is close to their hearts. Like you are holding up a mirror to them.
When you have cultivated a solid reputation and some goodwill, by showing a genuine interest, you should eventually see supply and demand meeting on your customers’ terms.
Simple and effective ways to create content
If you don’t work for Nike, Coca-Cola, BMW, Disney, or a similar enterprise with seemingly endless funds, chances are you have to settle for limited marketing resources. So, spending your budget and time on creating content has to pay off.
Below, I have listed a few content formats you can use. Creating content in these formats is easy, effective and affordable – no matter the size of your company.
1. Piggyback trending topics
The first content format you should give a try, is piggybacking.
To your customers, the world revolves around more than reading about and buying your products, of course. It is safe to assume that they spend way more time thinking and talking about what’s in the news and what’s going on in town or the family.
Don’t let this discourage you, though. You have a winning hand to play here.
Try using these hot topics from other sources to your advantage. For example, ask people on Facebook their opinion about this morning’s newspaper headlines. Add your unique perspective to something in the news and publish it as your own. Or become visibly part of the local community by joining a local event.
The trick is to piggyback trending topics that have some relevance to your business. In other words: your involvement should make sense to your audience, and not come across as a cheap shortcut to publicity. You can stretch this a long way through effort and creativity.
‘Curating content’ is a more distinguished phrase used to describe this piggyback approach.
2. Give your customers the stage
Another way to attract an audience is to put a mirror in front of them. No content has more stopping power – the power to make people halt in their tracks and inspect – than reflective content.
Think about it. How many of your all-time favorite movies have a character in it you strongly identify with? For example, he or she pursues a life’s goal you have always dreamt of, or faces a difficult challenge that is painfully familiar to you. Watching a movie with this level of personal significance, takes you beyond being just a spectator. You become a participant. You start to mentally interact with the movie content on an intimate level. “That could be me! What if…?”
Like movie producers, you are also capable of creating captivating content. The kind of content that plays into the human impulse of self-discovery and social comparison. The easiest way to create reflective content is to give your customers the stage. Let ordinary people reveal a slice of their lives. Everyone has an interesting story to tell. Something to relate to. All you have to do is retrieve these stories and deliver them to the right audience.
An easy, common way of giving your customers the stage is to gauge the popular opinion of the street. Go to a crowded public area, bring along a video camera, put on a smile and start firing questions at passersby. These questions should not be about your business or products. Instead, ask about everyday life topics – somewhat relevant to your business – that have a high chance of triggering a personal response. Like, how do you prefer to keep cool during this heatwave? Have you ever thought of pursuing another career? How do you decide what to wear in the morning? The results can be shared as a quick video edit of the street interview or as a data-oriented infographic with colorful diagrams and a selection of playfully added quotes.
You could also ask a few customers to portray themselves. Let them write a personal blog article, keep a photo journal on your social media, share recorded videos of their daily lives – authentic and preferably unredacted. With the only condition that the customer-generated content should have a (distant) link to your business. For example, if you sell racing bikes, post daily videos recorded by a group of friends trying to get fit for a challenging charity bike ride in The Alps.
3. Keep record of customer collaboration
If you already embrace talking to customers on a regular basis, to constantly improve your products and service, you might as well keep a record of it and let the world know.
Collaborating with a group of customers will always be more impactful when you also broadcast your efforts to a larger audience. Therefore, consider creating rich content in which you capture the ongoing dialogue between you and your customers.
Content comes in many shapes, obviously. You can either publish a professionally written in-depth report of a brainstorm session with customers, or choose to give a general impression of the same session by sharing a series of photos. When you involve customers in a lengthy project, it might help contributors to be able to follow its overall progress in an illustrated roadmap posted on your website. Also, never ever forget to celebrate the end result of customer collaboration, like a product update or the launch of a new service, publicly. Big and loud!
Learn more about keeping a record of customer collaboration in my article about co-creation.
Trial and error
What kind of content matches your customers’ needs the best? That remains to be seen. Unfortunately, there is no cookie-cutter template for successful content. Successful content emerges from refined knowledge of your unique customers. You will learn as you go. Fail, learn, move on. Be creative and dare to be different. Most of all, make it about them.
Keep an eye on my blog section for fascinating case studies on content curation, customer-generated content and customer collaboration.