Your first job as a marketer is to connect with the audience on an emotional level. Many companies revert to salesy, aggressive, buy-now behavior, but that doesn’t work often. Creating meaningful, authentic content such as high-quality podcasts, animations and videos are imperative because it allows you to make the connection and build upon it over time.
The creation of content isn’t the hard part. The means of content creation and distribution have gotten so much easier. As a result, content production and consumption have soared.
With such quality and quantity of media, people view advertising as wallpaper, something to be ignored or avoided altogether and having to pay the money often required to do so. No slight intended to wallpaper lovers—I love a good statement wall, myself. The challenge lies in figuring out how to introduce your brand to your audience while creating quality content.
So, what’s a marketer to do? How do you take advantage of the proliferated means of production for all kinds of content? How do you build a relationship between your brand and prospective customers before they’re even in the zone to buy your product or potentially before they even shop and find you?
This zone is right where your brand needs to play. With inexpensive distribution and hosting, a media landscape that has endless targeting possibilities and the ability to retarget many interactions to create a customer path, the content world is your oyster.
I’m not saying you won’t be advertising, but you’ll be advertising in a different way, sharing content that is inherently more appealing, entertaining and top of the funnel than your standard campaign. Then you can retarget based on engagement with this content, making every step down the funnel more efficient. For most categories, despite any protestations to the contrary, you can’t just pour ad funds into the bottom of the funnel and expect your cost of acquisition to work out in the end.
One bonus that should help in the financial return department is creating evergreen content that will stay relevant over the long term. If you can get your team to think of high-quality content more like capital expenditure and less like operating expense, then you’re on the way to building your brand in the most powerful way and rewiring how your company thinks about brand investments.
With all those caveats and provisos, here are steps for putting high-quality content behind growing your brand and avoiding the more traditional, expensive, overtly commercial and ephemeral investments in advertising.
In this context, what really matters is generating authenticity at scale. You don’t want content that’s off-brand, bad or, the kiss of death, boring. You need content that represents your brand yet is entertaining enough to stand on its own: something that is made for your audience and fits into their life, something that prospects can use to connect with, get to know and learn the kinds of problems you solve.
So often, the tactical pressures of marketing causes marketers to skip this step—at their peril. When creating a concept, you want to get the most creative and strategic people in a room with the content developers. It’s best to have concepts of your own in mind but also to recognize that you’re likely working with people who might be much better at storytelling than you are. Be open to this.
Creative content can provide audiences with a continuous, intriguing story and also allows brands to connect in a more meaningful way. You’re not selling anything; you’re communicating something of value, connecting at an emotional level. If you try to pitch your wares or sneak in something that you think will help you sell, no one will pay attention. Be entertaining, be useful, be real.
In most instances, you’ll want to leverage traditional media channels to reach prospective customers. Beyond that, consider how to best leverage existing channels—social media, your website, email—to reach current customers. One of the great benefits of developing compelling content for prospects, unlike traditional advertising, is that it also allows you to connect with current customers in a new way, adding value to their experience. Remember that your content often has a longer shelf life than functional benefits and features that change quickly.
Once you have compelling stories to share and a marketing plan behind it, publish them and make them easy to enjoy. The experience of consuming the content is just as important as the quality. Make it accessible and optimize the experience across channels so it can be enjoyed anywhere and at any time.
With entertainment content, consumers are trading their time for value and gaining awareness or insight into a company’s brand and offering, a very different approach from a disruptive ad. Delivering that value through authentic content is a surefire way to nurture your customer relationships and grow the business.