Future Brands – Content Marketing Evolving

March 22, 2018 by 0 comments

Why Do I Need Content Marketing?

It is 2018 and I am reposting this article on the utmost need and awareness of all seasoned marketers to take the content marketing seriously and responsibly. The attention scarcity and information abundance is all present – our audience is forced to filter out more and more messages and they are harder and harder to reach. So how does content marketing help grow our brands?

Why Do I Need Content Marketing?

It is 2017 and I am reposting this article on the utmost need and awareness of all seasoned marketers to take the content marketing seriously and responsibly. The attention scarcity and information abundance is all present – our audience is forced to filter out more and more messages and they are harder and harder to reach. So how does content marketing help grow our brands?

Done right and well, content marketing elevates our brand above those thousands of marketing messages, and becomes the fuel for engagement with our customers. It’s the offer in our email campaigns, the link we share on social, the promotional materials we hand out at events, the learning journal we use at training, case study we showcase on our website and the silver lining our sales team uses to close a deal. Let us aim high, act responsibly and optimistically co-create the sustainable future!

Buying Stages

My first article on Building Brands for the Future IV – ABC of Content Marketing introduced you to beautiful world of content marketing and taught you how to create the Buyer’s Pen Portrait. Now, what steps do your prospects take on their journey to a purchase – and beyond, is equally important and challenging.

I will be drawing the guidelines based on my best B2C and B2B experiences, but would like to emphasise that B2C or B2G processes are not much different. We have seen many times the FMCG practices, spreading shyly and later boldly and most successfully into the service sectors, like banking, IT, auto or health industries. The benefits were mutual as the service sector returned the favour by sharing their faults and successes more often than not.

I will never get tired of repeating that it is always the Human to Human communication (H2H) we should have in mind. Even with the Internet of Things (IoT) hastily approaching and spreading, it is the very Machine to Machine (M2M) communication that is decisively and predominantly catering for the Human(e) needs. And this is our main focus.

“ Different kinds of content appeals to different buyers in different stages of their journey and by mapping your buying stages, you’ll better understand the process buyers go through when considering your product or service.“

A buyer’s journey maps a buyer’s decision-making process during a purchase, and helps you determine what content you need. We will briefly touch upon 3 typologies and offer some content marketing solutions for each of the stages, logically answering the buyers’s needs and direct them closer to your product or service, closer to the actual trial and / or purchase.

A typical buyer’s journey, where there is a long consideration cycle, is divided into three parts:

  • Early Stage Buyers in this stage could potentially become customers, but probably aren’t in the market for your product – yet. These buyers are looking for educational, entertaining content, and your job is to present that content while building awareness and trust.
  • Mid-Stage Your buyers are aware of your brand, and are more actively researching your products. You can start to present more product-specific content, aimed at keeping your potential customers engaged as they research.
  • Late Stage Late-stage buyers are close to making a purchase. Late-stage content should speak directly to your offering and highlight product differentiators – think demos, feature comparisons, and price offering if necessary.

Another example of a buyer’s journey includes a different set of stages:

  • Awareness Buyers in this stage are potential customers, but need to know more about your product or service before they make a decision. They are looking to you to help educate and entertain them in order to build trust.
  • Purchase This stage of the buyer’s journey is about building trust by delivering a good customer experience and then continuing your awareness building activities to promote additional products or services.
  • Advocate Customers in an advocate stage are well versed with your offerings and messages. The focus for customers at this stage is to leverage their advocacy to further promote your brand and products. Creative ways to engage your advocates like insider programs, communities buildings, networking or through rewards, surveys are best. Use their enthusiasm to drive new interested customers and build awareness.

But the buyer’s journey doesn’t end with a purchase. To fully use a buyer’s lifetime value, you’ll need content that engages your audience after they become customers. This can be defined by three additional stages:

  • New Customer Activate your newest customers with content that guides them through set-up processes, answers common questions, and welcomes them to your community – think FAQs, guides, and cheat sheets.
  • Ongoing Customer As your customers become comfortable with your products, create content that helps them become successful – such as best practice webinars, helpful blog posts, and detailed guides. It’s also time to transition one-time customers into ongoing customers with content that highlights other your other products.
  • Loyal Customer These are your advocates, they are deeply invested in your brand. Marketing to these customers should focus on rewarding them for their loyalty, and make it easy for them to become advocates for your brand – helping you to create new customers (guides, white-papers, references…).

This is the high time to synchronise the buyer’s journey with your internal marketing, sales and new business development processes. They are all dynamic and need nurturing, adjusting or changing. The buyer’s lifetime value is a changing organism and must be monitored closely for potential ailments or opportunities to enable joint health improvements, learnings and growth.

Developing Your Brand Voice

It’s vital to present a consistent brand experience across all channels, which means you need to define your brand’s voice. When you are creating content for your website, social media, training session, the style you write in will become the “voice” of your brand. While you might adopt a more playful voice on Facebook, and a more professional voice in a white-paper, or Linkedin, consistency is key.

“All contact points of our brand’s physical and virtual places and spaces, where existing and potential stakeholders come into contact with the brand are to be aligned with the brand’s Vision, Mission and Values.“

My most effective and rewarding Vision, Mission, Values exercise was executed through a workshop for Fast Forward International, Learning Consultancy. It was crucial to envision the company’s Future Environment within the next 10 – 20 years and its future direction in the next 5 years. We spent a lot of time re-questioning the company’s purpose and reaffirming the values. This was the final result (see Brand Vision below).

Branding experts, we believe that true brand-building content marketing runs deeper and should entail the brand’s DNA. Well, it really depends on how well-structured your brand is, how molecularly you‘ve built it and how well you nurture and manage it. This is why we haven’t stopped there. As we were in the middle of a rebranding process, the Fast Forward team developed and strengthened the brand identity and equity. We simultaneously worked on the Iconic Brand Capital, as well as Financial, Manufactured, Human, Social and Natural Capitals that lie hidden below the surface and define the experiential part of the brand equity.

I strongly believe that engaging Content Marketing should entail at least (5) qualifications, which I define as: brand-building, customer-centric, sustainability & growth motivating, thought-leading and measurable. The brand voice you will use should answer to at least three qualifications. Some inbound marketers believe the brand’s voice can be broken down into four categories. Find below a short list of attributes for each category.

  • Character/Persona Friendly, Warm, Inspiring, Playful, Authoritative, Professional, Academic
  • Language Complex, Savvy, Insider, Serious, Simple, Jargon-filled, Fun, Whimsical…
  • Tone Personal, Humble, Clinical, Honest, Direct, Scientific,… (different content will probably serve different purposes)
  • Purpose Engage, Educate, Inform, Enable, Entertain, Delight, Sell, Amplify, Retain…

Why Quality Brand Content is Key?

Creating content is a time and recourse-intense activity, so be prepared to do it well. You might have multiple chances to address the buyers, but bad impressions are hard to correct and prospects hate to be underestimated. So take this opportunity and make the best of it, your returns will be manyfold, as your content assets:

  • engage individuals on their own terms, using Buyer’s Pen Portraits (see “Buyer’s Pen Portraits”)
  • they’re based on interactions buyers have with your brand, and mapped directly to their buying stages (see “Buyer’s Buying Stages”)
  • tell a continuous story, with a unified narrative that evolves throughout a buyer’s journey
  • are the right fit for your channels – whether they’re being used on your website, in email, on social, or elsewhere
  • have a clear purpose, and a clear call-to-action (CTA) for your audience to follow
  • have pre-defined metrics, and are designed to be measurable
  • are created to lead the industry, category and customers in the most efficient, effective way possible – without sacrificing quality.