Imagine this scenario: Company XYZ has developed a great business creating products and services, developing marketing programs that explain the features and benefits of those offerings and making sales. The mix of SEO, advertising and newsletter is focused on explaining the solutions offered with the intention of educating and persuading prospects to buy. This is the way it’s been done in the past and it’s what current marketing programs are based on. Pretty common right?
But let’s also imagine in our hypothetical situation that sales growth has started to slow down or even slumped. Competitors are starting to eclipse Company XYZ in search results, the blog doesn’t really get many shares, likes, links or comments and it’s nothing but crickets chipring on the Facebook Fan page, on Twitter and the YouTube channel. The staff responsible for creating content are running out of ideas. Seem familiar?
There are tens of thousands of companies in this situation: stagnant marketing and slow or loss of momentum.
Many times when agencies like TopRank Online Marketing are tapped to help established companies fix or step up the performance of their online marketing mix, one of the most common situations we see is the need to transition from an egocentric view of marketing to one of customer empathy. I’m not saying these companies don’t care about their customers, they really do. But SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing programs that are focused solely on the product/service Features and Benefits model are running their course.
The need for this transition is especially present with content marketing focused programs. A Content Marketing: Discovery > Consumption > Sharing model means leveraging SEO, Social Media, Online PR and Email Marketing to help customers find, understand and promote company content to boost awareness, engagement and sales. But if the content topics are solely focused on what the company deems important, such as features and benefits, then there can be significant disadvantage.
Say Company XYZ has decided the mix of content on their website focused on explaining the products/services in the feature and benefit style. That means the company is deciding what’s important. It’s their egocentric view of their offering that drives content. When a company is solely focused on explaining its own point of view, they may be missing numerous and compelling opportunities to create the kind of content that gets shared, linked to and that inspires sales.
The transition from egocentric to empathy simply means looking at the company’s products/services offer from the customer point of view. Doing so opens up a bevy of content creation and social engagement opportunities. I know this sounds intuitive and obvious, but my experience over the past 13 years as an online marketer has been that common sense is indeed, the least common thing.
How to make the change? Here are a few simple steps towards opening up a goldmine of content marketing and social media engagement opportunity:
1. Create personas about your ideal customers identifying their preferences for content discovery, consumption and sharing. What are their pain points, what situations are characteristic of their need to buy your solution? Use those personas as customer segmentation guides for creating a Social & Content Marketing strategy.
2. Audit your existing content and reconcile it with the information customers really need to: buy, use & recommend your products/services.
3. Tap into Customer Service and Sales departments discussions with customers to find out what the most common questions are. Develop a creative strategy to answer those questions with content and media online, on an ongoing basis. Make a topic matrix in your editorial plan that will help you manage planned creation, optimization, promotion and measurement of this customer-centric content.
4. Use real-time and social media monitoring tools to identify questions being asked about topics of interest for your target audience and products/services mix. Something as simple as a persistent query on search.twitter.com can reveal topics to cover in your content plan as well as engagement opportunities. Quora and Facebook are also useful in this way.
5. Crowdsource content from active customers and fans. Present challenges or requests for opinion and information on relevant topics from your social networks and customers to create new content shared with the community. Topics could range from the reasons why the category of products/services is important to innovative uses by current customers. Recognize contributions publicly to reinforce participation and sharing behaviors. Find ways for fans to participate in a way that meets their needs and in doing so, help meet your brand’s objectives.
There are many other angles a company could take once the door of thinking like a customer is opened. There’s a time and place for brands to decide what information is best for customers but the days of using that egocentric approach as the driver for content is over. Tap into what’s important to your customers, build trust and engage them to create a more sustainable approach to content marketing success.
We have many, many smart marketers reading this blog, so how have you helped your organization think about content with more empathy towards customer needs? Are there creative examples you can share?