Content Strategies for Customer Engagement
As our previous article discussed, the most fundamental modern-marketing skill is copywriting. Content marketing has, therefore, become a key business strategy in 2016 and will continue to be so in 2017. This post will give you a closer look into how you can use content to grow your business.
It has never been easier for brands and customers to interact and engage with one another. This heightened access that brands have to their customers (and vice versa) would make you think that companies are selling more than ever before. But most are not skipping, hopping and jumping their way to the bank. Why?
As a result of this hyper-connected world we live in, customers are no longer interested in being sold to. Instead, they want to engage with their favorite brands and experience their respective brand culture in ways that weren’t previously possible.
Achieving this level of engagement with customers requires a content strategy that is built upon a foundation of obsessing over them and imparting the greatest value to them. This value is not dollars and cents; it is not offering them the best deals, but rather the best experience, whether that is through creating a superb end-to-end customer journey, helpful and insightful blog content, strong customer support or other means.
You are going the extra mile and providing them with experiences that move the customer-brand relationship beyond simply buyer and seller. In fact, 38% of millennial consumers report that they are more loyal to brands that focus more on the consumer than the brand itself. In other words, you aren’t trying to extract revenue or get them to buy; you are just connecting and communicating with them as a brand.
Customer Engagement Creates Revenue Without Direct Sell
Again, customer engagement is not about directly extracting revenue. But before you go jumping ship with the notion that your company cannot afford to invest in a strategy that does not create revenue, consider a few things first.
Perhaps the most compelling case for why businesses need to be immediately concerned with developing a content strategy to bolster their customer engagement (assuming they do not already have one) is a statistic offered by a recent study by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. This study found that approximately 80% of consumers look for companies that offer the best customer service, before looking at the price or quality of that company’s goods and services. In order to offer quality service, you have to engage with your customers. Hence the need for a content strategy that actually makes the customer feel like they are engaging with the brand and those who represent it.
The key to developing this sense of loyalty really boils down to first impressions. Statistics show that 48% of consumers base loyalty on first impressions. So, you need to make sure that you are offering a solid first impression, and in a digital world, you do this with engaging content. Again, quality engagement with potential customers will offer the customers that sense of assurance they desire.
A content strategy that encourages customer engagement will benefit you, because consumers who hold you in a higher regard are willing to pay more than they typically would for a product, because they feel personally connected to your brand. That connection breeds loyalty–regardless of price.
While this may seem backwards from the traditional school of thought that price and quality trumps all, this new customer-centric attitude makes a lot of sense. In fact, studies show that humanized brands have considerably superior price elasticity than their non-humanized competitors. From a consumer point of view, wouldn’t you rather buy from a friend or trusted source over one of their competitors, even if that meant spending a little more? While consumers are far from thinking of their preferred brands as “friends,” there is certainly something to be said about the brands that are able to humanize themselves and connect to consumers on a personal and social level.
This type of connection allows the consumer to feel that the brand understands their individual needs, wants and desires. When a customer can feel valuable, despite just being one in a sea of many, they are going to remain a loyal customer. And, in the end, it is your most loyal customers that will become your greatest source of revenue.
Engaging Content Strategies for Brands
Demonstrating your value to customers and engaging with them in a way that resonates can be difficult. While brands like Nike, Forever 21, Craftsman and many others are easily relatable to consumers and have a fun time engaging with their audiences, other brands don’t have it as easy.
If your company is much more conservative or deals strictly in the B2B realm, then creating “fun” content is probably not what you are after. However, that doesn’t mean your company isn’t capable of engaging and expressing value to your target audiences.
To help get your creative wheels turning, here are some ways you can immediately begin boosting your customer engagement through content creation.
1. Develop a Brand Identity and Personality
Chances are, no matter how seemingly unengaging and drab your business appears, there is someone in your ranks that thinks the opposite. This natural communicator always remains positive and is passionately involved in the future success of the organization. While their over-enthusiastic nature can sometimes be a distraction, harnessing that attitude and putting it towards customer engagement can produce great results.
Not only are you creating an outlet for this high-spirited individual (and every company has at least one of these people) to share his or her passion and positive energy, but you are also grooming him or her to become a thought leader for your company and brand.
This puts a trusted face and voice at the front of your customer engagement platform, which helps humanize your brand and make it more relatable and personal to audiences.
It is also likely that they will be more than happy to have the opportunity to create content for the company. Common ways to develop your thought leader’s voice and recognition is through regularly scheduled blog posts on the website. Alternatively, they can guest blog on other industry-focused sites. This is especially advantageous for B2B companies.
Video blogging is a particularly strong content strategy towards humanizing a business and is quickly becoming more popular. In a recent study about the future of branding, reports show that 53% of consumers are now expecting the instant gratification provided by video. Other strategies to further help cultivate this thought leader could be organizing webinars, public speaking opportunities, and publishing e-books.
2. Create Engaging and Valuable Social Media Content
The tactics that businesses use to engage on social media channels have become more sophisticated and more creative. This is largely due to social media no longer being looked at as a phenomenon or passing trend, but as a vital component of the marketing mix.
Today’s social media content has to achieve a high level of engagement, while also providing some type of value. Again, value doesn’t always mean offering your target audiences deals and savings; value can also be obtained in other ways. Even a humorous tweet imparts some value to viewers; it gives them a laugh and something they can share with others.
And humor isn’t the only way to impart value to your customers. If your brand is more conservative and being entertaining isn’t going to resonate with customers, be educational. A lot of organizations have found that producing content that helps audiences understand new trends, complex industry topics and the company’s products is an ideal content strategy for customer engagement. It helps a business stand out as a great source of expert industry knowledge. Posting How-To videos, guides and informational blog articles on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube allows you to demonstrate tremendous value to customers, while engaging with them.
Again, there is a large percentage of the population that prefers watching to reading. If you want to engage those customers who are not interested in sitting down and reading a blog post (especially when it’s educational and not entertaining), videos are one way to reach this crowd. Just look at TED talks. Businesses are beginning to see the value in this educational and informative way of connecting with consumers. In fact, in May of 2016, 69% of companies reported that they’ve increased their video marketing budget because they are seeing the value in video marketing.
3. Understand the Ideal Channels and Content for Your Posts
This point is especially important for social media content. When you begin planning and creating the editorial calendar of your engaging content strategy, it is important to consider not only which channels your target audiences are on, but which pieces of content are best used on each channel.
The reason this is particularly difficult for social media content is because there are so many different social media channels to begin with. If a single customer follows you on several accounts and you post the identical content on each, the oversaturation could have a negative impact on that customer’s experience with your brand.
That said, you can always repurpose content later down the road. For example, you can pull a few key lines from an informative blog post and turn them into an engaging, valuable tweet or Facebook post. Or, turn what was once a seminar into a series of YouTube vlogs (video blogs).
Resurrecting old content and giving it a fresh spin is a great way to get people to engage with content they may already have been exposed to previously. As a matter of fact, 63% of industry experts acknowledge that this strategy is both an effective and affordable way of creating appealing content. This is also extra advantageous if you are a small business or lack the time or other resources necessary to continuously produce fresh content.
Remember, great content will continue to be engaging and valuable to consumers even when you reuse it.
Your content strategy can accomplish many things, but customer engagement should always be at the top of that list. Readily, you may think of engagement as simply getting consumers to act (clicking, buying, subscribing) and, on some level, it is. After all, if the consumer doesn’t click on your video, or blog article link, then you really haven’t engaged them.
That said, however, the overarching mission for your content strategy should be providing an experience to customers. You can achieve this by humanizing your brand with videos, by utilizing the right social media channels, and by offering valuable and engaging content to your consumers. Ultimately, by interacting you are forging a relationship with your customers that will keep them loyal to you. As we all know, customer acquisition is five times more expensive than customer retention. So you need to cater to their changing needs.
When you are able to deliver on this type of experience for your target audiences, you ultimately generate a more loyal customer base that will be more likely to choose you over competitors. Sometimes, this preference is solely because they like ‘you’ more, or rather the cultivated brand persona you project for your company.