"Blah. Blah. Blah.”
This is what most people hear when exposed to marketing messages,
no matter what medium is used. Members and customers demand more than catchy
slogans and slick ad campaigns. But — in what’s evolved into an overwhelmingly
egregious disconnect — most organizations struggle to communicate even the most
essential messages that will differentiate their brand in today’s crowded,
confusing, and expectation-laden marketplace.
With technology making it easier than ever for people to block and
otherwise avoid advertising and marketing messages as they go about their lives,
organizations ubiquitously scramble for solutions — ultimately turning to
content marketing to help them make and maintain meaningful connections with
the marketplace ... to the tune of an estimated $50billionspent by
U.S. businesses for 2015. However, like many marketing innovations that are
incubated to solve problems, content marketing could quickly lose its impact.
Those who are wildly successful at content marketing understand the
strategy is not just starting a blog and creating social media accounts. It’s a
disciplined approach to communicating with a target audience — one offering
ample opportunity to tell a simple, human story that will educate, inform,
entertain and, most importantly, compel customers in a way that fully captures
mind– and market–share through messaging that truly resonates.
Associations must completely re-imagine their approach to
connecting with members and customers. How? By simply communicating with them
instead of talking at them. Specifically, speak human. This is not just in a
given "handshake moment,” but rather it is a continual friendly engagement,
with an individual or the marketplace at large, that is built primarily by
trust and performance.
Here are three strategies that can help you make and maintain
meaningful connections and create a lifetime value with members and customers
in ways that’ll set your organization’s brand apart in a crowded marketplace,
tell an authentic story, foster maximized marketplace engagement, and breed
1. Recalibrate low-level communications.We have
long struggled with linear, low-level, or one-way communication. It is a
completely timeless human phenomenon that is at the core of every conflict or
stalemate, from the ones we experience at home, work, and in our communities.
We focus on transmitting information, but lose sight of the critical need for
feedback, response, or an actual human exchange of emotions or ideas. However,
for decades this was our only way of receiving communication from advertisers,
and many consumers stomached it because there was no alternative.
Today’s social networking tools can effectively and surreptitiously
disguise "reach” with "results,” often only perpetuating linear, low-level
communication. For example, you’re on Twitter and Facebook and you’re tweeting
and posting five times a day, and perhaps growing a fan and follower base on
each like clockwork. But your zealous, disciplined approach doesn’t mean you’re
doing it effectively. Who, exactly, are all those followers, friends, and fans?
Are you really creating content or telling an authentic story? It might be that
you are simply tweeting and posting just to check it off your task list, and
that your followers are re-tweeting or liking you for the exact same reason. If
that’s the case, then they’re not really followers or actual friends at all.
Connectioninvolves more than just opening a communication channel for that
channel’s sake, or doing social media just because someone at some seminar told
you that you should. Your handshake moment is where people actually discover
the essence of who you are as a brand for the first time. If that’s the case,
what are they going to find? Will they be greeted by a sales pitch? A slogan? A
press or media kit? Or are they going to find a real person — someone they
might want to reach out to,someonegreets them with a warm hello? If you’re not asking these questions
— let alone answering them — chances are your content is simply traditional
advertising disguised as substance wearing a new outfit.
2. Master conversational media.Conversational media insists that we don’t just sell ourselves, but
rather, share ourselves.It informs the listener who we are, rather than what we are. We
must learn the signals that tell us when to drop the jargon, cut the B.S. and
simply talk, authentically and truthfully. Yes, we sell things, and so we must
provide essential information about policies, performance, and the like, but
good content marketing is about providing information and education. Brands
shouldn’t have to sell themselves.
An effective mix of messages includes telling people what you do,
how you do it, and even why you do it. Then, you draw them in to your embrace
with a story that is compelling and authentic. Then, leave them alone to make
the choice. Why not influence the decision-making process with endearing,
enlightening, and empowering messages? Speakinghuman is
about engaging with someone for a mutual benefit: you need this information,
and I must deliver it in a way that you understand while you need to ask me
questions in a way that makes sense. We're having a conversation. We're
When the conversation takes place on social channels, participate
in the exchange in such a way as to achieve the coveted "handshake moment.” How
do you get there? What do you say to influence them to engage with your brand,
your association? It’s all about cutting through the jargon, the clutter that
clogs the communication pipeline. It’s not about selling your soul. It’s
3. Give them something to talk about.In this
new economy of conversation, marketers must master the art of facilitating the
relationship between the business and its consumer. For example, the organization
wants to run a campaign to advertise a specific product offering. The consumer
is looking to meet a need or discover an innovation. Content marketers bridge
the gap. They create the information the business needs to share and provide
the information customers want to receive. The job of today’s content marketer
is to work both in the world of traditional media as well as conversational
The goal is not bullying, but inviting. Not grabbing attention, but
earning and holding attention. Naturally you want audiences to take action.
But, it’s the rare brand that understands how the content and story must
interact to add real value versus merely seeking to sell a product or service.
Storytelling is an essential human activity and must be the
cornerstone of any meaningful content strategy. Ifthestory is
the nest, content becomes the baby starlings that grow strong and fly off
carrying compelling messages. A story can instantly communicate your history,
values, and beliefs, and gives people something to talk about. Unless you have
a real story, loyalty is unlikely.
The Conversation Age finds brands in the midst of an evolutionary
process. Social media and the overarching digital landscape has afforded them
the ability to engage in a transactional dialogue, often giving them the bigger
platform and louder voice. This new powerisforcingmodern organizations
to becomemoretransparent in their brand storytelling. Thus, the Conversation Age
requires modern businesses to educate, inform, even entertain their customers,
all while telling a story.
Today, learning how to use conversational techniques in commerce to
touch the heart of the customer must be a top priority for modern marketers in
any field. No longer is it effective to merely shout at people through the
one-way megaphone of traditional advertising — nor, frankly, will they stand for
it. Instead, sophisticated, modern customers are demanding transparent, honest,
and authentic dialogue.
Kevin Lund is CEO ofcontent marketing firmT3 Custom.