“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
The way a brand communicates with its target audience is more important than ever and is what, nowadays, increasingly underpins and influences a customer’s buying decision – especially online. In the B2B sector, according to a study by IDG Connect, 86% of IT buyers are already using social media in their purchasing decision process, while users who see tweets from B2B technology brands are more likely to visit their respective websites.
Social media has changed both the B2C and B2B buying journeys. People are being influenced and making their buying decisions through the exchanges they are having online with brands and other users, creating a more informed buyer. And it is important for brands in both marketing environments to understand and respect this.
Content marketing, the phrase ‘du jour’, is an effective way to capitalise on this opportunity and engage with customers, but brands need to understand what it is and how best to harness its potential. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) maintains that the definition of ‘content marketing’ depends on who you are talking to and what you’re doing with it. They list a selection of definitions, and my personal favourite is ‘creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they pay attention to you’. Meanwhile the Content Marketing Association (CMA) in the UK defines content marketing as ‘creating quality branded editorial content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationship, consumer value and measurable success for brands’.
Definitions aside, what is absolutely paramount is that brands develop a content marketing approach that puts the audience – the customer – at its heart. Content marketing shouldn’t be about what a brand thinks they should say. It should be about what their customers want to listen to i.e. not so brand-centric that it simply acts as another form of advertising. And to understand this, they need to really engage with their customers.
As a consumer, I don’t want to be just told a product is great, I want to understand why it is great and why it is relevant to me. On top of that, I need to find this information as easily as possible. That means blogs that resonate with me, videos that entertain me, case studies from customers who are like me and compelling articles that help make me understand why this brand is different.
As modern buyers, we don’t want our lives constantly interrupted with a barrage of sales or marketing. We like to investigate on our own, but still don’t want to have to work too hard. With our attention spans officially now shorter than those of goldfish, it’s essential for marketers to provide this information as simply as possible. We want to be understood, to hear a human voice behind a brand and to interact with their business on our own terms. For brands to take advantage of this, it’s imperative that they open up a dialogue with their customers, and with social media, it is now easier than ever to do. Only then will they know what I want and get my fickle attention, and probably, my custom too.