As companies seek better ROI for their marketing efforts, more brands are turning to quality content as their number one tactic. Effective content marketing can engage, educate, and inspire audiences. This enables brands to reach and convert new customers.
As a general rule, the most successful brands are those that are truly on a mission to help the customers they serve and make a difference in people’s lives.
Paying attention to the needs and pain points people are facing will go a long way, no matter the business you’re in, and content marketing provides an excellent vehicle for addressing these needs.
Transform It Forward with Michael Brenner: Transforming Content Marketing
On the most recent episode of Transform It Forward, I sat down with Michael Brenner, CEO at Marketing Insider Group. Michael is a globally recognized keynote speaker on leadership, culture, and marketing, and the author of the bestselling book, The Content Formula.
As an influencer and thought leader in the marketing space, Michael helps companies attract and win new customers through strategic content that cuts through the clutter in the online world today.
During the episode, we discussed what goes into a great piece of content, how it can give your brand a boost, and what changes we’re seeing in the content marketing landscape today.
Forging relationships through content marketing
Michael says he fell into the world of content marketing by recognizing a common misconception in the business landscape. He noticed that most brands felt a need to push the products they were selling rather than taking a step back to listen, identify their customers’ needs, and serve content based on the problems that needed solving.
Creating content that’s educational, helpful, and advice-oriented helps to form connections and grow relationships, which is essential if you hope to convert leads into sales. Giving something back to your customer before asking for something from them is a great way to build trust and credibility with your audience while positioning your brand as an expert in your field.
“I think that there’s a common misperception that businesses need to promote and sell hard what they do and the solutions they sell for. And what I found was that success happens when you sort of relax a little and listen to the needs and create relationships and help and educate with the kinds of programs that you put in place. And so, we call that content marketing in the marketing world.”
Michael found that the businesses that saw the most success were those that were taking the time to identify the needs of their customers and help them work towards solutions. This ultimately led him to where he is today as a content marketing expert, and it’s a path he continues to follow now.
The power of digital content
Michael noted that in 2020, search traffic doubled as a result of more people working and living at home because of the pandemic.
In fact, one of his favorite stats is one from McKinsey, which found that digital interactions are six to seven times more important now, which means the role of the traditional salesperson is now almost exclusively transferred to the online world.
Ultimately, this greater importance forced brands to think outside the box in terms of their digital strategy and come up with new and inventive ways of engaging customers online. They were suddenly tasked with the challenge of bringing in-person, interactive experiences online without sacrificing the human quality of engaging a customer in real time.
“I think that those two sides of that same coin are really interesting. One, the strategy around creating visual, engaging experiences digitally and then the whole reason for digital interactions being important is that you can reach more people became really evident and then allowed those successful companies to really double down on their success.”
The lost child of marketing objectives
Michael calls retention “the lost child of marketing objectives” since it’s so often overlooked as a marketing strategy.
However, research has shown that it’s significantly easier to retain customers than convert new ones, which is why putting a little extra effort into retaining customers can create a big return for your company.
Despite this, not very many companies are putting formal programs in place to manage the post-sale relationship. One strategy that can help boost customer retention, according to Michael, is providing educational content to the customer early in their journey.
“Educational content actually works on both ends of this journey. It works in the beginning before you know what your problem is, and it works in the end when you’re talking about cross-sales and up sales and all those kinds of things that salespeople know can really drive up the numbers for them and for their business.”
Ultimately, Michael believes that using content as a vehicle for engaging with customers on a real, human level is where the secret sauce lies. Despite growing privacy concerns, people generally respond well to content that piques their interests.
Well-executed content that serves a purpose for potential customers, whether it’s education or entertainment, will ultimately help brands build trust and credibility among their audience and continue to grow exponentially as a result.
“I think a lot of companies spend a lot of money trying to define who the person is they’re trying to target, but they don’t actually ever get to the juicy stuff, well, what do those people care about? What interests, what hobbies, you know, can we start to engage them with? And so, I think the way to really achieve the goal of personalization, which is to deepen a relationship and gain trust with a consumer, is to talk about the things that they love.”
Five key takeaways
1. You get what you give. Michael believes that the companies that are most successful in business are those that place a strong emphasis on giving back, forming authentic relationships, and truly helping their clients or customers. Content marketing is just one way to do this, and an effective one at that.
2. As a result of the pandemic, brands have been forced to rethink the way they create engaging one-on-one experiences for customers. Companies like Best Buy have taken the opportunity to expand their reach and connect with even more people through visual digital experiences that recreate in-person experiences using tech.
3. Let yourself be imperfect online. People have become extremely sensitive to fake or inauthentic behavior online, which is why Michael advises marketers to let themselves (and their content!) be imperfect. Make mistakes and show up as your true self so you can connect with people on a real, human level.
4. We need to look at the full customer journey. It begins before consumers even know your company exists. Michael mentioned brands tend to forget that the first step of a buyer’s journey is identifying a problem that needs solving, not finding a company that can help them work towards a solution. Therefore, focusing on the early stage of the buyer’s journey and creating personalized content from this perspective is crucial. Yet it’s equally important to focus on retention and pay attention to our customers that are already in the funnel. Michael identifies retention as the “lost child of marketing objectives” and emphasizes the importance of understanding the needs and wants of our customers even post-sale.
5. The goal of personalized content is a deepened relationship and level of trust with your audience. As marketers, we can achieve this not just by learning more about our consumers, but by learning more about what they love and what they care about. We need to be targeting people based on the things that make them human. Not all demographics are created equal.
Listen to the full podcast episode here.
If you missed previous episodes, click here.