What is a Brand?
While everyone may define a brand differently, historically a brand is shaped in part based on the perceived or actual attributes and unique differentiators we project to the market through marketing, and in part based on the experience a consumer has with your product and those that represent it.
The new brand relationship is far more complex, fragmented, transparent and unforgiving. Today your brand can be influenced by the market in ways that were not possible just two or three years ago. However, this can be very good news for marketers willing to embrace the new consumer journey and the evolving needs of their brand.
Engagement is More Than a Buzz Word
The consumer journey is not linear. Consumers are influenced by advertising and PR across a fragmenting media landscape, as well as the increasing volume of consumer voices in social media channels. So our approach to developing and nurturing relationships with consumers must be equally non-linear.
Consumer engagement marketing, including content marketing, is an effective conduit to establishing and nurturing relationships with consumers in a relevant and meaningful way. Consumers explicitly seek out and implicitly discover content and resources every day. Providing the resources that meet consumers' needs and interests should become one of your brand attributes. After all, if you are not providing the resource, it may come from a competitor, or a marketing partner that can funnel category consumers towards your competitors. Providing relevant, informative, entertaining, and engaging content earns good will, establishes brand value, drives word of mouth and generally creates influence throughout the consumer journey. Consumer engagement and content marketing transcends the silos of acquisition and retention.
Strategically, the value of your content is an extension of the value of your brand itself. This is not to be taken lightly. A mature content strategy positions the brand as a resource and fosters deeper relationships with consumers- helping to convert prospects to customers, and customers to advocates. Sounds like relationship marketing, doesn't it?
We Are All Relationship Marketers
Non-linear consumer relationships have created a continuum, and an inter-relationship, between content marketing and CRM. This can initially present an org structure challenge, and requires significant collaboration between CRM and the greater marketing department in the development of cohesive strategies. However, the benefit of this evolution is significant. Both content marketing and relationship marketing are predicated on understanding the motivations, needs, and behaviors of existing and prospective customer segments and catering experiences that best foster deeper relationships.
Measuring the Steps Along the New Customer Journey
Content marketing adds measurable touchpoints for consumers to engage with your brand as they travel along their journey. Your content and distribution channels should be as diverse as consumers' needs and media behavior. Develop content and resources for various stages in the customer lifecycle and ensure visibility and discovery everywhere from your website or blog, syndication partners, social media, and mobile. As the market continues to evolve, digital out of home and connected TVs may round out that list for some marketers.
Over time, the goal is to correlate increased engagement with content to increased customer value. Tracking metrics related to search visibility, social media sharing and discovery, new visitors/relationships, and migration across the continuum to social, email and mobile CRM programs will paint the picture of how the relationships evolve and provide insight for optimization. Some marketers will be fortunate enough to track direct revenue as a result, while others must utilize surveys to establish attitudinal benchmarks of increased consumer value. Either way you slice it, content has become a proven staple in the new marketing playbook.
Marketers can no longer afford to look at content marketing as a nice-to-have tactic. In the era of consumer engagement, consumer empowerment, and the non-linear consumer journey, content once again is king. Is it part of your brand positioning yet?
Do you have a content marketing success story? Or has your company pushed back on supporting content marketing budgets? Share your stories in the comments or hit me on Twitter @jasonheller.