Why Content Marketing Could Be An Unfair Advantage for Local Business
Every day I witness how incredibly hard it is to walk away from convention. The act of “un-knowing” all that was once so rigidly accepted as truth, has become a challenge that small-business owners accept they must face. For those trying to connect with consumers it’s as if the world has adopted a new language, leaving small-business owners wishing for a marketing version of Rosetta Stone.
From Search Engine Marketing to Email Marketing, to Content Marketing (Earned, Owned and Paid) and all of the changes in traditional media, the rules of marketing feel so different today I’m constantly being asked to find some proof in the digital pudding.
Lately, my answers to those questions have been pretty consistent. If there is an advertising formula to be found in the new marketing landscape it may be to simply forget about advertising. But wait- don’t pull your print ads, yet. Rather than “un-knowing” everything you thought you knew about advertising, the real challenge is to focus on understanding consumer behavior in a more detailed and dynamic way so that you can start helping consumers buy your products and services.
In order to understand the distinction between the two, we all need to agree that digital information gathering has fundamentally altered brand awareness and loyalty. At a time when it is generally accepted that consumers engage with 6,000 different brands per day, brand building has become a dialogue in which business owners actively seek consumer feedback in the hopes of driving engagement. There are some excellent examples of how to embrace this strategy, much of which I will detail in future posts, but first; a cautionary tale.
Innovation has been popularly compared to a whirlpool. As we spin inexorably closer to the funnel’s eye, “change” has become so constant and so jarring to the traditional methods we once used to drive revenue growth, many businesses have begun to view these changes as a thing to be combatted, or in the least, anticipated…so they can be combatted later.
Ten years ago the record industry acted as poster children for a refusal to adapt to the changing methods consumers use to determine what to buy and who to buy from. More recently, Showrooming, and the desperate steps Best Buy and Walmart (among others) have taken to keep consumers from engaging in this behavior provides a more relevant example.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with showrooming, our favorite unreliable consumer-generated-information-source, Wikipedia defines it as “the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it, but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item.”
The nearly venomous hatred for the practice has lead electronics retailers to take incredible steps to combat the practice. There have been reports of employees instructing consumers to keep their smart phones in their pockets while shopping. Brands have been asked to create custom SKUs to make it more difficult for consumers to verify the value of certain products and in some extreme situations consumers have been asked to leave when suspicion of showrooming arises. None of which is good business.
Only recently have retailers begun to slump in defeat and agree to price-matching in order to remain competitive.
And yet, for small to medium sized local businesses, price-matching high-volume based internet pricing is likely not an option, and in truth, isn’t going to be a long-term strategy for big-box retailers, either. And so the whirlpool spins and here we are searching for alternatives.
Here are a few.
By creating rewards programs that focus on driving consumer reviews of your products or services, for example, you are allowing your customer base to act as ambassadors for your business, while simultaneously directing consumer-rich content online that will help others decide to buy from you.
Businesses everywhere created Facebook pages without any notion as to how they would drive real revenue with Social Media. By actively engaging with your fans and promoting your customers’ positive experiences, you position yourself to capitalize on the exponential benefit of social sharing…again, helping consumers choose you.
Other ideas include:
· Offering customer loyalty benefits
· Creating partnerships with other local businesses to bundle products and services. This allows you to offer the additional value of convenience.
· Have better-trained, more responsive, more knowledgeable staff that can provide better consumer support.
· Be open about your price differences. Detail clearly what the price difference buys the consumer. When people know what they are paying for, they are more likely to buy.
· Be a tenacious ambassador of your business. Consistently remind consumers why they choose you. Be sure your employees do the same.
· Remember, consumers crave human interaction and experience. You can control that experience.
By wrapping these ideas into your existing advertising budget, by modifying your messaging and creating programs that utilize digital in a way that allows you to do the most basic thing, talk with people, you can remove some of the mystery from digital.
It’s less about un-learning all that we’ve learned over the years and more about going back to the basics with value driven messaging. Digital Media gives you a powerful tool for cultivating that content and delivering it to the rest of us. We are all consumers, after all.