Cultivate | A change in guard: From what you want to say, to what they want to hear
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A change in guard: From what you want to say, to what they want to hear

As we head towards the last leg of 2015, you would’ve noticed a pronounced shift in control from the corporate/ brand to the consumer. It shouldn’t come as a surprise as the futurists and trend-watchers among us have been predicting this for years. Against this context, it is a little short-sighted to think that just because you make a good product, they will come. Arrogance doesn’t cut the mustard in an integrated, always-on world. Today’s customer has way too much option, can stalk and review you, compare you against your competition, ask their friends and associates about you – and then still decide not to buy when the time comes because they found a better deal elsewhere.

Coupled with the explosion of new media platforms available to engage this super-savvy customer, the goal-posts have fundamentally shifted from a one-way traditional marketing approach to a holistic integrated system that requires a clear purpose, is flexible and reacts to the pulse of what customers what to hear and understands what they are doing, right now.

Preceding any of this engagement however you need to have a clear and simple strategic intent. Without knowing what you do, who you want to talk to, about what, and why, you’ll not only confuse yourself but your customer too. A confused mind does not buy.

So how do you know what yours is? It’s a pretty simple question that has a loaded answer: Why do you do what you do? Is it because:

  • You want to make money, pure and simple?
  • You want to innovate and game-change your industry?
  • You want to empower people with knowledge?
  • You want to offer counsel?
  • You want to raise money/ develop a product to help those in need?
  • And so on….

Until you have a clear view on what your “why” is, you’re missing an opportunity to really pitch yourself to your customers and attract the right fit for your product or service offering.

Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than simply understanding your own intent – something which may even be considered a luxury when you just want to get to market and make a sale – you also need to understand your customers’ intent too. Taking the time to get to know them will put you in good stead to engage. When last did you create a persona of your perfect customer? Do they have a name, where do they live, what do they enjoy doing, why would they like what you have to offer? It may seem like a futile exercise, but in determining who you are talking to, you will have a more tailored message and tone that will resonate better with their interests.

Thanks to the host of new communication tools that allow you, and your competitors, to market directly to your customer, it really is in your interest to have a thorough understanding of what sets you apart from the next guy. So take some time to refine your USP (unique selling point). If you have a good business proposition, the chances are someone else already has done it, or will do soon enough. Differentiating yourself with respect to your positioning, message and overall look & feel will set you apart – and may also attract a more like-minded customer than if you’re too generic.

Armed with a clear strategic intent, understanding of your customer, USP and unique positioning, you’re ready to create your stories – the tales that allow you to showcase your brand’s personality, demonstrate your expertise and of course engage your audience with content that they want to consume (versus what you want to tell them!). But creating stories that will resonate, does require some thought. Take a leaf out of an editor’s book and work through this checklist:

  • So what? Is the story of relevance to anyone but you or your company
  • What value does it offer? Is it educational, inspirational or informative?
  • Does it have a strong headline? If you can’t tell it in 100 characters it needs more crafting
  • Does it tap into news of the day? Topical tie-ins give your story more relevance, right now
  • Can you package it in different ways? An article, infographic, podcast, visual gallery or voxpop?
  • Can it be shared easily online? You can post a new blog to your Twitter or Linked-In feeds for instance or publish an engaging infographic on your Facebook page to drive interaction with your community and theirs.
  • Is it fresh? Unless you are offering an expert opinion that won’t date, make sure your story is current, new and innovative.

Then you’ll need to package it. If you’re producing content in-house, do make sure you have a trusted friend or peer to ask to spell-check your work and fix any grammar. Or, if designing or producing any artwork make sure you can actually tell a story visually and know the different formats for social media, online, web and print.

Lastly, don’t forget to track your efforts. There are a host of tools you can use that will give you insight into your content’s performance, which in turn allows you to analyse if it is working hard enough for you. A few metrics include:

  • Increase in your social media engagement
  • Visitors to your website
  • New Facebook fans
  • Leads

But don’t be too hasty; building engagement and interest in your product or service takes time and effort. Commit to an initial six months to really provide a clear read on what works and doesn’t.

Following these few steps should help to put you in better stead to engage your customer in a way that is of most interest to them, and may even drive them to consider doing business with you.


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