According to the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), almost 60% of the buyer journey is complete before prospects reach out to vendors.
Why? Because today’s consumers are getting too smart. They, or we – as we are all consumers in our own right – know what we want before we’ve started looking. What determines the purchase is price and brand affinity.
Building brand affinity, or brand likability, is something of a new concept to marketers.
Today’s consumer, helped along by the power of social media, sees right through brands that use selling tactics that blatantly insult the intelligence of the buyer.
Connecting people with brands
Today’s consumer is looking for brands that put buyers first.
Think about the brands you follow on social media. They can easily be sorted into three distinct groups:
- Brands that you’ve built an empathy to over the years
- Aspirant brands that you wish to someday be a consumer of, like a sports car brand
- Brands that have attracted you with clever, captivating online content.
We, the consumer, are looking for brands that know how to connect on a human and emotional level. In fact, the Corporate Executive Board’s latest report shows that “emotion beats promotion” by a factor of 2 to 1.
Content marketing comes to the fore
The answer to this lies with content marketing.
Take a look at the number of content marketing searches per month on Google. For years, it was a relatively under-searched term.
And then in January 2011, there was an increase that shows the term ‘content marketing’ is now four times more important to brands than ever before.
In fact, content marketing is one of the top priorities for marketing in 2014, and the source of the biggest increase in marketing budget.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is the process of creating and serving content that customers actually want or need. It’s the process of actively creating compelling content that arouses reaction, whether it be by evoking a ‘like’ or some form of social sharing.
Think of content marketing as a way to attract buyers instead of paying to reach them. And while this may seem counter-intuitive, it isn’t.
It’s a mindset that starts with the question “What do our buyers want or need?”
It then cycles through the process of analysing keywords (read ‘hashtags’) and social trends, finding the research, experts, tips and tricks that answer those questions.
And then process starts all over again when you analyse what works and use those insights to drive continuous improvement in the next round of content creation.
Create, curate and syndicate
Content marketing is an equal portion of creation, curation and syndication.
You can’t have all the answers. And likely won’t have enough funds to create all the bespoke content you need. But the unique insights and point of view you do have should be the focus of content creation.
Curation is the art and science of finding the expert insights and research from others. It is a much more strategic function than most people think and it is not just about re-sharing other content.
Effective content curation will allow you to add your perspective and to package this content for your buyers. Think of curation as covering other people’s content like a journalist covers the news.
And finally content syndication (or distribution) is just as important so we can get all the great content we create and curate and expose it to larger audiences.
This is where social media closes the circle.
Ignore it at your peril
Content marketing is undoubtedly one of the most underutilised mediums used by South African businesses. But it also the fastest-growing. In the past year, we have noticed an uptake of nearly 100%, with businesses visibly upping their social media spend in favour of personalised content.
The real question remains – can you afford to ignore it?