According to Kim Browne, CEO of digital media architects, Twisted Toast, any conversation is good, even if the content is not positive. “Even bad conversations provide you with valuable insight into how your brand is viewed in the market place,” she says. “Knowing what people think is the first step towards giving them what they want.”
Of course, what you ideally want is to create ‘brand fans’ who market your products or services for you, and this requires giving them content they can use and send on. “You need to start a conversation by appealing to the ideas and concepts that your customers care about or find interesting,” says Browne’s business partner, Twisted Toast’s MD Louis Eksteen. “But you also need to understand that once that conversation has begun, it will grow organically. You can’t control what form or shape it will take, and if you do, people will immediately notice what you are trying to do and your message will lose credibility.”
So, how do you create quality content that starts a conversation, creates fans, and that people will not only listen to, but tell others about as well? According to Browne, the first step is to get the whole company involved. “Creating earned media brings marketing from the external to the internal,” she explains. “Traditional marketing has a role to play, but it should also draw attention to where the conversation is happening — whether that’s on Twitter, Facebook or the company’s own website or blog. Once the conversation starts, a company needs to keep creating content, and that takes buy-in from the full team. Your company’s message needs to be implicit in everything you do. It needs to be part of your culture. Your whole staff needs to understand it, agree with it and act on it. If everyone is consistently creating good content, you will give brand fans what they want: something to talk about and pass on.”
This doesn’t always need to be product or service specific either. “Ultimately you are creating a full and rounded brand identity,” says Eksteen. “You want people engaging with your brand, not only using your product or service.” To get started, analyse what you are already doing. “Content creation is really about recognising opportunities,” says Browne. “Most companies already sponsor something or host an event. The trick is to incorporate that into your strategy. Think about all the modes of media available today: video, photos, articles — every one of these can be utilised. Just plan for it. Always have a still or video camera handy and include content from all events on your website and social networking sites.”
Browne has one firm warning though: using owned media like paid media will result in pushing a message instead of starting a conversation. “People will ignore content that is not interesting to them or feels forced. Don’t push your brand. Give people an excuse to do that for you,” she says.
One example of letting people drive a campaign is offered by Jason Stewart, MD of HaveYouHeard, a Cape Town-based word-of-mouth marketing agency. He hones in on an international campaign for hemorrhoid cream. “There is absolutely no way to make hemorrhoid cream exciting,” he says – or is there?
According to Stewart, the team responsible for creating the ad campaign around a specific brand hit on an interesting fact: many of Hollywood’s stars use hemorrhoid cream to hide their wrinkles. Stars like Sandra Bullock actually endorse it as a great beauty product. “That’s a fact that not only intrigues people, but they will tell other people about it,” points out Stewart. “Suddenly you’ve started a conversation that people will respond to — and you’ve created earned media, because the word will spread without you spending another cent.”
Creating brand fans
The first rule in creating a brand fan is to have a good product or service. “We always say that if you want people to ‘remark’ on you, you need to be remarkable,” says Stewart. “The second is that you need to identify your market and the most influential people in that market, and the environments they operate in.” This can be done both online and offline. For example, you can find online brand advocates who will retweet your messages, or concentrate on a local sports club or association where people actually get together and engage with the community there.
You will need something to engage them with, however. “The most important thing is content,” says Eksteen. “If you don’t have real content, you aren’t giving your fans anything to work with.” For many companies, this involves giving up a bit of their intellectual property for free. “You need to position yourself as an expert,” elaborates Eksteen. “You want people to trust you and respect the advice or information you are giving them. This will keep you top of mind, and when they or a friend or colleague are looking for a company in your field, they will recommend you.” Offering expert advice can be done through a blog, video blog, or social networking sites.
What if you don’t always have advice to offer? The truth is that every industry faces challenges, and whether you offer financial or legal solutions, or manufacture ballbearings, you should be able to offer advice or discuss key issues. However, another — equally successful — way of providing content is to link your content to events. “If you host an event, or sponsor an event, make sure you have a photographer there,” says Browne. “Give people free access to photos of themselves at the event that they can share with others. It might be an added expense, but it allows them to ultimately share your brand – and their good experience — with others.”
Creating meaningful content
- Find out what people are talking about and use it. Often companies are pushing one thing, (a great new ingredient in a body cream) but what people are really talking about (the really easy nozzle of the bottle) is ignored. Stay in touch with how customers are reacting to your product or service.
- Integrate consumers into every aspect of your product. Ask them to test new products and make recommendations. If they have been involved in the development of something, they will be more likely to recommend it to others.
- Be honest. Recommendations work on trust — if people don’t believe you are being honest, they will not spread your message.
- Give people what they want to talk about. There are three main things people want to talk about: product experience, customer service and information that is surprising or useful.
- Implement good customer service principles. People want to talk about positive experiences — so give them something to talk about! This also generates amazing loyalty.
Ask These 3 Questions To Determine Where To Spend Your Marketing Budget
Stretching your marketing budget is imperative, especially when there aren’t that many marketing rands to stretch.
As you grow your business, it’s important to be creative and efficient with your money. When it comes to marketing, there are a number of cost-effective ways to spend and save your money. So, if you’re worried about marketing on a limited budget, here’s some helpful info to know.
First, great marketing is about highlighting wants and needs and attaching them to desired outcomes. It’s possible to do that regardless of budget — and every company’s strategy will be different.
For example, when my consultancy worked with Dollar Shave Club to grow its platform beyond viral videos, we focused on establishing a unique voice, which led to creating an editorial component. When we worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger on his fitness and nutrition products, we focused on creating a core mission and understanding why he was involved in the product. And when we worked with Four Sigmatic to market its coffees and teas, we focused on customer acquisition and retention.
3 Questions that Cut Through the Clutter
Those projects all started with the same three questions: What is the value and purpose of your product or service? Who is your target audience? And what is the best platform on which to reach them? That’s where you’ll want to invest most of your attention before you determine where to spend your money. (Notice my word choice: Your planning is an investment; where you spend is a cost.)
1. In general, we prefer to use digital campaigns
It’s easier to track what works and what doesn’t. Plus, digital creates multiple opportunities to engage. Think of it this way: 10% of your audience will buy, 10% won’t and 80% will be on the fence. Would you rather have one shot to convince that 80%, or multiple? By retargeting through something like Facebook ads or Google, or even creating a distribution channel like an email list, you can communicate repeatedly.
2. If you don’t have an audience, spend money fishing in small ponds where you know you can get a bite, and then set yourself up to communicate repeatedly
(This is where creating content as a form of acquisition or building an email list can be incredibly valuable.) Depending on your product or service, this could mean a very targeted ad to a small audience on Facebook — rather than attempting to reach millions — or setting up a pop-up shop, or getting a spot at a local farmers’ market.
3. If you already have an audience, turn them into super-fans who will bring their peers into your universe
Identify previous buyers and give them direct access to you through focus groups or calls. Reward them for their time with product or a gift certificate. When you show your consumer that you care about and appreciate them, it not only increases the likelihood of repurchase but also helps them personally invest in the soul of the business. Not to mention, their insights will help you understand why they bought and how to replicate that process.
Whatever you do — and no matter how big or small your budget — keep finding better answers to the core marketing questions and your success won’t hinge on any one platform.
Gen Z Is Coming! Are You Ready?
How do you market your company to this generation?
According to the CNBC, about 61 000 Gen Zers are on the verge of entering the workforce and consumer market in the US alone.
They are digital natives; they have grown up in a world of vines, txts (yes, we know) and internet. Their attention span is shorter than ever, they are more connected than any other generation, and they are brilliant multitaskers. Gen Z is a more tolerant generation but also more cautious; studies have found less risk-taking amongst this group and an increase in thoughtfulness and questioning authority.
So, on the one side of this coin, how do you market your company to this generation?
1. By being transparent
Be upfront about your business, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. They have lost faith in corporations. Thus, you must stop relying on and hiding behind small print. Yes, you need terms and conditions to protect your company, but when it looks like a miracle weight-loss advert of the 80s (“Eat anything you want just take this pill. Ts&Cs apply.”), you’ll lose customers.
Related: Investing in Young Entrepreneurs
Gen Z consumers want to see you are real; they don’t want models or celebrities but regular people who can assist them in a manner that speaks to them. And they will hold your business is socially accountable. Instead of producing millions of T-shirts at the cheapest possible price, they want local, equality and free-trade, and they want to know what businesses are doing for the environment and society.
Gen Z won’t accept your claims at your word; they want to see evidence in your company culture.
2. By offering options
A jewellery purchasing study has found that most Gen Zers don’t have a preferred shopping platform. What this means is your messaging, availability and culture need to be spread evenly across all contact points – sales, call centres, website and digital advertising. In fact, many Gen Z consumers rely on mixing their contact points.
That being said, they want immediate action. If they see something they want online, they will go to the shop just to have the item right now. More than immediacy, they also want custom-made or made-to-order products and services. They shy away from traditional made-to-stock methods, which creates plenty of room in the production industry.
3. By being forward thinking
We have to always remember what was mind-blowing inventions to other generations are the norm for Gen Zers. They hold brands and businesses to high expectations, and instead of being loyal to brands, expect brands to be loyal to them. As Gen Z is more focused on individuality, they are also proving to be a generation with a high entrepreneurial output. All this shows that they don’t want the norm; they don’t crave what’s new today, they want tomorrow, sustainability and innovation, and they want it now.
On the other side of the coin, how do you attract this generation to work at your company? In much the same way.
1. By being transparent
As much as you are hiring them based on what they bring to the table, so too are they looking at what you can afford them. But, they don’t just want to hear you tell them about the benefits, they want to see it – and they are not after just money. Gen Zers want to be financially secure, but also one that is fulfilling; one where they find purpose in their jobs and company.
2. By offering options
Gen Z employees don’t want to work eight to five, they don’t want to be chained to a desk, and they don’t want to be micro-managed. Give them flexibility on how they want to conduct their work and how they can communicate with their colleagues. Create an understanding workspace for their needs and help them improve their skills – for instance, it’s been reported that a stumbling block for Gen Zers is communication. Growing up with emojis and text messages make face-to-face conversations, business calls and writing emails difficult for them.
Gen Z employees want to work hard and grow their skills. Even though they’re growing up in a super-paced society, they want to climb the corporate ranks at the given speed. What they crave, with urgency, is gaining value from their jobs.
Related: The Z Generation
3. By being forward thinking
They are lateral thinkers, and their creativity is not just outside the box but has broken the box completely. Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, and they will challenge the systems and procedures you have in place if these are not providing the needed speed and data required. Thus, they crave to work in an environment where they can push boundaries and ultimately help the company move forward. Hiring from the Gen Z pool can provide you with innovative insights into your business that can grow it towards tomorrow’s giants.
The only way to be sure you are future-proofing your business is by guaranteeing it caters for future customers and employees, by relying on forward-thinking enterprise resource planning software, for instance. Epicor ERP software ensures that their clients stay agile and innovative through trusting top minds to build and develop intelligent systems that open doors for Gen Zers. It’s Epicor’s innate tech-savviness that allows them to visualise the landscape of tomorrow and develop the software to support it today.
Free Sample Marketing Plan Template
You don’t need an MBA to write a marketing plan for your business. While no two businesses are alike, all solid marketing plans need to provide specific information. Use this sample marketing plan template to get you started on the right foot and cover all the essential information.
Your marketing plan should provide a comprehensive blueprint of the business, its market and associated market activity, its position in the market, target and expected customers, offerings, competition, solutions and contingency plans.
Using a sample Marketing Plan Template can save you a lot of time in creating your own marketing plan.
Download a Sample Marketing Plan Template
Use the free templates below to help make sure you’ve covered all the important bits:
Recommended Marketing Reads:
- Smart Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
- Mega Guide to Online Marketing
- Marketing Toolbox for the Entrepreneur
- The Ultimate Marketing Tool Library for Entrepreneurs
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