Why awareness is the most critical part of the funnel
Let’s say you are a hair product loyalist. Or maybe you only buy OLED TVs. What brand do you prefer? Your choice is built on trust. That much we know.
That’s why in a saturated market, brands are scrambling to stand out from their competitors across all marketplaces. When quality is expected and price points are similar, how can your brand rise above the noise and give consumers a reason to purchase your product?
Trust is a tricky thing—especially with consumerism. Finicky customers are tough to impress in today’s world, making brands scratch their heads wondering how to earn consumers’ trust.
Robert Rose, founder of The Content Advisory, says the speed by which you begin building trust is the critical part of the awareness stage. One of Rose’s mottoes is that “Trust starts with both the story and the storyteller.” He offers a great example: “I can shout out loud in a quiet restaurant and make you aware of me. But who I am, and what I shout, is an incredibly important piece of whether or not you’ll actually behave the way I desire.”
Rose says to imagine it like this: You’re wearing a badge; therefore, people immediately recognize you as an authority. So if you yell for everyone to follow you in a crowded restaurant, everyone follows. The conversion rate tends to be high. But if nobody trusts you, or if you start shouting incoherent things, the outcome will be much different.
His analogy lends itself heavily to the reason content marketing is so important in 2019. With a great content marketing strategy and a focus on quality, brands can position themselves as industry experts. The key is to create content that is helpful to the reader.
“The strategies that most often fail,” Rose says, “are where content marketing is simply seen as a replacement asset for collateral material such as catalogs, ads, etc., and are created randomly to meet business demand.”
So, how do you create content that serves both the reader and the brand? It comes down to creativity, like much of successful marketing does.
“Content is one of the easiest ways for brands to have a real conversation with their audience,” says Melanie Deziel, international keynote speaker and founder of Story Fuel.
As a marketer, you’re interrupting the consumer to pitch them your product—whether the disruption is a TV ad spot or a video that plays in-store. “It’s not really wanted, if we’re being honest,” Deziel says. “But I think one of the wonderful things about content marketing is you’re actually able to create things that add value. When you’re creating content that’s really more for your audience than for you, customers feel like, ‘This is a brand that’s helpful to me,’ and you end up creating a connection.”
Do good work
Just as the market has become saturated with businesses trying to succeed, the content marketing industry has begun to see its own jump. “Good content tends to work,” Rose says.
But the difference between good content and bad content is quite important. Bring yourself back to Rose’s example about shouting in a crowded restaurant. Bad content sounds like incoherent babbling, tarnishing your brand’s credibility. Good content leaves the reader more informed, entertained, or, at the very least, aware of your brand’s existence in your particular industry.
Content marketing is not a new way of appealing to audiences, but innovations in technology have allowed marketers to continuously produce fresh ways to connect with consumers. Deziel, who previously worked at The New York Times’ in-house creative agency, T Brand Studio, says that it had created articles, infographics, interactive infographics, AR and VR to try and keep up with reader expectations.
In the past five or so years, content marketing formats have shifted. “In the earlier days, it was mostly text-based—articles, blogs, Q&As,” says Deziel, who has been in content marketing since 2013. “But editorial content has changed, too. We’re seeing a lot of growth still in the audio and podcast space. It won’t be a fit for every brand, every product, but smart brands are going to explore audio, podcast, for a new way to connect with their audience.”
No matter the format, Deziel says the most important part of content marketing is measuring success. “You spend all your time creating the content. Not measuring the effectiveness would be a waste, so set clear goals before you begin crafting. With systems in place, you will be able to see what to improve on in the next campaign.”
But it would be a fatal flaw to only view content marketing as a campaign-focused endeavor. Rose suggests businesses look at content like a product-development group rather than a campaign-focused group. “By changing operational models to one where content becomes as important as product, the business can start creating an operational model that can meet actual business goals.”
Doing so will help avoid commoditization of content, which ultimately isn’t helpful for a brand. “The content that’s the easiest to make is the content that’s the least unique,” Deziel warns, likening it to “low-hanging fruit.”
For both the marketers’ and the brands’ sake, it’s imperative to be open to new ideas. Originality shines in content marketing, and in order to produce scroll-stopping content, you’ve got to stay on the cusp of new technology and keep quality at the forefront.
Rose says that great content leads, suggesting that some brands create content simply as an afterthought, which is likely ineffective. He says these brands should a take a pause from the cycle of constant content churning to ensure they are being strategic about the thought leadership platform they are trying to build. Lead with your content.
Deziel believes that experimenting will keep you fresh. “It’s easy to get caught in the same routine, putting out the same content in same formats on same schedule, but that would be boring for you as a creative and for the client.”
Being intentional about the content you put out there will not only break through the noise, but it will also pay off in the long-term. The longer you give consumers value via your unique content, the more trust you build over time, cementing your status as an industry leader and reliable brand who puts the consumer first.
And when someone’s ready to buy a product like yours, your name will be at the tip of the tongue.
By Alyssa Ruane
This article appears in the new May/June 2019 issue of Connect magazine published by NextPage, which can be found online here. If you would like a free print subscription to Connect, please click here.
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