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Thought: Communicate With Clout (Part II)

Part I has given us the foundations, now to put it into a practical campaign, you need the 5 C’s (because we love alliteration!).

Creative

As we established in Part I, the new competitive edge in marketing is actually not trying to manipulate the audience to feel something or want something.  It’s conveying meaning over messaging.  To paraphrase the famous JFK quote, “ask not what your customers can do for you, but what you can do for your customers”. It’s tempting to start by talking about what you do, but you should actually look at the problem, the solution, and the reword.  Rather than telling your audience what you want them to know, think about how you can help them.  Dr James Patell of Standord Graduate school of Business suggests we answer the following: “Our users need a better way to ____ because ____. (adding that “the ‘because’ is the important part”). According to HowStuffWorks, a great slogan has most or all of the following characteristics: it’s memorable, brief and catchy; it includes a key benefit; it differentiates the brand; and it imparts positive feelings about the brand. In many ways, they’re like mini-mission statements.  We see this at play in the world’s biggest brands.  Nike’s “Just Do It” doesn’t mention sports shoes, it speaks of action.  McDonald’s “I’m loving it” doesn’t refer to burgers, but an emotional response.  L’Oreal’s “Because you’re worth it” speaks to a woman’s value rather than lipstick.

Campaign

Just like a blueprint for a house, any campaign – whether for PR, marketing, or sales – must have a plan.  Although HBO’s Mad Men would have you believing otherwise, the real work of a marketer is more spreadsheets than scotch-fuelled creative grappling.  A catchy strapline or well-crafted article is no longer enough as today’s communications industry has transitioned from a humanities profession to a scientific pursuit.  According to 2016 McKinley Marketing hiring trends report Professionals with digital skills, analysts, and those with the ability to effectively extract information from data will continue to be the highest demand”. In today’s market, a good communicator is not just clever with language, they are smart with statistics and know how to use both intuition and data intelligence to craft that perfect message. Whether it was John Wanamaker or Henry Ford (the jury is still out), the oft quoted “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half” sums up the truth that measurement and management are essential to optimise results and minimise costs.  A good plan defines the goal (or goals), sets the course, maps against metrics to plot success, and adjusts the tactics to reach the target.  Global education disruptor General Assembly promotes an Objective-First Framework is an excellent place to start. It is based on SMART criteria and a systematic approach that ensures tactics are measured and results are optimised. Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed. But data without analysis is meaningless. Choosing what you measure is critical. Make sure you translate that data to insights – not just numbers. What do the numbers mean? How does this relate to the original objectives? An organised, data-driven approach will guide your programs, and responding to both qualitative and quantitative data will ensure continual improvement of the outcomes.

Content

According to Demand Metric, companies with blogs produce 67 percent more leads per month than companies who don’t have a blog. In fact, blogs account for 434 percent more of indexed pages on Google. Creating original, useful, and interesting content is an essential strategy for companies to connect with their audience but to also convey their culture, values and ‘personality’. Still need some convincing about content-marketing as part of your overall strategy?  Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. (Demand Metric) and 72% of marketers worldwide said relevant content creation was the most effective SEO tactic (Marketing Profs). When generating content – whether it be blog articles, white papers, case studies, infographics or video – go back to the basics outlined in Part I.  What culture and values do you want to convey?  What kind of content does your audience want to engage with? What are your competitors doing, and how could you do it differently? Better?  Just make sure it’s not completely composed of self-promotion.  80 percent of consumers said “authenticity of content” is the most influential factor in their decision to become a follower of a brand. (SlideShare) yet 45 percent of people surveyed by BuzzStream said they would unfollow a brand on social media if their platform is dominated by “too much” self-promotion. And just in the point above, where metrics reign supreme, even the content itself must be measured and manipulated for maximum effect.  Nowadays, a blog article is typically prefaced by keyword research to see what is trending and what terms to embed in the copy for maximum approach.  And once written, it might be AB tested with different headings to see which article garners more attention.

Channels

In the last 10 years, the explosion of digital communication channels has completely changed the rules of marketing.  Previously we had billboards, yellow pages, TV, newspapers and magazines.  Now we have messenger apps, social media, youtube, influencers, bloggers, vloggers, message bots, search, groups… the list is endless. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all these new platforms, and each business will have channels that best enable it to connect with its niche audience, however there are 3 key areas which every business must participate in.

Search: Google is the search engine of choice for 90% of all global search, with Bing, Yahoo and Baidu fighting for the other 10%.  Every business must be participating in search – ideally with both paid and organic strategies – because most customers looking to buy a product or service start the process by using a search engine (these are considered medium – high intent customers).  Search basically operates on keywords and Shout Me Loud has a solid explanation on how Google determines where your website (organic SEO) or ad (paid SEM) ranks.  SEM Rush and Google’s own Keyword Planner tool can help you refine or expand your keywords, see what your competitors are doing, and even work on a long tail keyword strategy (and while you are here, bookmark Neil Patel as a site to come back to. His digital marketing insights are excellent and highly endorsed).

Social:  We all know the top players (1 billion FB users, 500 million Twitter accounts, 140 million on Instagram, 225 million on LinkedIn).  These platforms have amassed an enormous amount of personal data about us – that we willingly submitted when signing up.  For this reason, Social Media is an incredibly powerful communication channel because businesses can get very granular, targeting their audience by demographic (sex, age, relationship status), interests (design, cats, designer cats), geolocation, and profession (business owner, accountant).  Just as with Search, your participation should be both organic (business page, regular posts) and paid (advertising, retargeting, look-alike audiences).  And it’s a great way to amplify the time-honoured word-of-mouth referral, whether through influencer marketing or by simply proving a great produce or service that people actually want to tell others about.  Moz has an especially good Beginners Guide to Social Media that might take a few sittings to get through.

Self:  Start building your company’s own (and therefore ‘owned’) channels.  Where Google, Facebook, even publishers and influencers will all charge you to advertising with them, your own website, blog, Youtube channel, and even podcast, are free.  Owned channels are an important extension of your brand that you control, and which create avenues for people to interact with. Just be sure you are creating content that people actually want to engage with (see previous section!).  Check out Titan Growth’s overview of Paid, Owned and Earned Media for a broader explanation.

Conversation

In an interview, PR News asked marketing pro Brian Solis what companies miss most often in engaging customers and stakeholders. “Companies are still bringing a dictator-like approach to engagement…They’re still broadcasting instead of communicating…public relations, marketing and social media teams try to own the conversation rather than invest in it, shape it or become part of it.” The Nirvana of brand marketing is when customers participate in, and perpetuate, the brand story (examples). This is a powerful pivot point where it’s no longer brands telling customers what they are selling, but rather customers telling brands what they want. 65% of people that feel an emotional connection to a brand, say it’s because “they care about people like me.” Forming a long-term bond between your brand and your customers is more than transactional. Your branding should indicate that you understand your customers’ problems, and care about solving them. It’s trying to connect on a deeper level – by being authentic, transparent, consistent and aspirational. Unlike traditional forms of broadcasting, social media allows you to ‘handshake’ with your clients, to actually have a dialogue.  And this creates a social currency that companies can take to the bank.  Take Tesla over Toyota, or AirBnB over Marriott. These companies have huge reach and social reputation that have rocketed their value astronomically.

Conclusion

Communicating with cut-through is about reaching and connecting with the right people at the best time with a compelling message and a great experience.  To reach your full potential, then, you must not only represent your business but should strive to become the full embodiment of your personal and company brand.  Its knowing your audience and allowing your audience to know and shape you.  Your values, behaviours and even appearance are a representation of your brand at all times. When you are congruent, relevant and consistent, people will respond.

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