A couple of years ago, Google introduced the concept of the “micro-moment,” the little bits of focused attention customers apply when researching a purchase or a service relationship. Their documentation of the trend is worth a read and positioning your business and location within the data stream that delivers you into moments is critical to success. Once that’s in place, however, nurturing a relationship requires nuance, something great content can provide 24/7.
In their book, “The Trusted Advisor,” David H. Maiser, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Halford list five stages to building trust with clients. Here’s my take on how to apply them to crafting a content plan that builds your business by focusing on a customer need before they may even know they have it.
The first step is to take the initiative to actively work on understanding the situation people are in and uncover the topics they want to discuss. Instead of jumping into discussing auto loans, for example, talk first about managing the costs of owning a car to make them feel more secure in what may be their first major purchase.
Before you can join a discussion, you’ve got to earn the right to be included by listening. Good listeners ask for more detail, empathize, and are encouraging. They don’t jump to conclusions or pass judgement. Social media provides a great opportunity to listen in a channel where your community is actively engaged.
As an outside expert, you often have a fresh perspective on a customer’s situation. But sometimes that means having an uncomfortable conversation by addressing the elephant in the room nobody wants to confront. That means you can take some of the personal responsibility by wading in first. Try phrases like: “It’s probably just me, but…” “It’s probably inappropriate to bring this up, but…” “I know you prefer X, but…”
By now, you should have a clear picture of the kinds of solutions to offer. But before jumping in, take time for a little imagination. Ask questions like “What are we really aiming for?” “How will we know when we’re successful?” “What will that success look like?” It’s fun to imagine what’s possible and is an important step to align everyone’s expectations, particularly among people with little experience.
At this stage, commitment is more than closing a sale. It’s about outlining what’s expected from each party and proving that there’s more to the relationship than a transfer of money. Commit to a customer’s success and you’ll stand out from the crowd. After all, isn’t that what customer service is all about?
Becoming a trusted partner to a whole new range of customers isn’t about creating content that panders to them. It’s about establishing a reliable presence and offering the guidance and information they need.
The whisper of “If you build it, they will come” may have produced magic for Ray Kinsella, but it’s not a solid strategy for using content to serve and attract new customers.
In my experience, it’s pretty clear that nobody’s going to rush to check out yet another post. Without a promotion plan, even the best content goes nowhere. That’s why working links into all of your available channels is so important.
Ease their pain
Link building is the process of increasing the number of ways a customer can find your content, typically by providing links around the Web. If your information is just sitting and waiting to be found, it’s going to be lonely.
Remember, if something isn’t a single click away, the barrier is too high for most people. That’s why you want to base your content plan that includes understanding how people search for the kinds of products and services you offer coupled with a solid promotional strategy that targets where they’re likely to look.
Go the distance
On your primary site and each social media profile, tell people what they can expect of value from you: tips, offers, advice, helpful links from other sources, or some combination. And make a plan to direct each valued item toward a landing page designed for that particular customer.
Building engagement with your content isn’t just for social media. Think of all the points at which your customers interact with something you’ve created for them and refer to your content for more information.
Magic works in the movies, but in the real world, results online are based on having a plan, thinking through the customer journey, and providing value day in and day out.
Originally published on CUInsight.com
From the brass blog:
In a saturated media landscape, straight sales pitches are dismissed. But digital tools provide great opportunity to indicate when customers are considering a purchase, and therefore more likely to welcome some help, which you can provide in the form of quality, relevant content.
Tl;dr: Understand the pain point, post in the right place, don’t drop the ball once people are engaged.
With leaked information about changes to Google’s AdWords and plans from Facebook to roll out an ad network of its own, it’s clear that if your revenue model is ad-based and isn’t driven by Google or Facebook, find a new model. Automated ad-buying is making the value of page views an outright commodity, and the effectiveness of banner advertising (while always dubious in my view) is at rock bottom.
Page views (as a measure of value) are dead:
An analysis of one international brand’s traffic from display ads found that of the thousands of visitors they bought over a multi-week period, only two users registered a non-zero engaged time. Meaning only two people read any of it.
Meanwhile, even social engagement is an unreliable indicator of real reach among an audience, when thousands of likes and followers can be had for meager investment.
I say good riddance!
Much hand-wringing has gone on about page view chasing causing a loss of focus on the mission, but with no real alternative to present. I think we always knew in our gut that counting hits or suffering trolls wasn’t a good approach to build lasting relationships with the communities (geographic and topic-based) we set out to serve. And that’s what good content — good journalism — is all about.
I’ve been reading Jeff Jarvis’ posts on Medium on this subject and found resonance with the concept of advocating and enabling:
We need to use or build platforms that enable a community to express and discern its goals.
What’s great about this is that it provides a crystal clear “Why” for the organization. Considering a new product/service/platform/event? Does it enable the community to express and discern it’s goals?
Such a position also allows for an organization to layer its approach and slate of offerings. Small, focused platforms provide specificity for both the community and those who want to reach and support them. By crafting many of them, each with a clarity of purpose and how it makes money, the organization becomes less at risk to disruption. Antifragile, even.
It’s not easy, and there’s probably plenty of pain yet to come as the old model (even the newest old model) grinds to a halt. But I suggest that the fun part is around the corner.
Whether it’s serving a community’s information needs, uncovering hidden truths, or in service of marketing a great product, today’s content creators should consider their work as building a partnership with readers. In their book, “The Trusted Advisor,” David H. Maiser, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Halford list five stages to building trust with clients:
I broke down each from a financial institution content perspective on the brass blog, but most of it boils down to empathy. Really engage and put yourself in the other’s shoes and tie your success to theirs to build a real lasting relationship.
Here’s an excerpt of a post I wrote for brass:
Here’s why you’re not seeing results even after writing a bunch of content and pushing it out via your social channels: just writing content isn’t enough. You need a strategy.
A content strategy lines up the content you produce (or will create) with both the business goals you’re aiming for and the needs of your audience. It’s a tough balance, but it’s critical for success.
I find that Robert Pirsig’s 1974 novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” offers some insight into the problem of creating and delivering quality content. For Pirsig, quality isn’t an attribute that can be applied; it’s the event at which a subject becomes aware of an object. In our case, it is the moment when a reader discovers a piece of information that enlightens her current situation and creates awareness of the publisher as a worthy source. In a word: context.
For content creators, the concept of quality as context has new relevance in an era of increasingly conversational search tools and on-demand information via mobile devices. In a saturated media landscape, straight sales pitches are dismissed, but the same tools that offer a constant stream of data can also provide great opportunity for relationship building. More than ever, delivering the right information to the right person at the right time requires forethought and planning.
The really dynamic and interesting part of the effective use of content is delivering it at the right time. I believe this is the crux of “quality” that Pirsig is seeking, and, as his novel explains, it’s the toughest to understand and implement.
A coworker sent me a link to this graphic, illustrating the complex web of social media tools available for marketers. It was created by Buddy Media at the unveiling of their suite of monitoring tools.
It’s an interesting graphic, but I think it misses the point for social media marketing. I see this as a warning to “me-too” companies who want a piece of user’s social time and attention (and it’s also effective to make a case for content monitoring).
Social media marketers only need to know a couple of things to get started:
My take is the biggest reason content marketing fails to deliver for many is – if they’re honest with themselves – the story just isn’t compelling.
My friend Jason posted a comprehensive list of items to consider when crafting a mobile strategy for local media. It’s solid, and I found myself drawn to the “Audience approach” portion of the post:
- Recognize mobile users are task driven and formulate everything around that
- Know what users are doing on mobile devices in the market
My takeaway from the list, and the audience-centered approach in general, was that it outlined not just a mobile strategy, but a real set of targets to shoot for across an organization. I got a little picky about this in my response to the post; after some further thinking, I’d like to elaborate.
I live in Salem, Oregon and work about an hour south in Corvallis. Of course, when I worked as a reporter here, I knew pretty much everything that was going on in Corvallis. About Salem, however, I knew very little. Part of the curse of commuting, I suppose. My wife is active in the community and plugged in to a range of groups, but we decided to take the local paper, thinking it’d help us broaden our knowledge of chicken dinner stuff.
Keep in mind that we decided to subscribe for three primary reasons:
Also keep in mind that this would be a bit of an experiment for me: reading a paper in a town I lived in without working in the newsroom that produced the product.
It didn’t last long. I found the reporting incomplete with just a few local stories and all the usual national and international stuff I’d read elsewhere fully 18 hours before my paper arrived. The papers kept getting thinner, with less room for the events and community information I wanted. A few months after we started subscribing, the paper went on a major campaign to promote their columnists, none of whom I found very insightful or entertaining. The truth is, the useful information just wasn’t there and we decided that it wasn’t worth the money we were paying.
This week, I read that the paper had been recognized by APME for “Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism.” The award-winning story was of waste, corruption and fraud in a local education service agency. It was a great series: deeply reported, with great online tools to sift and visualize data, and led to overhaul of the agency staff.
I don’t mean to detract from their good work, but my concern is that an award like this will tell the editors and managers that what they are doing is just right. We were subscribers when this story unfolded. Award-winning watchdog journalism couldn’t overcome the paper’s lack of day-to-day utility.
I read or heard a long time ago that journalism is information people use to organize their lives: who to vote for, what to do Saturday night, things to talk about over dinner. It’s all about utility and it’s only as good as it is useful (newspaper’s called fishwrap for a reason). In a competitive information market, we all have too many choices to put up with mediocre options.
In my experience, starting with what’s essential for maximum utility and relentlessly simplifying around that core makes for a more focused and useful product. For media companies, that utility generates habit and trust. You’re there when they needed you. And when you have deep or broad stories to tell in a narrative and multimedia way, you get the eyeballs and time you’ve earned, without reservation — even pride. Without the recognition of a customer’s real needs, you do your finest work and lose them anyway.
A mobile strategy is essential. When it’s the starting point, it’s even better.
For the first time in a long time, we’re really hearing from Apple users that one of Steve Jobs’ products is weak, at best. Maybe Ping isn’t quite ready for primetime, or maybe it’s all-too-blatantly a scheme to get iTunes users more deeply entrenched in the store, pandering to stars that record execs want to push. Either way, between the iPhone’s antenna trouble and recent disappointment over iTunes’ “social network,” Apple’s had some issues.
Dave Winer sums up the essence of the problem as Apple being green, ill-experienced, in knowing what customers want. I think that’s true, and wrote about the company’s denial of (and need for) market research a year ago. But I also think that behind that research needs to come a little humility about where great ideas come from.
Not to dredge up Windows v. OSX angst, but Microsoft’s ads for Windows 7 (the ones about new features being “my idea”) are a pretty cool foil to Steve Jobs’ elitism. Who hasn’t thought about a feature that would make something easier to use or more accessible? Maybe none of Windows 7’s features really came from customer ideas, but the pitch is near perfect: We’re listening to you and it shows in the stuff we make.
A complete reversal of corporate culture isn’t going to happen, but doing a little listening isn’t going to hurt. If Apple combined their art of craft with transparent customer service, they’d be unbeatable again.