One of the many challenges I face developing integrated marketing campaigns is the client’s perception of what they believe their customer desires. When I first establish a relationship with a new client, I do my best to dive into a deep stakeholder investigation. I really want to know not only what the leadership of a particular business or brand thinks, but what the larger audience thinks.
More often than not, the employees of a company or brand are not insulated from the day-to-day customer interactions. They are in the trenches so to speak. They hear the hate as much as the love. That is where you get the critical insight about how to develop your culture to respond to these communications, and how you need to embrace the content you deliver to your customer base.
In 20 years of developing websites, I have noticed a series of cyclical “what if” messages from clients. It all started with:
- What if they can’t find my website on the World Wide Web?
- What if my competitor has a website too?
- What if someone hacks into my “database machine” and steals my soul?
- What if I’m not swimming in a river of gold by the end of the month?
Then a decade later when we introduced social media:
- What if someone says something bad about my product? I’ll just delete it.
- What if my competitor has a profile on LinkedIn and I don’t?
- What if I don’t have 10,000 followers by the end of the month?
Now we find ourselves in a new revolution of content where we are often bound by brands that think they know what we want. “Well, we have a critical listening social media monitoring campaign program system in place! We have numbers on sentiment! We know what everyone’s favorite tweet is! We have focus groups! We do crowdsourcing!”
OK, OK, OK! We get that you think you know your client/customer/ambassador. But have you asked them?
For some reason, when people reach the top of an org chart, they develop a fear of asking customers anything their content. So many brands will pay focus groups money to hear six people arguing about their personal habits, but won’t talk to the thousands of individuals who are passionate about it in the first place.
STOP FEARING WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS THINK OF YOU!
Do you think Apple, Nike, Ford, Pfizer, or any gigantic brand will stop the presses if you send in a negative tweet? Of course not. You’re no more insulated from criticism than your competitors – and the real tactical advantage is who intends to embrace it.
So today sit down with your marketing team and come up with a new campaign that circles around an open ended question of, “what kind of content do you want to engage with us on?” Your analytics might show which content elements on your site get the most traffic and convert best. But the analytics can’t tell you what content your audiences wishes you had. So talk to your customers and tell them you intend to service and support the advocates of your brand with what they really want.
Here’s a shopping list of questions to get you started (And for the love of God, do not post these all in a single week):
- Over the past year, what is this your favorite brand that you follow online? Why?
- When was the last time you read our blog? What was your favorite article?
- Do you like to create content ( blogs, photos, social buzz) for the brands you follow?
- If you had the chance to be a brand ambassador for us, would you like to?
- If you had a chance to be a brand ambassador for us, what would you expect in return?
- Would you like to see more or less activity from us on ( insert social channel name)?
- Have you used our social media channels for product support?
- Do you like to use social media channels for product education?
- What types of content do you prefer? Photos, videos, podcasts, blogs, or others?
- How can we become a valued resource to you and make our content better?
The voice and tone of these questions will change based upon your demographic and your brand’s personality. The thing to remember is that today’s consumer can rip through standard and native advertising like a hot knife through butter. Do you want to differentiate yourself? Show them your willingness to ask straightforward questions to provide the best content then go back and use all those fancy analytics to determine the proper social channels to deliver.
I know a lot of you that are reading this article are thinking I’m stating the obvious. But now I will ask you the hard question – are you doing this for your customers? If so, are you actually modifying your content marketing directives based on this input?
Remember, the brands that “get it” are the ones that treat you like you’re in the room.
Authenticity is not only your friend, but a crucial strategy in the future of all of your marketing decisions.