Digital technology has changed the communication landscape.
When I started studying communications in undergraduate school I lived in an academic Utopia, where as long as my communication was artfully crafted, anyone who encountered it would listen and believe. Fast forward nearly 20 years. Print media is struggling to survive in a world where millions of disparate voices deliver near-instantaneous opinions online. We’re besieged with faux news sources that seem as credible as authentic journalism to the uncritical eye when viewed over a web platform. And consumers can find product reviews and conduct research in a matter of minutes using the Internet. Let’s just say I’m a bit more pragmatic today. Of course my Utopian vision was never realistic. Competing to gain listener attention has consistently been a challenge for marketing communicators – but the advent of digital communications technology has been a game changer that many have yet to fully understand.
It’s nearly impossible to “push” products to customers now.
For those whose livelihoods depend on successful marketing communications, it’s important to recognize one of the most critical ways the internet has changed the way we communicate – a transition to “in-bound” marketing. It used to be that we pushed the content we wanted listeners to absorb out via print, radio, and outdoor channels. If it resonated with our audience, they went to a brick and mortar store, perhaps a catalog even, and eventually after the web became an e-commerce platform, to our website for purchase. Consumers heard about products and services by word-of-mouth, and by the advertising and public relations channels we utilized to push out information.
However, as the Internet has been increasingly used as a source to research problem solving and conduct product comparisons, the tide has shifted. Consumers conduct the majority of their research online now, even using the Internet to reach out to friends for recommendations. If you have an online presence for your brand, that’s great! But it still doesn’t mean consumers will find you.
Use in-bound marketing to draw customers to your brand.
In-bound marketing is a communications approach that relies on generating high quality digital content that draws consumers to your website based on their needs and desires.For example, content types might include problem-solving blog posts, free eBooks and “how-to” videos. To create meaningful content you need to listen – to understand what consumers are seeking – and you need to speak in a language that resonates with them.
1. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes by listening.
Use the Internet spaces where your prospects interact with each other to listen. What problem are they trying to solve that might lead to your product, and what language do they use to describe it? Consider using Google’s keyword planner tool to determine how frequently certain search terms are being used.
2. Provide the information your audience seeks, in the language they expect to find it.
Make sure you don’t obscure your product’s visibility by relying too heavily on branded language. For example; if your brand provides data back-up services and your target consumer is worried about losing data in the case of a computer crash, include a page on your site titled “How to Avoid Data Loss.” On that page talk about the various ways that data loss can be avoided, and mention that you offer a product for data back-ups. Include a link to that product page as well.
But if the only page on your site relevant to preventing data loss is titled “Acme’s Crash Plan” (branded language that doesn’t mean anything to new prospects) Internet search will probably never land them on your site in the first place.
3. Use social media to drive traffic to your main content hub – your site.
Having a social media presence is important in order to be in front of your audience. Which social media platforms are best for your brand depends on what audience you are trying to reach, and what type of content you have to share. If you’re a florist, for example, it makes sense to be on Pinterest and Instagram – platforms designed especially for visual content. However, you shouldn’t be using either of these social media sites as the originating site for content. Post your content on your website (typically via your blog), and then re-distribute to your social media accounts. Always be sure that the social media posts link back to where users can find the original content on your website. Ultimately you want to capture attention where ever the target audience is naturally engaging, and then pull them into your site to receive more tailored marketing messages.
Interested in learning more about in-bound marketing?
There are some amazing in-bound content marketing platforms available now. HubSpot is one of my favorites, and they maintain a fantastic blog with tips.
This article was originally published on my previous blog, https://speakorlisten.wordpress.com/.