I was fortunate enough to address the Women in Financial Services (WIFS) Chapter of Central Maryland last week alongside Ashlene and David Larson of Early Light Media.
Their members wanted to know how, when and why to talk to their clients. As a former woman in financial services myself, I was more than happy to oblige.
The secret, I told them had to do with recognizing the three pillars of marketing and communications as they exist today: great content, engaging visuals and influential third-party advocates (or, more simply influencers). Importantly, these all rest on the foundation of providing value.
Value to the customer that is, above shameless promotion of your brand. You’ve undoubtedly experienced firsthand how product launches and report releases can flop when you underestimate the power of “what’s in it for them.”
I believe we’ve evolved quickly in the past few years from the PESO model, where paid and earned efforts have taken a backseat to the more organic shared and owned. Spin Sucks has a great graphic that illustrates PESO that I refer to time and time again.
So, where does that leave communicators and marketers today?
Understand that content rules the market
The rise of content marketing – that is, attracting an audience to your brand via the content that you create and promote – has taken hold of our industry over the past few years. Now, most brands have an established social media presence as well as a blog to showcase and immortalize their work. Whereas before we would rely solely on the news media to cover our stories, now we can write our own. Where we once relied exclusively on the contacts that a personal rolodex could provide (and later that a database could pull) now hashtags and other SEO-targeted mechanisms can help us reach audiences in far-flung places.
The multitude of ways to create content is endless: blogs, videos, infographics, lists, interviews, expert analysis, etc. To help determine what will work best for your audience, think about who you are trying to attract, and where they spend their time? Is your target audience older and retired – perhaps attracting them via Facebook is the right platform? “Facebook is the preferred network for consumers in general, and the favourite social network for retirees in particular, which show very high figures in using it. 56% of retirees with internet use Facebook. In 2013 were only 45%. (source)” Are you trying to reach millennial professionals, looking to build their personal brand or expand their career options? Check out this article on how millennials are using Twitter.
Figure out a platform and a content strategy (try one piece of content per week, written by different members of your organization) and then use the free analytics that many sites offer to test what is working. Tweak as necessary, as no one wants to marry their marketing plan.
Realize that visuals do matter, and are indeed essential.
This section will be short, because the facts speak for themselves.
“Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. (source)”
“Colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%. (source)”
“When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later. (source)”
Here’s the great part, if you don’t have the luxury of an in-house graphic designer, its now easier than ever to find high-quality visuals for your content.
((ps. Check out more crazy data points compiled by Hootsuite.))
Embrace influencers who have the power to shape and shift positions about your brand.
In the age of Netflix, smart phones, and the ability to fast-forward through commercials, traditional advertising is (mostly) falling on blind eyes and deaf ears.
What’s more, consumers are wiser to read between the lines or pull back the shades (and any other metaphor you’d like to use). They have to be, considering how much information they are being fed each day – in fact, 90% of the data today has been created in the past two years alone (source). Good god.
What’s more, “51% of customers trust authoritative content, 27% trust branded content and 22% trust ads. (source)”
Let that sink in.
Even if you don’t know it, you already have influencers. If you’re a larger company, they are either your most loyal customers, or disgruntled ones who call you out on twitter. If you’re a personal brand, perhaps its your former colleagues who share your blogs on a consistent basis.
Influencers are essential to building brand equity. Treat them right, share tips and resources; respond to their queries and concerns. Understand also that employees can be influential, too.
Here are a few tips to empower them.
Lastly, know that your secret sauce is highly personal.
Perhaps simple tweaks, like inserting photos, are all you need to start communicating better with your audience. Maybe a full-scale audit of your current practices are in order to make sure your message is actually being received. Whatever the course of action, understand that your customers expect you to capitalize on this new normal of communicating and marketing. I believe that if you do so with the following pillars of content, visuals and influencers front and center, your efforts will skyrocket.