Editor’s note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To celebrate the launch of our New Content Marketing Certification, Josh joins us this month to discuss the most effective Content Marketing techniques for driving sales, engaging consumers and improving ROI.
There has been a growing trend in recent years for product-based companies to act like content companies, and content-based companies have started to create products. Why? Because brands that market both products and content are able to grip both handles of the holy grail of digital marketing: better consumer insight. Brands with the best consumer insight are those that collect qualitative and quantitative data to measure social engagement and sales results from their marketing strategies. They also tend to have the most successful digital marketing teams.
Generally speaking, it’s nearly impossible to predict the future of marketing with pinpoint accuracy. Nevertheless, we do know that brands who collect data on both content and products are able to develop consumer insight that allows for a higher degree of predictive accuracy when it comes to understanding consumer behavior. In this post, we'll give you three routes that digital marketers can go in order to explore content marketing as a way to develop insight into consumer behavior. All three routes follow the road of data analysis, which makes the prospect of conducting market research even more pressing (and more interesting) to digital marketers in the foreseeable future—especially those who intend to market both content and products.
1. Direct Consumer Interaction
Distilling a brand’s essence into a single unified message takes a fair amount of time and energy. Part of the distillation process should involve discovering how consumers react to your brand, a discovery that can take years of research and development. One of the fastest ways to make that discovery is going straight to the source: i.e., contacting the prospective consumers of your brand directly.
Young brands that don’t have unlimited resources but do have an idea about the kind of person who might like what they have to offer can accomplish this by following the Degrees of Separation Principle, which says that marketers should stick as close to their product or service as possible. Digital marketers can accomplish this by controlling content promotion down to the hour, monitoring content feedback by the notification, and responding directly to content questions on a regular basis.
Because this type of feedback comes straight from the source, interacting with consumers directly via simple media like email or instant messages can provide the best kind of consumer insight. Think of this as field work: a way of collecting qualitative data about who your customer base is, how they react to your brand, what they think about your brand’s place in relation to its competitors, and where they think it might go in the future.
For brands with slightly more resources, paying for and creating content that works to enlarge a brand’s ideas in the consumer’s mind is the next step towards building a brand identity. Part of this identity-building process should entail casting your ideological net far and wide, a task that can take years to accomplish, even with the the right kind of segmented prospecting and messaging. One of the best ways to accomplish this kind of growth is to follow the Don’t Be Literal Principle, which says that marketers shouldn’t be afraid to express brand identity more broadly and indirectly through sponsorship and metaphor. Digital marketers can accomplish this by writing online copy and developing brand content that can easily apply to our understanding of current cultural, political, or workplace issues at the same time as they advance the name of a brand itself.
Such content should be nonspecific and never advance an agenda too overtly, casting a net that is wide enough to capture prospective consumers’ attention and imaginations, while also working to establish your brand as a thought leader with a pulse on certain consumer preferences. Think of the web traffic, social engagement, backlinks, and other scalable metrics that follow sponsored content with metaphorical messaging as a distanced way to quantitatively measure the level of interest an audience has in some of the big ideas behind your brand.
3. Big Experimentation
For brands with the most resources, spending time and energy to develop large-scale social experiments that simultaneously attract an audience, interact with them, and engage their sense loyalty is the best route to go. Part of the process of testing the waters on such a large scale should involve pushing the limit of what your brand is capable of providing its consumers, as well as testing the limit of what consumers expect from you. One of the best ways to accomplish this kind of experimentation is by following The Wow Principle, which says that marketers should push the envelope of expectation by working to create new and amazing channels through that express brand identity in the most innovative way possible - ideally, in a way that makes consumers say “Wow.”
Digital marketers have the luxury of being able to achieve this level of audience reach, interaction, and engagement through innovative channels that are already available on the social web. All it takes for a brand to pull off this level of experimentation successfully is signing up for a content channel the brand wouldn’t normally be associated with, and mastering that channel’s method of expression. Denny’s did this with its Twitter profile, winning applause and renewed interest in its brand.
Think of the qualitative and quantitative data that result from such experimentation—whether it be social engagement, press coverage, or product sales—as valuable pieces of consumer insight that can be assembled to form new routes for your brand to take in the future.