I went for a digital media and marketing job at a Manchester arts and crafts centre a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to set myself apart from the other candidates but in the absence of a wad of cash to spend on a billboard or a PPC campaign I decided to do something useful instead.
So I created a marketing strategy.Which, lucky for you, didn’t net me the job. Or an interview, come to that. But that’s life.
I say lucky for you because now I can share that plan with you to help you build a business more deeply connected with your customer communities.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as a digital marketer, both employed by large organisations and in consulting roles, it’s the incredible power of tuned-in, switched-on communities.
And as a content producer and editor, I’ve learned the best way to do that is to develop a steady stream of relevant, insightful, authentic and stimulating content.
You start by creating the community. You start by devouring a post called 1,000 True Fans (http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php) which works beautifully well for organisations of any size. Finding a thousand people who totally riff on what you have to offer, is the perfect springboard for greater growth into the future.
But first, you need to win their hearts.
So let’s start by identifying the magic in your brand.
What is it that gets you excited? Why do your staff love working with you? What do those people who’ve come across you, at the counter, on your website, during a coaching session, say? Let’s unleash your USP and make it do an impression of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, substituting those pesky rats for gorgeous customers, and a river for your payment system.
You have to do a fair bit of mental alteration to get here, but it’s worth it.
Once you have a detailed knowledge of what they love about what you do, and what they want from your stuff, you can make sure they are delighted and proud to share the centre’s magic.
Having been a journalist, marketer, author and broadcaster, I have discovered that using multiple streams of communication is the best way to keep communities rapt. This ingredient of surprise and amazement is so powerful.
And the best way to do this is to empower your employees, suppliers, stakeholders, everyone, to always be creating. The more unique and valuable content you can unleash, the more people are going to share your bits – and that’s essential for both word of mouth marketing and leaping above your competition in the search engine rankings.
This makes me very excited because I don’t like the SEO industry. I don’t like it because all its shifty ways of one-upmanship against the search engines are not good for the user. It dilutes the engines’ effectiveness in discerning the highest quality content. The times are definitely changing, though, and quality content will eventually usurp other SEO practices. Since usability and simplicity are cornerstones of what I do and coach, don’t ever expect me to change my mind.
Having a content strategy is essential. Creating a content calendar the same.
What to publish
I mentioned in this article at the bottom the three essential elements in the process of creating ace and sticky content.
If you don’t yet have the answers, start with a survey (SurveyMonkey and Google Forms are both free) of influencers in your customer communities (ideal or actual), and your followers, to establish exactly what they need, want and have. To incentivise that, find something high value but low cost to give away. Noone in the history of the universe has ever been able to resist something free. Unless it’s lunch, in which case they might simply be sceptical.
Case in point: I followed Robinsons Bakery last night to be in with a chance of winning a £5 voucher. I did, and now I like them. Which is why I hyperlinked their name.
Allied to what’s already known – feedback forms, social interactions both off and online, and insights from your customer-facing staff – this survey would provide you with the lion’s share of inspiration for information needed to create a robust and exciting content calendar for the year ahead.
I would recommend producing a content calendar starting March 1 in quarterly chunks that highlights events, products, offers, practical tips and anything else to make your customer feel loved and special and that.
How and where
Video, audio, blogging, social networks, email.
Hit their senses. (nearly) All of them. I’m waiting for smell-o-vision but I think we’ll have to hold that thought until next time.
If you want an 8-part guide to getting started with web video, talk to me. We may be able to sort something out between us.
If you want to start a podcast, I can help you with that too.
I’ve been creating podcasts for years – I’m the UK Ambassador to the European Podcast Award – and have seen huge benefits of “getting in people’s ears” with infinitely shareable and compelling content. And the stars of the show? You, your staff, your suppliers and your customers. It’s shareable, valuable content you’re after: there are no restrictions, only your time.
I can also assist when it comes to blogging, and social media coaching.
I can write and advise on email newsletters but I’ll admit, when it comes to strategy for enewsletters, there are better folk to ask than I. Once such dude is Christoper S Penn who dedicates his working life to this stuff, and data, and that.
When we talk videos, how-to movies are far and away the most popular. Anything that gives people VIP access to knowledge is a great thing. And informative, inspiring stuff is great, too. Think “A Day In The Life” content. And think how you can strip the audio from those videos later, to repurpose as podcasts. And how you can transcribe those, and fashion them as blog posts/presentations/white papers.
Social? Facebook competitions – using abstract photography to promote them – are among ideas to broaden your reach using social networking. Pinterest, Twitter and other emerging platforms are obviously an important part of the communications plan – the amount of time dedicated to each influenced by what your existing followers and customers have to say.
From the outset I believe there are eight distinct areas of opportunity for promotion here:
- Your staff
- Your customers
- Your suppliers
- Your industry trade body
- Your industry magazines
- Magazines and trade bodies with interests in your industry
- Local media
- Influencers and followers
And above all, remember that you need to reinforce anything you do online with a real-world marketing strategy. Bring people in for open days, be there are relevant events, offer to write features and columns or produce other content for publications that matter to your customer communities – be inventive!
I’ve been a big fan for years of the TED concept. People love to learn, to be inspired. Having a series of interactive talks curated and promoted by your business and featuring your talented staff, customers and suppliers would be a huge coup for the organisation and a big coup for press and publicity.
Do whatever it takes, and do it again.
Be relevant. Be helpful.
And always be measuring.
And tell me what you think!
- Define your ideal customer. You do that by connecting what you do, and who you are, with what your customer wants, and who they are. The work begins with you and radiates into social, into customer interactions both on and offline.
- Find what they need, and give it to them. Using all the channels they use. And enjoy the benefits of high organic search rankings – free.
- Be shareable. The more people talk and feature you and your stuff, the more likely you are to enjoy the fruits of word of mouth marketing and referrals.