- Many companies waste time and resources on ineffective and/or manipulative “brand awareness” strategies.
- To best satisfy customers along their journey and create a loyal customer base, it’s crucial to think beyond awareness and to forecast ways to make your brand memorable.
- Engagement marketing—which includes developing a personality, prioritizing user experience, cultivating quality influencers and relationships, and looking toward the future—is the most effective way to create brand remembrance.
One of the most important goals of digital marketing is generating brand awareness. The online landscape is intimidating; it’s full to the brim (if it even has a brim) of content created by companies fighting to build an audience—to just get noticed by someone, or shared or liked.
Before we get into how brands go about fighting for awareness, let’s first talk about the why—something many brands arguably lose sight of along the way. Enter the buying cycle:
This is the cycle all companies are looking to enter into. The purpose of generating awareness is to lead to a loyal customer base, who will then choose the brand it remembers and trusts when the time comes to make a purchase decision.
The Battle for Awareness
As digital marketing has become more crucial to the success of businesses, many companies fall prey to wasting their time, money, and resources on ineffective or downright manipulative strategies. These ill-fated strategies attempt to game Google’s algorithms, lead to click-baity headlines attached to unsatisfying content, and rely on intrusive sponsored advertising.
Using news websites as an example, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) 2014 E-Business Report, “almost all of the largest media organizations register declines in online reader satisfaction.” As it turns out, readers are unsatisfied with the very tactics designed to get their attention.
The report states that “readers are the least pleased regarding the amount of ads on the average news website, rating the intrusiveness of advertising as poorly as that of social media sites.”
Then, there are the deliberately obfuscatory, click-bait headlines designed to cull social traffic. Reddit Futurology users even started a thread to ban articles from a certain well-known site because of their sensationalistic, misleading titles.
And then there are the companies who over-optimize their online presence. But why wouldn’t you want to optimize for Google, the place people go to find everything? Well, many brands take it a step or five too far and head into the realm of blatant manipulation.
Rand Fishkin made an important point about information architecture: “If people come to [an over-optimized] page and are less engaged, are more likely to click the back button, are less likely to stay and consume the content and link to it […], it’s going to lose out even to the slightly less optimized version of the page, which really does grab people’s attention.”
Viral content is the one-hit wonder of the marketing world. Down the road, you might remember the melody or the lyrics to the song, but what was that band’s (or the brand’s) name? On top of that, viral content is seen by nearly everyone, right? Chances are your product or service isn’t right for everyone.
Viral content doesn’t satisfy customers in the buying cycle. Rather, it satisfies something else that doesn’t necessarily translate into the qualified traffic that leads to sales or loyalty. As one Reddit user put it, “[Your viral clip of] some cat that’s stuck in a shoe might get 3,000 likes, [but…] do people like your brand, or do they like cats?” Time and resources are better spent creating something worth more.
The Other (Perhaps More Important) Pieces of the Puzzle
So, let’s think beyond getting attention. How can you pull users through the buying cycle, beyond awareness? How can you generate visibility that will translate into being remembered—visibility that counts?
This is where engagement marketing comes into play.
Develop Your Own Personality
As we’ve seen, countless amounts of time and money are spent trying to impress entities like Google rather than customers. Everyone who writes to satisfy search engines sounds the same.
For engagement marketers, content is one of the best ways to distinguish yourself and embrace uniqueness. There’s content about the amount of content, so where do you start?
- Host a blog, where you can really let your brand voice bloom. Keep in mind that this is where many people will meet you for the first time.
- Create resourceful, evergreen content that will establish your brand as an authority on a relevant topic. Even if that topic is dragons. This will help maintain your relationship and build trust.
- Be both a storyteller and active listener so you can continue to give both current and potential customers what they’re looking for.
Prioritize User Experience
Customers are the keystone to any company, and every user is a potential customer.
- Keep users in mind during site design.
- Embrace traditional best practices, like unbelievable customer service.
- Be responsive and personable (read: human).
- Always be kind and generous.
Cultivate Quality Influencers
Your best, most impactful influencers are going to be your customers. This is another reason why exceptional customer service is so important: it generates natural, authentic influencers who are the trusted source of others.
- Case in point: According to the 2014 ACSI survey, the most satisfied readers of Internet News & Opinion were loyal to sources outside mainstream media.
This made me curious about where my coworkers consumed their daily news and opinion pieces. One coworker stated, “I read a lot of different sources, but largely curated by the people I follow on Twitter.” Others agreed and admitted to doing the same: “I tend to follow people more than sites.”
This is what makes engagement marketing both different and arguably better than getting an article on a big PR-worthy site. Engagement marketing creates genuine relationships between people.
Do More Than Connect With Them
Emphasis is often put on making that first connection in order to reach as many people as possible, but in the real world, that would never be enough to call something a relationship. All relationships take work—even virtual ones between companies and their audiences. This is what makes engagement marketing different: it reaches beyond merely connecting.
- Engage with customers consistently in ways that show you are interested in them as people, not as just money funnels.
- Offer value beyond just the product they bought or the service they subscribe to.
- Commit to a long-term relationship with your customers. Don’t be a commitment-phobe.
Never stop listening or getting to know your customers. Just like your company, your customers are always evolving. In the end, you must always be looking forward and anticipating the ever-changing wants and needs of the people you built your business for.