Okay, I know it's only July, but I can always get excited about Christmas. I love everything about it, including the holiday movies that appear on TV every December. I'm one of those snobby 80s kids that hasn't watched many black and white movies, but I do love the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street. There's a great scene in that movie that I think can teach modern marketers something very important.
While talking to a parent at Macy's, Santa shares where she can buy a toy for cheaper at another store. When the manager first gets wind of this, he's furious. That is, until he hears from the customer. She goes on to tell him how that one act changed her feelings about the store:
"Listen, I want to congratulate you and Macy's on this wonderful new stunt you're pulling. Imagine sending people to other stores. I don't get it...Imagine a big outfit like Macy's putting the spirit of Christmas ahead of the commercial. It's wonderful. Well, I'll tell ya. I never done much shopping here before, but I'll tell ya one thing. From now on I'm going to be a regular Macy's customer."
Ironically, this came after Kris Kringle was told how to "be a good Santa" by pointing customers to specific products while talking to kids. At that moment, it was all about the sales push at any cost. Little did they know that it wasn't even necessary to make the customer love the brand.
Back then, the writers probably thought it was just a unique twist. Today, it has so much meaning because success in social and content marketing is heavily rooted in trust. Granted, you don't have to suddenly hop on Twitter and tell people to check out your competitors, but you can still offer up some unexpected surprises:
Would that be scary? Why?
Because it might be more than your competition?
Because it might run people off?
You can't think that way. That store manager thought the parent would run off to the other store and never come back. It was scary to him!
Then, it went from scary to rewarding.
The same can happen to you in the real world. Why? This is a consumer-driven digital world, and people go online to search for answers! If you provide them (and the competition doesn't because they're too scared)...YOU become the trusted one. It's not about being expensive. It's about finding answers from a source that's willing to be honest with their audience.
If that store manager was in the parent's shoes, he would want to know where he could buy something for cheaper.
THERE LIES THE PROBLEM.
Marketing hats are pulled so tight on people's heads, they forget what THEY want as customers. Free yourself from that, and you'll put yourself in a better position to become a trusted brand.
You won't even need Santa's help to pull it off.
In 2007, I was hired as an On-Air Fundraising Producer at the North Texas NPR affiliate. At the time, fundraising goals were coming up short, the drives were taking forever and they were getting complaint calls from listeners. It was my job to develop a brand new content and messaging strategy in order to right the ship.
Fortunately, I was successful.
Even though I improved how our team asked for money on-air, I found myself wondering if there was anything more I could do with that strategy. Even if we gave a clear reason why people should donate...the audience knew we worked there. So, in their mind, we were basically getting paid to share messages about why they should give.
So, I decided to invite donors to come to the station and record interviews about why they give and why they think it's important for others to do so. I didn't script any of it. I interviewed them, edited their comments down to the best answers and put a music bed underneath it all. I produced several of these, and each person had their own story.
In 2017, you could say testimonials are impacting all kinds of companies. Just like in my experience, they make a significant impact on how people decide to spend money. You have to be aware of what your customers are saying about you.
Many organizations may not realize that there are testimonials about their business being shared right now. Even worse, if a lot of bad things are being said, it has likely hurt their bottom line. Thanks to social media, blogs and websites (like Yelp), more and more consumers are making decisions based on:
1. Suggestions from friends/family online
2. Reviews posted by other consumers
3. Content produced about a company/product
This is why marketing departments need to make sure they can evolve past their reliance on advertisements and develop content that engages an audience. People trust their peers WAY more than than an advertisement. This trend is consistent with my own habits. I frequently do searches for content and reviews written about a company or product before taking the next step in the purchasing process. In fact, I have even searched company reviews on Glassdoor before applying for a job.
Social media has given the consumer a lot more power. They know how to do the necessary research before making a purchasing decision. That's why about 70% of the decision to buy has already been made before the customer even makes contact with you.
So, now your content and messaging strategies have to incorporate testimonials as well. You need to know what people are saying about you. If it's negative...you need to engage them in new ways, improve their experience and change their mind. If you have people who love you, turn those people into advocates for your brand.
Develop your own content that features quotes and testimonials. Engage your audience on social media, and make it easy for them to express their love of your company, product or brand.
Simply put, you need to care about what other people are saying about you. Your target audience cares, and they're already listening.
Don't be afraid of your audience, and don't avoid telling them the truth.
You might read that sentence and ask, "What do you mean?" or "Why would someone be AFRAID of their audience?"
Those are understandable questions, but let me tell you a story to highlight my point.
A few years ago, I picked up a freelance copywriting job, and on the first day I visited the office for a welcome meeting. I don't think it was a dark and stormy night, but let's just say it was. As I was touring the building, we walked past a group of employees that made up the copywriting team.
I couldn't help but ask, "If you have a copywriting team...why do you need freelance copywriters?"
The answer (that might have been given with an Igor-like voice) was - "We just need some FRESH ideas." (Dun, dun, duuuuun!)
After successfully completing some simple projects, I began to realize what that really meant. You see, they were one of these companies that offered people something for FREE online. However, in this case, before you could get it (THUNDER CLAP), you had to enter credit card information. That information was then used to loop you into a subscription service that gave you several online tools. (Reaction)
So, the reason they needed "fresh ideas" was because they gave their copywriting team an impossible task - develop content that would make people more comfortable with sharing credit card information after being told they were getting something for free.
A few days later, I was brought into a creative meeting to give some feedback on their new website design. The preview site showcased pictures of nice looking business people and customer service reps. This was meant to humanize them in a way that would make people comfortable with giving credit card information (after saying something was free). There may or may not have been some maniacal laughing.
It makes me think of My Cousin Vinny when Vinny asks his girlfriend what pants he should wear to go deer hunting. She tells him to pretend he's a deer who's taking a sip of water out of a clear brook. Then, BAM he's been shot and the scene turns totally gruesome. She then asks if at that moment WOULD HE CARE ABOUT WHAT PANTS THE HUNTER WAS WEARING?
I went home and thought it all through. I even did some research and found a blog post about this company that said it couldn't understand why they weren't upfront about their paid services because there was value in them. A post like this could have a reader ask - "What are they hiding?" (Dun, dun, duuuuun)
So, I bravely went back and asked them why they weren't more transparent about having to input card information to pay for these services.
Their answer - Because all of our online ads (PPC, etc) say FREE, and connecting the pay stuff will ruin that or scare them away. So, instead of figuring out a way to effectively communicate everything...they needed copywriters to come up with FRESH ideas on how to sucker the public. They were trying to brainwash creatives into evil lying zombies!!!!! (Reaction)
Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.
So, I went home and wrote/produced a video for them. This video showed that people were still getting something for free, but explained the value of the paid extra features. I also reached back into my on-air fundraising messaging days and developed verbiage that showed the audience just how little they were paying a week for these conveniences.
The company wanted no part of it.
Finally, I told them that their competition would likely take advantage of this by exposing the deception. Despite blowing that warning off, I later saw an advertisement doing that very thing. This commercial made a it a point to tell their audience that they will NEVER ask for credit card information.
What a twist!
Here are some valuable takeaways from this story:
1. What does it say about your organization that your content strategy is focused on fooling your audience? How confident are you in your services if you're afraid of your customer's reaction? Is that the type of company you want to be?
2. You audience is not stupid. They're not going to feel better about getting hit in the face because you wore nice pants to the fight. Customers that search for products and services online do their research, and they're armed with what their peers, friends and relatives say. Plus, user-generated content (like the blogger's commentary about the company) is one of the ways people learn about you.
3. TRUST is an incredibly important factor in generating business online. You are much better off being honest about what you're doing and why you're doing it than trying to hide half the story. In this case, the company still could've offered one thing for free and explained why the add-ons were worthwhile purchases.
Finally, don't send the wrong signal to your talented copywriting team by hiring freelancers that can come up with "fresh" ideas. It's an especially bad practice when you've giving them the impossible task to effectively fool your customer.
If you are having challenges sending the right message to your target audience, I can help. You can email me or contact me HERE.
When someone is about to sit down and write their first blog, it can create headaches. New writers tend to overwhelm themselves with worries about length, likability, reactions and best practices. If you choose to search for advice, you'll find enough to last you for months. At the end of the day...you just want to write something!
Calm down. Breathe. Clear your head.
You can definitely start your blog today. Here are some expert tips to help you break through the anxiety.
Write about what interests you and put your personality into it
Mark Schaefer talked about some of the early lessons he learned in the book Born to Blog. His first attempts to blog taught him one thing - his approach wasn't working. The problem was being a "classically trained" marketer who started out writing posts that focused on a specific marketing message.
After that failed, he just relaxed and wrote about things that were interesting to him. He told marketing stories, used humor and pushed himself to try a number of blog styles. After that, "Instead of me finding my target audience, my target audience found me, " he wrote.
Incorporate "Flair" Into Your Blog Posts
In the most recent episode of The Content Call Podcast, I talked with Sheena White about picking photos for your blog (without worrying about copyright troubles). I described it as FLAIR for your blogs. If you're serious about views, you should follow the advice of Forbes contributors, and write catchy headlines, use visual aides, and embed links. These types of strategies make your blogs a lot more intriguing and engaging.
Use Tools and Strategy to Reduce Time Stress
One big obstacle that prevents people from blogging is time. If you're considering a blog for your business, this could be a huge concern. However, it doesn't have to be a stressful time-hog if you take a planned and practical approach to the content.
First of all, don't convince yourself that your blogs have to be 1,000 word journalistic news-style pieces. They can be short, sweet and valuable. In fact, unlike news posts that can bury the lead, you should get to your main point towards the beginning of your posts.
Two ways you can save time is to focus on a clear blog niche and arm yourself with helpful tools that can help you pick topics.
Speaking of Tools...These Help You With Content Ideas
One of the most common roadblocks for new and seasoned bloggers is coming up with topic ideas. Brainstorming is never a bad thing, but writer's block can quell that storm. Then what do you do? Use the internet to help you! Neil Patel recommends these resources to help younever run out of blog ideas. These ideas are focused on using keywords, hot topics and analytics to help your content strategy.
A key to my success as a content producer and consultant has been my ability to gauge how an audience will likely respond to what they see or hear. If I can help engage your target audience, feel free to email me today!