Among the many functions of business, marketing hosts the most misconceptions. Many business students assume that to be good at marketing, one needs to have creative acumen, and being proficient in analytics and strategic thinking is best left to others. This wrong notion is what blindfolds many marketing graduates from crafting marketing strategies for long-term sustainability. Consequently, they end up pursuing short-term benefits which ultimately results in stagnant business growth.
We are at a tipping point, and in order to maintain relevance in the job market, we have to update ourselves on what the trends are. So here are a few tips for future marketers:
Content marketing is quintessential
Nowadays, we turn to the internet for all our research when buying products or services. We look at reviews for electronics devices, compare prices of cars, and even hunt for user reviews of hotels. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of consumers prefer getting to know about a company from articles than ads. This is a fascinating trend. We don't like being "sold" a product, we like being guided in our purchase decision process so that we arrive at the final buying action by ourselves.
Traditional advertising means are proving themselves ineffective in generating customer interest in your product when compared to content marketing. So, let us delve into the basics of content marketing.
In simple words, content marketing is a strategic marketing tactic designed to provide relevant content, including blog posts, videos, and photos that adds value to your customer base. The "strategic marketing" aspect of it is important as you cannot post anything without clearly defined guidelines. You need to have a clear idea of what your marketing goals are before you delve into designing your content marketing strategy. Think of your target group and figure out the message you want to send them. It is exactly like finding out how to communicate with your audience but you need to make sure your content resonates with them. Good content that people derive value from will attract more customers to your brand as they will feel that you are an entity who truly understands them.
Content marketing also augments how customers perceive your company. If you are a clothing company and you make content about fashion trends, what to wear, what shoes are trending and so on, your potential customers will think that you are passionate about the subject matter. This creates an important platform for proper, sustainable relationship-building with your customers. But when you're making content, be sure to add how your product fits the overall scenario. For instance, if you're making an Instagram story about what shoes to buy for the Summer, you can easily use shoes from your product line that fit the trend that you're talking about but be careful not to force anything upon the consumers. If you make content that says high-top Uggs are trending shoes for Summer, your content automatically makes you lose credibility.
A good content marketing strategy needs to have the following checklist:
* Define your customer segments clearly and conduct psychographic analyses to find the common interests and what benefits you can offer them to target those interests. Figure out your audience clearly because you need to tailor your content according to their unique specifications.
Figure out what you seek to ultimately accomplish. Basically, your objectives.
*Which channels will you pursue when you want to release content? An easy way to figure this one out is to find which channels your target group regularly use(more on this later).
*Of course, take notes and analyse the data in terms of reach and patterns of accessing.
Content marketing is an ever-evolving phenomenon and is the next major frontier for marketing. If you want to be prepared for when it becomes immensely popular in every major company's marketing repertoire, study up on it. Content marketing is a long-term process that seeks to build a sustainable relationship with your customer. You cannot hope to achieve that in a short span of time. There's also the factor of credibility which only comes through relevant, consistently-high-quality content through an extended period of time. So if you're looking to go down that route, make sure you're investing for the long haul.
Focus on attribution
Many companies have an attribution model but you might not know what it even is. To explain what it is, we have to look at a standard set of marketing channels for a company. You have your social media page which regularly releases content regarding your offerings, and has information regarding where and how to contact you or make a purchase. Then you have your ads on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and the like. After that, you'll have your store presence in malls. All of these are your customer touch-points - places where your customer gets to know about your product or engages with your brand.
A customer's purchasing decision cannot simply be put into the model of providing value in exchange for their money. It is a story as your customer goes through multiple touch-points to even get to the final point when they actually buy your product or service. Suppose for example, I am a potential customer who's looking for a new coffee shop around Dhaka. I am browsing through Instagram during my free time and I come across one of The White Canary Café's sponsored ads regarding their Red Velvet Latte. I click on the ad to find an Instagram page that captures the brand essence of the café spectacularly through organic content marketing. I am immediately interested in visiting the place, and I promptly go over to their Facebook page to find out the address. I visit the outlet the next day to experience their product offerings.
In the aforementioned scenario I went through multiple customer touch-points to get to my final buying decision. An attribution model analyses which touch-points your customers are exposed to the most and gives you an idea of which channels are the most popular. The model "attributes" all of your leads to a particular touch-point and ranks them.
There is a plethora of things to consider when you're designing an attribution model for your business. There are multiple types of attribution models, so picking the right one is absolutely essential. If you're a B2C company, chances are your sales and marketing cycles are shorter than 1 month. Even though you might have more than 2 marketing channels, a single-touch attribution model will ensure the best possible way to measure effectiveness. If you're a B2B company, you should have a multi-touch attribution model in place as you will deal with multiple people to land the account and analysing how these people came to the final decision is key to your success in strengthening your channels.
Make a product with a viable purpose
According to Forbes, at one point, Tesla outsold Mercedes by 4 times the quantity in under 24 hours at only a fraction of the advertising cost. We all know that Mercedes is a juggernaut in the realm of advertising. Yet they still lost out to Tesla. But why did this happen?
Customers are shifting towards brands who have a well-defined purpose. Tesla, in this case, seeks to eliminate the usage of fossil fuels and that resonates with a large number of customers who are willing to do their part in saving the environment. By putting purpose at the heart of our marketing activities we can reach out to potential customers by making them feel like they're more than just buyers of our product.
The old concept of designing a product, marketing it, and then selling it is obsolete. While marketers should be figuring out customer needs and wants, they should also focus on finding out what customers care about. It is only after they have identified certain gaps or problems in the customers' lives that they can proceed with making products that seek to eliminate those existing problems.
For that to occur, companies must engage themselves in perpetual innovation to find new and better ways of solving existing or new problems. For example, before the iPhone, there were a wide array of smartphones available on the market but they were all difficult to use and thus a lot of people refused to integrate those into their lives. When the iPhone released with a very easy-to-use interface, it became an instant hit as a lot of people could assimilate the technology into their lives in a much more seamless way. Many would attribute it to Apple's advertising but they would be overlooking how the product had a true sense of purpose. Smartphones back then existed to solve the problem of the lack of mobility regarding work but they introduced new problems on their own in terms of their usability. That flawed design philosophy is the most common reason as to why new companies fail so much.
So, understand your customers fully and go for customer-centric business models with purpose-driven marketing strategies at the heart of your core operations. By striving to provide the best value to your customers, you will build long term sustainability by constantly innovating to stay relevant, having increasing sales revenue as more and more customers get on board with your purpose, and striving towards reinvesting the increased revenue to fuel your operations.
The realm of business is changing at an exponential pace bringing along with it, the need to adopt completely new methods of doing conventional things. To find your place in it, always strive to learn new things every day. Good luck on your future endeavours, my fellow marketing graduates.
Shahrukh Ikhtear is Sub-Editor, Shout and a BBA student at IBA, DU. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org