All content is designed to persuade. Authors want you to love their storytelling, comedians want to make you laugh, moviemakers want to transport you (and make you come back for the sequel).
It’s the same in marketing and advertising: Push or pull, you’re using it to build a relationship with your customer that sees your brand acting as their trusted companion.
With branded content, whether that’s a journey to business success or giving a consumer confidence because they’re wearing your brand’s watch/perfume/pants, your persuasion point is that you can help them achieve their goals quickly, effectively, and they’ll feel good doing it.
You’re tapping a slightly more complex, emotional set of keys. This isn’t new. The Ancient Greeks had a goddess, Peitho (Suada to the Romans), who personified persuasion, seduction, and the gift of gab. What is new is the fantastic number of ways to reach an audience – and the fact that the audience itself is evolving more quickly.
Building a connection
Thanks to the smart phone, we can all do effective price comparisons without even getting out of bed. We don’t switch off our ‘consumer’ heads just because we’ve opened Outlook and started work. Google and YouTube are still the first two ports of call for the overwhelming majority of searches – by quite a large margin, making meaningful connections challenging.
As a B2B marketer, it pays to take careful note of consumer insights. Three headline facts from PwC’s 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey: 42% have either already purchased or plan to purchase a consumer AI device; 88% are happy to pay for same-day or faster delivery, and social networks are the number one source of inspiration for purchases.
Why are these statistics relevant? Because they demonstrate where people make their decisions, how they search, and that convenience is (still) king.
People research in ways convenient to them – and at their own speed. In fact, according to Forrester, 90% of a prospect’s journey may be complete before they reach out to a salesperson. For B2B, the trick is to be easy to find, to become a credible part of that ecosystem, to be where your customers are, and to talk to them at their level, in their own language.
If you can be the first to enable their research that simple emotional connection – built on trust – means your chances of rising to the top of the shortlist are much stronger. Recent LinkedIn research has 45% of decision-makers saying thought leadership led to them giving business to a company – and 30% saying it has dissuaded them.
The right stuff
Trust is key. It’s a serious currency. If you see each touch point as an opportunity to build trust, then you’re not only moving from awareness and consideration to conversion, you’re also building a relationship that will last – a customer for life. Mess it up, however, and like any poorly-handled transaction, you’ll break that relationship. Mangle your messaging, or come across too sales-y, and thought-leadership suddenly loses credibility.
So it’s not content that matters here, it’s the right content. It’s telling a story in the right way, on the right channel, and at the right time. That’s how you reach someone and build an audience – and that also means it’s not a volume game. There’s a very necessary balance here between deluging an audience with identical messages and actually getting a message through simply and clearly.
The power here is in engagement; telling a story well – and that requires editorial nous and confidence in what you are doing. You have to be prepared to to create a great story first; something that stands up on its own regardless of the brand behind it.
The looking glass
It’s about amplification too. According to Social Media Today, leads developed by your employees’ social action (such as sharing something on LinkedIn) are seven times more likely to convert than other leads. If you engage employees in your content strategy, even if it’s something as simply as sharing one link a week, employees have the power to make a massive difference.
Fundamentally, to do branded content well you need to understand the customer. Test your assumptions. You might find gated white papers a joy to read, but do they make sense to your customers?
Branded content has evolved. Not long ago, businesses still dithered about whether they should invest in it. Those that don’t find themselves out in the cold, nowhere near their customers. Now, many businesses are quick to talk about the content they produce.
Customers expect a certain presence – but not everyone can deploy an army of daredevils to be the next Red Bull or GoPro. And from a brand perspective, it might just seem like frippery. With B2B branded content, those customer touch points we discussed earlier are opportunities for you to support, enable, and enlighten your audience as they seek to improve themselves and their businesses.
With the right tools, you can also use these moments to develop insights on what your customers are looking for – and create content that supports them in that research.
The extra mile
One of the most important things that good branded content can do is humanise a brand. At its best, B2B branded content is much more than the equivalent of a trusty handshake from someone you’re about to do business with. By creating a regular flow of good branded content, you are collecting an audience and identifying groups of people with common interests.
If you’re presenting as an authentic, personable brand with a human face, the question becomes what sort of human are you? This is where you can use branded content to stand out.
By following a goal or tackling an issue – with authenticity – you have a chance to unite your audience. Whether it’s a series of films highlighting each of the UN Global Goals or the inspiring story behind your brand ambassador’s origins, this is what gives your brand texture and transports you beyond the competition.
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