The following is a guest post from Ivan Serrano. Ivan is a journalist living comfortably in San Francisco, California. Ivan's niche is in social media, business and marketing. When he's not typing up another masterpiece, he'll likely be off practicing his photography or losing his voice yelling at the television whilst watching his favorite sports.
It’s not enough for your business to offer high-quality products or excellent services — people also have to know that your company exists. If you want to nab customers who might otherwise fall into the hands of your competitors, it’s essential that you find ways to stand out from the pack.
You’ll also have to make sure you’re making clever use of current technology such as social media and mobile apps. More than 40% of the total population rely on multiple devices to stay connected with individuals and brands that are important to them, so your marketing efforts will have to reflect the technology of the moment.
Striking the right balance between consumer psychology and technical savvy can be difficult for even the most experienced marketers, so here are some strategies you can use to start off on the right foot. Use your own blend of the following tactics to ensure that your marketing efforts will be unique and allow you to establish a distinctive voice for your brand:
Blogging 101: How to Create Content that Doesn’t Suck
Everyone in the ecommerce space understands that blogging is important, but too many business owners treat it like a chore instead of an exciting opportunity to engage with potential customers. Remember: when you blog, you’re always communicating something about what your brand is — and who it’s for. That being the case, you need to avoid boring or pedantic content like the plague. After all, nobody wants to associate themselves with a voice that seems drony and dispassionate.
You should already have a pretty good idea of who your ideal customer is, so take that concept to the next level: imagine how they talk, what they’re interested in, and how their sense of humor works. Then use that information to inform the content you write for your blog. Should your posts be stylish and quietly sophisticated, or quirky, sassy and outrageous? Are they for customers who are serious about solving important problems in their industries, or for fun-loving individuals who count on your products to spice up their lives?
It’s also essential to make sure that you’re blogging for different stages of the buyer funnel. 47% of buyers report viewing between three and five separate pieces of content from a given brand prior to engaging with a sales representative. What does that mean? Simple: in addition to posts that raise awareness of your products and the problems they solve, make sure you’re publishing content that deepens a potential customer’s awareness of how you can solve their needs and eventually convinces them to make a purchase. Then go one better: make posts that offer troubleshooting advice for customers who have already bought your products, so they’ll be more likely to remain satisfied with them and recommend them to friends, family, or colleagues.
Create an Influencer Army
We’ve just covered the importance of word of mouth, so don’t rely on your blogging to drive the hype machine alone. 70% of all millennial consumers report being influenced by their peers when they decide whether or not to purchase a product, so look for bloggers who fit into your target audience and reach out to them. Offer them free samples, exposure on your blog (if it’s large enough), and other incentives to get them writing about what you offer. A single kind word from an ostensibly unaffiliated influencer can be worth boatloads of simple self-promotion.
Incentives Aren’t Just for Influencers
Influencers love receiving deals and freebies, but you know who loves those perks even more? Potential customers — especially those who might struggle to afford your products and services otherwise. Offering scholarship opportunities to students can be an excellent way to raise brand awareness amongst potential buyers in their late teens and twenties, but it can also earn you the respect and admiration of their families and help you secure loyal customers for life.
Crack the Viral Code
Human interest stories tend to be much more shareable than advertisements, so don’t just write stories about how wonderful your products and services are. Try to write at least a few pieces in the style of news items each time you’re about to release a new product or offer a new service, and include real-life details of how your work has helped customers in the past.
Here are a few tips you can use to lend more credibility to your voice when creating news-style content:
Avoid a first-person voice (i.e. “my company” or “our products”). Use third-person so that it sounds like someone from outside your company has taken an active interest in your work.
Keep your tone neutral — don’t explicitly hype up the work you do, just explain how it helped someone solve a problem they were having. Trust that your audience will be smart enough to make the connection.
Publish in sources that aren’t directly connected to your blog. Medium’s content guidelines make it a fairly easy place to publish, as long as your writing appears credible and neutral. Buzzfeed is also a viable option for content creators who have mastered the “listicle” format.
Once you’ve made high-value content, make sure it includes backlinks to your landing page so that the people who read it will have an easy, natural way to engage with your brand. Then make sure you share the piece on social media through targeted ads so that it reaches as many of its intended readers as possible.
Final Thoughts: Do What the Other Company Can’t — or Won’t Do
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when trying to distinguish your business from the pack is to embrace what makes you different. Don’t try to mimic the tone of successful competitors in your writing; they’re already nailing that approach. Don’t design your packaging to look like the boxes used by the leading brand in your field; make something that doesn’t already exist. Creativity is all about knowing when to take risks, and there’s nothing riskier than being yourself. Crucially though, there’s also nothing more rewarding.