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Customer Empathy Plus Brand Leadership FTW at Social Brand Forum

Posted on Oct 24th, 2013
Written by Lee Odden
In this article

    Ready to elevate your B2B brand?

    TopRank Marketing drives results with content, influencer, SEO & social media marketing.

    integrated online marketing“Win More, Suck Less – How to Optimize Your Social, Search, & Content Marketing”

    That’s the title of a presentation I’ll be giving today in Coralville, Iowa at Social Brand Forum a conference run by Nick Westergaard.

    Other speakers include Jay Baer, Gini Dietrich, DJ Waldow, Marcus Sheridan, Laura Fitton and more.

    The cool thing about my presentation title is, I didn’t decide what it would be. Our Facebook community did. I’ve also run a survey of our community to share their smarts in other ways. Some of that will end up in the presentation too.

    That’s the beauty of social networks:  The ability to connect with a group of like minded people in an ongoing transfer of knowledge, ideas and feedback.

    Even though all the tools and advice are there for the taking, many companies still see social networks purely as distribution channels. Of those, most treat their social network accounts like a RSS feed with a steady stream of “all about us” updates. Below is an example of a Fortune 50 company self promoting and retweeting most of their own tweets:

    tweets like a corporate RSS feed

    Does this look like winning on the social web? It could be worse, they might not publish anything at all or rely entirely on automated tweets. The reality is that there are plenty of good brands choosing to approach social content with minimal and unprepared resources. The result? Social content that isn’t read by anyone and certainly isn’t acted on.

    Why do so many companies STILL suck at social media content?

    This is where the “Win More, Suck Less” title of my presentation comes from. That’s what I’ll be presenting on at Social Brand Forum to about 250 folks looking for insights on better social media marketing.

    Here’s sort of a summary and you can let me know if it resonates in the comments.

    Silos Suck
    It doesn’t take too many smarts to realize that many marketing organizations are resource challenged. On top of that there are dots that are not being connected between paid, owned, earned and shared media. When siloed off, marketing, PR and advertising are severely challenged to build a cohesive and congruent customer experience with social content.

    This is still a serious problem: Way too many marketers look at media as isolated tactics. They’re so focused on their own areas of expertise vs. what it will take to create online marketing plans that actually touch customers on their terms, that the marketing suffers.

    One of the major shifts happening around content marketing is that it’s being used as a vehicle to connect with customers in a meaningful way that is specific to their needs, not just the brand. While this is a trend, a LOT of companies haven’t caught on yet in practice.

    Brand content is also becoming more entertaining. A great example of this is the collaboration between Cheetos (a rare guilty pleasure) and Google this week. A microsite collects an address in a search box and Google Maps displays it as a target to be TP’d, Halloween prank style.

    The outcome? Below is the hotel where I’m presenting tomorrow after being TP’d by the Chester Cheetah. Is that Winning?  It’s a bit early to tell, but the campaign is certainly interesting, and interactive. It creates a fun experience the target audience can relate to that’s personalized (or creepy) and is easily and invitingly sharable. It also puts the product in front of the user in a subtle way, making customers think about it while doing something fun. Like TPing your hotel.

    TP'd Marriott

    One of the B2B examples of content integrated with search and social that I like to share are the eBooks we do at TopRank Online Marketing. You can view a few examples of them here, here and here.  The content is packaged in an interesting way, is easily shared and continue to attract thousands of views from search visitors.

    Content Marketing Secrets

    There are also some great integrated B2B content marketing campaign case studies with social media components here.

    I think that’s what a lot of marketers need to do more of:  Think with more empathy towards the customer situation. What topics will interest them? What emotions can you connect with? What are the things that happen that cause a person to need what you do? What motivates buyers to make the choices they do? What is it like to buy from your brand?

    Cartoon Customer Insights

    Map that customer journey and preferences out and architect a content plan to provide targeted customer segments the information they need to be engaged and inspired to move along the sales cycle.

    customer journey

    The sales cycle isn’t a linear experience, so to connect in a more relevant way when and where customers need your brand’s information, marketers should aspire to being “the best answer“. In that way, you’ll be accountable to a higher standard of content quality and usefulness as well as visibility wherever a customer might be looking or influenced.

    Customers don’t care whether you’re a good content or social media marketer. They have a problem and they’re going to look for solutions where it strikes them. They’ll look where it’s convenient (mobile for example) and where there’s the most likelihood of success (search or a trusted group of friends on a forum or social network).

    Social is for discovery, search is for validation. Imagine a situation where a customer might ask a friend for advice and then search that recommendation on Google. Then they might visit a review site and go back to friends on a social network, finally using Google to find a site to transact.

    Customer Journey


    All along that journey, customers will interact with multiple touch points involving content. It’s either going to be your brand that’s the best answer during those interactions or someone else.

    Optimization is a continuous effort at improving performance. Armed with knowledge about what your customer wants, you can create content experiences to connect and engage with the intent of inspiring action. Data collection during these content and social media efforts will surface insights that allow for refinements and improvements to optimize performance. This cycle never stops and the longer highly quality content is created, networks are engaged and marketing tactics are optimized, the better the performance without scaling up of costs.

    Here are two important perspectives worth considering with social media content:

    1. Customer empathy – Think about how your company can be the best answer for the solutions customers seek. Especially for customers that know what they want. Knowing customer’s pain and goals allows for planning, creation and targeted promotion of content that is specifically optimized and socialized for attraction – pull or inbound marketing.

    2. Taking a leadership position and stand for something to become a beacon for those customers that don’t know exactly what they want. Even though the solution is not well defined in the mind of the customer, the problem they’re having is – and your business can serve (or save) them. Be authoritative for the overall category for which your business is focused and you’ll create all new demand.

    The bottom line is, if you want to win more and suck less with content on the search and social web, it’s essential to focus more on what is driving customers as well as taking a leadership position for whatever it is that your brand stands for. Then find a balance between that customer and brand centric focus in your content marketing strategy.  Balance is important, because if we only focus on customer interests, we’ll pay the price in less innovation and long term growth gains.

    Henry Ford: If I listened to my customers, we’d still be riding horses.