I’ll never forget the day. It was March 2008. After years of hard work, I succeeded in building a multi-million dollar marketing consulting firm that served mostly Fortune 1000 clients. The business was thriving, I was financially free, but … I hated working inside my own company.
It wasn’t the people who worked for me, or our clients. I loved them. It also wasn’t the stress of business ownership. I loved being a CEO and an entrepreneur, and the risks I took to start and grow the company provided more income than I ever earned in corporate America.
What I hated … was … the work itself. I just wasn’t passionate about marketing “stuff” anymore. I needed my life, as well as my work, to matter.
Realizing there was no way out, and keenly aware of the pending economic crisis on its way, I sold the company and started over. I didn’t know where the journey would head, but it didn’t matter. Purpose was calling.
What I didn’t understand at the time was that the same shift I was experiencing personally was also reshaping the way brands could better promote their message. Today, buyers want transparency and authenticity, and they leverage social and digital media to find it. From user-generated content (the original form of authentic promotion), to online reviews, and now education/information-based content, how organizations get the phone to ring has changed.
For B2C companies, traditional advertising is increasingly less effective. For B2B brands, channel marketing techniques rarely fill the sales funnel. Instead, prospective customers are seeking information. They want valuable content that helps them make an informed decision, on their own (or with a little assistance). Their goal is to learn rather than be sold.
The form of authentic promotion you use to reach your target market should be driven more by the type of information your target market wants to consume, as well as how they want to consume it (text, video, podcast, infographic, etc.), rather than the traditional advertising or lead gen vehicle currently consuming your budget.
Today, truth sells. Authentic promotion is the best way to promote most brands today, and it is quickly becoming the only way to market companies that offer a compelling vision to the marketplace. And, if your C-suite cares about the value of its brand, pay attention to these tips.
Through our research at Promote On Purpose, we’ve discovered five keys to using an authentic promotion strategy to engage prospective buyers in a way that drives what we call “clicks and calls.” These include:
- Purpose: Promoting an authentic vision has now replaced advertising as a means to brand growth, because purpose matters to prospects, plain and simple. We’re not talking about a fuzzy mission statement. Your brand and your product must have a purpose. It must matter. Quality is king and purpose is the queen. Bad marketing can’t overcome a poor quality product, and advertising can’t replace an authentic purpose.
- POV: Buyers are not interested in generic content, which translates to a one-size-fits-all marketing scheme. They don’t want you to speak about your ideas, or your offering in a diluted form. The brands they embrace must have a point of view and must be passionate about that point of view. They want you to stand for something. If your product or service is so great, why? If you’ve built a better mousetrap, explain it. Take a point of view in all of the information you share with potential leads.
- Pitch: Executives who believe they can’t “sell” something using educational content, clearly do not understand this new wave of authentic promotion. Buyers EXPECT companies that provide valuable, informative content also have something to pitch. If you try to hide a sales strategy behind content (such as with the now-famous “fake news” techniques) buyers will not respond. Worse, if buyers suspect your content is a sales or marketing ploy, they will expose you and it themselves. Please don’t try to sneak in promotional offers through downloadable case studies or white papers. Use content to engage prospects and build trust in you. And when you’re ready to pitch a promotional offer, do so boldly and directly. Palms on the table.
- Platform (AKA Push): Face it. Your potential buyers are not interested in what you have to say today, because they may not even know you exist, or at a minimum, your product is not top of mind. You need a platform to place your content in front of them. Find ways to distribute your content to attract as many eyeballs as possible. Your content may be great, but if no one sees it, then it won’t work.
- Personality: Last, but not least, the personality and voice of your authentic promotional content, should be congruent with the personality and voice of your brand AND your executives. Nothing frustrates potential prospects more than content infused with an inauthentic personality. Sometimes, in an effort to write content considered as “thought leadership” the personality of the content comes off as inauthentic. Don’t go there. Be real instead.
Although our team is very selective about the brands we choose to promote, these are the five keys we use to develop authentic promotion strategies for our clients. Most important, the reason we are so selective about the clients we take on, is because truth sells. If your product or service is great, tell the world about it in an authentic way. If it isn’t, shift the money you’re spending on marketing toward resources that will transform your company from good to great.