OK, so I’m going to leave behind the Facebook how-to topics and the email delivery tips this week to focus on a topic that’s near and dear to me as a writer by training and trade. As I prepare an all-new Agent ROI talk on Content Marketing 101, I’ve been thinking a lot about how businesses (and even more importantly, people) are approaching content. The sharpest marketers figured out years ago that white papers and Webinars with great titles will cause prospects to hand over their contact information. But keeping that content continually strong is a challenge for many. And the bar is constantly being raised.
So what does the next frontier look like? How do customers and prospects want to hear from you? How can you create programs that scale across thousands of customers? Here’s where I believe every marketer should be following and consuming the work of Gary Vaynerchuk.
Said simply, Gary Vaynerchuk is without equal when it comes to a topic critical to every digital marketer’s future success: humanizing communications. I’ve spent hundreds of hours talking to marketers looking to wring that last 3 percent of response out of programs—to make today’s campaigns bigger, better and faster. In many cases, their biggest opportunities for improvement lie in pivoting an entire approach, not simply optimizing the way it’s been done for the last three years. And in this new social-powered age, there’s one element that rings truer than almost anything—authenticity.
Authenticity breaks down into hundreds of component pieces, but let’s focus on just two today: voice and empathy. And these are two areas where Gary is the consummate teacher. If you’ve not read The Thank You Economy, I suggest it be your next book. Period. His base premise is that we’re all in the “people” business and the rise of social channels has enabled scalable one-to-one communication in ways we’ve never before seen as marketers. If you need a one-hour primer, go watch Gary’s keynote speech at the 2011 RE/MAX Annual Convention. There’s an excellent chance it could be the most motivating event of your week!
You can likely boil down all the improvements necessary to your corporate “voice” to one single phrase: “Lose the corporate speak, dude.” The reality is today’s audience is increasingly younger, more socially aware and has grown up in a more informal age. The days of Don Draper-ish ads produced by a firm where everyone wears suits and then distributed via network TV are gone. Today, what’s left of mass media has become increasingly irreverent, viral and niche. Witness Burger King’s The King character made famous by the Crispin Porter campaigns of the early 2000s. That’s not to say every brand needs a slightly offensive mascot, but it’s important to take away the core principle: be real and speak to your audience in terms they understand.
And when it comes to embracing empathy, I think Gary hits it perfectly. He talks constantly about a company’s Emotional Quotient (EQ) over its Intellectual Quotient (IQ). He would contend—and I would agree wholeheartedly—that being a smart marketer is now “table stakes.” Most anyone can create a campaign with all the right rules and outcomes—the technology exists to power these programs that make real business difference.
The burning question, though, is whether you can scale your marketing to something much more personal. Gary gives an amazing example at the 28-minute mark of the RE/MAX talk where he discusses recognizing high-value customers. By looking beyond the numbers, he discovered a new customer who had spent more than $10,000 in wine, then spent a few minutes consuming the guy’s social media feeds. He figured out the customer loved Jay Cutler (quarterback of the Chicago Bears), so he went on eBay and bought a signed jersey and shipped it to him as a thank-you gift.
Gary will tell you—and I’d agree again—that this type of engagement is absolutely possible at scale. It might mean tough resource decisions, but you’ll be much better off dedicating a social media manager to thrilling your customers versus just retweeting article links. Apply an emotional quotient via one-to-one human interaction and trust that your customers will share their incredible experiences within their own social networks. I’d bet a ton of money that one incredible customer story is more valuable to your business than 1,000 link shares. As a proof point, go read the epic story of Peter Shankman’s interaction with Morton’s Steakhouse at the Newark airport. Not every effort needs to be this amazing, but you get the point.
So the real question is do you have the courage to step beyond traditional tactics to amaze your customers? Are you willing to remake your communications with a massive degree of authenticity? For those who are, there’s an amazing opportunity to gain a competitive advantage during the next three to four years while everyone else whines about how difficult it is. You can win fans, customers, market share, revenue and all the other things every marketer seeks to drive. And it’s imminently within your control.
1) Tip Sheet: “5 Tips for Humanizing Content and Engaging Recipients”
2) Slideshow: “Getting Personal: Humanising Content to Connect with Customers”
3) Blog: “Why Humanizing Content Is Important”
4) Client Presentation: “Humanization of Email Marketing Content” (King Arthur Flour and Moosejaw)