What is the meaning of life?
Type that question into Google’s search bar and you will receive approximately 992,000,000 possible answers. But which answer should you trust? Should you click on the link from Psychology Today or Success magazine? Both publications tackle the question and both are “authorities” on the subject, at least based on search standards – they show up in the top page of results. But one approaches the topic from the viewpoint of healthy living and the other from the perspective of increasing your income – wildly different points of view.
As filmmaker David Lowry once said, “I’m not searching for the meaning of life, but I’m looking for a meaning within my life.” Aren’t we all? And in figuring that out, we’re looking for an authority we can trust. If we are pondering our higher purpose and how that maps to our emotional well-being, we will probably choose to check out what the experts at Psychology Today have to say. If we are seeking purpose in our work, we will most likely turn to, and trust, Success.
Today, trust is the hottest currency in marketing. After headlines like the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal shed a light on consumer data protection practices, or lack of, only 20 percent of U.S. consumers “completely trust” organizations to protect their data, according to a Harris Poll.
However, another study, this one from software company Viber, reveals most consumers are willing to share data, as long as they receive value in return. So in order to earn trust, marketers must focus on people – customers and prospective customers – in order to create content that provides value and helps people.
How did we get here? We’ve come a long way (baby) from what some consider to be advertising’s golden age in the 1950s and 60s; the post-war era, start of the baby boom and era of consumerism. Think Mad Men. Back then marketers poured research dollars into motivational strategies and tactics, trying to tap into rising consumer affluence to sell products. In those days, the Don Drapers of the world were charged with telling consumers what they needed and wanted. Nothing could be further from the truth now.
Today, millennials are the largest generation and their worldviews, purchasing habits, and media consumption – their lives – are vastly different than those of boomers. They are sophisticated and savvy consumers and have made a significant impact in the way people of every generation consume and react to content, particularly digital content. The concept of marketing as manipulation is not only outdated, it’s inept.
Today’s consumer wants transparency, they want a personal connection, they even want input in dealing with their favorite brands.
They want to trust that the places, businesses, and people they give their time and attention to, not only understand them, but are also aligned with their beliefs and have their best interests at heart. Nowadays, you need to earn customers, not acquire them, because they are in control. And the only way you can do that is by building trust.
So how, then, can marketers establish trust?
The challenge, and opportunity, is for marketers to create meaningful experiences and help people while also helping their businesses succeed and grow. That’s why content marketing has become increasingly more important. But not just any content – educational content. Content that provides answers and insights.
And here’s what too many marketers are missing: Even the best content is useless without distribution. Likewise, the best distribution channels are useless if they are delivering subpar content.
Customer-focused marketing requires a multi-disciplinary approach – your media mix strategy must include both earned and paid strategies if you’re going to effectively deliver value directly to a consumer.
Effective earned marketing helps you establish credibility and build your reputation. Effective paid marketing allows you to deliver valuable content to the media and platforms your consumers trust. Approaching your earned and paid channels as equally important parts in the same customer-first marketing strategy is the key to creating the ingredients for a great customer experience in every channel.
The reason people are less likely to click paid ads isn’t because they’re inherently less valuable, it’s because marketers don’t look at them as a delivery mechanism for the same kind of quality content that they deliver through organic channels.
However, that is exactly what you need to do to humanize your marketing because humanized marketing is the kind of marketing that allows you to earn the trust of the person typing into their search bar and seeking meaning in their life.
A multi-disciplinary approach to marketing creates a virtuous circle that coincides with the customer journey.
A strong earned media strategy means your brand will appear in multiple places – media outlets that your customer knows and deems to be credible, thereby establishing your brand’s legitimacy and authority. That builds, not just trust with your customers on the issues that matter most to them, but affinity (and revenue) too.
Remember, people search, via Google and other search engines, for answers to questions in their actual lives. If we are creating valuable, useful content as marketers, with the purpose of bettering the lives of our customers and potential customers, results will follow.