How do you know you create great content?
The answer is – great content is engaging, useful, and transformative.
- Content is engaging when it not only captures audience’s attention, but also keep that attention actively focused. It’s like you give a promise to the audience and deliver that promise in the content.
- Content is useful when it solves audience’s specific problem. Every time someone interacts with your content, he searches for a solution to his problem. His problem could be big or small. It’s your content’s job to deliver that solution.
- Content is transformative when it changes the audience in some meaningful way. The transformations don’t need to be ground breaking. It could be as simple as encouraging someone to click on a link or fill a form. The most powerful transformations is when content encourages someone to change their behavior or their belief.
Creating transformative content is the most difficult one. It requires a lot of research to gain insight about customers. To me, it’s a fundamental aspect of a brand. development process.
We understand the basic concept of how human brain works. There are 2 types of systems – conscious and subconscious mind. They don’t work independently. Instead, it’s one integrated system. The subconscious mind plays more role in our daily life than you might think. I for example use the same route to drive to work everyday. My subconscious mind often guides me to work without much concentration.
But, how does it work in marketing?
Brands take advantages of our subconscious mind all the times, through the use of color, smell, sound, etc. The common activities that are most popular are the following:
- Social signal or social proof: we are likely to buy the products with more star reviews.
- Using positive words: Apple has the following words banned in their sales training – “no”, “broken”, “cannot”, “sorry”. They train their staff to use positive words like “sure”, “we can do that”, “absolutely”.
- Standing in a way: standing in the door way or blocking customer’s direct line for the door, you might be able to influence sales.
- Try before you buy: very basic for all marketers.
- Buy one get one free: customers may end up paying more for an individual item.
The above techniques work under the same principle – to let customers feel like they have things their way. Giving customers a “bragging right” could go a long way for your company.
Creating great content is more important than ever. Content is a great way for your company and product to engage with customers. However, how do you know your content is great?
In order to define content greatness, we should start with how content is viewed in your company. There are 2 views about content strategy / creation:
- Content as a tactic: If your content is a tactic, its value is secondary and you use it to support other business goals.
- Content as a product: But, if content is a product, it delivers intrinsic value to your customers. It doesn’t more than just a supporting role to your business goals. It is your business goal.
As an example, if you have a campaign to generate leads, getting more leads would be your primary goal. Whether customers are happy with your content or not doesn’t really matter as long as they fill a lead form. However, if you care whether customers are satisfied with your content or not, then you see content as a product. You use content to enhance your brand positioning and to help customers solve problems.
Guerrilla marketing is innovative, unconventional, and low-cost marketing techniques aiming to get the maximum exposure on a product. That is the definition.
Burger King used to do this by doing something as simple as clicking likes on their targeted influencers’ twitter posts. The trick is those tweets were 10 years old. As you can imagine, those influencers made noises asking questions why Burger Kings did that. After a few weeks passed, Burger King revealed the reason through a launch of its new burger set.
Was Burger King did creative? Yes. Did Burger King get free exposure? Yes.
I think it’s a good technique to create excitement (or frustration) for commodities. It probably works if you expect short-term results.
Imagine if you have a great story to tell and you apply the guerrilla marketing concept. Sustainability is the first word coming to my mind.
I read about Jeff Bezos’s Day 1 letter before. I believe most people know him. He is a CEO and founder of the largest online store in the world – Amazon.com. I read it again yesterday and am still fascinated with his thoughts and advice on how decision making process should be.
Jeff’s Day 1 philosophy is that we should always have an entrepreneurial, start-up mindset. Making high-quality, high-velocity decisions is part of his philosophy. It’s not easy especially in an established company with lots of layers. Here is what high-velocity decision making process looks like, according to Jeff:
- Never use a one-size-fits-all decision-making process. Management or all of us must understand that many decisions can be reversed. You just need to correct a bad decision you made. Not all decisions cost millions of dollars to the company.
- 70% of information should be sufficient for you to make a decision. You will never get all the information you need to make decisions. If you wait until you get more than 90% of information, you would probably be too slow.
- Disagree and commit. Not everyone would agree with everything. Remember this – you should expect common action, not a common census. Even if you disagree but the team has valid reasons to proceed, you should be fully committed to that decision.
- Identify true misalignment early. This is very important. The true misalignment comes from the team having different objectives and expectations from a project. No amounts of discussions or meetings would solve this issue. You need to go back to clarify the goals, the objectives of the project before you can proceed with any decisions.
This is the part I like the most from Jeff – “you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.“
I just found out today that Tesla doesn’t have a marketing team, a Chief Marketing Officer, not even an advertising agency. They spend $0 on marketing. It reminds me someone used to say “advertising dollars are your tax payment on a product”.
How can you sell a product without spending money in marketing? These are my observations:
- You need to have a great product. A definition of great products are broad. It must solve customer’s problem. It must make customers feel good about themselves. One thing for sure, a great product must have a clear role in making customer’s life better.
- You must an interesting story and you must tell the stories well. Great story = free publicity.
An interesting story is free publicity, and a good reputation builds a brand.
3. You are selling something more than your product. You sell a vision of a better world. You cannot have great stories if you try to sell product features. What is your just cause? What is the reason why your product exist in this world?
4. You must have a clear description of your followers in mind. By followers, I am talking about the people who would follow your cause. You are a leader of a cause. It’s not for everyone. There are some people who passionately believe in what you do. They want to follow you. They are happy to pay a bit extra to be a part of your world.
These are the formula of how to sell products without spending marketing dollars.
I talked about the concept of a just cause before. It’s something bigger than what you do. It is a vision of a better world that makes you do what you do. A concept of a core narrative is similar, but it leans more towards how we do business.
The core narrative is what you sell beyond your product. It describes how what you do (product features) could solve your customer’s problems.
Based on this line of thinking, to identify your core narrative, you should start by finding out what success looks like for your customers. Then, you help them get there.
I work in the hospitality industry. My core narrative would be “We don’t sell hotel rooms. We bring friends and family together and help them enjoy a lifetime of holidays”.
I talked about the 3 mistakes in doing a discount a few days ago. But, let face it, we cannot stop offering discounts. How to do it right then?
Below are some tips to do the discounting right.
- A discount shouldn’t come as a surprise. You should set a clear expectation to your customers when the discount will happen and what the threshold is.
- You should look after your existing customers first. You spend a lot of times and money to get them in the first place. The worst thing that could happen is they are upset and stop recommending your product.
- You have a good reason or a justification to offer a discount. End of year discount makes sense. Closing down sale that lasts for 6 months does not.
- Your discount campaign should be simple and straight forward. It’s a one number e.g. 20% OFF campaign.
- You should educate your customers what a discount threshold is. Apple never offers a discount more than 10%, for example.
As you can see, in order to do the discount right, it requires a lot of planning ahead. Don’t do it like I did. I had to offer discounts all the time, every month. When I tried to change, it’s so hard as I created a norm so no one bought our offers at the normal prices anymore. The damage was severe to the point that I had to come up with a new offer entirely.
I told my team all the time that people these days have a very short attention span. Creating a long blog post is useless because people don’t read anymore. People have a shorter attention span – about 8 second – than goldfish.
I was so wrong.
I gave the wrong direction to the team. It’s not about speed or content length. It’s not about losing attention. It’s all about earning attention.
Based on neuroscience, human attention is about a prediction of errors. Our brain is trained to sift through mountains of data looking for anomalies. Once the brain notices an anomaly, the next step is to lock it down with a memory. And to do that, we need one more essential element – emotion.
In summary, the successful formula for earning attention is to find an anomaly that emotionally charged. It’s not about speed and content length. It’s all about your content quality.
Discounting is my arch enemy. It’s a brainless strategy. Anyone could do it. But, I probably use it as much as everyone else. When you are sucked into a discount game, it’s very, very hard to get out. I am in a hospitality industry. You can imagine how hard to compete in the world that is driven by Online Travel Agents (OTAs). It’s like you go to a shopping mall and every shop offers a discount. So you have to do it too.
Let break down the expectation of what you want to see when you offer a discount. We want to see 2 psychological effects:
- We want to create an urgency. It’s no point to do a discount if customers don’t feel they have to do something about it NOW.
- We expect the FOMO effect – Fear Of Missing Out, which leads us to point 1 – please do something NOW.
If you want to achieve the above effects, please try to avoid the 3 mistakes below.
Mistake 1 – Offering a confusing discount policy
I used to do that to as I expected to get double hit effect. No, it didn’t work. Go out with one number. If it is 20% OFF, then that is your discount policy with this campaign. Don’t offer something like – buy this product now and get 20% OFF and you will get the second item at 40% OFF. Customers don’t like to think.
Mistake 2 – Discounting very often
You create a bad behvior by offering discounts all the time. I did that too as I was desperate. And, please trust me, it’s very had to get back to the normal price.
Mistake 3 – Making your existing customer feel bad
Nothing is worse than a feeling that you are cheated and you paid overprice. Your existing customers should be the ones you protect because you spent a lot of money to get them in the first place. If they feel bad about your pricing policy, it’s unlikely that they would recommend your product to their friends.
A discount game is like a war on drug – very hard to win.