The life-changing idea to remember from Festival of Marketing today

There’s a lot of buzzy ideas doing the rounds at Tobacco Docks today – here’s one that can genuinely transform your content and your business

October 5, 2016

What’s the most important concept doing the rounds at the Festival of Marketing today? What’s the one word that you should have been making a note of, taking back with you and applying to your B2B marketing strategy?

It’s not ‘content’ or ‘personalisation’ or ‘data’ or any of the others hanging outside the different stages around Tobacco Dock. It’s not ‘ad blocking’,  ‘disruption’ or ‘storytelling’. Don’t get me wrong – all of those terms and concepts matter a lot; all of them have been mentioned a lot today; all of them can do a lot for your business; but none of them can have quite the same transformative, value-adding impact as another idea.

I would argue that the most important word you’ve heard at Festival of Marketing 2016 today is ‘Subscribers’.

What – really? After all that build-up? I’m giving you a concept that’s almost as old as the printing press?

Bear with me, because the idea of people giving you their data so that you can send them things you know they’re interested in is absolutely nothing to be sniffed at in the current marketing landscape. Having subscribers as a guiding principle and objective for your marketing strategy answers an awful lot of the questions that I’ve been listening to very smart marketers tiptoeing around all day. Subscribers are by far the most effective solution to ad blocking, they are the best possible source of data for meaningful personalisation, they’re the best platform you’ll ever have for storytelling in any format, and they’re the essence of disruptive, digitally enabled business models. When you adopt a ‘subscriber mindset’ you find yourself seeking to establish a very different relationship with your audiences through content – and it’s the type of relationship that’s essential for success in our disruptive, digital landscape.

Subscribers are the building blocks of the owned media empire that I explained how to create in my own Festival of Marketing session this morning – but I wasn’t the first person at the Festival to mention them today. That would be Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever, in his headline stage session on how one of the world’s largest FMCG companies is keeping up in the age of the start-up.

Jason Miller's session at Festival of Marketing

What Unilever wants to learn from Dollar Shave Club
The first question that everyone in the audience wanted to ask Keith was “what are you doing with Dollar Shave Club”, the content marketing-driven sensation that Unilever acquired back in July. Keith’s answer was that Unilever wasn’t planning to do anything immediately with Dollar Shave Club other than learn from it. The most important thing he wanted to learn from it? How to make money from subscribers.

Subscription business models like Dollar Shave Clubs are big news for FMCG and other B2C brands because they give them a direct route to the people who are most interested in buying from them. They build a community around a brand or product, with permission to use data to make that community’s experiences better – including through selling products. Subscribers are the original embodiment of the ‘data-value exchange’ that marketers spend so much of our time thinking about. That, my friends, is worth its weight in gold.

LinkedIn Content Studio at Festival of Marketing 2016

The beautiful constraints of a subscriber mindset
It’s worth its weight in gold to B2B content marketers as well – both as an objective to aim for and a discipline to apply to the type of content that you publish. The only way to earn subscribers, followers, or any other type of loyal audience is to keep showing them how your content is relevant, interesting and adds value to their lives. That’s where smart, data-led targeting and personalisation comes in. Use this in the right way and you’ll be rewarded by people putting their hands up and asking to hear from you on a regular basis. At that point, you can stop spending money to pursue them around digital channels – they’ve already told you they want to hear from you, they've shown you what type of content they like, and they’ve told you how to send it to them.

Once that hand-raising happens you’re into another issue that’s a hot topic at Festival of Marketing – Trust. When somebody subscribes to receive content from you, it’s an act of trust that you’ll continue to deliver content that treats them with respect, stays relevant to what they need and keeps adding value. That’s a great constraint.

The fact that the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog has subscribers doesn't just give us an audience that we can talk to directly – it gives us a reason never just to publish content that’s a thinly disguised sales pitch for our products; that doesn’t put our subscribers first. When we embrace what those subscribers mean, it challenges us to keep using what we know about them to deliver content that will make a big, positive difference to their lives.

Keith Weed talked about the need for brands to go from “marketing to consumers” to “mattering to people”. At the close of the day, the philosopher Alain de Botton challenged marketers to stop using people’s deepest psychological needs as a trick for selling things – and start building business models focused on nobly trying to give them what they really need. These are the types of things that a brand with a ‘subscriber’ mindset is focused on achieving. And that’s why I genuinely believe it’s one of the most important ideas to be mentioned at Festival of Marketing today.

  • LinkedIn's Podcast Corner, Festival of Marketing 2016

LinkedIn's Podcast Corner, Festival of Marketing 2016