You’ve Captured Your Customers’ Attention. Now What?

November 28, 2015

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Editor’s note: This post was contributed by Jennifer Hill, COO of Remedy Analytics. It is her second post exploring the changing landscape of brands in business and our fourth installment of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions: Financial Services’ new editorial series focused on diving deep into topics that matter most to financial marketers.

In a world that serves up seemingly endless voices, savvy brands transcend beyond the obvious direct approaches and become our allies in the marketplace. In other words, brands have become the new educators.

In my last post, I explored why companies must learn to cultivate their customers—long before they need them. But once you’ve employed that forward-thinking approach as a marketer, then what?

To help answer that question—and understand the next step in advancing the conversation — here are two increasingly universal truths that illustrate and underscore how this shift can help drive your own marketing efforts today.

  1. Consumers attach greater identity to brands.

Humans learn best through storytelling, which is why savvy brands develop content that qualifies as brand journalism (telling stories that convey a brand’s personality). Fundamentally, we all want our choice of brand to align with our personality, values, and aspirations.

Innovative marketers start with the values that are the most important to their existing customers and future target customers. Then they create genuinely helpful content that inspires these values. They help to problem-solve without any undercurrent of salesmanship. The focus is completely on helping for the sake of paying it forward. For example, Marriott hotels produced original travel vlogs in New Orleans, Istanbul, and Tokyo that focus on aspirational travel stories targeting influential millennials.

Similarly, financial-services companies have a wealth (pun intended) of opportunities at their disposal to be helpful and inspire customers through content. The goal should be to educate customers about issues that help them reach their goals. Determine what issues are important to their lives and help them get there. The key is to get the content where your users are. From blogs to Pinterest boards, Facebook posts, interactive Snapchat story contents, Instagrams and tweets that link back to everything, robust distribution channels easily extend your message.

Financial-services companies targeting millennials, for example, can develop humorous how-to videos about savings, develop interactive apps for deciding whether to buy, or host a Snapchat story contest about the best travel-savings hacks. Your own customers (and prospective customers) can be the richest source of content. Most people are delighted to share the ideas for the benefit of helping others. Pinterest boards that offer visually striking “how-to” content, through both organic and paid pins, easily enable companies to deliver helpful advice.

This is the reason why companies such as Contently are killing it in the marketplace. Contently is a fast-growing technology platform that helps brands connect with freelancers and manage the publishing of content, to help tell their stories. They’ve built a killer business identifying users, case studies, and solutions that embody the brand’s essence for such powerhouses as HSBC, Marriott, and American Express.

Smart brands, you see, create content for the user instead of the brand.

Let’s face it—while we may instantly pay attention to whichever Hollywood, music or sports star is associated with a brand, it’s bloggers, friends, and those who appear to be more “like us” that ultimately influence purchasing decisions. For this reason, smart brands also harness content producers such as bloggers, video producers, writers and everyday leaders who appeal to the target customer base. They develop ambassador programs that empower people to become involved with the brand, elevate their voices, and share wisdom to help the greater good. They sponsor events and causes that associate with these influencers’ visions.

This is not disingenuously disguised advertising. It is meeting your customer where he or she is.

  1. Consumers want the inside edge before it goes mainstream.

Content marketing (providing useful info to create product demand) has turned brands into the new newsrooms. Content marketing alone will generate $300 billion in spending by 2019. In 2014, brands spent $145 million.

Take the Weather Channel, recently acquired by IBM. Once known as the cable station and website to check the daily weather, it morphed itself into a newsroom that publishes real-time multimedia stories on the impacts of weather on people, community, and business. It is now a news source that can help businesses decide which products to sell on a particular day, and forecast (pun intended, again) trends that impact business on a daily basis. They have become a go-to source for information before anyone else can get it.

Financial services companies have the opportunity to do the same. Real-time information about how to be smarter with your money is relevant to everyone. Whether you are a recent college grad, starting a family in your 30s, saving for college, or approaching retirement, we can always learn more about stretching the dollar, increasing our earning potential, or making smarter financial decisions on a daily basis. How does the price of gas impact our everyday transportation costs? Does that daily latte habit really add up to a plane ticket to the Bahamas? The key is to become known as the source of expertise on a topic such that consumers turn to you first.

Brands are simply getting better at catering to consumers. Forward-thinking ones recognize that the best way to build loyalty is to share content that solves their pressing issues, makes them smarter, and arms them with information to be knowledge leaders themselves. Maybe then, someday, they will return the favor.

For more insights on how Finance Marketers can succeed with real-time tactics in an ever-changing landscape, download volume 2 of our Sophisticated Finance Marketer eBook Series.