I’ll never forget the day. It was September 12, 2001. I was financially free, but … after the horrific events that unfolded that week, the harsh realization that life was indeed short, left me questioning everything.
Just a few years earlier (1998) I had been named the president of an internet subsidiary, which was followed shortly thereafter by an Initial Public Offering (IPO). I felt like I had achieved most of my career ambitions, yet the 9/11 tragedy changed that perspective. If life was this short, there had to be a way to experience more meaning. Now.
I didn’t know where the journey would head, but it didn’t matter. The world was changing and purpose was calling. So, I took the skills I had developed, and looked for a way to help others grow their business. It became a mission for me. Today, that initial awakening has transformed into a multi-million dollar portfolio of purposeful brands. Today, I do everything “on purpose.”
What I didn’t understand at the time was that the same shift I was experiencing personally was also reshaping consumerism and the way brands could better promote their message. It was also changing the way business was done. Competition is being replaced by collaboration, and small businesses are fueling economic expansion, because to a small business owner, business is personal. It’s not a transaction.
A Shift in the Way Customer’s Buy
Small business owners understand that buyers want transparency and authenticity and will leverage social and digital media to find what they are looking for. Whereas larger corporations hate the transparent world of social media and online reviews, entrepreneurs have always understood the power of referrals because they built their personal reputation on it.
This has directly, and indirectly, transformed marketing. From user-generated content (the original form of authentic promotion), to online reviews, and now education/information-based content, how organizations get the phone to ring has changed.
B2C companies are finding that advertising no longer works the way it used to, because the consumer wants to do their own research. For B2B brands, channel marketing techniques rarely fill the sales funnel. Instead, prospective customers are seeking information. They want valuable content that helps them make an informed decision, on their own (or with a little assistance). Their goal is to learn rather than to be sold.
The form of authentic promotion you use to reach your target market should be driven more by the type of information your target market wants to consume, as well as how they want to consume it (text, video, podcast, infographic, etc.), rather than the traditional advertising or the lead generation vehicle currently consuming your budget.
Today, truth sells. Authentic promotion is the best way to promote most brands today, and it is quickly becoming the only way to market companies that offer a compelling vision to the marketplace. And, if you care about the value of your brand, pay attention to these tips.
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Five Keys to Authentic Promotion
Through our research at IGNITE On Purpose, we’ve discovered five keys to using an authentic promotion strategy to engage prospective buyers in a way that drives what we call “clicks and calls.” These include:
- Purpose: Promoting an authentic vision has now replaced advertising as a means to brand growth, because purpose matters to prospects, plain and simple. We’re not talking about a fuzzy mission statement. Your brand and your product must have a purpose. It must matter. Quality is king and purpose is the queen. Bad marketing can’t overcome a poor-quality product, and advertising can’t replace an authentic purpose.
- POV: Buyers are not interested in generic content, which translates to a one-size-fits-all marketing scheme. They don’t want you to speak about your ideas or your offering in a diluted form. The brands they embrace must have a point of view and must be passionate about that point of view. They want you to stand for something. If your product or service is so great, why? If you’ve built a better mousetrap, explain it. Take a point of view in all of the information you share with potential leads.
- Pitch: Buyers EXPECT companies that provide valuable, informative content to also have something to pitch. If you try to hide a sales strategy behind content (such as with the now-famous “fake news” techniques) buyers will not respond. Worse, if buyers suspect your content is a sales or marketing ploy, they will expose it (and you) themselves. Please don’t try to sneak in promotional offers through downloadable case studies or white papers. Use content to engage prospects and build trust in you. And when you’re ready to pitch a promotional offer, do so boldly and directly.
- Platform: Face it. Your potential buyers are not interested in what you have to say today, because they may not even know you exist, or at a minimum, your product is not top of mind. You need a platform to place your content in front of them. Find ways to distribute your content to attract as many eyeballs as possible. Your content may be great, but if no one sees it, then it won’t work.
- Personality: Last, but not least, the personality and voice of your authentic promotional content, should be congruent with the personality and voice of you and your brand. Nothing frustrates potential prospects more than content infused with an inauthentic personality. Sometimes, in an effort to write content considered as “thought leadership” the personality of the content comes off as inauthentic. Don’t go there. Be real instead.
Although our team is very selective about the brands we choose to promote, these are the five keys we use to develop authentic promotion strategies for our clients. Most importantly, the reason we are so selective about the clients we take on is because truth sells. If your product or service is great, tell the world about it in an authentic way. If it isn’t, shift the money you’re spending on marketing toward resources that will transform your company from good to great.