Rachel Klaver is a marketing strategist, specialising in lead generation and content marketing.
OPINION: I’ve used buyer profiles in retail businesses before, but they have just as much merit when applied to a service-based business. I’m not sure why we seem to think humans will be any different depending on whether they are buying a vacuum cleaner or contracting a cleaner. In the end, your services are still products that humans are choosing to spend their money on.
There are nine key buyer profiles we can intentionally (and unintentionally) attract. No one is better than the other, but you and your business will fit some more than others. It’s a matter of being aware of who you’re attracting, who you are ignoring that you could attract, and who you have consciously decided to repel with your marketing and sales style.
I’m a big fan of using the marketing and sales process to help find your ideal clients, by showing them at the outset what your own business values and boundaries are for. A simple example of this is choosing to only email your prospects during work hours, if that’s what you have as a core way of working with your clients. For me, we do the vast majority of work via Zoom. This is why we also do our sales calls via Zoom too. If the person is uncomfortable with this, they may also be uncomfortable with working with us, too.
When I went through the nine buyer profiles I found several I don’t want to attract, and a few I’d like to do better in drawing in. Use this list, and mentally check against it what you could do in your marketing to help these types of people want to buy from your service-based business.
For me, my whole marketing approach is to help the browser. I’ve got people on my email list who’ve been there for three years or more before becoming a client.
These curious individuals stumble upon our content, and while they may not be ready to make a purchase right away, we can capture their interest by infusing our content with personality and emotion.
It’s essential to let them get a real sense of who we are, to truly understand our voice and the way we do things. When they resonate with us, they’re more likely to choose us over our competitors who don’t evoke the same connection. These people will choose us because we consistently resonate with them. They didn’t find us when they were ready to buy. But as soon as they are, they’re coming to us (I often get people emailing me saying: “Love your content. Not ready for you yet, but I’m going to be one day!”).
The Bargain Hunter
In writing this I realised this was me. I’m definitely always sniffing around for a good deal. This is an issue because I also don’t believe we should be discounting our products and services to get the sale.
However, we can cater to these types of buyers without discount. We just need to provide great deals.
To grab their attention, we can offer them lower-cost options or limited-time promotions. For me, I’ve learned that by providing resources, workshops, or even my book, that they can engage with at a lower price point, they can get a taste of what we have to offer and develop a stronger connection with us.
I also use free content. I provide that with things like this column, my podcast, my email newsletter and my blogs. They get value, and then it’s my job to show them that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to working with me.
Showroomers are one type of buyer I’m starting to work harder to attract. I’m weirdly reluctant to share testimonials (of which I have hundreds) and feedback. I literally have to force myself to do it.
What I’ve learned is these types of buyers can take a while to make a decision but they are locked in once they decide, and they become incredible word-of-mouth referrers to others. For me, they are worth connecting with.
These savvy buyers are thorough researchers who want to know all the details before making a decision. Testimonials and feedback from other customers become crucial in gaining their trust.
Sharing testimonials that highlight the benefits and outcomes others have experienced can be a powerful tool in showcasing the value of our services. Testimonials help potential customers understand the benefits they can receive by working with us, and they serve as social proof of our expertise and credibility.
The “I’m on a mission”
These are also great clients, and again a section I’ve ignored in my marketing without realising it. Again this comes down to a reluctance to “show off” in my content. I’m working on this as I’m teaching my clients to become better at it, and I don’t like being a hypocrite as I do!
These individuals come prepared with a detailed checklist of requirements. To cater to their needs, we must clearly outline the features and benefits of our services.
It’s important to highlight what sets us apart and the specific outcomes they can expect to achieve.
Testimonials play a vital role here as well. They help potential customers envision the results they can achieve by working with us.
However, we don’t need to give them everything they want. It’s ok to have boundaries. I’ve encountered mission shoppers who requested to see strategies I’ve created for other clients. That’s a no from me, as it’s sharing someone else’s document, and also my intellectual property. It’s also often showing them the wrong part of the process, which is the completed document. The strength in my work is in the conversations we have to create it (which again is why I prefer to get them on a Zoom instead).
The Impulse Buyer
This might be a perfect fit for your business, but not for me, unless it’s a lower-cost product like a webinar, my book or a small course.
I often recommend service-based business owners don’t target this type of customer unless you’ve got one that solves a pain point that’s easily resolved, and you aren’t necessarily looking for a repeat purchase.
Impulse buyers make quick decisions based on their gut instincts or limited-time offers. To capture their attention, we can create enticing, low-cost options that allow them to experience a taste of what we offer.
If you’re going to target these buyers, having a chat on your website and being quick to respond to social media questions is key. These buyers want it right now.
I’ve got nothing against this type of buyer, but they aren’t a fit for my personality and business style. It’s not a “them” problem. It’s a me issue. I’ve got ADHD and love to talk. I can easily overshare, and add too much value in a sales call. I’ve had to learn to be pretty strong about moving people off phone calls and on to zooms that we’ve scheduled to prevent my entire week to be filled with chats with potential clients that often lead to nowhere. Boundaries are needed when it comes to me, clients and time.
Chatties are enthusiastic individuals who often seek free advice or consultations without genuine intentions of becoming paying customers. It’s crucial to set clear boundaries and protect our time and expertise.
This is also why I teach my clients to ditch the “discovery call” and rename it a “check the fit” call which has a higher sales intent. You may get less of them, but your conversion rate will go up.
Rather than offering endless free consultations, transitioning to structured sales meetings can guide them towards a more committed decision-making process. It’s an area where I’ve struggled in the past, as I genuinely enjoy helping people and can sometimes give away too much for free.
I’ve learned the importance of creating boundaries and directing these individuals to group interactions where others can benefit as well.
The Indecisive Shopper
Indecisive shoppers take their time when making purchasing decisions. They often have specific obstacles or objections that need addressing.
Patience, providing necessary information, and offering support are key in navigating the indecisiveness. It’s important to stay true to our values and clearly communicate the benefits of our services.
Addressing their objections and concerns while giving them the space they need to reach a decision is crucial.
I’ve learned that when faced with a money objection, it’s not merely about the cost but about the perceived value and trust that need to be established. Giving them time and ensuring they have all the information they need is incredibly important
I personally can find the key is to not over push, and allow them to take the time they need. Follow-up is key, but be wary of converting them before they are ready. It will cause you no end of pain as they stay indecisive as you work with them.
The Fully Educated
These buyers are slow to act, but when they do they come in hot. Educated buyers are well-informed individuals who have followed our content for years. They have done their research and have a deep understanding of what we offer.
Nurturing these relationships requires consistently providing valuable content through various channels. Our website should be clear and informative, while regular promotions and offers can keep them engaged and interested.
It’s important to provide actionable opportunities for them to take the next step in their journey with us. I normally recommend dedicating 10% to 20% of our content to serve these educated buyers is essential. They have invested time in us, and we should reciprocate by offering content that caters specifically to their needs.
The Loyal Customer
Service-based businesses can build a highly successful business by harnessing the magic of these types of buyers. They book and rebook with us, they tell others about us, and they always remember to pay.
Our loyal customers deserve our utmost appreciation. They have stuck with us through thick and thin, and they become our biggest advocates. Offering exclusive discounts, early access to new offerings, and free resources is a way to reward their loyalty.
These loyal customers often refer others to our business, and their support is invaluable. Recognising their loyalty and showing gratitude helps solidify our relationship and build long-lasting partnerships.
Understanding these nine buyer profiles allows us to tailor our marketing approach and connect with potential customers on a deeper level. By recognising the specific profiles that resonate with our business, we can identify areas where adjustments can be made in our marketing strategies to help talk to the best buyer types for our business model. It’s important to remember that patience, value, and consistency are key when engaging with different buyer profiles.
It’s absolutely fine to have several types that you don’t cater to. The key is to take the time to really think about which types work best for your business, then create content in your marketing that helps them get ready to buy. This can grow your business, without significantly changing what you are selling.
Feature Image Credit: Mark Taylor/Stuff
By Rachel Klaver
Rachel Klaver is a marketing strategist, specialising in lead generation and content marketing.
Looking to get into YouTube Shorts and build a Shorts presence for yourself or your brand?
You should probably consider it. Shorts is the fastest-growing content type on YouTube, and is now driving over 50 billion daily views in the app. Built in the mold of TikTok, Shorts leans into the growing trend towards more succinct, attention-grabbing clips, and it could be a valuable pathway towards increased brand awareness and perception.
If you can create good Shorts content.
This will help. Today, YouTube has published a new interview with Shorts Product Lead Todd Sherman, in which Sherman answers some of the most common questions about Shorts, including how they’re using hashtags, how often you should post, the Shorts algorithm, and what’s coming next.
There are some interesting notes. Below are some of the key highlights.
On the Shorts algorithm
YouTube advises that creators should “think audience, not algorithm” within their creative process.
Sherman says that the Shorts algorithm is different to the regular YouTube feed, because it’s an entirely different format, with different consumption behaviours.
“For example, on long form, a lot of the times people are choosing which video by tapping on it on their phone, or clicking on it on the web, and that choice is something that drives a lot of engagement. On short form, people are swiping through a feed, and discovering things as they go. That’s one important difference.”
The variance means that YouTube can’t use the same explicit usage indicators as it does in the main feed, so the algorithm is focused more on engagement elements, while the Shorts feed is also broader reaching, meaning that YouTube has to match more content to Shorts viewers.
In essence, this means that YouTube is getting smarter about showing users what they like, based on what they watch, factoring in watch time and re-watches, along with likes, shares, and comments. A big part of that comes down to entity recognition, and YouTube is still building its algorithm to highlight more content based on these measures.
How Shorts views are counted
Sherman says that Shorts views are not measured when a Short appears on screen, but are more aligned with actual viewer interest.
“What we try and do with a view is have it encode for your intent of watching that thing, so that creators feel like that view has some meaningful threshold that the person decided to watch. It doesn’t mean it’s their favourite video ever, it just means that they are deliberately watching it.”
Sherman says that YouTube doesn’t publish its actual calculations on this, in order to stop people trying to game the system.
Extending Shorts length
Sherman says that this is not something that they’re considering, as YouTube already has other long-form options. As such, Shorts will remain 60 seconds max for the time being.
Sherman says that the Shorts team has opted not to add specific thumbnail creation tools for Shorts because most Shorts views come from people swiping through the Shorts feed, which means that most people won’t see your thumbnails anyway.
Sherman says that hashtags are not required on Shorts, but they can be helpful in certain application.
“Sometimes a hashtag can be associated with a real world thing that’s happened, like an event, and you wanna’ associate it with it. Other times they’re focused on topics, and I think in both those cases, creators should consider using them.”
So not exactly concrete advice on whether hashtags offer any value, but they may be worth experimenting with, in terms of trending discussions and/or niche topics.
Sherman says that there’s nothing in the algorithm that dictates expanded or reduced reach if you post more Shorts, but he advises that there can be negative impacts for posting lots of lower quality clips.
“If you generated a bunch of relatively lower quality videos and then posted those, and got meager engagement on them, that energy is probably better spent in just making a better video and fewer of them.”
So quality over quantity is, in general, the better approach.
Deleting and re-uploading to maximize reach
Sherman also addresses the suggestion that deleting and re-uploading a Short can help to boost its reach.
Some creators claim that re-uploading can effectively re-trigger the algorithm to expand your distribution, but Sherman says that this is not a great strategy.
“I would not advise that. I’ve heard people talk about this as like a growth hack on Twitter or something [but] I think that there’s also a risk that it gets seen as spam in our systems.”
The future of Shorts
Looking ahead, Sherman says that Shorts will integrate AI elements, though he’s fairly vague on what exactly that means.
You would assume that this would incorporate AI creation tools of some kind, generative elements that can assist in your process, but we’ll have to wait and see what YouTube has in store on this front.
It’s an interesting overview of the current stats of Shorts, and how to best approach Shorts engagement, which could help guide you in your efforts to make the most of the option.
So you want to turn heads and grab attention with clever guerrilla marketing tactics?
Successful guerrilla marketing is all about unconventional tactics that deliver a significant impact.
Want to know the secret sauce?
Well, we’ve prepared a line up of genius guerrilla marketing tactics to turbocharge your growth.
So buckle up, and let’s dive right in!
What is Guerrilla Marketing?
At its core, guerrilla marketing is a concept born out of the need for low-cost, unconventional marketing strategies that yield maximum results.
The term was coined in the 1980s by Jay Conrad Levinson, who likened these unconventional, surprise marketing tactics to guerrilla warfare.
From the start, it’s been all about creating memorable experiences for the customer.
Instead of buying a billboard your potential customer might easily overlook, you can hire a street performer juggling with your product. See the difference?
With guerrilla marketing, the lines of traditional advertising are blurred, and suddenly, consumers are drawn into a real-life narrative.
Real-world examples have proven the efficacy of this approach. For instance, Red Bull, a brand synonymous with extreme sports, executed a guerrilla marketing stunt that people still talk about — they sponsored a skydiving mission from space!
Unconventional? Yes. Memorable? Absolutely! This is guerrilla marketing at its best.
But as with any marketing tactic, misconceptions exist.
Some think guerrilla marketing is only for big brands or that it’s too risky.
Here’s the truth: with a bit of creativity, any business can use guerrilla marketing, including you too!
But in order to start working on your own guerrilla marketing plan, there are a few principles you’ll need to know…
The Basic Principles of Guerrilla Marketing
Guerrilla marketing revolves around some basic principles that you’ll want to understand and master right off the bat.
Unforgettable Customer Experiences
The first principle of guerrilla marketing underscores the importance of crafting unique customer experiences, as opposed to just pushing products.
In the age of customer-centric marketing, experiences reign supreme.
Guerrilla marketing goes beyond traditional advertising to create memorable moments that resonate with customers on a personal level, stirring emotions and fostering strong connections.
Leveraging the Environment Creatively
The second principle is all about utilizing existing environments in innovative ways.
This involves identifying everyday settings that can be transformed into creative and unexpected marketing platforms.
The trick here is seeing the potential in ordinary places and turning them into extraordinary marketing arenas!
Time & Imagination over Budget
The third principle stresses that the cost of guerrilla marketing lies not in monetary investment, but in time and creativity.
Unlike traditional marketing that often involves substantial budgets, guerrilla marketing is about cleverly utilizing resources to produce impactful outcomes.
The heart of this principle lies in thinking outside the box, experimenting with new ideas, and investing time in developing creative strategies.
Fourth, guerrilla marketing calls for complete commitment.
This means that once a strategy is decided upon, it should be followed through with utmost dedication.
Half-hearted attempts or inconsistency can dilute the impact of the campaign. So focus on staying the course, adjusting as necessary, but never wavering from the end goal.
Giving People Stories to Share
Lastly, guerrilla marketing revolves around giving people stories to share, rather than just products to use.
People love a good story and are more likely to share it with others. So, the aim is to create campaigns that give your audience a narrative to talk about.
It’s the most fun and natural way to amplify your brand’s reach and influence.
The Key Types of Guerrilla Marketing Every Marketer Should Know
All guerrilla marketing tactics are powered by one or more of the following principles…
Ambient marketing exploits elements of the environment to communicate a message.
This tactic is all about drawing customers in with a subtle, yet compelling, surprise that makes them do a double-take.
Imagine walking into a park and seeing a bench shaped like a gigantic candy bar.
That’s ambient marketing for you — it seamlessly blends in with the environment, catching the attention of passers-by and making them think about the brand in a fun, memorable way.
Another powerful type of guerrilla marketing is experiential marketing.
This could range from an engaging pop-up event to a high-tech virtual reality game.
The goal here is not just to promote a product, but to create an unforgettable experience that leaves a lasting imprint on the consumer’s mind.
Stealth marketing is another guerrilla marketing type that relies on covert methods to promote a product or brand.
This can involve techniques such as undercover marketing or buzz marketing where the consumers don’t even realize they’re being marketed to.
The purpose is to create a buzz around the product or brand without revealing the true intention of promotion. It’s like a magician’s trick, where the audience is so awed by the act that they don’t realize it’s a trick until the magician reveals it.
Alright, let’s take this a notch higher.
Armed with an understanding of the various guerrilla marketing tactics, let’s delve into some genius guerrilla marketing strategies that brands have executed.
6 Genius Guerrilla Marketing Examples That’ll Inspire Your Own
Successful guerrilla marketing often comes from the most surprising ideas. The surprise doesn’t always lie in the message but in how it’s delivered.
So, let’s take a look at the following real-life, highly successful, genius guerrilla marketing ideas…
Instead of being just another soda vending machine, the Happiness Machine doled out surprising gifts like flowers, pizzas, and even sunglasses, transforming an ordinary soda-buying experience into a memorable event.
By focusing on crafting a unique customer experience, creatively using an everyday environment, prioritizing imagination over big-budgets, committing fully to the idea, and giving people an incredible story to share, this campaign checked off every box in the guerrilla marketing playbook.
2. Bounty’s Giant Popsicle
In a brilliant demonstration of its product’s efficacy, Bounty created a massive, melting popsicle in the heart of a bustling city square.
This wasn’t just a popsicle, though; it was a creative testament to the strength and absorbency of their paper towels.
As the larger-than-life popsicle melted in the summer sun, Bounty’s team was on hand to clean up the mess, thereby showcasing the product in action in a fun, interactive way.
Now, this idea brings to the forefront the core benefit of Bounty’s paper towels — its superior absorbency.
The key takeaway from this is that your guerrilla marketing campaign should clearly communicate the main benefit of your product, albeit in a fun and interactive way.
The giant popsicle wasn’t just eye-catching; it also brought to life the product’s core proposition in a very memorable manner.
3. Deadpool’s Tinder Profile
When it came to promoting the movie Deadpool, the marketing team took a route less travelled.
They created a Tinder profile for the lovably irreverent character, Deadpool, bringing the comic book character to life on a platform where audiences least expected it.
This added a humorous and real-life touch to the marketing campaign, effectively blurring the lines between reality and fiction.
The success of this strategy hinged on knowing where their audience ‘lived’ online and infiltrating those spaces with something unexpected yet delightful.
Deadpool’s presence on a dating app not only made users chuckle but also created a word-of-mouth effect as users shared this find with their friends.
Here, the lesson is understanding your target audience’s habits and interests and leveraging that knowledge to create a memorable interaction with your brand.
4. Frontline’s Interactive Floor Ad
Frontline, a company that produces flea and tick prevention products for pets, turned a shopping mall’s floor into a giant, interactive advertisement.
From the upper floors of the mall, shoppers looked down to see themselves as ‘giant fleas’ on a dog’s body.
This marketing strategy was not only fun but also presented a clear image of the problem that Frontline’s product solves.
By turning everyday settings into interactive marketing arenas, Frontline successfully engaged their customers and created a memorable impression.
The takeaway here is to use the environment creatively, transforming ordinary locations into extraordinary experiences.
This can lead to a more interactive relationship with your audience, which in turn, can boost recall and foster a positive brand image.
5. Fiji Water’s #FijiGirl
The resulting photographs were nothing short of hilarious and unexpected, turning the model into a viral sensation and earning Fiji Water an enormous amount of buzz on social media.
This was a prime example of stealth marketing, where the brand subtly inserted itself into an event without explicitly promoting its product.
The beauty of this strategy is its subtlety and spontaneity, which can be replicated in different contexts.
For instance, a local café could create a similar buzz by having an engaging mascot photobomb community events, instantly making their brand more recognizable and memorable.
6. Greene King’s Candid Videos
They filmed patrons’ genuine reactions to their food and drinks using hidden cameras, then incorporated these authentic reactions into their marketing campaigns.
By capturing and showcasing real experiences, Greene King built a strong bond of trust with potential customers.
These candid videos served as powerful testimonials, showing potential patrons that their food and drink quality was not just marketing hype but appreciated by real customers.
What’s critical in this approach is the authenticity of the reactions captured.
So, any business looking to replicate this must ensure they maintain honesty throughout.
Change the Game with Guerrilla Marketing
Marketing isn’t easy, but you’ve got spunk and determination to see it through.
And now you’ve got several brilliant guerrilla marketing principles and ideas in your arsenal. With these, you’re not just playing the game — you’re changing it.
So, what’s your guerrilla marketing tactic going to be? Will it be bold, subtle, cheeky, or emotional?
By Sarah Cha
Sarah Cha is an avid writer, reader, and lifelong learner who loves making magic behind-the-scenes at Smart Blogger. When she’s not wrangling words onto a screen or page, you can find her strumming a guitar, tickling a canvas, or playing fetch with her favourite four-footed friend!
Navigating the world of direct marketing can feel like deciphering a complex puzzle, especially if you’re just getting your feet wet.
But don’t fret, you’re in the right place! We’re about to decode the mystique of direct marketing and hand you the keys to its mastery.
In this guide, we will demystify the concept, distinguish it from indirect marketing, delve into its numerous benefits, and bring it to life with real-world examples.
Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or a novice entering the business world, we’ve got you covered.
What is Direct Marketing?
Imagine if conversations between businesses and their customers were like intimate chats at a coffee shop.
Direct marketing allows for this kind of personal connection, ensuring an atmosphere that feels less like a bustling market square and more like a cozy tête-à-tête.
This marketing approach empowers businesses to sidestep middlemen advertising media and directly address their customers (usually through mail, email, social media, and/or texting campaigns), fine-tuning their communication to their audience’s specific desires and requirements.
Characteristics That Set Direct Marketing Apart
In a world filled with a variety of marketing approaches, what makes direct marketing stand out?
In direct marketing, businesses don’t merely shout out into the void, hoping someone hears them.
Instead, they engage personally with the customer, crafting messages tailored to individual needs, wants, and preferences.
For instance, consider how Netflix recommends shows based on your viewing history, making you feel seen and understood. It’s like having a friend who knows your taste so well, they always suggest the perfect movie for your Saturday night in.
Or think of a bookstore that recommends books based on your previous purchases. It’s like a friend who knows your reading habits well and makes suggestions you’ll likely enjoy.
Similarly, it allows businesses to understand their customers’ preferences, enabling them to provide value and build lasting relationships.
That’s the power of a customer-centric approach in direct marketing. It uses insights derived from customers’ data, their habits, preferences, and behaviour, to tailor marketing messages that hit the bull’s eye.
This not only increases customer satisfaction but also loyalty, paving the way for long-term business success.
One of the most appealing aspects of direct marketing is that it’s quantifiable.
Imagine running a marathon without knowing your time or pace — sounds frustrating, right?
It avoids this by allowing businesses to measure their success rates, making campaign adjustments easier and more effective.
When you send out an email campaign, for example, you can track open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates, giving you clear insights into your campaign’s performance.
Every dollar counts in business, and direct marketing is like having a laser-guided system for your funds.
By targeting only those most likely to be interested in your product or service, you avoid wasting resources on unlikely prospects.
For instance, a pet store owner might use direct mail to target pet owners within a specific zip code, ensuring that their message reaches the right audience and increasing the likelihood of conversions.
Direct Marketing vs. Indirect Marketing
Direct marketing is all about precision and customization. Picture a high-end boutique that knows your clothing preference and reaches out to you with a curated selection when new stock arrives.
The personal touch enhances customer satisfaction and fosters customer loyalty.
However, just as a sudden call from a distant relative can feel intrusive, so can poorly managed direct marketing.
Businesses must strike a balance, personalizing their approach without crossing the line into unwanted territory.
On the flip side, indirect marketing operates on a broader scale.
Imagine a billboard along a highway; it speaks to anyone and everyone who passes by. It’s less targeted, but it has the advantage of reaching a more extensive audience, increasing brand visibility and awareness.
Yet, this approach often lacks personalization.
It’s like receiving a mass-produced holiday greeting card — it might be nice, but it doesn’t quite have the warmth of a handwritten note.
4 Successful Examples of Direct Marketing That’ll Inspire Your Own
Ever wonder how big brands pull off successful direct marketing campaigns?
Let’s pull back the curtain and see how some famous companies have used direct marketing to connect with their customers and amplify their business growth.
The interactive platform keeps customers engaged from the moment they place their order until it arrives at their doorstep.
This real-time update, combined with personalized emails and SMS messages, makes customers feel involved in the process, creating a deeper connection with the brand.
Key Takeaways From the Best in the Business
Looking closely at these examples, we can see the profound impact direct marketing can have on business growth and customer engagement.
Each of these campaigns leverages the core principle — connecting with customers on a personal level.
Drawing lessons from these success stories, it’s clear that the key to a powerful direct marketing campaign lies in understanding your customers and providing them with personalized, engaging content.
Whether it’s through personalized recommendations, interactive experiences, or making customers feel part of the process, successful direct marketing can make your customers feel valued and special, driving loyalty, growth, and success in your business.
Remember, it’s about more than just selling a product or service — it’s about building meaningful connections with your customers.
Top Tips for Direct Marketing Mastery
Just like learning to play an instrument or mastering a sport, becoming a whiz at direct marketing requires understanding the rules of the game, practicing the right techniques, and constantly refining your approach.
But don’t fret; we’re here to guide you on this journey.
Let’s delve into some practical tips…
Know Your Audience: In the realm of direct marketing, knowledge is power. The more you understand about your audience — their needs, preferences, and behaviours — the more effective your campaigns will be. So, don your detective hat and dig deep into your customer data.
Personalization is Key: No one likes to feel like just another number. Make your customers feel special by tailoring your messages to their individual needs and preferences. Remember the magic of Amazon’s personalized recommendations or Spotify’s Year Wrapped campaign? That’s the power of personalization!
Test and Refine: Direct marketing isn’t a ‘one-and-done’ deal. It’s an ongoing process of testing, learning, and refining. Consider every campaign a learning opportunity. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t, and continuously tweak your approach for better results.
Keep It Simple and Clear: When it comes to marketing messages, clarity trumps cleverness. Your message should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. Stay away from jargon or complicated language. Remember, your aim is to communicate, not to confuse.
Strong Call to Action (CTA): A direct marketing message without a strong CTA is like a ship without a rudder. Ensure your CTA is clear, compelling, and guides the customer towards the action you want them to take.
Measure Your Success: One of the beauties of direct marketing is its measurability. Make sure you’re keeping track of key metrics like response rate, conversion rate, and ROI to gauge the effectiveness of your campaigns. This way, you’ll know if you’re hitting the bullseye or need to adjust your aim.
Embrace Technology: The world of direct marketing is constantly evolving, with new technologies offering innovative ways to connect with customers. From email marketing tools to CRM software, leveraging the right technology can give your efforts a major boost.
Armed with these tips, you’re well on your way to becoming a master of direct marketing.
Remember, the essence of direct marketing is creating genuine, personal connections with your customers. It’s about listening, understanding, and responding in a way that makes your customers feel seen, heard, and valued.
Harnessing the Power of Direct Marketing
We get it. Direct marketing might seem like a beast you’re unsure how to tame.
But remember, every climb begins with a simple step.
This article offered you a backpack filled with knowledge, strategies, and examples to start your ascent.
So, tie those metaphorical hiking boots and make your move.
The view from the top – that successful direct marketing campaign — is worth the journey!
By Sarah Cha
Sarah Cha is an avid writer, reader, and lifelong learner who loves making magic behind-the-scenes at Smart Blogger. When she’s not wrangling words onto a screen or page, you can find her strumming a guitar, tickling a canvas, or playing fetch with her favourite four-footed friend!
If you’ve ever tried to build an audience, you might have experienced the painful scenario of posting a piece of content you’re particularly proud of and… crickets.
As the supply of content increases, accelerated by the introduction of AI content tools, it’s harder than ever to earn attention.
However, this also means that the value of attention is increasing, and those who succeed have more leverage than ever before. Famed investor Andrew Wilkinson sums this up well in the following tweet:
The good news is that building a new audience isn’t impossible.
It just requires a different strategy than before. So in this post, we’ll discuss a step-by-step strategy you can use to build an audience from scratch in 2023.
Step 1: Select a Topic, Medium, and Angle
If someone consumes a piece of content you created and then follows you, it’s probably because they liked it and want to see more similar content. So if you change the topic and style of your content, you might lose those subscribers because they might not like the new topic or style of content.
As a result, you’ll find that your subscribers frequently churn, and you’ll struggle to build a loyal following.
This was a key mistake Eric Siu mentioned he made when building his YouTube channel. He discussed marketing in some of his YouTube videos, while in others, he discussed NFTs and cryptocurrency. His audience began unsubscribing as the audience interested in marketing didn’t care about his NFT videos, and the NFT audience didn’t care about his marketing videos.
So the key to building a sticky, loyal audience is selecting a topic, angle, and medium. Here’s how I define each of these:
Topic: This is what you’ll talk about. Examples of topics include marketing, finance, food, travel, etc. Choose a topic you have unique knowledge about and are genuinely interested in. Content is a long game, and you’re much more likely to be successful if you have a genuine interest in the topic, as there will be a period of time when you won’t receive any reward for your efforts.
Medium: This is how you communicate your content. Examples of mediums include video, text, or audio content. The key to choosing the best medium is to select one you enjoy and can produce consistently. Publishing consistency is key to long-term growth, so if you don’t think you can produce that medium of content weekly, choose a different medium. For example, if you don’t think you can produce video content each week, you might want to choose text-based content.
Angle: This is how your content will provide a different perspective from other existing content. Similar to product-market fit, your angle is the differentiator that helps you achieve “content-market” fit. For example, if you’re starting a Japan travel vlog, how will it differ from existing Japan travel vlogs? Maybe you’ll interview local Japanese chefs and film them making a meal. The key to selecting a successful angle is to make it both unique and repeatable. For example, interviewing Japanese chefs and filming them making a meal is a repeatable format.
To help you choose your topic, medium, and angle, here are a few examples for inspiration.
Angle: Asks people on the street how much they pay for rent and then tours their apartments.
If you look through each of these individuals’ content, they cover roughly the same topic in a repeatable format.
Note: You’ll notice that they all have audiences across multiple different platforms (Twitter, YouTube, etc.). Below, we’ll discuss how you can take an omnichannel approach, but when you’re first starting out, it’s best to focus on just one medium on one platform.
Step 2: Create Content and Publish Regularly
The main cause of content failure is the creator quitting too soon.
Your first pieces of content probably won’t hit, and that’s okay. In the early days, the most important thing to do is to get the reps in and hone your abilities as a content creator.
So select a specific content topic, medium, and angle and commit to publishing consistently for the next three months.
Here are a few tips to help you publish consistently:
Set a reasonable content publishing frequency. If you plan to publish every day, you’ll probably burn out quickly and give up. As consistency and a long-term vision are essential for content success, create just one piece of content, see how long it took you to produce, and then select a realistic publishing schedule you can realistically commit to for at least six months.
Batch your content in advance. Many creators find it easier to produce several pieces of content in one sitting once they’re in the flow state rather than setting aside several content creation sessions throughout the week/month. Batching content also ensures you publish on time.
Outsource and automate non-creative work. Plenty of minor tasks are involved with content creation, from editing videos to scheduling social media posts, but these small tasks can quickly add up to hours each week. So use software tools to automate tasks or hire a virtual assistant on a platform like Upwork to help you. By offloading low-value tasks, you’ll have more time to dedicate to content creation, decreasing your chances of burnout.
Once you publish some content, you can ask for feedback from mentors and peer groups.
For example, platforms like Intro.co and Clarity.fm allow you to schedule mentorship calls with world-class experts.
Alternatively, you can join a community like the Copyblogger Academy, where you can ask me (Tim) questions and receive feedback from other peers. We also do Q&A sessions with top content creators.
If you want to learn more about how to level up your content creation skills, here are a few additional resources you can check out:
Another excellent method to improve your content is to study your competitors’ content and determine which content receives the most engagement or positive comments.
For example, if you produce video content on YouTube, you can filter by the most popular videos and then look for patterns and popular influencers to incorporate into your content:
Step 3: Partner with Existing Creators
There’s a misconception that as long as your content is high quality, it will naturally earn engagement.
Unfortunately, most algorithms (social media, search engines, etc.) give more visibility to content that earns a lot of traction and engagement within the first few hours.
When you’re starting, you probably only have a handful of followers, so your content won’t receive much engagement within the first few hours of publishing. Unfortunately, this means your content probably won’t receive much organic reach from the algorithms – even if the content quality is next-level.
This creates a vicious cycle that makes it hard to earn a following and receive more engagement.
To break out of this cycle and help your content receive more organic reach, consider collaborating with an influencer that already has the attention of your target audience.
When they promote your brand to their audience, your content will naturally receive more impressions, which will help it receive more engagement and ultimately help you earn more followers.
The tricky part is getting an influencer with a larger audience to agree to do a content collaboration with a smaller brand with a small audience.
As a rule of thumb, partnerships are most successful when incentives are aligned.
So before you ask an influencer to collaborate with you, ask yourself how this partnership will benefit them.
Some influencers agree to interview smaller brands if they can repurpose the content on their own social media accounts. As most influencers are already setting aside time to create their own content, many will agree to an interview with a smaller brand if they can use that content for their personal brand.
Alex Hormozi is a great example of this in action. He often repurposes all of the interviews he does as social media content, like this clip that he swiped from an interview he did on Impact Theory:
Many influencers also share the content when it goes live and give your brand a shout-out. Here’s a great example:
Not all influencers will agree to an interview, especially if you have a smaller audience. To increase your chances of receiving a “yes,” look for influencers that have recently done interviews with competitors that have a similar audience size.
You can also look for influencers launching a book, as they tend to be more open to interviews.
Note: Even if you’re just writing text-based content (like Twitter or LinkedIn threads), you can still interview someone and then write out the key points from the conversation and post that on your social media channels.
If you’re struggling to get an influencer to collaborate with you, consider paying for an interview. For example, you can use a platform like Intro.co or Clarity.fm to pay for calls with world-class experts.
You can also pay an influencer directly to promote your content. However, collaborations tend to be more effective as influencers are often more vested in the partnership when their own thought leadership is involved.
If you’re producing audio or video content, you can also offer written guest posts to blogs with similar audiences and simply ask that they insert the video or podcast link somewhere inside the guest post. For example, popular car YouTuber Doug DeMuro got his first several thousand YouTube subscribers by writing for the car blog, Jalopnik, and then inserted his videos into the written content.
Finally, you can also pay to promote your content on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Step 4: Adopt an Omni Channel Approach
Once you’ve established a solid publishing schedule for your main channel, the best method to increase your output and reach with minimal additional effort is to adopt an omnichannel approach.
For example, if you’re already creating video or podcast content, you can chop that video up into multiple shorter clips and post it across social media platforms like LinkedIn, TikTok, and Instagram.
This allows you to scale reach and engagement exponentially, as your single long-form video is now ten or twenty pieces of content.
Eric Siu and Neil Patel do a great job of repurposing the content for Marketing School. You can see an example here:
To help you automate this process, you can use a tool like Repurpose.io. Or, if you’d prefer to outsource the entire process, you can hire an agency like Shortzy to do it for you.
For example, you can also put the video script into an AI content writer tool and ask it to write a blog post or social media content based on the script.
The key to succeeding with an omnichannel approach is optimizing each piece of content for the platform on which you intend to publish it. For example, if you’re repurposing a piece of content on TikTok, optimize it with subtitles and edit it in the fast-paced style of content that TikTok users like to consume.
If you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of repurposing your content across multiple additional platforms at once, choose just one additional platform and then add more as you become comfortable repurposing.
Step 5: Double Down On What’s Working
The content marketing landscape is always changing, and the marketing campaigns that work today might not work as well a year from now. So as you grow your audience, consistently collect audience feedback to learn what content resonates best and then produce more of that content.
The same methodology applies to your general audience growth strategy.
Look at your growth metrics and double down on the partnerships and marketing strategies that drive the most audience growth.
Many entrepreneurs become distracted by new trendy marketing tactics, but the key to long-term success is focusing on what works and doubling down on those marketing strategies.
While experimentation is a great way to discover more effective strategies, limit new marketing campaigns to just one or two per month. Other than that, focus all your efforts on the top two or three marketing campaigns currently driving the most growth.
For example, if email marketing promotions currently drive 50% of your growth, double down on doing more email campaigns.
Bonus: Consider Different Monetization Strategies
The purpose of building a following is to eventually convert them into paying customers, but when and how you monetize will significantly impact the long-term revenue you receive.
First, monetizing too early can cause your audience to lose trust in your brand, and many will either unfollow you or ignore your offer.
You can think of the trust you build like a bank account – the more value you provide and the longer you wait to withdraw, the more you can ask for when you pitch an offer.
So how do you know when you’ve built enough trust that you can make an ask?
There isn’t a hard and fast subscriber count or engagement rate, but a great test is to make a small non-monetary ask and see how many people respond. For example, you can ask your audience to respond to a specific question in the comments or on social media.
Responding and engaging with your audience is also a general audience-building best practice, so you’ll probably be able to estimate your audience’s loyalty based on the comments you read daily.
Once you feel that you’ve built a loyal following and have reached a stage in the business where it makes sense to monetize it, there are several different monetization strategies. Here are a few you might consider:
Start a business: This strategy is probably the most work, but it’s also the most profitable long-term monetization method. Ryan Reynolds’ business, Mint Mobile, is an excellent example of a billion-dollar business created mainly on the back of a single influencer’s audience.
Offer a course: This is one of the most popular audience monetization methods, and Ramit Sethi and Pay Flynn are excellent examples of content creators that have built multi-million dollar course businesses off of their audience.
Affiliate sales: There are always plenty of product businesses that need promotion, so you can partner with other brands and offer their products and services to your audience. When your audience purchases those products, you receive a commission. This is a great way to quickly generate revenue, but it isn’t as profitable or long-term focused as the previous two options. The Influencer Marketing Hub is an excellent example of a website that built its audience through SEO and monetizes primarily through affiliate sales.
Sponsored posts: This option is similar to affiliate sales, as you’ll be promoting other products or services to your audience, but instead of receiving a commission based on sales you generate, you’ll be paid a flat fee.
There isn’t a single best monetization strategy for everyone, and you can run multiple monetization strategies simultaneously.
The key to successfully monetizing your audience is taking a long-term approach and balancing the ratio of value to asks. You’ll lose credibility if you’re constantly promoting products and services, and your audience will eventually stop following you.
Start Building Your Personal Brand Today
As attention becomes more difficult to capture due to the increasing volume of content online, the value of attention will also continue to increase.
The good news is that as the volume of content increases (aided largely by the introduction of AI tools), the percentage of authentic content continues to decrease, so you can still stand out if you have a genuine, authentic message to share.
Your first few pieces of content probably won’t hit, but if you seek feedback, consistently hone your skills as a content creator and deliver an authentic message, you’ll eventually build a loyal following.
If you want to accelerate your skills as a content creator, consider joining a peer/mentorship group like the Copyblogger Academy. You can ask me (Tim) questions directly, and we also do regular collaborations with other top content creators like Amanda Natividad, Brian Clark, and Steph Smith. You’ll also have access to a group of supportive peers that you can lean on for advice, feedback, and inspiration.
In fact, brand loyalty is about creating that emotional bond.
It’s about a brand resonating with its customers on a personal level.
It’s about a shared set of values.
It’s not just about rewarding repeat purchases; it’s about kindling a deep-rooted affinity for your brand.
So why should anyone bother about brand loyalty?
It’s simple. Loyal customers may be rarer than casual buyers. But they spend much more money, advocate for your brand, and are willing to stick with you through thick and thin.
In other words, having enough customers with brand loyalty is a sure-fire way to drive sustainable business growth.
The Essential Types of Brand Loyalty You Should Know
Brand loyalty comes in different levels of intensity. Here’s a little about each type, and what you can do as a marketer to persuade them.
The Hard-Core Loyalists
Let’s start with the hard-core loyalists. These are the customers who have eyes only for your brand.
Come rain or shine, these loyalists are unwavering in their commitment.
They won’t switch brands for anything in the world, and they form the core of your brand’s loyal customer base.
Consider Apple enthusiasts: They’ll line up overnight for a new product launch, wear Apple merchandise, and defend the brand in any debate.
This fervour didn’t occur by accident.
Apple has consistently delivered innovative, high-quality products and backed them with top-notch customer service and an engaging brand narrative. As a result, their customers are die-hard loyalists.
The key takeaway here is consistency.
When you deliver consistently on your brand promise, customers develop trust in your brand, evolving into hard-core loyalists.
Remember, these customers are your brand’s best ambassadors. They will not only stick around but also bring in new customers through positive word-of-mouth.
The Split Customers
Next, let’s talk about split customers.
These customers have a few favourite brands and switch between them. They enjoy variety and are open to trying out new products if they match their expectations.
A perfect example of split customers would be those who shop for clothes.
They might love the trendy clothing line from Zara, the timeless classics from H&M, and the sustainable offerings from Everlane. Depending on the occasion, their mood, or the latest collections, they alternate between these brands.
To win over split customers, your brand needs to offer something unique and valuable that stands out from competitors.
Regular product innovations, seasonal collections, or exclusive benefits can entice these customers to choose your brand more often.
The Shifting Loyalists
Finally, we have the shifting loyalists, the explorers.
They’re always on the hunt for better products, superior service, or a more appealing brand story.
They’re not disloyal; but they simply value quality and are willing to change loyalties if another brand meets their needs better.
For instance, a shifting loyalist might visit a popular coffee chain one week, then switch to a local artisanal café that offers a more personal, unique, and high-quality coffee experience next time.
Winning over shifting loyalists is challenging but not impossible.
Strive for continuous improvement and be responsive to customer feedback. Show these customers that you’re not complacent, and you’re committed to offering the best.
They’ll appreciate your efforts and may even pause their quest to stick around!
Remember, understanding these different types of brand loyalists is the first step to developing a successful brand loyalty strategy.
By recognizing what drives each type, you can tailor your approach to appeal to each group and transform more customers into loyal fans.
3 Key Brand Loyalty Stages to Consider
Now that you know the different types of customer loyalty, how do you build them up to become the most loyal and reliable clients and customers?
Think about McDonald’s golden arches or the Nike swoosh — the moment you see them, you know the brand.
This recognition is critical because if they don’t know you exist, how can they buy products from you in the first place?
Creating a unique and memorable brand identity, including your logo, colours, slogan, and even your tone of voice, is a great place to start when attempting to enhancing brand recognition.
This isn’t just about being known; it’s about being known for something specific, something that resonates with your target audience.
Stage 2: Brand Preference
Next, we move up to where the magic starts to happen.
Here, your brand isn’t just known; it’s favoured over others.
You’ve managed to strike a chord with your audience, and they now appreciate your unique selling proposition. They consider you not just as an option, but as a viable, attractive choice.
Achieving brand preference involves delivering on your promises, offering a superior product or service, and ensuring customer satisfaction.
It’s also crucial to communicate what makes your brand different and why customers should choose you over others. Give them a good reason for a desired action, and more likely than not, they’ll take the action.
At this stage, your brand isn’t just a preferred choice; it’s the only choice.
Your customers are so connected to your brand that they’ll walk an extra mile, literally and metaphorically, to stick with you. They’ll ignore cheaper options, overlook minor flaws, and stand as a bulwark against competitive forces.
Reaching the stage of brand insistence requires exceptional customer experiences, consistently delivered over time.
It’s about building emotional connections, exceeding customer expectations, and rewarding loyalty.
It’s the ultimate stage of customer loyalty and the most rewarding for your business.
Innovative Techniques (& Tips) to Foster Brand Loyalty
To foster brand loyalty, you need to go beyond the basics.
Here are a collection of powerful and practical techniques that can help build a steadfast relationship between your brand and your customers…
Craft a Powerful Brand Story: Your brand story should be compelling, relatable, and inspiring. This narrative will define who you are, what you do, and why you do it. Think of TOMS Shoes, whose mission of ‘one for one’ resonates deeply with their audience.
Offer Consistently Exceptional Customer Experience: Go the extra mile to exceed customer expectations at every touchpoint. This involves providing high-quality products, efficient service, and prompt support.
Harness the Power of Social Media: Social media platforms allow you to engage directly with your customers. Regularly posting relevant content and interacting with your followers can create a sense of community.
Build a Vibrant Community: Foster a sense of belonging among your customers. You could create an online forum, host events, or even start a brand-centric podcast.
Leverage the Principle of Reciprocity: This psychological principle states that people are more likely to give something when they receive something. So, reward your customers’ loyalty with exclusive perks, discounts, or freebies, and they may reciprocate your goodwill!
Implement Personalized Marketing: Tailor your marketing strategies to cater to individual customer preferences. With advancements in AI, personalized email marketing, and product recommendations are now easier than ever.
Institute a Robust Referral Program: Encourage customers to become brand ambassadors. Offer them incentives like discounts or exclusive products when they successfully refer others to your brand.
Gamify the Customer Experience: Games are engaging and addictive. Incorporate elements of games, like points, badges, or leader boards, into your customer interactions to make them fun and engaging.
Take Advantage of Scarcity: Limited-time offers or limited-quantity products can create a sense of urgency, encouraging customers to make a purchase.
Build Collaborations with Complementary Brands: This can add value to your customers by offering them more variety and opens new channels for customer acquisition. An example is GoPro and Red Bull’s collaboration on various events and projects.
Encourage Customer Feedback: Actively seek customer feedback and make visible changes based on their suggestions. This shows that you value their opinions.
Provide a Seamless Omnichannel Experience: Ensure that your customer experience is consistent across all channels — in-store, online, on social media, over the phone, etc.
Establish a Loyalty Program: Rewards programs, like Starbucks’ Star Program, can encourage repeat purchases and increase customer retention.
Utilize Social Proof: Testimonials, reviews, and user-generated content can significantly influence purchasing decisions by building trust.
Create Exclusive Content: Develop valuable content that is exclusive to your loyal customers. This could be in-depth guides, webinars, or behind-the-scenes videos, giving your audience a reason to stay engaged.
Each of these techniques forms a piece of the loyalty puzzle.
When implemented strategically and consistently, they can work together to create an unshakeable bond between your brand and your customers.
It’s all about creating value, building relationships, and keeping the lines of communication open. The better you treat your customers, the more likely they are to return the favour!
Achieve Unshakeable Brand Loyalty
You’ve been through the trenches, working tirelessly to get your brand up there. It’s no small feat, and this journey towards brand loyalty is a marathon, not a sprint.
But with the tips and strategies from this article in your toolkit, you’ll be miles ahead.
Keep nurturing those customer relationships, and before you know it, you’ll have a legion of customers singing your brand’s praises.
Now, go make some loyal fans!
By Sarah Cha
Sarah Cha is an avid writer, reader, and lifelong learner who loves making magic behind-the-scenes at Smart Blogger. When she’s not wrangling words onto a screen or page, you can find her strumming a guitar, tickling a canvas, or playing fetch with her favorite four-footed friend!
Only about 30% of marketers use original research in content marketing strategies, despite numerous benefits. Why?
When data is the story. Executed effectively, original research as content can put your content marketing on steroids, bringing in outsize ROI and sustaining your content calendar for months.
So, why aren’t 70% of marketers telling the story? Although it’s the most trusted source for B2B buyers, fewer than 30% of content marketers generate their own original research, while nearly all writers incorporate others’ statistics in their content.
Because not all research is created equal. High-performing original research combines credible data, an engaging story and a solid plan for distribution and amplification through various content formats. Getting it wrong can cost your brand its credibility.
B2B content writing 101 emphasizes the importance of incorporating “evidence” — that is, trustworthy quantitative or qualitative data to substantiate our claims. By doing so, we enhance the credibility of our content, increasing the likelihood that the article will be referenced by others.
And that makes perfect sense. Even in a world where disinformation and propaganda often come cloaked in smart-looking pie charts, almost half of B2B buying committees trust research reports as their most preferred source of product research.
In fact, this 2021 report found that buying committees look for “research-backed content experiences that tell a valuable story.” That’s almost a textbook definition of original research reports.
That is why it is almost unbelievable that while 100% of content marketers use someone else’s original research stats in their content, only about 30% challenged themselves to create their own original research as a key component of their content marketing strategy.
Why? Because creating credible research is a challenging process, costs time and money, and demands an authentic and original approach. Even though the payoff is huge and the resulting content has a longer shelf life than average, the risks can be equally dramatic.
Imagine being trolled on social media by users who find chinks in your research methodology, share data that directly contradicts what your report finds, or worse, question your credibility by questioning the numbers themselves.
But first, the good stuff. Data analytics platform Databox, which has produced more than 1,300 reports over the last six years, swears by original research surveys as a key content marketing pillar. “As a result of all of the content we’ve produced on a wide range of topics, we generate nearly 300k sessions to our website every month, mostly from organic search and word of mouth. This traffic turns into 6k+ signups for our free product every month. We get all of our customers from these signups,” said Peter Caputa, CEO at Databox. That’s pretty straightforward ROI math.
So tip No. 1: Approach original research as a long-term, high-value content initiative. And if you really want people to trust the research coming out of your content marketing stable, pick a niche or a topic, and own it.
Consistently bringing out an annual survey report or update about the same topic positions you as the go-to expert in that topic, said Sarah Kimmel, vice president of research at Simpler Media Group (which owns CMSWire). The Content Marketing Institute, for example, has put out the annual B2B content marketing survey for 13 years now, and it is the first stop for anyone wanting to know the latest trends, patterns and insights about the state of content marketing.
Original research done right can supersize your content marketing ROI by sustaining the content calendar for months, building unmatched visibility, credibility, and thought leadership, and even generating leads.
The experts boil down the secret of high-ROI original research to five elements.
1. Why Original Research? The Right Purpose
“Original research” in the content marketing context is a high-value piece of content for your external audiences (not to be confused with “market research,” which is conducted to better inform internal product or strategy design).
Think of it as another arrow in the content marketing quiver, albeit the “meta arrow” with the power to turbocharge all your other arrows — blogs, articles, social media posts, event and podcast appearances, and even sales pitches.
But designing, executing, and amplifying original research is not as easy as hitting publish on a Survey Monkey form. Too many companies, said Michele Linn, co-founder of Mantis Research, end up executing without properly thinking through the purpose. When you approach it as a “content” project, you will naturally start with clarity on:
Who is our primary (content) audience?
What do we want to tell them?
How will original research help us get there? Why is an original survey report the right content format to help us get there?
What do we want them to do/feel after consuming this content?
How will we leverage and amplify this content to make that happen?
These questions may sometimes reveal that original research is not even the best bet for your purpose. For instance, said Linn, if you want to showcase product benefits, use case studies instead. If you want to understand consumer behaviour instead of consumer beliefs, rely on user data instead because surveys tell us what people think, not what they actually do. Beliefs and attitudes are not the same as actions and behaviour.
Key takeaway: Approach original research as a high-value content project. Start by asking the same questions you would ask before embarking on any new long-form piece of anchor content.
2. Who Will Run the Project? The Right Team
While original research will no doubt be helmed by the content marketing team, Linn suggested the project team should consist of roles such as:
A content strategist who will define the audience, the purpose and the narrative and help create a compelling story around the findings in a way the audience finds interesting.
A data analysis expert who can help ensure rigor in the research execution, data tabulation and interpretation for statistical significance and accuracy.
An amplification expert who can create and execute the promotion, distribution and content repurposing plan for the research to derive the maximum reach and visibility.
These resources can be expensive and hard to come by, especially for smaller teams. Teams seeking to establish credibility in new markets where they are relatively unknown may also need additional support. In these cases, third parties such as research agencies, consulting firms or industry publications can help design and execute the project, said Kimmel. People trust the editorial quality and integrity that comes from credible media companies, she added, and the brand benefits from the halo effect.
Key takeaway: Choose to commission, sponsor or co-publish research with a third-party partner, or do it in-house based on available resources and your goal, be it lead generation, building brand credibility, entering a new market or thought leadership.
3. What Story Do You Want to Tell? The Right Narrative
For original research to succeed as compelling content, you need both — the data and the story — to come together in a concrete and cohesive way. But at its core, the content you generate with original research is really a compelling story validated with data.
When asked what made content memorable enough to warrant a sales call, respondents in the 2021 B2B content preferences study noted they want content that:
Tells a strong story that resonates with buying committees (55%)
Uses data and research to support claims (52%)
Is research-based (40%)
Is packed with shareable stats and quick-hitting insights (40%)
Is personalized/tailored to their needs (32%)
The best approach is to start with what your customers want or need to know. What data-backed insights about their industry would really help them? Try to find angles or topics that have not been covered before.
Obviously, the topic should also be as close as possible to your own brand story, said Kimmel, which may be better served by a narrow research focus. For instance, a data analytics vendor whose brand narrative is “ease-of-use” may choose to focus research on the “data team composition.” The angle of the research could be to study how business teams use analytics software, why they don’t or can’t use them to their full potential, or what under-use of fully-loaded analytics software may actually cost the business. Adding actionable insights to fix the gaps is a bonus that the brand can add at the end of the research.
The goal, added Linn, is to study some aspect of the industry with genuine curiosity instead of trying to prove something or contriving the research to support your brand story.
So tip No. 2 is to use the research to test your hypothesis, not validate it. For that, start with a few different hypotheses about your audience and the problems they may be facing. For instance, in the above example, the hypothesis could be that marketing teams don’t fully use the analytics software they buy. The research could reveal why. Or that companies are spending more on data analytics teams despite investing in “DIY” data analytics software.
Manipulating data to suit your pre-decided narrative is obviously not useful, agrees Kimmel, so while you think of a theme and angle, don’t assume what the findings will show. “We once had a client that assumed their audience would cut benefits due to the economic slowdown. But the research found that only 1 in 6 respondents planned to cut benefits,” she said. “The best surveys can roll with such surprise findings and still tell a compelling story, warts and all.”
Key takeaway: With original research, the data is the story, but how you tell it is what really counts. Finding a unique angle to hold up the research and weave the story around is where your expertise about your industry and the audience comes in. No matter what findings emerge, find an angle to create an interesting and educative story for your audience.
4. Executing the Survey: The Right Process
Execution is made up of several moving parts. The process could take months, but the results can also sustain your editorial calendar and drive organic traffic for months, if not years.
The survey questions can make or break the research outcomes. Asking the wrong questions or the right questions in the wrong way can seriously impact data quality and credibility. The Databox team often “pre-qualify” their survey questions on social media to crowd-source feedback before actually creating the formal survey questionnaire.
The hardest part of original research surveys in the B2B context is getting enough of the right respondents. “Aside from a list of respondents we’ve built over several years, and one-on-one interviews, we’ve recently started partnering with other organizations to run joint surveys, which is a win-win in terms of reach,” said Caputa.
Smart survey tools like Survey Monkey and Alchemer help design better questions, translate and administer surveys at scale, distribute them across multiple platforms, etc. Survey analysis tools such as ResearchStory help with cleaning the data and the technical and statistical analysis needed to find meaning in the numbers. Conversational AI and AI for text or speech analysis help mine deeper insights at scale. AI also aids processes like survey scripting, content development and data visualization to tell the story better.
Turning the insights into a compelling narrative — and if possible, actionable insights is where the real magic happens. The most important thing, said Matt Powell, VP & executive director of of B2B International, a Merkle North America company, is to deliver something that customers actually need and value including useful, practical insights. A report that’s full of stats and data without context, interpretation or a unique point of view is just not useful, no matter how thorough the research process was.
So tip No. 3 is that original research needs to tell a great story and tell it well.
Key takeaway: Primary research surveys may be the last bastion for marketers seeking to say something new and original, but AI-powered tools can help make the execution more efficient, accurate and scalable.
5. Being Seen and Heard: The Right Amplification
The wonderful thing about original research is its sheer versatility. Depending on your purpose, you can do quantitative research with an online survey tool, dipstick surveys via smaller and snappier social media polls, in-depth qualitative research to a highly representative sample population, etc. And you can turn those results into a wide range of content. This annual research report by MOPros, for example, uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative research to bring readers both — the stats and the unique individual perspectives that enrich and support the data. Linn also highlights this ‘State of Workflow Automation’ report that was repurposed into a report, webinars, a podcast, an assessment tool, sales enable materials, blog content and a conference presentation among other formats.
Research content can also be used at all stages of the marketing funnel, said Powell. Recently, for instance, his team helped a B2B brand use research-based thought leadership to reposition their brand from being a provider of legacy, commoditized products, to being a solutions provider in an adjacent category, and marketing at the top of the funnel to a whole new decision-making unit. At the bottom of the funnel, the content can add to lead-gen activity and bring customers through nurture pathways.
Too many clients invest in a research project but don’t do enough with it because they did not factor that in at the start of the project, says Kimmel.
Tip No. 4: Know when you begin what you plan to do with the research. The report is just one piece of content — but the findings and the narrative should be credible and engaging enough to support a full suite of content — conference presentations, webinars, infographics, blogs, white papers, podcasts, sound bytes, social posts, etc., to amplify and deliver optimal ROI.
Key takeaway: The shelf life of original research data can often be years, not days or weeks. The more you amplify, the more backlinks you get, the higher your search engine authority and the more organic traffic you generate. An added bonus would be ChatGPT amplifying your research findings by citing them in its responses!
Done right, original research is a gift that keeps on giving. But success depends on approaching it as a high-value content project designed to serve your audience, not your agenda.
Chitra is a seasoned freelance B2B content writer with over 10 years of enterprise marketing experience. Having spent the first half of her career in senior corporate marketing roles for companies such as Timken Steel, Tata Sky Satellite TV, and Procter & Gamble, Chitra brings that experience to her writing. She has authored over 500 articles, white papers, eBooks, guides, and research reports on customer experience, martech, salestech, adtech, retailtech, and customer data and privacy. She holds a Masters in global media & communications from the London School of Economics and Political Science and an MBA in marketing
Free traffic. It is the digital marketer’s nirvana. Get eyeballs for zero cost and then turn that into sales and revenue. The big question: Do these new AI content marketing tools provide the answer?
Why it matters
At the beginning of the web revolution if you wanted traffic for free then you needed to master the search engine game. Create great content and get ranked on the first page of Google.
Then there was a new game in town.
Social media offered another option. They gave that attention away for free (for a while) until they realized that they could change the game… from free attention to “pay to play”.
Since then it has been a dance of creating content that gets attention while making sure you keep Google and social media happy.
And that is hard work. Or is it?
Google was the only game in the digital town until social media showed up.
Social media offered the keys to the promised land. Build followers and get a shit load of attention and traffic for free. But that time is over.
We now need to spend to send.
To the masses.
That paradise looked like it would continue for eternity.
Until it didn’t.
The other reality is that creating content at scale and distributing it to the world is tough. It takes time, money, and resources.
We now have a new revolution and it is a firestorm.
And here is some perspective.
Facebook took over 5 years to reach 100 million users. TikTok took 18 months and Chat GPT took only 8 weeks.
Now we have the new kid on the block.
This is a generational game changer.
First, we had Google.
Then we had Social media.
Now we have “Generative AI”
The innovative Generative AI platform, ChatGPT, provides an easy solution for creating high-quality content that can be quickly optimized for search engines. With its cutting-edge tools, ChatGPT enables users to effortlessly generate optimized content in a snap.
The new top 10 AI content marketing tools
Here is the top 10 AI content marketing tools that can help businesses improve their search engine rankings and optimize their content for better visibility online.
These tools use artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to analyze and optimize content for relevant keywords, readability, and other SEO factors.
An AI-driven content optimization tool that uses data-driven insights to analyze content and provide recommendations for optimizing SEO factors such as keyword usage, content length, and heading structure.
A comprehensive SEO toolkit that offers AI-powered content optimization features, such as topic research, content templates, and SEO writing assistance, to help optimize content for search engines.
A popular WordPress plugin that offers AI-powered content optimization features, including keyword analysis, readability checks, and content suggestions to help improve on-page SEO.
A content optimization platform that uses AI to analyze content and provide insights on keyword usage, content relevance, and competitor analysis, to help businesses optimize their content for SEO.
An AI-driven content optimization platform that offers content analysis, topic modeling, and content recommendations to help businesses create optimized content that ranks well in search engines.
A content optimization tool that uses AI to analyze content and provide insights on keyword usage, content gaps, and competitor analysis, to help businesses create high-performing content for SEO.
A content optimization platform that uses AI to analyze and optimize content for SEO, including keyword analysis, content structure, and readability, to help businesses create content that is search engine-friendly.
An AI-powered content optimization tool that uses natural language processing (NLP) to analyze content and provide recommendations for improving SEO, including entity recognition, structured data markup, and content enrichment.
A comprehensive SEO tool that offers content optimization features, including keyword analysis, content performance tracking, and content ideas generation, to help businesses optimize their content for search engines.
An SEO auditing tool that offers content optimization features, including content analysis, keyword tracking, and content suggestions, to help businesses optimize their content for SEO.
The future of content marketing is happening now
In the beginning, content marketing was primarily driven by the realization that generating high-quality content can aid in the discovery of businesses on Google search.
By providing valuable and informative content, businesses were able to build trust with potential customers, leading to increased sales. This approach was commonly referred to as “inbound marketing.”
When it started it was the wild west and raw. There were hardly any tools apart from a blog and some rough and ready SEO tools.
Today we have content publishing platforms, AI-enabled SEO optimization tools that help create content that is designed to be found in search (SurferSEO), and sophisticated SEO tools like SEMRush that are also assisted by Artificial Intelligence technology.
You can now use all these tools to create SEO-optimized content that will help you rank high on Google and get the free traffic we all want.
He is the owner of jeffbullas.com. Forbes calls him a top influencer of Chief Marketing Officers and the world’s top social marketing talent. Entrepreneur lists him among 50 online marketing influencers to watch. Inc.com has him on the list of 20 digital marketing experts to follow on Twitter. Oanalytica named him #1 Global Content Marketing Influencer. BizHUMM ranks him as the world’s #1 business blogger. Learn More