When we talk to clients and prospective clients about content marketing, we often talk about leads — getting more contact names into the sales pipeline. Content marketing has become the antidote for longer sales cycles and tricky search engine results. Marketers dipping their toes into the content marketing waters often try it because other tactics for driving traffic and conversions aren’t working that well.
Yet the payoff takes awhile. Content marketing is a long-term investment, requiring brands to regularly deliver high-value education, tools, ideas and entertainment relevant to audiences. If they do it right, marketers will see results: higher conversion rates, more engagement, and yes, more contacts in their leads database. But it’s after the lead capture, conversion and sale when things get truly interesting.
Paving the way for long-term loyalty
Numerous surveys show declining brand loyalty on many fronts, from pasta sauce to hotels, shampoo to electronics. And it’s a major concern for those who manage the brands: 57% of chief marketing officers report they’re unprepared for declining customer loyalty, and 67% report brand loyalty and advocacy as a top priority for their shift toward using digital marketing.
So why so much talk about leads, leads, leads? Loyalty is hard to pin down and measure, and companies slog through quite a quagmire to finally achieve it. Leads are more tangible, a short-term win marketers can hold up as proof of their worth in a business that values hard numbers.
Yet the very nature of content marketing lends itself to loyalty. Forrester Research has found that regular publishing of engaging, customer-focused content results over time in increased customer loyalty and higher lifetime value. Why? Consider some of the key ingredients that go into building brand loyalty in the first place:
- Staying relevant to customer needs. You have to offer the service and products customers need, but also the knowledge, market pulse and predictive thinking for what’s coming next — and that’s where your content can help communicate that.
- Connecting through emotion. Customers crave a more emotional way to engage with companies. “The rule of thumb should be to view the decision process to buy a brand – and then buy it again – as more emotional than it is rational,” says brand consultant Robert Passikoff of Brand Keys. Emotion plays a role even in B2B purchases. Content can create your emotional connection to customers.
- Supporting customers through challenges. Being there through hard times is a sign of a strong relationship — and something the best brands do well. Content can play a role in this, allowing companies to speak proactively to customer challenges or offer self-service support and education to help customers overcome struggles in their businesses and lives.
- Listening. Asking for feedback and then addressing what customers say is one of the most effective ways brands win loyalty. The input, wisdom and real-life experiences of peers can be some of the most valuable content you publish for your customers.
All eyes on loyalty
Earlier this month, Suite Seven was one of the sponsors of the 2014 LoyaltyExpo in Orlando. We delivered a workshop on thought leadership content and its role in loyalty. We’re so excited about this opportunity — and invested in the idea that while leads may rule today, long-term relationships and retention are the real reward for the work we do.