What Customer Loyalty Professionals Can Learn from Content Marketing

By Brandon Carter | Updated on Sep 17, 2015 7:30:00 AM

IMG_1796This past week several of my colleagues and I attended the HubSpot Inbound conference. The subject du jour at the conference, for the most part, is content marketing. Content marketing is generally summarized as creating useful, educational content to promote your brand and address prospects through all phases of the purchasing funnel.

In other words, blogging, case studies, infographics, videos, eBooks, and so on.

This was my second time at the conference, but the world of content marketing is one I’ve played in for years. And as I sat through the educational sessions, and networked with peers, an encouraging realization hit me.

The worlds of content marketing and customer loyalty have an increasing amount of common traits. The end game for both is more revenue through engaged customers, but when they’re done right, they’re all about building the relationship.

In other words, sales without being salesy. Remember: people love to buy, but hate to be sold.

What can loyalty marketers borrow from content marketing (or in some cases, vice versa)? Quite a bit, but these are the top applications I came across:

  • Everyone is different - We’ve long stated that there is no magic bullet in customer loyalty, so a variety of tactics have to be utilized. Email is a great way to capture attention, but don’t forget about social media or traditional tactics such as direct mail.  

  • When you’re offering value, frequency is (almost) irrelevant - People are open to marketing, particularly members of loyalty programs. But if your marketing isn’t just outright marketing, but instead offers something that adds value to members, you can get away with more than a simple weekly email or occasional SMS. Don’t get carried away, however - people cite frequency as a primary reason for unsubscribing from brands.

  • People respond to one-to-one interactions - Loyalty programs collect a ton of data on members, so use it to get personal with them. Tailor messages and even platforms you use to what is known. Even better, show your appreciation in an even more personal way. New Call-to-action

  • Mobile and convenience are key - Every piece of content you create, every email and web page, should be optimized for mobile. Browsing and email are both moving from the desktop to the device, and mobile-friendliness is becoming a major factor in search engine visibility.

  • Give some of your secrets away - You don’t have to spill your secret sauce recipe out there, but people will respond to learning how your brand accomplishes certain things. They’ll feel educated, and closer to your brand. Bonus points for giving them a chance to offer feedback and shape the brand, something that’s very important to Gen Y.

  • Measurement is important - It’s good to know what’s working and what isn’t. See what people respond to, what turns them away, and adjust accordingly.

  • Know your audience’s interests - What else is your audience interested in? Check out who they follow on social networks, or what they have in common across the social graph. This information can be leveraged to start conversations, or inform potential partnerships.

  • fridayApply STEPPS to your brand for organic virality - A good loyalty effort should inspire people to pass it around to their networks. According to “Contagious” author Jonah Berger, people are driven to respond and share based on six principles, which he calls STEPPS:

    • Social currency: People love to share things that make them seem smarter, or content that helps them star in a conversation.

    • Triggers: Or things that cause instant associations. Berger often cites “peanut butter” and “jelly” as being instantly associated. Or Fridays with the infamous “Friday” song by Rebecca Black.

    • Emotion: The more something appeals to people’s feelings and sympathies, the more likely they are to share.

    • Public: Things that appeal to a person’s “tribe,” or things that they’ll want to imitate.

    • Practical value: Content that’s useful to people, or things they can apply to improve their own lives.

    • Stories: Narratives that people can relate to, or that compel them to follow along to the resolution.

  • Get everyone on board - Great content from a brand isn’t the result of a great writer. It’s a brand-wide effort, with every corner of an organization informing the messages and providing feedback from their own customer/prospect interactions. Similarly, customer engagement is heightened by increased employee engagement and buy-in. Just because someone isn’t interfacing with customers doesn’t mean they can’t impact the brand.

  • Leverage the influence of others - Content marketers leverage platforms belonging to others - think guest posts on blogs, or sponsored content on sites such as BuzzFeed. The idea is reaching a greater audience while also standing on the credibility of trusted brands. Customer loyalty can also benefit from this principle, as partnerships can infuse energy and excitement into a brand by adding needed value.


Content marketing is a great concept, especially when tied in with the inbound marketing philosophy of enticing customers to come to you (instead of beating them down with ads; looking at you, daily fantasy football leagues).

Not only does it make for a better sale, but a better customer relationship. They’re more knowledgeable and informed about the brand, and what the brand represents.

Loyalty programs, and engagement efforts in general, can benefit from a more educational, pull (instead of push) approach. 

Many of you are already using many of these principles. If there’s an area I’m overlooking, please share!

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Topics: customer loyalty

Written by: Brandon Carter

Brandon is a writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding.

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