If you're a marketer, or know one, chances are you've come across the term "content marketing."
It's a popular buzz phrase at the moment, kind of like "growth hacking" and "user onboarding experience".
And we marketers do love a good buzzword, or phrase.
For the uninitiated, content marketing is enticing and engaging prospective buyers through content - blogs, infographics, emails, white papers, etc. Content marketers hope to educate and inform as as part of the sales process.
It's a nice change of pace from traditional high pressure, advertising-centric marketing approaches.
In fact, you could say the concept is built around low pressure, non-salesy experiences that still draw prospects nearer to a brand.
The pursuit of customer loyalty, when done properly, has much in common with content marketing.
Both are about building engagement and creating touchpoints. Both are about adding value that makes the customer's life better in some way.
Phrasing it another way, both content marketing and loyalty marketing are focused on relationship building.
It’s time for loyalty to take a page out of the content playbook and start creating relationship-building experiences that enhance the customer and ask for nothing in return.
Earn Trust by Improving Lives
There are workshops every weekend at a nearby home improvement store. For no charge, I can wander over on Saturday morning and learn how to lay tile or install a toilet. It’s content, of the in-person variety.
The store sells tile and toilet installation services. Yet they teach me how to do it without their help, for free.
They also sell toilets and tile supplies, but there’s no guarantee I’ll spend a single cent there.
Sure, they give a quick sales pitch about their supplies and services at the end of the workshop. But it’s low pressure, and I often just say thanks and head out the door.
For all they know, I could be buying my supplies from a dirt cheap online outlet.
Even still, they’ve invested in me. They’ve given me a reason to trust their brand.
And it works. I spend far too much money at the store because I know exactly what I’m getting out of the transactions (not only the product, but the support behind it).
They’ll absolutely get the call when I have to install tile or a toilet, as well.
Relationships vs Sales
Too many brands see loyalty programs and other engagement efforts as a chance to simply sell more stuff.
Instead, they should focus on relationship building and adding value - two traits that will pay off in the long-term far more than making every touch point a hard sell.
Anyone can go out and hack their way to more sales. Building loyalty is a far different challenge because it requires relationship building. Trust has to be established, and that takes time and investment.
For example: many programs reward customers for purchases, which is great. But they fail to incentivize any deepening of the relationship by rewarding other actions (social shares, providing feedback, etc).
There’s no relationship outside of the basic transaction. No nurturing, except for more sales messages, most likely.
A relationship-focused approach doesn’t just mean one sale - it potentially means a lifetime of revenue, plus everything else that comes with loyalty - advocacy, referrals, feedback, and so on.
Every interaction within the customer-brand relationship is still a “sales” interaction as far as the brand is concerned, but to the customer, it doesn’t feel that way. That’s an important distinction.
Teach a Man to Lay Tile…
It begins with an investment into making life easier or better for the potential customer.
It means teaching them to lay tile, knowing full well some may go out and buy their tile supplies from someone else.
Investing in building up the customer's knowledge is investing in relationships.
Many potential customers will walk out the door, but enough of them will return to make the investment worth it for the brand. Because a relationship has been established, that brand is in a prime position to enjoy those customers’ business for a long, long time.