|SUMMARY: Designing a meaningful experience for customers online requires a strategic and thoughtful approach that leverages customer education over fear. The right digital experience can create a lasting relationship between a brand and its customers.
Learn how Symantec pushed customer-focus over product-focus in launching a one-stop digital platform for Norton Security’s content, offers and deals for auto-renewal customers. Read more
There’s a lot of information out there. I mean, a LOT. Since Content Marketing became the hot, new marketing buzzword, everyone’s hitching up to the rollicking bandwagon, putting out blogs, video, listicles, eBooks, slideshows, etc. It’s great to see that a lot of companies are recognizing the value of content, but, with the influx of content being released into the wild blue Web, we quickly realize that not all of the content being put out is actually valuable.
The Harsh Truth: You’re Just Not That Special
One major point to recognize is that, even when your company has an engaged audience, that audience may not instantly find value in what you have to say online. Not only that, but, the more “wasteful” content you put out into the universe that doesn’t completely encompass your brand identity and thought leadership will diminish audience trust in the very foundations on which you’ve built your brand. Online brand identity and reputation is a very shaky foundation to begin with, so why test its strength by diluting it?
Building A Valuable Strategy
What is valuable content? There are a few questions to ask yourself when building a content strategy.
1) What is my audience and where will they be accessing my content?
Figuring out the audience will determine the right voice and information for your audience. Figuring out how that audience will be accessing the content can help refine the tone and develop lead generation opportunities.
2) What brand values does this content address?
Everything you put out there either bolsters or takes away from your brand value and identity. Therefore, everything you produce should ladder up to your mission and value proposition, no matter how small.
3) Does this content add something new to the online conversation, and, is it useful?
There are millions of voices out there on the Internet, so it’s important to stand out. Look at competitor thought leadership and try to determine how your brand’s point of view differs on a topic. Be provocative, but, most importantly, be helpful (and, to be helpful, you need to refer to Questions #1 and #2 first).
4) How does it measure up?
Utilize analytics to their fullest potential. Measure performance over the short and long-term. Aim to produce content that has a longer “shelf life” in order to get the most ROI.
Strategically building content so that it is useful and worthy of your audience requires taking a step back and answering these types of questions. Not everything you put out there will be a crown jewel for the ages, but, by starting with a foundational strategy, you can avoid adding to the ever-expanding Internet landfill.
Just a quick note that I will be joining a panel on email marketing at the Media Leaders Digital Growth Summit in Santa Monica, CA, on November 15!
Here are more details:
Where: Shore Hotel, 1515 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA
What: Seven topics that help brands and businesses build a better online presence to attract more customers.
When: Friday, November 15th
– Checkin: 8:00am to 8:30am at Shore Hotel Lobby on Ocean Ave.
– Breakfast: 8:30am-9:00am
– Panel #1 starts promptly at 9:00am (Please don’t be late)
– Lunch at Noon
– Last panel ends at 6:00pm
Who: This event is limited to 70 professionals from brands, businesses, startups and agencies that want to learn key tips and trends from panelists.
Why: In one full day each attendee will learn dozens of tactical formulas they can instantly implement at their company.
Link to the event site: http://medialeaders.com/digital-growth-summit/
Walking around San Francisco’s SOMA district last week, I noticed a dark cloud hanging overhead, and it wasn’t just the usual marine layer. Zynga, one of the heavy hitters in that area, is facing a dismal prognosis. The company that made its mark with Farmville and Mafia Wars via Facebook isn’t harvesting any cash crops this year. In fact, its stocks have plummeted almost 80 percent in 2012. That’s a whole lotta lettuce.
The casual gamer market was great for a while, but, as the label suggests, the consumer doesn’t want to invest too much of his or her time playing around in virtual worlds, especially if he or she isn’t getting much out of it in real life. The entertainment value of these games weakens over time. A person can only obtain so many virtual cattle before he or she becomes virtually lactose intolerant–that is, a casual consumer can get sick of doing the same thing over and over again for only virtual rewards.
It’s not hard to hook a hardcore gamer on a new game, but the casual gamer is much harder to land and to keep interested. To maintain the relationship with the casual consumer, the consumer must have:
1) Constant stimulation and new content. As in a marriage, keeping things “spicey” will keep the relationship fresh. New games, new skins, new levels, special surprises, and more, at a constant rate, keep a person interested.
2) A sense of ownership and a personal connection. Not only the ability to customize a farm or a city, but also a consumer wants a personal connection to the brand, to know that the brand knows that he or she exists. Maybe he or she gets a personalized membership card, or a name on a virtual wall. He or she wants to be heard, to make suggestions via social media or email, and to receive a human response.
3) Short engagements. Casual gamers do not want to spend all day on the computer or the phone. They have lives, schedules, kids, work, you name it. Sometimes only a few minutes per day is all they have to spend. Keep game play short enough so that a consumer can reap benefits without spending an hour of his or her time, unless they have it to spare.
4) Real world rewards and access. In the U.S. everyone expects to get something for nothing. Freebies and coupons abound. Inventing strategic ways to integrate the consumer’s real-world experiences with the virtual world, and offering incentives along the way keeps your consumer engaged. If a person must complete level 50 to earn a $25 coupon to Old Navy for back-to-school time, a busy mom is going to be more likely to eek out a few minutes a day to get there. Additionally, games designed with location or activity integration stand a better chance of being played via mobile for the casual gamer on the go.
5) NO SPAM! There’s nothing that would-be casual gamer hates more than being bombarded by game requests. At its height, Zynga had its users spewing Mafia Wars and Farmville requests all over Facebook. Would-be casual gamer, Yours Truly, politely declined, declined, declined, declined, and then threw up her hands and screamed, “ARRRRGGGHHHHHH! Stop with the Farmville requests already!” Often it was the same people, cramming cows and pigs daily down the throats of their Facebook friends. Want a surefire way to guarantee that no one will ever play your game, ever? That’s probably it. Put a cap on the spam, or, better yet, find more imaginative ways for people to share how much fun they are having playing your game.
Can Zynga’s future be recovered via mobile? Perhaps with a major company overhaul, tightening the proverbial belt, and coming up with more cost-effective promotional ideas beyond pay-per-click advertising (it’s costly, limiting and should be used very strategically), they can turn the ship around, but they are going to have to come up with some new strategies, and fast.
Are you a mobile gaming startup in need of marketing help? I am currently available for contract or full time work in Los Angeles, CA or the San Francisco Bay area. Please feel free to reach out to me so that we can discuss how my tech biz savvy and creative smarts can go to work for your company.
Marketeurs are a wily bunch. We watch TED talks, attend seminars, read books about how to boost consumer engagement. Most of this stuff is crammed with ways to dangle that proverbial carrot in front of the nose of the consumer or client. Many of the strategies proposed extend into a sort of “dark arts” territory of marketing magic, whereby consumers fall right into a carefully constructed psychological trap.
Take the McDonalds Monopoly game, for example. By building a gamification strategy, McDonalds lured consumers back with the promise of more game pieces and the potential for scoring big prizes. The game itself had very little to do with the food, but people “ate it up” and sales rose (5.5% in 2011). Gamification does work to boost sales, but only for a limited time. Once the offer ends, people go back to their regularly scheduled programs, waiting for the next big thing.
Now, take Starbucks, the Seattle-born coffee chain that made shelling out $4.00 for a cuppa joe an everyday occurrence. Starbucks has no games, no particular gimmicks, it simply designs its menu based on consumer demand. In 2012, Starbucks hit a record second quarter. What the heck? They expanded into Tazo-branded K-cups, opened their first store in Norway, and continued to deliver a particular standard of value to consumers. They continue to grow and to stay competitive in the market, offering convenience (isn’t there a Starbucks on every corner now?), quality, and consumer satisfaction.
While “tricks” strategies and “value” strategies are not always mutually exclusive, when a company is deciding on its next quarter’s plan, it has to look at the broader scope. Are sales really low right now? Maybe a “trick” strategy is more important this quarter, but if the value is not there next quarter, the carriage turns back into a pumpkin, and all of the hard work you put in last quarter can just go, “poof!”
The key to a good value strategy is excellent research. Hire someone who is good at getting to know your consumer base, who knows how to create and execute effective surveys, is involved in target communities, and who does a heck of a lot of reading. Understand your consumers and the rest is as easy as collecting $200 when you pass “Go!”.
As luck would have it, I’m currently seeking a brand new, full-time position with a company like yours! Check out my portfolio and follow my links to see just a small sampling of what my 10+ years of experience in interactive marketing, writing and design can do for you. If you like what you see, please contact me via the Contacts page.
I look forward to working with you.