Marketers learned years ago that the “hard sell” approach rarely works on customers. However, in today’s age of skeptical, ad-averse consumers, even the soft sell is becoming less effective. What modern brands need to master is a neutral, no-sell strategy in which helpful, useful information is the star of your marketing content, rather than your product or service itself.
How do you increase awareness of your brand without being overtly promotional? These tips from members of the Forbes Agency Council can help you better engage your target audience through blog posts, social media and other content channels.
Members of the Forbes Agency Council give their best tips.
1. Keep Your Brand At The Forefront
With the potential exception of category leaders, you must continue to be overtly branded. This creates the potential for your content to connect back to your brand. Don’t confuse being overly promotional with getting credit for your brand. Without branding, you risk your efforts being associated with the person’s preferred brand in the category, which may not be yours. – Kieley Taylor, GroupM
2. Give Value First To Get Value Later
Provide tangible, valuable advice. When creating content for your blog or social media posts, you need to keep individuals’ value of time in mind. They’re looking for information — fast. They’re looking for value. Give your audience high-level tips and tricks, how-tos and applicable strategies that can be used on day one. This makes your brand and content much more memorable. – Bernard May, National Positions
3. Focus On The Issues And How You Solve Them
Every company has a purpose — there is a problem and you offer a solution. Rather than positioning your company directly, talk about the issues in the marketplace and various different ways to solve those problems (without emphasizing your company). Use facts, data and third-party expertise to support your position. The solution will be evident (and you didn’t even have to tell them). – Ilissa Miller, IMiller Public Relations
4. Educate Consumers
Promoting your company before a potential customer in the consideration phase is a big no-no. Instead, provide relevant information and education. Use blogs and social media as part of your top-of-funnel strategy. Create content that resonates with your target audience. Show followers that you are a thought leader in your industry. Use infographics, polls and videos to engage with them. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
5. Think Of Your Business As A Real Person
Floating your own boat or gloating is never cool, especially on social media. I like to think about my business as a brand, a real person. What do they like? Who do they respect? What kinds of words of wisdom do they have to share? This illustrates brand identity and speaks more than the hard sell and self-promo. It has much more potential for a beautiful content strategy. – Priya Chopra, 1Milk2Sugars
6. Engage Social Influencers Who Genuinely Align With Your Brand
7. Do Good Work First
If you provide good advice and insights, consistently and repeatedly, there’s no need to make the hard sell — your audience will elect to buy instead. When you provide sound judgment and innovative solutions to the public or your clients, the result is the same. They want more, and they’ll approach you for it on their terms. Focus, as always, on doing good work first. – Craig Greiwe, Rogers & Cowan
8. Show Some Personality
Provide useful content across channels. Thought leadership shouldn’t include promotions but is effective at maintaining a brand’s status as an expert. Don’t be afraid to show personality on social media. Some of the most successful brands on social media (think Wendy’s) aren’t successful because they promote their product all the time. They’re successful because they’re entertaining. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications
9. Ask For Your Audience’s Opinion
Reaching out to your audience with posts asking for their opinion on different topics within your industry is a great way to keep them engaged. Companies can create helpful content educating their customers on certain topics which can indirectly help promote the company or its services. – Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC
10. Narrow In On A Niche Audience
It’s no secret that generating original, useful content is the best way to engage. We try to break that down further and share ideas focused on a very specific audience within our target based on our new business goals. It’s more work and requires greater frequency, but much more meaningful and relevant. In the end, you have to know who your top prospects are and work hard to engage them. – Sean Looney, Looney Advertising & Branding
11. Be Relevant To Consumers’ Needs And Your Brand’s Purpose
Consumers are bombarded with a huge volume of content across a multitude of platforms. Content that is relevant to both the consumer needs and the brand purpose, presented in the relevant context, will yield high-impact engagement. This kind of content is not promotional, but rather respects the readers’ interests, delivers value and underscores the intelligence and leadership of the brand. – Rema Vasan, MSL
12. ABC: Always Be Contributing
Contribution-based marketing is the future of advertising. Too many marketers believe you should “always be closing.” I aim to change that instead to “always be contributing.” Give away your best info for free. Build a relationship of trust by giving your best information, and you can make an offer which people will be far more inclined to accept as a result of what you’ve given for free. – Trevor Chapman, Trevor Chapman Group
13. Give Actionable Advice
Educating first has become table stakes for content marketers because they know readers want value and will sniff out any promotion or sales pitch. To go beyond education, offer actionable steps with your content so your target audience can actually implement after learning. Create checklists to execute your plan or offer best resource lists around a topic that don’t focus on your company. – Todd Earwood, MoneyPath Marketing
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