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As entrepreneurs and marketers, we can sometimes fall into the trap of asking questions that are just a bit too self-centered. How can I grow my business? How can I make more money? How can I become more visible? It’s a ‘me, me, me’ approach that limits our creativity and puts the focus on the destination rather than the journey. By looking a little bit deeper, we can identify the questions behind these questions and propel our businesses to the next level.

So let’s change the question a little and seek to gain some deeper insights. What is the core of any successful business? Of course, you need a great product or service. But the true core of your business is your most loyal, engaged customers. Without them, it’s impossible to create value from your services. Always remember to use quality website content writers as well to tackle the latest content marketing trends.

So let’s look at a different question:

How can I provide my customers with an experience that they’ll truly love?”

In the attempt to understand this question, it’s incredibly important to realize a core point: Fundamentally, customers don’t care about our products and services. They care about themselves, and the value that they can realize from the services that we provide. At the most basic level, customers care about the following three things:

  1. Feeling valued and appreciated.
  2. Receiving something of worth in exchange for their time.
  3. Being entertained and engaged.

Building a strong brand relationship with your customers is a critical step towards creating a sustainable community of passionate individuals who will support your products. A relatively large group of unengaged followers is not nearly as powerful as a mid-sized base of highly engaged individuals, simply because your conversion rates in the second case are going to be dramatically higher. Obviously we want to grow our followings, but what we’re really looking for is passion.

So let’s focus on passion and engagement; building that rabid fan base that is absolutely committed to your product. Here are four steps you can take to develop a more passionate following:

  • Relate to your customers as equals, and understand that they’re real people.
  • Provide them with value whenever possible.
  • Interact and engage with them to demonstrate that you care.
  • Connect real relationships, value adds, and effective engagement by creating a web of quality content.


Why Equals Are Better Than Customers

Let’s look at two very common scenarios to illustrate a larger point. Both of them start with calling customer service because your widget broke:

  1. An electronic operator answers the call and directs you to input the number of the department you wish to reach. After clicking through a variety of obscurely-named menus for a few minutes, a voice on the other line says, “Hold please.” After a few minutes on hold, the voice returns and says, “Hi, name please.” After taking your name you hear, “How can I assist you?”
  1. After a few rings, the phone is picked up by a person who says, “Hi, my name is John. How can I help you today?”

Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, you probably prefer the second scenario to the first. It’s more efficient and less frustrating, but the real difference is that in case two the company is treating you with more respect. They’re valuing your time and relating to you on a human level, which is one of the most effective ways to build trust.

The lesson here is simple: Equals are better than customers. Treating someone as a “customer” implies a power relationship, you have something that they want and are withholding it until they provide you with the appropriate amount of money. It’s fundamentally unbalanced, and the incredible level of competition in today’s markets has provided individual consumers with the flexibility and power to reject that paradigm and hold out for companies that relate to them on a more human level.

The goal of smart brands is to humanize the relationship. Even the biggest, most established brands in the world are going out of their way to become “human-centric” rather than “customer-centric.”



The goal is to humanize our marketing efforts!

Human-centric marketing focuses on the following tenants:

  • Relate to your customers as people, and understand that they have individual needs.
  • Focus on providing value rather than moving merchandise.
  • Understand that people are not passive participants in marketing.
  • Constantly engage and entertain your following.
  • Create a pure and simple experience.

As brands move more towards building passion and engagement amongst their following while treating them as equals, they’re relying less and less on traditional marketing techniques.


The Death of Traditional Marketing…?

Outside of simple intuition, there are many statistical measures that indicate that traditional outbound marketing is falling by the wayside. Traditional advertising has long been understood to be very low efficiency; it delivers fewer leads that any other forms of marketing per unit of spend. Even more concerning for traditional marketers is the fact that over 84% of 25 to 34 year olds say they have left a website they liked simply because of the presence of disruptive advertisements. Traditional forms of advertisement aren’t even neutral for consumers, they’re actively intrusive.


When was the last time someone actually enjoyed their conversation with an outbound marketing call?

Remember the core point above: consumers don’t care about your brand, they care about themselves. Therefore, the core purpose of any brand’s marketing strategy should be to educate their followers and provide them with consistently great value. Inbound marketing does this, outbound marketing doesn’t.

Ultimately the content we create has to have some impact on our bottom line as well, but focusing purely on that bottom line as an end goal is a surefire way to alienate your audience. The more value you provide your audience with, the more comfortable they will be with being sold to.

By emphasizing the content and value-oriented approach of inbound marketing, rather than the invasive tactics of traditional outbound marketing, smart companies are moving from selling down to their customers to selling across to them. We’re building our followings by relating to our consumers as real people with real needs that have to be met by the brands that they choose to engage with. In other words, we’re treating them as equals.

Is There Still A Way To Influence Your Audience?

So if we’re removing some of the traditional forms of marketing from our arsenal to focus more on creating great content and inbound marketing, are there still ways to influence our audience?

In business we’re used to thinking of value in a fairly traditional way. How can we do things that directly produce sales and grow revenue? As with our earlier questions, sometimes it’s extremely effective to unwrap this idea in order to find new ways to push our business forward. Interacting and engaging with our audience through social media platforms, blogs, and other forms of accessible communication indicates activity, realness, and interest in the customer to the customer; this can be a very effective way to grow awareness and ultimately improve your business’ bottom line.

Think of your content as an ecosystem. Your website establishes your presence online, while the site blog conveys your core information and content to your readership. Video messaging can demonstrate creativity and provide additional opportunities for social sharing. Infographics display your how-to and understanding of the field, and finally your social presence allows you to communicate directly with your core demographic while engaging them regularly.

Social media provides numerous avenues to engage and influence your audience, primarily through two avenues:

  • Social sharing sites like Facebook and Twitter allow you to “touch” a large number of people throughout the day with regular updates.
  • Social expertise sites like Quora and LinkedIn allow you to demonstrate expertise and build credibility.

Of these two avenues, the first is the most generally understood. Virtually all businesses have established a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter, and 85% of marketers say that social media is an important part of their business.


79% of marketers have integrated social media into their campaigns; 86% say social media is important to their business.

What’s generally less understood is how to leverage platforms like Quora into more value for your customers, while looping them back into your core offerings and improving your bottom line. In The 3 Untapped Frontiers for Content Marketing, Ebyline went over some of the ways you can use Quora to write an undercover promotion for your business.

Quora represents an interesting tool for marketers. It fundamentally is not a tool for selling, but is instead a way to demonstrate knowledge and build credibility. Great answers on the site are highly visible, and are a wonderful way to engage with your audience through a more unique vertical. This is the sort of thing that the traditional marketer might neglect, but which represents enormous hidden value to your brand. Influencing your audience through social media and other inbound marketing techniques will allow you to convert relationships into customers at a much higher than normal rate.


How Quality Content Marketing Funnels Friends Into Customers

After thinking about the customer less as a customer and more as an equal, producing great value for them, and engaging them regularly with worthwhile content, it’s important to return to those initial “traditional” questions. Ultimately, did all of your efforts lead to a more valuable brand? How can you leverage those relationships in order to turn friends into customers?

Consider the infographic below from Smart Insights:


Inbound marketing funnels “friends” through a pathway that leads to maximum engagement and advocacy

This is an incredibly important point to understand, as it’s the fundamental argument for inbound marketing techniques over more traditional selling.

Traditional marketing techniques focus on creating a direct causal link between action and result. You called 1,000 homes and made 10 sales for a 1% response rate resulting in $500 of profit. That’s a fairly easy, reliable calculation to run. Inbound marketing relies on something a bit less concrete: building trust among your following by ensuring that they’ll get something of value in exchange for their time. That trust is then converted into purchases, as these individuals now have confidence in the services you provide.

Content marketing draws individuals in and encourages them to engage with your brand. Great content encourages people to link out to your site and dramatically improves your visibility through search engines, as we discussed in What This Summer’s Google Update Means For The Market. It encourages decision making from your audience by giving them a reason to stay on your site and continue to interact with you. This leads to a higher conversion rate and more purchases, and (along with a great product!) encourages your brand’s friends to become true advocates for you online.

The true power of content marketing lies in providing your customers with an experience they love while still promoting your products and services. This changes your marketing paradigm from one of exploitation to one of equality, thereby building trust, growing your base of fanatical supporters, and ultimately improving your bottom line.

This is my approach to consumers. What’s yours? Please leave your comments below.

About the Author: Forrest Hanson is the founder of Lighthouse Strategic Communications, a boutique communications firm that provides affordable public relations and business development services to emerging businesses, based in San Francisco, CA. He specializes in marketing, content creation, brand positioning, and creative problem solving.