The “Share a Coke” campaign was a huge success; the “Ice bucket” challenge raised millions for ALS. When small businesses look at big brands content marketing campaigns, they cannot imagine ever having the ability to fund such a marketing activity. And these small business owners are right – they won’t. But they are also missing the point. It is not the size of the campaign – it is the concept. And it is not the amount of money spent – it is the content itself and how/where it is presented.
Here is what the “big boys” know. It’s all about the customer, not you. It’s about how people do and can use your product or service, not about the product or the service itself. It’s all about customers engaged and participating in something that, at best, only indirectly relates to the product or service of your company.
These campaigns are stories. They are the stories that companies should be telling about themselves and their customers and publicizing all over the web. They don’t have to be huge and expensive stories, such as those “told” by Red Bull when it sponsors some extreme sports competition; it doesn’t have to be “Share a Coke,” a campaign that was costly but viral.
Lays have a campaign, “Do Us a Flavor,” in which customers suggest new flavors. The company actually produces some of those flavors, puts them on the shelves, and then invites customers to “vote” on their favorites. The winner get a huge cash prize, but even that isn’t the point (well, maybe a little).
The marketing concept is to put forth a story and then give customers the power to move that story forward. Small and mid-sized businesses can do this within their own spheres and on a smaller scale but achieve the same results. Consider some of the following “stories” and the efforts to give power to customers.
1.ModCloth is a mid-sized company that sells clothing to millennial women. It does not have a marketing budget anywhere near the “big boys.” But it tells stories of its customers who send in pictures of themselves modeling the clothing they have purchased. It holds contests to name items of clothing. The winner gets the piece free.
2. Headbands of Hope sells headbands and other small items. It has stories to tell, but those stories are of little girls who have cancer. Customers have the power to move those stories forward – when they purchase a headband, another one is donated to a little girl with cancer, and $1 is donated to children’s cancer research. Customers have the power to participate in an important cause.
What stories do you have to tell about you, your team, your customers, and your brand? And how can you give your target market power to participate in those stories, to share their participation, and become brand ambassadors in the process.
The Content Itself.
You cannot just write a blog post, throw some posts up on your social media channels and then try to promote them. The big boys have entire departments of creative content creators who come up with those great ideas and put them into words, visuals, videos, and more. They come up with those campaigns that often go viral; they understand what “plays” well with their target customers and engage them with the content they want, need, find wonderfully entertaining, or inspire them.
How Do You Compete?
Don’t sigh and accept your fate. Figure out what you can do on a smaller budget. If you know you are not a slick and creative content producer and you don’t have the time to improve your writing skills, not to mention create videos and look for or design engaging visuals, you do need to take a good long hard look at your budget, and find the money to get someone on board. This individual needs to have many of these skills:
- Journalistic skill. Journalists understand what people want to read, see, hear, and share with their communities. This also relates to quality, and quality is the single factor that makes content popular. It’s a noisy digital world, and only quality will stand.
- Someone who is a great storyteller and has the ability to use all content methods to tell those stories.
- Someone who is dedicated solely to content in all of its forms, in order to draw as many people in as possible.
- Someone who “gets” that content is all about the audience, not the company.
Letting Customers Sell for You.
The “Big Boys” know that direct advertising by disruption is no longer a smart strategy. Consumers are increasingly turning out “hard sell” TV commercials; they find radio stations that advertise minimally; they don’t subscribe to print newspapers. Further, they don’t trust companies that rely on direct sales of their products and services. They want relationships with brands. And, they want stories. Take a look at those TV commercials that still have some following:
- Geico Insurance has the gecko with all of his adventures
- Progressive Insurance has Flo and her antics
- Super Bowl commercials all tell stories
- Charmin toilet paper has it, family of bears
You cannot afford TV commercials. But you can easily afford social media pages (they’re free). Adopt the same strategies that the big corporations use. They all have social media pages. Check them out. You can do the same things. They use their mascots; they makeup holidays and promote them; they find something funny, inspirational or to celebrate every day of the week. If you have the right content specialist, you can do these things too.
When your social media platforms have the kind of content that people enjoy, they will always share that content. And that content sharing alone will spread your brand. All you have to do is set the vehicle in motion with the right content.
It’s Not All About Money Anymore.
Successful content marketing is not about throwing as much money as possible against the wall to advertise products or services. Consumers are smarter than that. It’s about creativity; it’s about storytelling, and it’s about letting customers take the reins and personally participate with you.
Author΄s bio: Janet Anthony is a blogger from Kansas City who has been writing professionally for five years now. Her motto is “What you do today can improve all your tomorrows”. Find Janet here: twitter