The daunting task of fostering a connection with audiences digitally is likely weighing on your team more now than ever. The digital world we live in is only going to grow, which is why successfully utilizing this medium is so essential. We have no choice but to find a solution, so how do we do it?
In order to cultivate meaningful relationships that keep prospects engaged, we must consider everything from who is consuming our content to the ways we assert ourselves as THE people to be connected with. In order to connect completely, we must consider the following four elements.
Understand Your Audience
To foster a meaningful digital connection, you must first know who you are connecting with. While this may seem like a no-brainer, understanding your audience means much more than just knowing who is buying your product. It means knowing who they are, what they do, their present needs and their future goals. Furthermore, all of these attributes are contextualized by where the prospect is in their buyer’s journey. We know this is a huge task, but if the end goal is a successful sale, you must begin with a comprehensive and complete picture of your prospects. If you do not fully understand your audience, then you’re merely guessing what brand aspects will resonate with them.
So what now? Only 28% of business communicators believe they effectively know what their audience is interested in reading. Fortunately, keyword research is an easy way to identify which terms are drawing the most interest. As an example, Google Trends is a free tool that compares keywords and phrases by search volume. In order to engage new prospects with your brand, you should know what they are searching for. Understanding your audience is the first step in developing a successful content strategy.
Curate Your Content
In order to effectively nurture prospects through your marketing and sales funnel, you need to have relevant content for each stage of their buyer’s journey. The next piece of the puzzle is curating content for your potential customers, who are typically conducting 12 searches prior to engaging with a brand. If people are looking for the products or services that you deliver, it’s important that they find you.
Once you have identified the keywords that are important to your audience, you need to build engaging content across the awareness, discovery and purchase phases of the funnel. Although competitive pricing, discounts, and sales tactics are important, they only impact the latter 30% of a customer's decision-making process. Effectively curating tailored digital content is how you impact that initial 70% of the buying journey.
As potential buyers are spending time and energy to research solutions, they are intentionally not engaging directly with brands until they have narrowed down their consideration set. In order to make the initial cut, you must have content that buyers can consume in a logical progression that helps move them through the funnel. Understanding the importance and unique nature of digital communication will only be effective if your messages resonate with your audience. Not only do the words you use matter, but those words need to communicate the right message to the right people at the right time.
As potential customers work their way through the sales funnel, you need to ensure that you have relevant content to keep them engaged for every step of their journey.
Living Your Mission
In order to effectively curate content that aligns with and supports your purpose, you must truly consider: what is your company’s mission? What are your values? Do they exist beyond merely a feel good tab on your website? Are they being actively integrated throughout your teams?
While companies generally see the value in connecting with potential customers, many fail to recognize their employees are a vital target of their marketing messages. Employees that are driven by the overarching company purpose are 54% more likely to stay at that company for upwards of five years. Without a clear and concise mission, not only do your employees consequently lack that valuable overarching purpose, but the initiatives that employees undertake may actually result in negative outcomes that waste your time and resources. If your employees haven’t bought into your messaging, how can you expect to win over prospects?
Principles in practice: Apple, a company with a clear mission and value set, has notably done a phenomenal job integrating its values throughout the company. Such that no matter where you are in the country, you can walk into an Apple store and receive essentially the same treatment and experience. From their products, to their advertising, to their employees, Apple ensures that everything it shares aligns with company values and expectations. This value integration has driven a substantial increase in Apple’s employee retention rate. Angela Ahrendts, the former SVP for Apple retail, attributes the rise to the connection employees have with Apple.
Be a Thought Leader
Once you understand the needs of your audience, can find them via strong search terms, and have your whole team aligned to your mission, you have to prove why your brand is a trusted voice in your market.
Thought leadership is not simply stating opinions on trending topics. Rather, you need to think critically about how you are helping to push the conversation forward. How are you helping to prepare your audience for the business and technology trends that will shape the future of your industry? Do you help customers solve their biggest challenges? True thought leadership cannot be claimed, it must be earned. Every piece of relevant content further establishes your expertise and thus industry authority.
Once you have mastered thought leadership, you will see a dramatic shift in the engagement with your brand. Instead of working to get your content in front of potential buyers, you will have customers beating down your door. Suddenly, your blog posts and email newsletters will gain more traction than ever before, and your webinars will be must-see programming. Earning a position as a thought leader will naturally attract high-quality inbound leads and will help sustainably drive your sales pipeline.
Wrapping it up
From understanding your audience to earning your status as a thought leader, all of your initiatives are digital, so you might as well master the platform. In order to do so, however, we must consider every step that goes into achieving our end goal -- and more importantly, what is the end goal? Whether your objective is to drive sales or to engage employees with your company’s mission, the importance of connection remains consistent. Begin with the end in mind to truly understand your audience and curate the content that will resonate with their needs. Work towards earning your status as a thought leader all while living your mission. If you can master this process, you will gain the ability to meaningfully connect with your audience.