As buyers drown in a sea of marketing messages, how do you ensure that customers will notice your brand? Columnist Jim Williams says user-generated content is key.
Each day, buyers can be exposed to hundreds of branded messages. From the latest technology offering to consulting services and networking opportunities, today’s decision-makers are drowning in a sea of banner ads, emails, white papers and blog posts — most of it irrelevant and useless.
B2B buyers have so much content constantly thrown at them that they’re suffering from content overload. And if your message does happen to get through, 67 percent of those you reach won’t trust your content.
The fallout from this “content shock” and erosion of trust is evident in the drop in engagement across your social channels, the lack of response to your email campaigns, falling leads and sales and an overall downward spiral in your business.
Time to switch it up
To increase the effectiveness of their content marketing, marketers are trying all kinds of tactics, from changing up their headlines to publishing on new channels. Unfortunately, with the odds stacked so heavily against you, getting your customers to sit up and notice your brand is going to take a lot more than a few tweaks.
Instead of changing the message itself, you’ll need to shift the focus to who is actually delivering it. In your daily work, you probably get more than your fair share of unsolicited email from vendors trying to get your attention. And in most cases, those go straight to the trash (or, if you’re like me, you simply ignore them, and your unread email number seems to increase by the thousands every day).
On the other hand, if you see a note from a trusted colleague, friend or family member, you’ll probably open it right away.
User-generated content works in much the same way. Because people trust their friends and peers, they’re more likely to view content shared by them. Let’s take a couple of examples:
- User-generated videos on YouTube are viewed 10 times more than content uploaded by brands themselves.
- Seventy percent of buyers trust peer recommendations over content published by a brand.
The reason user-generated content has gained so much traction is that it provides social proof. Buyers want validation from their peers that the decision they’re making is the right one. This is why customer testimonials and review sites like G2 Crowd, TrustRadius and GetApp are so influential on buying decisions.
Your customers: The best messengers
Making the decision to engage your customers as messengers for your brand story is an important first step toward gaining buyer trust. These customer advocates are seen as more authentic and trustworthy than your brand.
And, just like internal experts, your customers can help you make the most of your limited resources by easing some of the content development pressure from your marketing team. In addition, they help you create content at scale, allowing you to reach a larger portion of your audience without adding more personnel to your team.
Finally, content distributed by advocates is more cost-effective than paid channels. As Laura Ramos, principal analyst, notes in a Forrester report:
Advocate marketing multiplies the number and reach of voices talking about you — at a much lower cost than traditional print and paid online channels. Beyond quantity, advocate content and interactions are more valuable because buyers see them as authentic validation, not paid promotion.
When it comes to your content marketing strategy, your advocates can help you:
- develop ideas: user-generated ideas guarantee content will resonate with your audience. When was the last time you treated your content like a product and, like a product manager does when developing software, actually interviewed your customers about what they want, why they want it and what the most effective way to build it might be? That’s what I thought.
- create content: user-generated content is more trustworthy, and more cost-effective. Collecting insights, tips, best practices, and even entire blog posts from your customers highlights them as thought leaders and lends their authenticity to your marketing. You both win!
- distribute content to their networks: your advocates are your content-sharing engine. As Andy Crestodina, co-founder and strategic director at Orbit Media, said at Content Marketing World 2016, “An ally in creation is an ally in promotion.” When someone is featured in your content, they’re more likely to share it with their social networks, amplifying your brand’s distribution.
Get started with advocate-driven content
Here are some tips to help you get your advocates on their way to spreading your brand story through user-generated content:
- Start recruiting your messengers (i.e., your advocates).
- Inspire and empower messengers to make their voices heard by creating and sharing your brand stories.
- Give advocates options for contributing. While some would be happy submitting a video, others might want to write an online review or provide a testimonial.
- Provide helpful guidelines regarding what you want your advocates to contribute or write about. Half of customers want brands to give them guidance on what to include in their user-generated content, but only 16 percent do.
- Recognize your messengers for their efforts — in front of their peers, through professional development opportunities and on social media. Share, like or comment on content they’ve developed or contributed to so you can continue to build on your relationship.
As marketers, we need to accept the fact that buyers will continue to be bombarded with more and more information, in both their personal and professional lives. It’s our job to be sure the most relevant messaging for our brand is delivered, heard and acted upon.
By starting with the messenger first, and empowering our advocates to tell the story for us, our messaging will come through as more authentic and trustworthy. And we’ll be well on our way toward building those customer relationships that will keep our businesses thriving in the long run.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.