What brand of seasoning cube was in your home growing up?
Right now, if you took a random survey, odds are your respondents will tell you they saw only one brand of seasoning cube.
When I surveyed my colleagues -mostly 90s kids- the results match up. Most remember seeing only just the Maggi seasoning cubes or the Knorr seasoning cubes.
It used to be that people were faithful to brands because they have a history with their products and services. They bought only one brand of cars; one brand of toiletries or picked groceries from only one store.
Lots of factors are responsible for this loyalty; top on the list being limited choices. But that’s beyond the scope of this article. The point simply is that people are buying differently than they did in the 90s or as early as the turn of the millennium.
These days, few people are loyal to brands. According to Accenture, only 28% of customers are loyal to brands. When one considers that it costs up to 25x more to acquire new customers than it does to keep one, this trend provides a unique challenge for business owners.
For small businesses, the way to level the playing field with tough deep-pocket competition is to build brand loyalty. Customers will return to you come rain or shine when your brand inspires loyalty.
How do you solve this problem as a small business?
Enter content marketing.
Engaging positively and consistently with customers along their different purchase journeys will nurture brand loyalty. This is most true for millennials; 62% of whom feel that online content drives their loyalty to a brand.
Triggering loyalty might just be the core of content marketing.
What is content marketing?
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action,” – Content Marketing Institute.
If you received an e-mail update from your spin class instructor this morning, you’ve been exposed to a form of content marketing. If you’ve read a guide on “how to make Bantu Knots when your hair is only two inches long” – that’s content marketing.
Combined with a top-class customer service, content marketing will create a community of rabid fans around your brand.
How do you begin?
The first step is to outline your typical customer journey. There are many frameworks that explain the process from consumers’ awareness of your brand to transactional engagement with it. My favourite is Google’s “See, Think, Do, Care” framework.
Understating this funnel helps you shape your message for the right customer in the right context.
If you had a business selling lactation cookies, your communication at the “See” stage is to “all pregnant women.” At the “Think” stage, your communication is to “pregnant women or new mothers who are unable to lactate naturally.”
At the “Do” stage, your communication is to “New mothers who want to buy lactation cookies right now”. Finally, at the “Care” stage, your communication is to “new mothers who bought and are taking lactation cookies from me.”
At the last stage of the process, the goal is primarily to build loyalty. But nevermind this, elements that build loyalty should be baked into content at every stage.
To consistently infuse brand loyalty triggers in your content is to develop and share content that is useful and conveys shared value.
Shared value is about focusing more on people and their beliefs and less on your product. The focus on the product is why many contents from brands are ignored.
According to a Corporate executive Board (CeB) study published in 2012, most consumers say that they were loyal “not to companies, but to beliefs.”
From the text on your landing page to the call-to-actions on your ebook, your beliefs (and that of your audience) should shine through.
The types of content that engender loyalty
Content that engenders loyalty is more than a blog post. Although those play a big role, loyalty-driven content marketing is driven by a deeper understanding of your customer motivations, their engagement behaviors, and your company goals.
Some of the short examples I will proceed to share may not fit snugly with your brand, but you can deploy them based on your specific needs.
1. Culture blogs
Culture blogs reveal the safe internal conversations of a company.
For our example with our lactation cookie company, a culture blog could be “Why we keep our cookie cutter in the top drawer” or “What our new teammates taught us about cookie counting.” Or consider this super-honest culture blog from Buffer; “What We Got Wrong About Self-Management: Embracing Natural Hierarchy at Work.”
The core idea of culture blogs is to put the culture, beliefs and thought processes of your company on full display. Culture blogs (like all other content types) can be deployed at every level of the customer journey but are suited for the “See” and “Think” stages.
Newsletters are one of the most profitable pillars of content marketing. Emails have been known to provide an overall higher conversion rate when compared to other content channels.
They can often provide functional purposes along every level of the consumer journey. You can use them to share product updates or nurture your leads. How ever you use them, ensure that you are helpful.
3. Product marketing kits
What series of content will help your consumer live better, do their jobs better or increase their preferred variable of customer success?
Combine them into one big digital folder (or ebook) and share with your audience. These kits are more instructional than sales-y. They have high production value and the purpose is to let the customers see you as helpful and knowledgeable. They educate your customer and showcase your products.
For our example company, a product marketing kit could be “Lactation cookies for all season.” The kit can cover ideas on the right lactation cookie for you, how to take care of possible cookie allergies, non-competitive alternatives to lactation cookies, how to store lactation cookies and so on and so on.
Product marketing kits are perfect for the “Think”, “Do” and “Care” stages.
4. Cheat/tip sheets
Cheat/tip sheets detail a process that will help your prospective or existing customers tackle a certain task. These are ideal across all levels of the consumer journey but are suited for the “See” stage.
For our lactation cookie brand, it could publish a tip sheet on “50 survival tips for the first three months of pregnancy”.
5. Strategic social updates
Social updates are perfect in keeping your brand top of mind among your prospective and existing customers. Also, they fit in any stage of the consumer journey.
When posting on social media, consider when your audience will be online. You have to work with your engagement analytics to suss out the best time to post. As a first step, Hubspot has a general guide on when to post on different social platforms.
In addition to posting at the right time, space out your message so you don’t overwhelm your followers. A comfortable starting point is usually 4 to 6 times a week (not including your help center posts).
There are infinitely more types of content expressions that you can explore. To develop loyalty, you need to continually investigate what works for your customer. Ideas we have explored are accessible starting points.
Customer loyalty is no longer about loyalty cards, air miles or even price, it’s about relationship, shared values, and strategic engagement.
This article was written by Gbenga Onalaja. Gbenga is a Content Strategist at Wild Fusion, Africa’s leading Digital Marketing Agency. He specializes in long-form content, email marketing, SEO, and writing compelling brand stories.