Businesses frequently talk about how they provide value for their customers and pretense a marketing and sales technique that is “customer-first.” More often than not these intentions are derailed as executive teams engineer strategies that convince prospects to become customers and later repeat customers to grow sales.

A true customer-first approach to marketing is about engaging with prospects and building two-way conversations to address underlying needs or concerns. Customer-first marketing is about creating content that provides real value for your prospective audience, and incorporates feedback from consumers who send you messages via email or social media. This demonstrates a willingness to create the types of content that your audience tells you to produce rather than telling your audience what their concerns should be.

How do you make your content marketing strategy consumer friendly? We’ve put together a list of tips and strategies that will help you create a recipe that provides a compelling user experience, addresses the needs of your target audience, and also improves consumer engagement and satisfaction with your brand.

Focus On Communication, Not Sales

The biggest mistake that marketing teams make with content is placing too much emphasis on features of products or services in order to boost sales. This is a disingenuous approach to customer-first communication and is tantamount to the types of native advertising that are no longer effective in today’s market.

The goal with content marketing is to provide information that audiences interpret as valuable, educational, entertaining, or an amalgamation of all the above. Restrain yourself from focusing on how your product or service is the greatest thing since sliced bread and create informative content that is relevant to your respective industry. This shift in tone demonstrates leadership and instructs your audience to expect a resource of best practices, tips, guides, and industry insights.

Remember that sales is one of the final stages of the marketing process. Content marketers are more concerned with earlier stages of the process such as expanding the upper funnel and increasing brand awareness. Your relationship with audiences at the upper funnel lacks the depth and connection that emerges at the end of the marketing process.

If you are launching a new content marketing campaign make sure your work intrigues the audience. Encourage readers to share their feedback, express thoughts or opinions. Allow for a two-way dialogue and you are off to a great start.

Think About The Consumer Lifecycle

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Most marketers are familiar with the content marketing lifecycle, a five-pillar sequence that helps creative teams optimize their content for better results. By navigating your way through the content marketing lifecycle, you can increase your influence among other influential marketers and acquire a larger share of attention in your market.

However, to increase engagement with audiences, think about what influential marketer Patrick McFadden calls “the consumer lifecycle.” McFadden defines the consumer lifecycle as a path that most people follow on the road to becoming loyal customers:

  • Suspect to Prospect

  • Prospect to Customer

  • Customer to Advocate

Suspects are people who are searching for a product, service, or information related to your industry. Prospects are suspects who have seen or heard of your brand but have yet to complete a purchase. Customers are prospects who agreed to purchase your product or subscribe to your service. Finally advocates are customers who are very satisfied with your business and voluntarily choose to share your brand’s merits with networks of friends or social media followers.

McFadden says the best strategy is to create different types of content that cater to audiences at each stage of the consumer lifecycle. Someone who is seeking information about an industry may be inclined to learn more about your brand by receiving an educational and intriguing piece of content within their social stream or email. On the other hand a paying customer may share information about your brand should you establish a unique tone within new content.

Always Keep Content Educational

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The internet contains millions of informational atoms, which means people search the information that best addresses their own needs. If you create an SEO friendly content marketing strategy you can appease search engines and help people find your content as they search for related information.

Educational content, how-to guides, tips, best practices, and similar material are valuable sources of information that trend across the web and are universally recognized as consumer friendly. Searchers as individuals seeking information or as business representatives investigating potential partnerships are drawn to content with a new perspective that educates an industry.

Become this type of thought leader and expand your reputation as a consumer-first resource.

Remember Social Media

Social media is used by many people to search for information and receive daily news updates. You want your content to appear in social streams so that you can connect with audiences and organically begin the consumer lifecycle.

Identify topics that are trending in social streams by researching hashtags and monitoring influential groups or channels. Once you have a list of relevant topics:

  • Create a social media plan that includes a calendar outlining the best times to engage

  • Ensure any social content aligns with your brand identity and adds value for end users

  • Analyze what audiences say on social media so you understand what people really want

  • Always bring your focus back to the consumer and how your social channels add value to their lives