The Alternative Board recently released a business pulse survey which revealed how and why entrepreneurs make purchasing decisions for their business. According to the results, only 6% of business owners consider themselves “very trusting” of vendors, and 57% find vendor marketing materials too sales-y.
In the 21st century, consumers are smarter than ever. They know when they’re being marketed to and how to navigate around advertisements. They fast-forward through commercials on their DVRs, and they click out of pop up ads without thinking twice. Now, we can safely say that traditional marketing tactics are becoming obsolete — if they aren’t already so.
So how do small businesses foster the attention of audiences that refuse to be marketed to? Here are three tips for engaging customers without having to advertise to them.
1. Create Brand Loyalty
The Alternative Board’s January 2015 survey showed that nearly a third of business owners wish they spent more time on brand development in the beginning stages of their business, over advertising (20%) and product development (14%).
According to Scott Goodson, founder of the NYC-based branding agency StrawberryFrog, “The best brands have remarkable creativity in advertising to help them break through people’s wall of indifference to create brand heat and product lust.”
In his article for Forbes on Why Brand Building Is Important, he proves that brands do have quantitative value – which is often more valuable than the products or services the company provides. “When Kraft bought Cadbury for $19.5 Billion what did they buy? The chocolate? The factories? The recipes? The candy makers? No they bought the brands.”
The best way to build your brand is via social media. Social media allows you to engage directly with your audience and let them know what your company is all about. This means more than advertising your service, but sharing the things that are important to you, so they become important to them. As with all things in business, every post should reflect on your business’s overarching mission.
2. Engage Your People.
The Alternative Board’s April 2015 business pulse survey defined socially-driven businesses as those that agree with the statement, “My company is built around positively contributing to society.” The study also found that companies that identified themselves as socially-driven were not only more optimistic than their counterparts but more likely to outperform the competition.
Socially-driven companies put their people first, including their employees and their surrounding community. In turn, their people become ambassadors for them. A Gallup study showed that companies with high employee engagement represent 3.9x more earning per share than their competitors. According to Forbes Contributor Ekaterina Walter, “By turning employees into trusted brand ambassadors, companies bring their strongest asset and their most vocal internal advocates in direct contact with their customer base.”
3. Create Educational Content
With more than half of customers agreeing that marketing materials are too sales-y, it’s up to you to create outreach materials that provide value instead. Many business owners fear that if they create content that’s too educational,
the customer will no longer need their product or service. This is very rarely the case.
Providing educational content that actually helps readers solve their problems establishes your company as an authority. This creates trust between your business and the customer – an invaluable sales tool.
“The consumer can be truly empowered by brands that are conscious of using education to enable a better quality of consumer engagement.” says James Lewis, Business Development Head at Kagiso Media. “Over time this increased and more fulfilled engagement should lead to more open and trusted relationships.
As a business owner, you must be prepared to adapt. Consumers are losing patience for traditional advertising, and it’s up to you to identify and reach their changing needs. If you’ve been having trouble evolving your marketing system – whether that means embracing social media or fostering employee advocacy – The Alternative Board can help.
Our peer advisory model puts you in a room with other business owners who will share what has worked for them and provide feedback on how to improve your marketing processes. Being a member of TAB provides you with access to a number of resources, such as white papers and webinars, that provide thorough information on how to update your marketing, as well as other business processes. Contact a local board to learn more.