In Part 1 of this multipart series, I discussed some key challenges retailers face when trying to align marketing channels and maximize marketing budget and ROI. As a retailer, you want to break the belief that you must be everywhere online just because the perception is that the consumer is everywhere. Instead, put your efforts into developing a buyer-centric, multichannel marketing strategy that will gain the attention of your target audience and drive earned traffic to your site. This is done through inbound marketing and content marketing.
To be successful, you must adopt a buyer-centric philosophy. By satisfying buyer needs, you satisfy business needs. This is quite the opposite of traditional business practices that prioritize business needs and force perceived customer value onto the consumer. Think: listing product features, describing what the product does, showing happy people using the product.
Any program you have in place that emphasizes buyer needs will become important to your new content marketing efforts. SEO, for example, ultimately is about understanding the intent behind a search query and creating content and optimizing for that query. It’s the opposite of advertising. It’s using content to engage and tap into the pool of new users above the marketing and sales funnel. Done correctly, this generates sustained traffic growth long term. It also provides the fuel needed to develop programs to move buyers through the sales process.
To begin, let’s consider two opposite approaches:
Think of your biggest, most pressing goal. Starting with your biggest pain point forces you to break the status quo. This can lead to revolutionary ideas that springboard content marketing success.
Choose your biggest area of strength. Perhaps it’s a line of products, or a particular product you excel at producing and selling. Starting with what you’re already good at and expanding from there can help you prove business value and better prioritize what’s most important to the business.
Adopt a blueprint to develop a content marketing strategy
To build a blueprint, let’s consider a very popular product: women’s leggings. Let’s assume you’ve manufactured this product. The following model begins with your primary pain point: building top funnel awareness for your new product. The product has been in the market for six months and you’ve accomplished the typical ecommerce go-to-market action items, following something along the lines of the four P’s (product, pricing, place, and promotion), as outlined by marketing expert E. Jerome McCarthy.
You’ve identified your target audience and perhaps even engaged some current happy customers and have insight into other things they would consider buying from you.
You’ve created your product and determined your production model.
You’ve priced it accordingly to be competitive.
You’ve developed the new section on your site and you’ve got some on-site promotions going to draw attention to the new products.
You’re actively placing the product everywhere you can online and offline, engaging all your marketing efforts and budget.
Perhaps this strategy is working to an extent, but you’re not seeing the influx of traffic you expected and you find yourself spending more on advertising to drive demand. This is hard to sustain.
Gather consumer insights and learn to think like the consumer
Consider a different go-to-market approach that essentially is a content marketing strategy. Take your product and ask yourself why any consumer would purchase it. Don’t list what your product does and all its features. List what it solves. Assumptions along with any insights gathered are good at this point. Do you believe in these reasons why someone would purchase this product? Take these reasons and create a narrative — a story. This will become your hypothesis.
Next, take your hypothesis and your product and go to consumers. Yes, physically go to your target consumers and test your hypothesis on them. Better yet, create a focus group of users. It’s very important to do this in person. You will learn with all your senses how your target audience reacts to your product. Take detailed notes.
Now, test your hypothesis. Does your narrative align with what you’re discovering about your target audience? What do they like? What do they dislike? What are their facial expressions telling you? Perhaps some users like your leggings for some reasons, while others prefer something else. Dig into the reasons why. Start segmenting based on feedback.
Focus on those who will use your product. Go through an exercise called the 5 Whys, which helps you learn to think like the consumer.
Question: Why do you like this product?
Answer: Because these leggings are very comfortable.
Question: Why are these leggings in particular so comfortable?
Answer: Because they feel strong but also very soft and flexible, and I think they look good.
Question: Why does that matter?
Answer: Because at the end of a long day, I want to relax in clothing that’s not restrictive.
Question: Why would you choose leggings over other comfortable clothing?
Answer: Because leggings are “in.” They’ look good with anything, and often I need to run errands after a workout and I want something I can change into quickly without looking like a slob.
Question: Why is this important?
Answer: Because I only have so much time and I need clothing that packs light, will make me feel good, look good, and help me get things done quickly so I can go home and relax with my family.
Perfect. You just got to the heart of why your target customer will purchase from you. You also just received vital feedback that can help you differentiate your leggings from the competition, and you have the fodder you need to build personas that will guide your product and content marketing efforts.
In Part 3 if this series, we’ll focus on extracting customer value and developing personas and messaging.