In the traditional marketing model, information went one way: from brands to consumers.  These days, the new consumers don’t only look to brands for information; they have access to online reviews, social media, forums, and the mobile web.  If they want to know something about your product quality, your pricing, and even your competitors, they can find out on a search engine with just a few clicks of the mouse.
These well-informed consumers have clear expectations, and they demand more in terms of brands living up to those expectations.  Adding value through marketing is not just an option anymore – it’s a necessity.  While this may seem like today’s consumers are forcing brands to jump through hoops for them, it’s actually a great opportunity for brands, as well. Never before have companies had this level of instantaneous feedback, this two-way discussion that can lead to better marketing and, in turn, greater customer retention and loyalty.
There has been a tremendous shift away from the model of interruptive marketing. Nearly 90% of people skip over TV commercials; nearly 85% in the 25 to 34 age group leave web sites that have ads.  Consumers will no longer tolerate being bombarded with irrelevant content – they will decide for themselves when they want to address a certain issue, and they will seek out the relevant channels to do so.
This inbound marketing, where customers come to brands via online referrals, reviews, and web research, means that pushing solutions at them is not adding any value.  Whereas in the past, brands may have relied on expensive advertising campaigns, there now has to be a turn toward a less costly but more labor-intensive community approach.  the focus is on earning loyalty, adding value, and building social connections.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the key to winning consumers over: quality content.  When customers are coming to you, you’d better have something that will make a positive impact when they arrive.  While it isn’t always easy to create a strategy for inbound marketing content, there are some general principles that can help:
  • Relevance – Content needs to be both relevant to your audience, and relevant to your brand.  It also needs to align with your main business objectives.
  • Evidence – Consumers are suspicious of any claims they think are biased.  Using evidence from independent industry authorities, testimonials, and research can counter this concern.
  • Brand Alignment – All content needs to be carefully aligned with your brand identity. This also gives you an opportunity to check that your brand identity is properly documented.
  • Channel Optimization – Your content needs to be tailored for various specific channels.  For example, the content you create to be effective on Facebook will not be the same as content that will be effective on LinkedIn or your blog.  Your strategy has to be specific across each channel.
  • Metrics – Success cannot be assessed without measurement, and adaptations to strategy must be based on the findings of those measurements.
Consumers have changed how they approach brands, so brands in turn are now having to rethink how they interact with their customers.  How you respond to this shift will largely determine how well your brand can survive this sea of well-informed, high-expectation consumers who will no longer accept traditional methods of outbound marketing.
Katleen Richardson of is an experienced leader who builds integrated strategies combining research, data analysis and creative thinking. She has delivered successful solutions for the publishing, financial and telecommunications industries, as well as for conference and training companies, and professional associations. Her approach is to design customer focused, cost-effective solutions based on cross functional collaboration and results-based metrics.