The impression a prospect gets of your brand usually doesn't come by virtue of a single transformational encounter.
It's through a series of incremental experiences: the Web banner or magazine/e-zine profile, the landing page or white paper download, the trade show or touring event, all of them happening a long time before any tangible hands-on with your product.
More than ever, general consumers are turning to what B2B buyers and specifiers have looked for all along: authenticity.
While what constitutes "authentic" can vary, product-to-product, user-to-user, but the dictionary take works pretty well:
1. not false or copied; genuine; real; an authentic antique
2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified: an authentic document of the Middle Ages; an authentic work of the old master.
3. entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy: an authentic report on poverty in Africa.
It's about delivery, not definition
Millennials have made authenticity their buying mantra (though how they define "authentic" might prove to be plastic as time goes on and their life stages and perceptions change).
To more and more consumers, if a brand is "authentic," it stands for transparency and responsiveness, substituting customer relevance and education for the hard sell.Note I didn't say "project an authentic image."
Projecting implies a fascia, a front. And if the branding and content you've set loose in the marketplace don't give an accurate and honest representation of your product's virtues and value, a brand your employees, stakeholders, sales force more can get behind with enthusiasm and sincerity, then you've got problems no amount of marketing will overcome -- and will, over time, cost you far, far more than you'd spend if the brand experiences you create are real and resonant from the start.
So assuming your product is bona fide legit in every shiny aspect, and worthy of some consumer love, it's important to make sure that every instance of brand-to-target contact embodies that authenticity. Here are a few tips to follow in making sure that happens:
› Align (or re-align) brand to product
Every so often, make sure you're comparing your actual offering to the brand you've projected on its behalf. Features change, customer or consumer focus migrates -- it's important to make sure the brand you've had out there for any length of time still has relevancy in the minds of your audience.
› Don't sell -- communicate!
Everybody expects, especially in the B2B digital marketing universe, to be pressed or cajoled into providing our contact info, subscribing to an e-letter list, being weighed as a prospect. We as purchasers are happily complicit in that give-and-take, providing the exchange is convenient, educational and profitable -- for us. That means the ramp-up needs to be less hard sell and more hard content.
› Don't just communicate -- provide value!
There's a big difference -- and a significant advantage -- between simply communicating your product's merits, or other information, even the kind of edifying information you're sure constitutes "value," and what your prospects see as real, actual, thrillingly-worthwhile "VALUE." The more true insight, unique information and durable wisdom you can supply, the stickier -- and more effective at leads capture and conversion -- your marketing will be.
There's a reason that the biggest players in IT, or healthcare, or business services, etc., practically inundate their niches with white papers and erudition that barely self-promote the companies that originate the material. It's to prove leadership -- and to avoid the taint of hucksterism.
› Make value bedrock, not a bolt-on
Don't simply think of the value you provide as being a sidebar or overlay to marketing -- make it central to your content wherever you're in front of your audience.It's part of a service mentality that should inform all your efforts.
› Give inspiration, not spam
After reviewing the eleventh or umpteenth offer of "tips" or "lists" in my inbox or search results, the repetitiousness and banality of much of that content leaves me glassy-eyed -- what about you? Whereas an original, intelligent or unusual piece of content provides an oasis in the desert of obviousness.
› Integrate every increment
To project an honest, authentic brand image, you can't falter on any link in the chain. Be consistent, be insightful, be worthy of your prospect's attention at every juncture...and it'll pay off.