Many traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, such as grocery stores, gas stations, department stores, food chains, and pharmacies, use customer loyalty card programs to build their customer base. Customer loyalty cards offer incentives for customers to devote more of their shopping dollars to a business by providing points for each purchase. The reward points earned provide special discounts, exclusive coupons, and free merchandise at certain point levels. But how do you build customer loyalty when your business is online only?
Businesses using customer loyalty cards not only gain increased loyalty (perhaps a misnomer since true loyalty doesn’t require external incentives) but also allow businesses to gather information about their customers that allows for a more customized approach to individual customers. You can also use customized company merchandise to build loyalty and allow customers to act as advertisements for your brand. While this type of marketing strategy works well for many Main Street companies offering products and services in a physical store, it requires serious adaptation when applied to pure-play e-commerce brands.
Just as traditional Main Street businesses benefit from customer loyalty, e-commerce brands need to build customer loyalty, passion, and commitment to their brands. However, since most of the e-commerce brands can’t enjoy the advantages offered by customer loyalty card programs, they need to find other ways to effectively build customer loyalty. And this is where content marketing comes in.
What is content marketing?
According to Wikipedia, content marketing is a type of marketing strategy focused on creating, distributing, and publishing relevant, consistent, and valuable content (e.g. blogs, social media posts, infographics, and videos) online for a targeted audience. Online businesses and organizations use content marketing to establish credibility, improve brand awareness, expand their customer base, attract the attention of their target audience, generate leads, keep their target audience engaged, drive profitable customer action, and eventually increase or generate sales.
“Valuable” is the umbrella keyword to remember when it comes to content marketing. Content marketing primarily aims to provide the target audience with valuable content that’s entertaining, informative, or helpful. By creating and sharing valuable content that your target audience needs, you improve and sustain customer loyalty, while the engagement created when users share, comment, or like your content helps reach new members of your target audience, a process called amplification.
But how exactly does your firm improve customer loyalty through content marketing? To answer this important question, we suggest a few tactics effective in transforming content marketing into an effective vehicle that drives towards building customer loyalty.
Think about your target audience
You only build a harmonious relationship with your friends and family if you know and understand them well. The same goes for businesses and their target market. If you want to build a strong relationship with your customers, you must also know them well. You need to learn what makes them click and about their needs, wants, and desires. Understanding their behavior and their needs allows you to understand what creates value and then focus your content on providing information they value. This way, you capture their attention and eventually encourage them to act.
Start building your understanding of a target audience by creating an audience persona, then build additional personas for different segments within your target audience. These audience personas greatly assist in defining and understanding your audiences’ definition of content value so you can create interesting, valuable, and focused content.
Building a persona requires the collection and analysis of information specific to your market and then defining segments within that market that are likely buyers based on the characteristics of your brands and your company as a whole.
Among the information necessary to build personas are:
Demographic and geographic characteristics, such as:
- Geographic location
- Marital status
- Profession or employment
- Psychological tendencies
- Likes and dislikes
Be very specific in defining your audience persona. An example of a blank template for a business persona is depicted below.
Each persona developed varies based on characteristics critical for determining their wants, needs, and definition of value from your products. Align your content marketing objective with the information you gathered about each persona and focus on your customer-centric vision specific to that persona.
Most businesses use content marketing. In fact, as of 2018, 86% of businesses selling to consumers feel content marketing is a key strategy to build their success, while 91% of business marketers use content marketing to reach buyers. Your competitors use content marketing, including using it as a tool to build customer loyalty. Finding your unique strategy among these competitors is key to your success.
Being authentic and honest in your content is essential for success. As the old saying goes, authenticity attracts loyalty. A smart audience can easily identify authentic and valuable content from poor, subpar, and unauthentic copy.
To effectively break through the crowd, create a voice or tone that is distinct to your brand. For instance, you may choose a more formal or authoritative voice (as we do here to highlight our expertise), a funny or entertaining stance (for many consumer brands), or a creative tone (for businesses in that industry). Once you decide on the proper tone to reach your target audience, stick to it, and let it identify your brand. This way, you stand out.
Demonstrate and transmit your brand’s core values
If your goal is to improve brand awareness and use content marketing to build customer loyalty, you must create a unique and solid identity. This unique identity sets you apart in the crowded marketplace.
To start, you need to identify and understand your brand’s core values. Think about aligning these core values to meet the needs and preferences of your target audience and use them to create your unique identity. Then, ensure your content mirrors your company values and clearly articulates them to your target audience.
Be consistent and persistent
Building an audience is a long, slow, and challenging process. Never expect to attain your goals within just a few days or weeks of publishing content. Remember, the online world is already crowded with content similar to yours. Not to mention the giant names out there with years of content contributing to their authority over the years.
The key to achieving success with your content marketing is consistency and persistence. Create and publish valuable content regularly to achieve growth in the number of visitors, views, fans, and followers. Customers and audiences tend to trust brands that produce content regularly more than those that only publish content once in a blue moon. Use a content calendar to ensure you always have some content to share.
Stay in touch with your audience
If you want to utilize content marketing as an effective tool for building customer loyalty, don’t just stop at creating and publishing relevant, interesting, and useful content that your audience enjoys and values. To continue engaging your target audience, you need to engage with them as well.
Monitor your content so you respond to their questions, thank them for favorable content such as reviews, and recognize your audience for sharing their views. Whether it is a complaint, suggestion, or positive review, treat each of them equally. Use the negative reviews, complaints, and suggestions to fuel your passion for improvement, rather than arguing with these negative posts. Your responses let your audience know they are valued and that you appreciate their willingness to engage with you. Plus, engagement has a positive impact on the perceptions of your customer service and helps build loyalty and trust.
It is important to be tactful, authentic, personal, and honest especially when providing bold statements. Also, never forget to say the magic words thank you and please. Always express your gratitude whenever your audience leaves a review or feedback and say please when you need them to do certain actions. This simple trick goes a long way toward success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ankit Patel is a Marketing/Project Manager at XongoLab Technologies LLP, which offers top-notch mobile app development services globally. As a hobby, he loves to write about new & upcoming technology, business, and marketing. His write-ups have been published on popular platforms like TechTarget, SmallBizDaily, JaxEnter, Social-Hire, TorqueMag, and more.
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