Using Content to Deepen Your Connection
How new models for marketing emphasize value over transaction
By Peter Decoteau
If you haven’t noticed by now, we marketers tend to talk a lot about “leads,” “lead-nurturing,” and “conversions.”
These are just jargon terms for potential customers and the things you do to turn them into actual customers. The terms are useful in that they are often measurable, tied to KPIs that drive strategy and budget allocation, but they are also inherently impersonal (as terms tied to KPIs tend to be).
A desired “conversion-event” may be as simple as a transaction of currency for a product, or it may require the follow-through of providing quality service, be it a haircut, landscaping, or physical therapy. Still, traditional approaches to marketing begin with amplifying sales messages to target audiences and end with transactions. In other words, I convince you that you need this, you pay me for it, and if you like it, come back when you need it again. Transactional relationships are, again, fairly impersonal.
New models of marketing for the digital age have upended those traditional concepts in ways that add depth to the relationship between the business and the customer. In previous articles, we’ve covered the importance of building a brand identity that people can connect with and understand, as well as the benefits of providing value outside of the transaction for both current and potential customers. When done well, these approaches personalize the customer experience, creating loyalty and trust and building a community of advocates instead of just a series of transactions. As we look ahead in 2022 and beyond, it’s clear that marketing will continue to trend towards the personal, focusing on value, connection and community. Whether it’s reasonable to expect your favorite brand of milk to build a sense of community is one thing, but as members of a service industry that has struggled mightily to educate and inform the general public on the basic benefits of our services, there is still so much opportunity, especially on established and rising social media platforms.
GET INTO FIGHTING SHAPE
Gary Vaynerchuk’s essential marketing book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, came out in 2013, but it remains as relevant as ever today. In it, he argues that the most effective approach to modern marketing is to provide value to your audience by consistently sharing good content before making any sort of sales ask. The title refers to the core tactic—give, give, give, ask—which breaks down to 75% giving, 25% asking. Within this simple approach he emphasizes time and again the need for providing exceptional value through high quality content that is easy to consume.1
So, while the concept itself is simple, the execution of it requires a few vital considerations: the platform (where is your audience?); the message (what about your brand/service are you trying to convey?); the story (how can you convey your message in a way that is emotionally compelling for your audience?); the medium (what is the best way to tell this story?). When you put this all together, you should ultimately be telling a compelling, easy-to-understand story that represents your key messaging to a targeted audience in at least 75% of your marketing—especially on social media, where costs are low and frequency is high.
SO…WHAT MAKES CONTENT GOOD?
The concept of making and sharing high quality content is not new to most business owners. The problem comes when trying to define what “high quality” means and, of course, the issue of actually having the skills and resources to create it. Fortunately, the term does not necessarily have to refer to polished, “professional-grade” material like high-end videos and graphic design. The most important considerations should be focused on what your audience themselves would find the most value in, and what your ultimate goals are.
One of the most popular models for effective content marketing is the Content Marketing Matrix, a structured system originally created by Smart Insights to help marketers better define and drive their content. The model breaks content into four quadrants that are most valuable to both you and your audience: entertaining, inspirational, educational, and convincing.2 I recommend exploring this tool as a way to add structure and strategy to your content planning, but on a basic level, the system provides useful guidance on the types of content you should seek to create, with or without the benefit of “high-level” design and production skills.
By concentrating on the first three quadrants—what your audience will find entertaining, educational and/or inspirational—you can begin to produce material that they will want to engage with and will resonate once the interaction is over. If you can do all three of these things at the same time, even better! Luckily, with today’s technology, you don’t need a professional camera or design software to make something entertaining, educational, or inspirational, just some good ideas and a little ingenuity to make users stop scrolling and pay attention.
CONSISTENCY CREATES CONNECTION
Frequency and consistency are essential elements of an effective content strategy. You can create great, engaging content that resonates with the perfect audience, but if you’re only doing it every once in a while, you’ll lose momentum. This isn’t to say that everything you share needs to be a high-performing marketing masterwork; easy posts like testimonial templates and clinic photos can be inspirational for your audience while reinforcing what makes you great, just as interesting news articles and simple infographics can educate people about the benefits of physical therapy.
The goal is to keep your current audience engaged while using high-quality content—things like free information packets, patient stories, webinars and videos with experts—to deepen that engagement and build an even bigger audience (generate more leads). If done right, when individuals within that group need your services, you will have created a strong enough connection based on earned trust and loyalty that you will be the first provider they think of.
1Vaynerchuk G. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World. New York, NY: HarperBusiness; 2013
2Bullock L, Llewellyn G. The Content Marketing Matrix [free marketing strategy graphic]. Smart Insights. https://www.smartinsights.com/content-management/content-marketing-strategy/the-content-marketing-matrix-new-infographic/. Published April 12, 2021.
Peter Decoteau is the Director of Marketing at Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers (PTSMC), Connecticut’s largest private practice physical therapy company. He can be reached at email@example.com.