When Felix Baumgartner jumped toward the Earth’s surface from the edge of space, there were few people that didn’t know about it. Social media was ablaze, news outlets had the footage on repeat, and Red Bull’s YouTube page gained another 32 million views.
After Baumgartner returned safely from the stratosphere, the indelible impression that the energy drink literally “gives you wings” remained. It was content, plain and simple -- a YouTube video with 37,000 comments that is now inextricably linked with Red Bull’s brand.
Even considering the astronomical costs of ferrying a daredevil superstar into space, Red Bull’s stunt was an investment in its future. By eschewing conventional-marketing wisdom and building a viral boon through an established, affordable channel, the company with the slim, silver cans demonstrated thoroughly that the marketing rulebook has changed.
The old methods don’t work anymore. Awareness and presence are no longer enough for modern brands. Customers want engagement, and traditional-marketing mediums simply don't foster these results. The mere fact that marketers are debating whether you are actually more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad is as telling as any statistic out there.
Even with a conclusive answer, the point is virtually moot: as of last year, 22.7 percent of Internet users were blocking ads, and that number is growing at 43 percent per year.
Consumers are turning away from media models that no longer fit their needs and they’re taking marketers with them. On the surface, this exodus means less eyes on advertising, and less potential conversions overall.
But the picture isn’t quite that simple. What these numbers represent on a much deeper level is that consumers want their digital experience to be relevant. With social media, YouTube and Netflix serving up exactly what the user wants, it’s no wonder that personalization is no longer a luxury, but an expectation. Businesses that fail to understand this change are charged with the unenviable task of shoehorning old media into a market that demands change and adaptation.
The modern customer requires an investment. So how do you reach this new, agile, discerning consumer? The short answer is “on their terms.”
Consumers today are plugged into multiple channels and served with personalized content at every turn. Netflix automates your movie recommendations, Amazon suggests products based on your viewing history, and Facebook delivers personalized news feeds that correspond to your tastes, preferences and behavior.
This expectation of personalization has become ubiquitous and no business can afford to ignore this trend. The problem is, most businesses don’t have the kind of engineers and data volumes needed to implement such powerful, automated resources.
For small and medium businesses, long-haul marketing strategies, including content marketing and social media, develop an understanding of the target audience that permits this level of personalization.
Blogging is, at its core, a conversation between blogger and audience, enabling discussion between the two and subsequent iteration of ideas and formats. YouTube allows businesses to put a face on their enterprise and connect with users in a way that makes them feel that their voices are heard.
In each instance, these marketing channels take time to develop, but the payout is worth the investment. A well-curated YouTube channel, blog or Facebook page turns into a hub of conversation, ideas and positive brand association, but none of it occurs without methodically, organically building a following.
Return on investment matters. Motivated and engaged customers are high-conversion customers. While conventional-marketing methods may foster awareness of a product or brand, these impressions do little to allay the fears of consumers. This is what makes content marketing tick: businesses seize the opportunity to engage their customers and become that genuine authority that buyers need to answer their questions, thus facilitating conversion.
The numbers speak for themselves. From an ROI standpoint, content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads. Furthermore, these numbers aren’t limited to a single case: 82 percent of marketers who blog reported positive ROI on their efforts. Once these nurtured leads are in the conversion funnel, they spend 47 percent more than non-nurtured leads, according to The Annuitas Group.
Marketing titan Seth Godin was once quoted as saying, “Content marketing is the only marketing left.”
When you consider the cold-hard numbers, it’s possible that he was on to something.
The new methods take time. Just as the name implies, anything “organic” takes time to grow. Content marketing, social-media marketing and other forms of engaging media will likely reach only the smallest of audiences while new businesses are laying their groundwork. However, over time, the seeds they sow turn into repeat purchases, brand recognition and a solid marketing foothold.
Blogs take six to 12 months to develop. YouTube audiences require diligent and painstaking production and engagement. Yet both cater to massive audiences that can and will use the same platforms for brand evangelism. Even Red Bull’s now-prolific channel had to start somewhere.
Modern consumers are changing how they make their purchases, and businesses must adapt with them. Scattered attention spans between platforms and mediums mean that conventional-marketing methods designed only to raise awareness fail to meet the needs of discerning buyers.
Savvy businesses take note: customer relationships are the new currency, and no one strikes gold without rolling up their sleeves.
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