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What’s the point of talking anymore?

I doubt there are very many of you out there that remember an era when Bob Hoskins was famous..indeed even know Bob Hoskins, but there was a time (not that long ago) when Bob was a famous actor and did commercials for BT. The slogan was simple, “It’s good to talk.”

That was a time (not that long ago) when households were still being encouraged to use the telephone to call one another, that it wasn’t expensive and you could even have more than one handset in the house. For those born since 1990 I appreciate it may be difficult to comprehend a time when telephones stood in the hall and you had to get up to answer them, but the “good to talk” campaign was very much of that period.

Today it feels like we are beyond saturation point in terms of the sheer volume of communications across so many mediums. Personally I’ve had enough of everyone talking, but then again I have – occasionally – been accused of belonging to that group of grumpy old men. I acknowledge it is also counterproductive for someone trying to pursue a career in communications, but I am finding it harder and harder to care about the 58m tweets a day (average), the 55m Facebook status updates and 40m average for pictures uploaded to Instagram.

More importantly, for my clients and companies who are increasingly turning to online content there is a more concerning issue. Do their customers really care with the swaths of content they are producing?

Don’t get me wrong there is absolutely merit in using digital channels to engage audiences. Indeed in the B2B space the Internet has broken down traditional barriers that previously made it hard to speak to certain purchasing decision makers. Our recent research has shown that marketers are turning to ‘content marketing’ in large numbers – either they have a strategy in place, or they are considering one imminently. Depressingly, though, there is still an absence of effective measurement and a clear correlation between content creation and pipeline generation.

Particularly in the B2B space, surely this has to be the absolute priority?

So let’s take a step back, why do it in the first place? A good digital content strategy can deliver clear benefits:

1. Using marketing automation you can identify and trace your customers through their online interaction with your brand

2. More importantly, like that nosey neighbour, you can watch how prospects engage with you - invaluable intelligence as you look to increase demand

3. You can reach more people, more quickly, reducing your cost of implementation

4. You can target niche audiences more accurately, more cost effectively than you can with traditional above and below-the-line

5. You can react rapidly to market opportunities and competitive threats

But (and it’s a BIG but) this whole digital thing does not guarantee you more chance of selling than any other marketing strategy.

On the contrary, for those marketers who are turning to online content simply as a way cope with cuts elsewhere in their budget it will be a disappointing experience.

As an integrated communications agency we have worked with a number of brands on campaigns purely around online assets, but more importantly we have worked with companies who have combined digital with traditional – and for long-term, more effective results it is the latter category that bears more fruit.

The keys to success are:

1. Integration: first and foremost that means integration between the various marketing, communications and sales functions within an organisation

2. Clear goals: not unsurprisingly each function is likely to seek different outcomes from a campaign, so unless the group can come together around a common purpose your programme will be destined to failure

3. Understand your audience: the data is there, use it. There are no excuses for not understanding what your audiences are talking about, where they are talking and who is influencing them

4. Be authentic: that means original, inspiring storytelling that is relevant to your audience and a willingness to interact with your audience

5. Be accessible: primarily I mean this in the technological sense. If the user experience is poor you’ll lose users quickly. Also, make sure your content is portable – if it is not transferable or inter-operable between platforms you’ll be left with hefty IT bills

6. Performance measurement: again the data exists to show in real-time how audiences are responding to your content and digital means you can react quickly to adjust, change, drop assets that don’t work.

7. Avoid “short termist-itis:” a common complaint and an understandable reaction to increasing pressure on marketers to support sales. However, a long term strategy is preferential. That means working to build a community, ideally of people who subscribe to your content so you have captured relevant data.

8. Be a harsh editor: you must be fanatical about deciding what content you publish – avoid the one-off humorous stunt because it might capture more ‘likes’ or ‘shares.’ If the content doesn’t align to your brand, your message you will only confuse customers.

Above all your approach has to be aligned to the different stages of the customer journey. When customers go online with a purchase in mind there is a clear journey. Your strategy must be aligned to those different stages in order to illicit the right response and ensure your brand is considered for the purchase.