“If you build it, they will come.”
Time and time again, marketers have rejected this statement as brand-building’s biggest fallacy.
Growth doesn’t just happen. It’s carefully planned. It’s highly strategic. And most importantly, it’s tough.
Marketing requires a nimble combination of left-brained and right-brained skillsets -- a delicate balance of quantitative and creative chops. But no one brain can be a conversion optimizer, designer, and content expert at once. We rely on the talents and skill sets of others. We follow the paths of marketers who have tackled the same customer acquisition challenges before us.
In following (or avoiding) the experiences of others, however, we risk overlooking opportunities that are unique to our brands and companies. Not to mention, the competition in already-flooded marketing environments is fierce. If we flock where other marketers are running, we’ll overlook the assets -- and untapped opportunities -- that give our brands their unique competitive advantage.
Why follow the beaten path when you can design your own treasure map? Here are three critical marketing distribution channels that you can tap into today:
1) Your Existing Customers
The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs estimate that 58% of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget over the next 12 months, which is up from 54% from the previous year.
The question is -- who are these marketers aiming to reach with this content?
It’s common for marketers to prioritize content as a top-of-the-funnel marketing activity to build reach and awareness for a company’s unique thought leadership and products. But what about your existing customers?
Many organizations rely on strategic upselling as a high-value revenue stream. This process leans heavily on consistent relationship-building and continued engagement. Enter content marketing -- a tool for building relationships with an organization’s stakeholders and prospective customers.
Content marketing should be executed in tandem with your company’s account managers and client service representatives. Ask your customer-facing team -- what questions are existing customers asking? And which of these questions are most directly relevant to the upselling process?
Then, bridge the gap with content.
2) Your In-Person Interactions
Women 2.0 co-founder Angie Chang explains this concept elegantly:
“When you first have an idea, TELL EVERYONE. This will help vet your [startup] idea.”
Marketers tend to differentiate communication in the online and offline realms. The fact is that these two worlds aren’t distinctly separate -- they meld together. Your customer’s online identity is an extension of who she is offline.
Conversation is the heart of inbound marketing -- and conversations happen in our everyday interactions, at in-person events, and at conferences.
When you meet prospective customers, tell them about your blog. Reference specific posts that you’ve written. Offer to follow up with a link to the resource that you’ve put together.
Word of mouth is a powerful marketing force. As Wharton MBA professor Jonah Berger puts it, “There’s a science behind it.”
His research explains that organizations ‘live and die’ by word of mouth. In one recent study, Berger analyzed word of mouth data across 10,000 products and brands, ranging from Coca-Cola and Walmart to tiny startups. He and his team analyzed the virality of almost 7,000 pieces of online content -- everything from politics and international news to funny pieces, sports, and style. Berger’s goal was to determine what people feel compelled to share.
What he found were six common characteristics of brands that spark conversations:
Triggers: If someone is top-of-mind, people are more likely to talk about it. The more we think about it, the more we talk about it.
Emotion: If we care about a topic enough to be angry, sad, inspired, or ecstatically happy, we’ll share it.
Social Currency: We’re inclined to follow the crowd and share popular ideas.
Observability: Products that are highly visible sell themselves.
Practical Value: We share based on a natural urge to bring value to others.
Stories: We talk about narratives that inspire us.
Word-of-mouth is media agnostic -- and social media is an extension of natural conversations that we’re having every day. Talk about your marketing campaigns -- especially your content -- with new friends and business connections in real life. It’s a quick, efficient, and natural way to prolong the lifespan of a one-time conversation.
3) Your Product
The concept sounds simple enough -- build your marketing into your product. But what exactly does this mean?
In a nutshell, I’m saying that marketing is the polar opposite of a standalone activity. It should be wholly integrated with your product roadmap. Even the most subtle addition of a social media share button can amplify user engagement, distribution, and new user acquisition.
I learned this lesson from Prerna Gupta, co-founder of Kush, a mobile development firm that built intelligent music apps. She explains:
“Marketing is often treated as a bad word in Silicon Valley. To many, it connotes bloated budgets and the use of psychological trickery to make up for the fact that your product sucks. If a product is good, we are told, it should simply sell itself.”
What Gupta points out is that some of the best products are created by marketing geniuses -- and that’s precisely how she inspired millions of users to download her company’s apps.
She explains three steps to integrating marketing with your product:
Step 1: Sell it before you build it. Ask prospective customers what they want. Build your product to address their most pressing needs, and you’ll have an instant customer base.
Step 2: Develop a laser sharp focus of what you want your product to be. Nail it.
Step 3: Make your product social. When a product requires collaboration between customers, sharing will come naturally. Remember that digital media bridges us together. Social can be a part of your product.
This list could go on forever, but for the sake of word count, I’ll stop writing. The bottom line is that your company will have natural growth levers. The distribution channels you’re missing are the areas in which opportunities are already strong. Why follow beaten (and competitive) marketing paths when you can forge one that is truly unique to your company? The most tough-to-see marketing opportunities are often what’s right in front of you.