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As a young company, trying to get your brand noticed via social media can seem intimidating. Even if you know where your audience hangs out online, you may feel unsure quite when to jump in. And once you take the leap, how do you get people to care? Enter conversation marketing. This tactic cuts through the industry jargon and sterility to capture an audience’s emotions.
You become relevant to your audience by first listening to their needs, and only then presenting solutions. This means putting down the megaphone and engaging with your potential customers—speaking with them, not to them. This is called “speaking human,” and emphasizes humility rather than claiming you have all the answers.
Today’s social media audience wants to be heard, and they don’t want messages that come with a catch (so don’t expect them to just read your post and pull out a credit card). By using conversation marketing, you can create a presence that appeals to this modern audience, and eventually has them coming back to you over the long haul. Why? Because you’ve spent the time to develop a trusting relationship through human conversation, kind of like going to the local coffee shop or salon every week and getting to know the proprietors.
By taking the following three steps, you can strive toward making your startup more relevant in a molecular way through conversation marketing and building trust that ultimately can help grow your brand.
Be relevant on a molecular level
Have you ever stood in a long line at a bank and tweeted your discouragement in real time? (For example, “I’m in line at WeSave Bank and it sucks!”) Imagine getting a Tweet right back from the bank, directly to you, apologizing and explaining which times of day or branches might have shorter lines.
There’s a name for this sort of conversation marketing technique: “molecular” customer service. When you reach your audience on a molecular level, you’re coming to individuals with the right information (relevant content) at the right time. This could take place on a live, public forum like Twitter, as part of a personalized e-mail campaign sending curated content to individuals based on tastes and purchase history, or just by using smart SEO practices so your content is more easily found by those who need it.
Sometimes, being relevant is a “handshake moment,” like one you might have getting to know your barista or Uber driver. It’s what a lot of young companies do when they reach out to their audience for the first time. They’re not talking to a broad audience, just individual people, one at a time. There are all kinds of “micro conversations” going on right in your industry, and you can have an impact by offering solutions to the problems individuals are discussing in those conversations.
Don’t get me wrong: This isn’t about jumping in to get a quick sale. It’s the opposite. It’s about building a reputation and conversing in a way that addresses pain points. Don’t underestimate the branding power this has for you, even if the people you talk to have no immediate intention of becoming customers. They may not use your services now, but they might bookmark your blog or channel and come back time and time again. They might share it with others.
Open up and listen
Don’t interrupt me! How many times have you heard that? I heard it a lot growing up (Thanks, mom and dad). Knowing your audience’s pain points and what they’re talking about means doing something that might not come naturally to many entrepreneurs. To be a good conversationalist, you have to be a good listener. If you’re only focused on the sale, you’ll never figure out what the audience needs, and you won’t help them or improve your relevance.
Your audience is already engaged in multiple conversations, many of them online. You (hopefully) have the advantage of being an expert on your subject. But only by paying close attention and listening can you find out what they need from you. Remember: Your audience isn’t just a group of statistics. They’re individuals with varied thoughts, beliefs, passions and ideologies. The goal is to connect, not to just blow your own horn. Today’s audience isn’t interested in that.
A conversation always begins with listening. Zero in on what your customer thinks by using listening tools like Google’s free Keyword Planner and Google Trends, or consider going straight to something more powerful like BuzzSumo and Moz. Other great listening tools include Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Talkwalker. Once you’re there, you can find out what people are talking about and decide if there are any gaps you can address. By hanging out and listening, you can also find out who’s talking about your products and services. If there’s negative feedback, don’t feel hurt. See it as a potential opportunity to improve.
Just start talking
There’s plenty of advice I could offer about how to jump into the conversation, but let’s focus here on what not to do: Don’t be like everyone else. Be a thought leader and dig to uncover what’s not obvious to everyone already. Let your competition fight over the next, “Five Reasons to Do This Or That” blog post. Figure out the right angle—one that hasn’t been talked about before—and don’t be afraid to go there. Your audience will appreciate that you’ve homed in on something that addresses their concerns and gives them something new to ponder.
Remember, the conversation comes first, sometimes long before the sale. If you learn who your audience is, find their pain points, and converse with them in a human voice that makes them think, you’ll be well along the road toward a trusting relationship that eventually can help build a solid customer base.