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The real value of engaging your audience in content marketing

Consumers crave authenticity. This has been the case to some extent for as long as there has been marketing. (Think of your cool friends who knew all the big bands before they were big – and who immediately hated them as soon as they made it big.)

But now, fewer of us take our cues from the more traditional media and advertising outlets. In other words, fewer of us are listening to the big “mainstream” radio stations, and more are listening to the equivalent of the “alternative” radio stations of old.

We still trust our cool friends to guide us on music because we knew their passion was real and their recommendations were based on that passion. Nobody was getting paid to tell us how great the music was.

Today, that idea has spread to just about every market, B2B as well as B2C. We don’t trust advertising; we trust each other. So Samsung can advertise all it wants, but my brother-in-law paid more attention to the recommendation I gave him for a Chromebook than to any advertising he saw.

Which is why engaging your audience is critical to you marketing success. It’s not just a matter of engaging prospects so they become customers. It’s about engaging customers so they become fans and promoters – and help you win more customers.

You want these enthusiastic fans because of the emphasis today that is placed on authenticity, as slippery a concept as that is to define. There’s always been more value in earned media than paid advertising, but today the difference in value between the two is wider than ever.

If you can engage your audience, you have a much greater opportunity to build your brand organically. That organic growth means you can build a brand around client stories rather than Super Bowl ads, and still be effective. It’s not about reaching everyone. It’s about resonating with those you reach.

To be most effective, you have to think beyond marketing. Organically engaging means engaging meaningfully at every opportunity: from the beginning of the buying cycle, through the purchase, and on to post-sale support. (And beyond that even, to delighting your clients long after they’ve become clients.)

Tools like social media and email marketing make this easier than it’s ever been, assuming you stick to informing and entertaining rather than selling and marketing. Think of Zappos, who create legions of brand ambassadors by providing incredible customer service. (And Nordstrom’s a generation before them: proving you don’t have to be an internet company to make this work.)

Most importantly, remember that engaged users singing your praises provides one more point of evidence for you to show your prospects who you are, rather than telling them and hoping they’ll believe you.

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on Biznology.com, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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