The Futurist: Content, personal brands and ‘marketer activists’

Are you concerned that your marketing doesn’t accelerate sales? Do you worry that your marketing team struggles to make a tangible impact on your business? As you go into 2016 and beyond, you must transform your marketing into a high-octane conversation engine. The future of marketing isn’t about brand awareness.

It must power conversations that generate demand. So how do you create a high-octane conversation engine? Here are the three gears that power that engine:

  1. Content

Brand recognition is no longer enough. Your communities expect your brands to create meaning. So what type of content must you create? According to the book, The Challenger Sale, successful companies challenge their clients with commercial insights that help them to make money or save money. Don’t overwhelm your clients with the features and benefits of your solution.

You must have an investigative mindset to understand your clients’ business drivers. You must create insights that address their pain points and give them a competitive edge. You must challenge your clients to think about their businesses in radically different ways.

Marketing organisations must transform to media organisations. You must create content assets rich with insights. These are white papers, opinion pieces, blog posts, infographics, press releases. People now spend more than 2.5 hours per day on mobile devices. So you must create content that is “glance-able”. An infographic can be consumed quickly.

People like to engage with it and share it with their connections. TED Talk videos have transformed how people educate themselves. You must create more informational videos. Clients love to hear from their peers. Recruit existing clients to participate in your case studies. These content assets need to be amplified via various tools such as events, email, blog, newsletters, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Don’t underestimate PR. Use it to add a solid layer of credibility to your message. Consulting firms such as McKinsey and Aon create insights and amplify them to engage with their clients.

  1. Personal brands

Why must you create a personal brand? A key component of a personal brand is expertise that is highly visible. Research shows that visible experts consistently win more business for their firms.

Most clients go online to research suppliers before they make a purchase decision. Marketers must help their companies develop visible experts for a competitive advantage. You must inspire your subject matter experts to build their personal brands.

How do you create a personal brand? Expertise coupled with visibility results in a strong personal brand. You must amplify content using your company’s blogs and other digital tools. Get speaking slots in external events. Post photos of these events on LinkedIn. Do your subject matter experts take a stand and are known for it? In this connected world, information is freely available. Coach them to have a point of view. If you just provide data, you won’t differentiate yourself. Help them grasp and remember concepts quickly. Codify your insights and communicate in short sound bites as if journalists are quoting you.

Some examples of visible experts are in Aon Hewitt’s blog Insights@Work.

  1. Marketer activists

It’s no longer enough to influence change in behaviour. You must inspire collective action and challenge the status quo. It’s not enough to just create content. You must spark conversations. You must think like marketers, but act like journalists and publishers. How do you inspire change?

According to his book on activists titled Market Rebels, professor Hayagreeva Rao says: “The challenge for market rebels becomes how to forge a collective identity and mobilise support by articulating a ‘hot cause’ that arouse emotion and creates a community of members, and relying on ‘cool mobilisation’ that signals the identity of community members and sustains their commitment.”

Marketers must create a “hot cause” around which their audiences can rally and engender new beliefs. Marketers must also develop “cool mobilisation” techniques to gain their buy-in and trigger change in behaviour.

In the personal computing movement, the hot cause was the tyranny of the central computer. The cool sources of mobilisation were hobbyist clubs. The hot cause for marketers now is to turbocharge sales. For this to happen, you must transform the way your organisation shares content with the outside world. The cool sources of mobilisation are content advocacy tools such as GaggleAMP and Dynamic Signal.

The future of marketing is content, personal brands and marketer activists. You must drive these three gears in 2016 and beyond to transform your marketing into a high-octane conversation engine.

The writer is Maneesh Sah - head of marketing, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa,
Aon Hewitt.

This article was first published in Marketing Magazine Singapore’s Jan-Feb 2016 print edition. To read more views from senior marketers click here.