The Romance of Marketing: Use Dating Skills to Build Relationships With Customers

Article ImageFor a brand, figuring out how to leverage content as part of a marketing communications plan can be daunting. Just keeping your website fresh and relevant can be a challenge, not to mention all the social platforms you need to maintain. Then, there are also all the types of content to consider. But there are ways to determine how often, where, and what to publish. The key is to think of content marketing as being like dating; you just have to pay attention to what the other person is telling you.

They're just not that into you-Content marketing is the new relationship marketing. In our always-on, on-demand world, content in the right places at the right times can help you make that "special connection" with the right people. But be careful not to stalk.

Don't ask yourself, "What kind of relationship do I want to have with my customer?" Ask, "What kind of relationship does my customer want with me?" Your answer can make the difference between a healthy relationship with your customers and one that makes them wish they could take out a restraining order.

How often will you really have something meaningful and relevant to say? As often as you can create and publish content that moves the re-lationship forward, that's how often you should be publishing. This might mean bursts of activity four to five times a year centered around the publishing of major white papers or a steady stream of posts and tweets commenting on current events. Either way, you should follow a consis-tent publishing cadence that you can actually deliver so you both know what to expect from your relationship.

Your place or mine-No one wants a first date at someone's apartment; it's a big commitment with no escape hatch. The best brands ac-tively define a content ecosystem that includes places where committed users can deeply engage and places for those who are still feeling things out.

Consider places your audience already visits. If they index high on mobile, Flipboard might make sense as part of the ecosystem. If they skew male and tech, Google+ may make more sense than Facebook. If you talk to your dates in comfortable, familiar surroundings, they might be a little more receptive to your overtures.

Next, consider owned, paid, and earned opportunities. Make sure content on your owned properties is easy to navigate, optimized for SEO, and leads to clear next steps, which is just basic hygiene. The first time someone sees your home, if it's messy and they're tripping over dirty gym clothes, they'll probably think twice before coming back.

Done well, both owned and paid opportunities can help to drive an overall lift in earned opportunities. If you bring someone flowers and then make them a nice dinner in your well-appointed home, chances are they'll talk you up to their friends-a good sign in both the brand and the dating worlds.

Read the signals-Many brands think they've done their due diligence on the content marketing front by taking a white paper and publishing it in 12 different places. But just because your friend ordered the halibut at a great seafood place last week, doesn't mean she wouldn't be peeved if you tried to hand her a fish fillet for breakfast as she's rushing out the door. Context makes all the difference.

The same goes for the asset types you choose to publish. Long-form content is a great anchor on your site. But use key points from those assets to create smaller, bite-sized pieces such as single-stat infographics and text excerpts that will perform better on social media and mobile devices. Of course, using video assets on YouTube or Vimeo is obvious, but, interestingly, longer content and video also perform well on Google+. Work a platform for what users already think it does best.

A range of assets ensures you can engage people while letting them invest as much time and effort as they're willing to give at a particular time. They might be interested in the topic of a white paper, but they don't currently have the time to read it. A striking stat in a tweet or in-fographic can get them to download the white paper to read later; it's like a promise of better things to come.

At the end of the day, content marketing is like navigating a relationship. Your audience might not always directly tell you what they're thinking, but if you pay attention to their routine and pick up on the little hints they leave you, you'll stand a good chance of being successful.