As a content marketer, my main challenge is not building traffic, generating leads or driving sales but building relationships. The problem many technology marketers face is that you cannot build real, strong, healthy relationships with technology alone.
For me, it is all about the conversation. The good news is that sales are a happy by-product of these conversations and the very real relationships formed on their backs.
When I joined the email marketing firm iContact in 2011, opening its first international office in London, clients would ask what separated our brand from our competitors. I often joked that the main difference was simply down to me.
Actually, I was only half joking. I’m a strong believer in the fact that any marketing technology is only as good as the people behind it. I was supported by a dedicated team of professionals who shared my passion for the job.
iContact was acquired by Vocus, a provider of cloud-based marketing and PR software, in 2012 and the companies share very similar principles.
Powerful technology solutions enhanced by a solid layer of people power will help brands create great content. Ultimately, we believe people buy from people they like and trust. This principle runs through everything we do, from product development and marketing to sales and customer support.
A company runs deeper than its logo
Unless you are selling a popular brand of fizzy drink, it is difficult (or even impossible) to sell your product or service on brand marketing alone.
Many of the world’s greatest companies tradeon their people as well their corporate identity. For example, it would be difficult to separate Virgin, Ryanair or Apple from their founders Richard Branson, Michael O’Leary or the late Steve Jobs.
More than great business leaders, they are the true embodiment of their brands, and their reputations, including O’Leary, who is a PR genius, are supported by everyone else in their respective organisations.
However, when you are selling complex technology solutions, a single person acting as your company’s spokesperson might not be enough to successfully support the activities.
Vocus employs several high-profile ‘brand ambassadors’. These are people who act as the public face of the company. You will find them on email, social media, our in-house blogging channels, guest posting on third-party sites, speaking at business conferences around the world and contributing to articles.
Agility is key
The thing about conversations is they are difficult to plan, and you never know which direction they will head in. In this socially enabled world, where conversations are rarely left behind closed doors, and a smouldering negative comment can quickly become a wildfire, agility is the key to success.
Having the confidence in your team to contribute to any conversation is vital. In this respect, the days of multilayered management sign-off are a thing of the past. Marketing now operates in real time, and if you do not trust your team to deliver the goods independently, you will struggle to maintain any semblance of
a conversation (remember, this is a two-way thing) that helps build reputations and relationships.
But brand ambassadors need not necessarily be employees. We work with industry thought leaders such as Seth Godin, Mark Schaefer and Mark Collier to deliver groundbreaking insight.
Do we endorse everything they say? No, but we believe in the value of the conversation each and every one of our guest ambassadors creates.
A virtual army of ambassadors
When I think of social media, I always consider the phrase ‘Birds of a feather flock together’. If a brand is able to seed a conversation based on opinion or a piece of solid thought leadership, there is a very good chance that the conversation will go viral.
If a conversation is picked by an individual and shared on social media, there is a high chance that their friends and followers will also be interested in consuming or even contributing to that conversation. Social media is a truly amazing acquisition marketing channel, and unlike most other techniques, its cost is negligible.
We employ a number of different socially led strategies to engage our audience in conversations, such as email and LinkedIn groups, regular content marketing boot camps and networking events.
None of these content-led initiatives talk about our products or services, but they make it very easy for our audience to connect with our people and build relationships in which the software we offer just becomes part of the conversation.
If you want to join Vocus and the rest of our community in conversation, do get in touch.
Case study: London groove gets social
London Groove has been running hugely successful club nights in the City of London for more than 10-years. Its flagship night, Soul Saturdays, takes place every Saturday at The Anthologist, a classy bar by day transformed into London’s funkiest commercial RnB club by night.
Steve Prashad, London Grooves’ Founder, believes his organisation is very much built around social engagement.
He says: “We want to give our clients the best possible clubbing experience in London. Because of this, we pride ourselves on working with only the best, most reputable venues and managing every aspect of the night from the door staff and cloakroom through to the DJs and other staff who are there to ensure everyone has a great night.”
“Our business has been built on a solid commitment to our clients, who have in turn rewarded us with the best word-of-mouth marketing we could hope for.
“Word-of-mouth now very much happens on social media and a happy client can potentially become an important ambassador for the London Groove experience.
“We work closely with Vocus to ensure we are maximising the opportunities from any online conversation around our events. We have successfully implemented strategic campaigns across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and made a greater impact via more “traditional” channels like email.
“We can concentrate on doing what we do best, helping our clients enjoy amazing nights out. This in turn generates more great word-of-mouth publicity. Who knew that marketing could be so easy?”