Why your marketing shouldn’t focus on advertisements…

We don’t like a lot of promotional adverts. And if you’re a human being, then I am going to guess you’re not a big fan either.

When an advert pops up on YouTube, the primary response is usually to spam-click the ‘skip ad’ button or to seriously consider buying the premium version. It’s the same for Facebook and other social media platforms: in most cases, almost everybody will just grunt and keep scrolling when they meet an ad. Of course, sometimes an ad is actually entertaining and some ads are absolutely fantastic, and I’m all for it – I’m not here to convince anyone that all adverts are bad.

I’m also not suggesting that you should completely eliminate promotions and adverts from your marketing, my point is that they shouldn’t be the primary focus of your marketing efforts.

This doesn’t just apply to Youtube, Facebook and Instagram, it’s the same with any other channel – be it digital or traditional.

Whether you’re sticking to one social media platform or a combination of platforms, you’re not going to get too far if all you’re doing is publishing one advert after the other where the main message is “buy”. People don’t go on social media platforms to get inundated by messages asking them to buy this or that, they’re on social media to discover content that is entertaining, content that is informative, to give their input and to interact with others.

And that is precisely what I believe marketing should focus on… content that is entertaining, content that is informative, content that gives people the opportunity to give their input and to interact with others.

Don’t get me wrong when you read ‘entertaining’: I know your business isn’t the BBC or Netflix – and it shouldn’t try to be.

There are multiple ways to procure high-value content, and you don’t necessarily have to be the party producing it. If you don’t have the resources required to create this kind of content, you can use your resources to support people who do create it. I am talking about artists, writers, makers, hobbyists, creatives, actors – the possibilities are endless. If you decide to collaborate, then it may seem reasonable to try collaborating with the biggest influencer in a community, but that is going to cost you because, in all likelihood, many other businesses will be vying for that same person. Don’t underestimate the potential future value of new, small talents projects and voices.

Keep in mind that this is about being useful, it is about building trust, this is about giving people a reason to prefer you over other businesses that goes deeper than price, and most importantly – it’s about reciprocity. Put simply: Humans tend to respond positively to good deeds, while they tend to respond harshly to apathy and selfishness.

People will recognise overtly self-serving promotional ads from a mile away, but they’ll appreciate businesses that are actually trying to give something useful, such as by sharing resources and by supporting other makers. With this in mind, meaningful marketing efforts explore ways your business can:

  • Share valuable information on how to use the product or service you’re offering
  • Familiarise people with your industry by sharing information about its history, its challenges, and promising developments
  • Support and give resources to people who use your products, especially if they have a following OR if they have the potential to grow a following
  •  Support your community in healthy, sustainable ways

You don’t need to save the world, just be a positive influence.

Information-driven high-value content can include tutorials, guides and infographics relevant to your products and services, as well as interesting insights about the history and the future of your product, business or industry. Content that invites interaction and input can also be very effective, and can simply include asking followers for preferences, feedback and reviews. It can also involve platforming people who use your product or services and who can provide examples and information and act as testimonials – whether they’re established influencers in the field or fledgling creators.

You can deliver ‘entertainment’ with content that presents information with lovely graphics, content that tells a story from your business’ (or industry’s) past or you can just generate content that get’s people to smile, to feel good about.

As aforementioned, you don’t necessarily have to be the primary producer. Sometimes it’s a lot more effective to find someone who is already producing something entertaining and collaborating with or supporting them. Your business might not have comedic chops, but there are numerous talents in Malta that crack everyone up. And don’t fixate on getting the people you partner up with to explicitly promote your product in return for your support — sometimes a simple note is enough for people to know who is supporting an entertainer or artist they like, and they can put two and two together.

It’s also not necessary for every business to focus on doing all three (entertain, educate, engage). It’s easier for some businesses to generate funny or entertaining content than to create educational content, and the opposite can also be true. With a good marketing agency on your side, you’ll eventually find your lane. Content that entertains, educated or invites interaction will cost you more than promotional adverts.

Is it worth it?

In reality it’ll require more work, more effort and a lot of trial and error. But it’s worth it. Within my company, the team has been lucky enough to get to work with some truly great partners who took a leap of faith and trusted us enough to dedicate some of their marketing budget to this kind of content. The results have been delightful, and we’re eager to keep going.

To just name two recent examples… we work with the experts at PMD Coatings to share educational content that offers guidance on painting different surfaces, as well as tips on choosing the right colours for different environments. Likewise, we work with the teachers at Newark School to publish tips aimed at helping mothers and fathers take care of their own well-being (something we’ve noticed is often forgotten when parenting.) There are many more such clients across multiple industries that have entrusted us with creating this sort of engaging and education non-direct marketing which I will mention in future articles. The results were amazingly but not surprisingly positive.

I’d like to conclude by referring to a previous article we’ve written where we highlighted the distinction between “Purchase brands” and “Usage brands”.

Put briefly, a purchase brand is going to focus on getting people to buy their products or service with offers and adverts. A usage brand is going to focus on creating resources such as tutorials on how to use the products, sharing information and insights, and will sponsor and platform users who can provide trustworthy testimonials (especially but not necessarily when that user is influential).

Purchase brands focus on creating demand. Usage brands focus on creating resources.
Purchase brands emphasise promotion. Usage brands emphasise advocates.
Purchase brands focus on the pre-transaction. Usage brands focus on what happens after the transaction.

And to reiterate: This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any promotional advertisement, but that healthy growth needs more.

Create content worth following

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