5 Characteristics of Content that Drives Brand Awareness
Only a couple of years ago it was easy to convince someone to buy from an unknown site.
This seems almost impossible now.
Today’s customers prefer to buy from companies they recognize. Face it, the days of visitors finding a site through search and happily pulling out their credit card are now long gone.
These days, customers prefer to thoroughly research vendors before making a decision.
And for that reason alone companies should focus on building brand awareness before anything else.
But even though it’s much easier to sell to people who already know you, the majority of content strategies focus on the exact opposite. They try to push as many people into the buying cycle without any regard if they know about the brand or not.
The result – many lost opportunities.
The most effective way to counter this problem is to include a completely different content in your strategy – one that aims to establish a brand in the mind of the target audience and build your expert status.
Eric Wittlake refers to it as Stage Zero Content – one designed to raise brand awareness but without any transaction attached at the end.
That’s a completely different content than the one you’ve been creating so far
Even though it might not seem so at a first glance, Stage Zero Content is fundamentally different from the one you create as part of your strategies. Below are the key 5 differences I see between the two types.
#1: It targets a much wider audience
Most pieces of content, be it blog posts or videos are created with a specific audience in mind. There are specific personas you target, problems, needs or wants.
You carefully plan it to engage a specific segment of your audience and drive a very it back to the site.
But that often limits your options to people who are already in a buying cycle.
With this content however you can cast a much wider net – target people who might not be interested in what you offer…at least not just yet. It’s OK though, since the aim is to make them aware of your brand, rather than sell.
#2: There is no transaction at the end
Most content is created with a single goal in mind – to attract the reader but then, to inspire them to take a specific action. It could be to click on a call to action or sign up for a mailing list.
By doing so they enter a buying cycle. And usually, there is a potential for a transaction at the end – a product being advertised through email or offer to hire.
The key to stage zero content however is lack of such transaction. This content is positioned at a time when an audience is not researching any solutions or evaluating product alternatives but is merely looking for information.
And so the only thing that follows it is even more content.
Hubspot’s blog is a good example of this approach. Their calls to action, instead of advertising their software, invite readers to download further resources.
By doing so they strip the relationship from the commercial aspect and create an environment in which the reader is almost bound to remember them in a specific context.
#3: It’s very relevant to audience’s interests
Traditional content, in order to achieve its aims must be laser focused on specific issues the audience cares about. It could be a problem they have or something they hold deep in their hearts.
But the goal for stage zero content is different – to make people aware of your brand. And to do this it should cover a much wider range of topics, often only loosely relevant to your product. Instead however it should focus on the interests of your audience and their friends.
#4: It’s helpful
Don’t get me wrong; all (or at least most of) content produced today is helpful in one way or another. Stage zero one however has to go beyond a typical educational format to meet its objectives.
In short, it should exhaust the information and exceed any users expectations.
Ordinary content on the hand often compromises on these qualities in lieu of keywords for instance, or other aspects more important to its creator.
Quick Sprout’s Advanced Guide to Content Marketing is one example of such content. It’s impressive but also, it targets anyone interested in content marketing, not only marketers or small business owners wishing for more traffic.
#5: It’s memorable
Lastly; for such content to meet its objective it must make strong enough impression for the reader to remember who’s behind it.
What’s the place of this content in your strategy
Typically, your content strategy begins at the lowest stage of the buying cycle – need for information. Your blog posts for instance target topics and keywords potential audience might search for when trying to find out about their problem.
Then your content moves on to target customers with the intent to compare and finally, aim for those with the intent to buy.
Stage Zero Content precedes all three stages, and should become your lowest level of content in a strategy. On this level your aim is to publish content where your brand might be presented to a new audience – guest posting on major publications relating to your audience’s interests is one way to achieve this.
It’s hard to convince someone to buy if they’ve never heard of you. Today customers prefer to purchase from brands they know and recognize.
Therefore, part of your content strategies should focus not on driving a targeted traffic but to establish your brand in the mind of the target audience and build your expert status.
Creative commons image by Rupert Ganzer / Flickr