Here's a thought for you - where do most of a brand's sales come from? Loyal, repeat purchasers, or light purchasers, attracted in bulk and sold to rarely?
If you answer A, you're either highly atypical, or missing out on growth. And that might be fine - your strategic goals might be geared around creating stable, steady income, rather than growing a business, and there's nothing wrong with that. But if you're viewing your marketing as a channel to deliver growth, then trying to increase loyalty tends not to be the way to go.
Thinking About the Numbers
Firstly, let's start with why this is. Let's say we have a business with 1,000 loyal customers. If we marketing to those people, with the aim of getting them to repeat purchase or upgrade a subscription or whatever it may be, and we convert at 5% over a 12 month period, that means we're adding value from 50 people.
Now let's imagine that the potential addressable market stands at 20,000,000, and we push out our messages to those people over the next 12 months. Our advertising won't reach all of them, and it won't convert all the people it does reach. But assuming we only reach 2% of the market, that's 400,000 people, and then we only have to convert one in every 8,000 to deliver the same return. That means our conversion rate needs only to be 0.0125%.
You can start, I hope, to see how the scale and reach of advertising can kick loyalty to the curb every time, when it comes to delivering growth.
Re-Thinking Content Marketing
Often, when we go about creating content marketing, we think about it from an inbound perspective. It's all about creating attention, but very politely. We're waiting for someone to be searching for the thing we've written a piece about, and trying to rank well, and then hoping they click on our link in Google. Or we're creating a piece of content, and hoping people engage with it through social means and it gets shared.
The problem with this is obvious - we're far too reliant on the user getting to us. We need to build attention to help bump our odds. However, unless you're in a vertical where literally anyone is part of your addressable market (FMCG, financial services and so on), the traditional broadcast methods (TV, radio etc) aren't going to work well for you.
This is where social and search platform ads come in very handy, and it's why we advocate putting aside budget for promotion of what would normally be thought of as inbound-based digital marketing.
If you want to grow, you need to reach more people, more of the time. And that means going out to people. Because, and here's the important thing, people don't have to hate advertising. Bad adverts, sure. The kind of pre-roll ads you get on YouTube? They tend to be awful. They're an interruption and often barely targeted.
However, if I'm a new parent, and you sell baby carriers, I'm addressable market to you. Adverts targeted to me may well be useful. However, what if instead of that, we had content around choosing the right baby carrier, or about whether or not you need one, or something else that's more top to mid funnel?
As someone who's becoming a father soon, and as someone who watches a lot of ads around the web, far too many companies think the only use for ad budget is selling, right now. A lot of this is down to issues around people looking at the wrong metrics that focus on end-of-funnel conversions, and put the bare minimum of effort and budget into promotion of all the rest of their content. You need to create some sort of trust between me and you before you can run advertising like that.
Building Loyalty Amongst the Crowd
This is ultimately where a lot of our marketing effort should go. Creating awareness around our brand, long before the audience wants to buy. Making our brand mentally available, so in the list of choices, we're pushed that much higher up, because they know who we are.
This is where the growth comes from. Not from appealing to 1,000 loyal followers in our tribe, but 20,000,000 people who might like you, if only they knew who you were.
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