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Brands must create content that makes the heart beat faster

Brands want true love. Customers want a divorce. To truly form a long-lasting relationship, you need to show you care. That’s where creative content comes in.

Surprise, excitement, engaging conversation. While these might sound like the top three must-haves on a dating website, they are in fact the vital heart of creative content.

Content marketing is sometimes seen as the icing on the cake, when in fact it’s the glue that binds the whole relationship. Customers are being wooed from every angle so it’s crucial that brands don’t take their loyalty for granted. Ask yourself if your customers are cheating on your brand — and the answer is probably yes.

Why do they cheat? Because they are bored. Because their partner doesn’t give them what they need.

In this digital age it has never been easier for customers to leap from brand to brand, hunting for a meaningful relationship. If they feel a connection with your brand beyond being tagged as a mere sales opportunity, they are far more likely to stay loyal.

Content: the Spark that Keeps Customers Satisfied
So how do you keep that loyalty and ensure the relationship stays alive? Be exciting, be bold, be passionate. You have to be. A recent survey of 300,000 people across 33 countries and 1,500 brands found that customers would not care if 74 per cent of the brands they use disappeared.

Ensuring your customers would care if you disappeared is all about making a connection with them that is far more meaningful than merely popping up when you want to sell something. Update them with content that is relevant and useful. Keep in touch. Give them an entertaining insight into the people that drive your brand. Do that, and they will feel more connected to you. Only then do you earn the right to sell.

Try to sell before you’ve built that base, and you may face a break-up, sharpish. In fact, a recent survey by Sprout Social discovered that 46 per cent of people say they unfollow brands for posting too many promotional messages. Meanwhile 41 per cent unfollow because of irrelevant information .

This underlines the disparity between what a brand often wants and what the customer needs. While brands want true love, many customers want a divorce.

Like any good relationship, creating content that strengthens that connection needs work. Brands that focus on being the storyteller instead of the salesman enjoy more success in the relationship stakes. Again this is an area where the perceived “needs” of the brand are often at odds with what the customer wants. An Economist Group survey found that 75 per cent of marketers say content should frequently mention products; whereas 60 per cent of consumers surveyed avoid content that is too salesy .

This is why the attempts of many brands to create content often fail — because the focus is not on the customer’s needs but on sales and the needs of the internal stakeholders.

Play it Safe and You Play Alone
The other common complaint is that many brands see themselves as not being in an “exciting” industry, or that that they face internal resistance to creating a new narrative that could draw external criticism.

As a result, they play it too safe. That’s a harmful vicious cycle. In not being prepared to be different with your content marketing, you fail to woo customers from competitors, or strengthen the customer relationship. In fact, you fail to stand out at all.

Here’s a quick test, one that quickly underlines the need to be different, in whichever sector you may be. Take screenshots of all the websites of key players in your market. Now strip away the logos. Do they all look the same?

The answer is probably yes, which means that it is high time for you to stand out and plant your creative flag. Showcase your authentic self and highlight the unique attributes that make your brand a success, and you will start to stand out.

Being in an industry sector that is bounded by legal and compliance is no excuse for playing safe. Ideas can be creative and still meet those business needs. Often, strangely enough, by thinking outside the box, ideas are then not bogged down by the terminology and constraints of your industry. That makes them more appealing to the customer (and less of a worry to legal and compliance). If you need to build a relationship with new customers (especially those that aren’t interested in your industry), you have to find a fresh way of getting them engaged.

Thinking outside the comfort zone can be a difficult step to take, but it’s a necessary one for the brand/customer relationship to survive.

Finally, a minuscule budget is also cited as a last-ditch reason not to get content off the ground. But size, as the old adage goes, doesn’t matter. It’s how creative you can be with the assets you have. Really thinking about your customer and what they need can help you build engagement across different platforms and formats will cement a long-term relationship.

Who Cares Wins
Brands that win understand the depth of the relationship they can nurture with storytelling, which is a far more powerful tool for engagement than sales.

So take a step back. Take a long hard look at your customers. Take the time to ask: are they really getting what they need from you in this relationship?

Show customers you care and the bottom line will feel the love.

Simon Cholmeley

Simon Cholmeley is CEO of John Brown Novus.