An Interview with Content Marketing Professor Neil Feinstein
Content marketing professor and consultant Neil Feinstein has helped brands like Disney, American Express, and The New York Times improve their marketing efforts via social media, email, and mobile. In a recent interview, Neil provided insights from his years of experience that you can use to leverage content to bolster your own marketing efforts.
Paytronix: What are brands getting wrong about content marketing?
Neil: Too many brands align their marketing strategies with themselves, and not their customers. For a consumer interaction to be meaningful, it needs to be based on a consumer insight. What does the customer care about? Why should the customer care? Before marketers push out content, before they start tweeting or blogging or gramming, they need to understand the customer and then build a strategy that aligns with his/her expectations – not the business’s.
Paytronix: If that’s the case, what are most brands getting right about content marketing?
Neil: The best content marketers are in tune with the collaborative culture they live in. We’re meeting customers on their terms and delivering value they want. The focus is on relationships, not sales.
Paytronix: I agree that customer sentiment is important. How has technology impacted the way customers feel about brands?
Neil: I’m on the advisory board for a mid-sized agency that recently did a competitive analysis of other agencies. One insight was that every agency says they’re a “digital” agency. I put the word digital in quotes for a reason. By doing that, agencies are segmenting media in terms of traditional and digital. But all marketing today is digital marketing, which means it’s the norm. Every purchase decision is influenced by a stew of brand interactions that happen anywhere. Consumers don’t recognize the distinction. They just recognize the experience.
Paytronix: Let’s talk a bit about email. We all know it’s still an effective way for brands to communicate with their customers, even in a world where tech companies constantly bring new communication technologies to the market. Why is email still so effective?
Neil: Plain and simple, it’s cheap.
Paytronix: Fair enough. But how will email evolve to keep up with a changing technological landscape?
Neil: Email has already evolved into a mobile channel. Next it’ll be on your wearable. And all the tools we use to drive behavior will work better because reaction time can be almost immediate.
Paytronix: That sounds like what’s happening in the social media space, so let’s talk about that. Besides the obvious goal of getting more sales, what should be the top objective of a brand’s social media strategy?
Neil: I disagree with the notion that every objective for social tacks back to growing sales. Social can be used for every marketing means – build reputation, sell stuff, grow relationships.
Paytronix: This ties back to your point about digital marketing, where relationships are primary and sales are secondary. Do you agree that the future of social media marketing will see strategies based around the consumers and not the brands?
Neil: Yes! Consumers will drive. Marketers are in the passenger seat. That’s uncomfortable for us. But us passengers will also try to influence the driver any way we can.
Paytronix: With that said, what is the best way to get followers to pay attention to your social posts?
Neil: Be relevant. Plain and simple. Base your relevance on consumer insights.
Paytronix: Let’s talk about digital content marketing as a whole. Describe a previous marketing challenge where digital content was the right move, versus traditional marketing tactics.
Neil: I think we need to stop thinking about digital vs. traditional. Radio ads and catalogs are among the best drivers of website traffic, as is search. Social is both internet and mobile. Lines have disappeared. It’s all about CX. To me, the most important tool to figure out where, when, and how is a customer journey map. That’s the best route to insight on how to interact with the customer as he or she moves from prospect to first time buyer to repeat customer to advocate.
Paytronix: So let’s say you map out the customer’s journey and a content strategy is used to engage with consumers at every stage. What are the three most important elements of a successful piece of content?
Neil: Here’s my advice:
Use an authentic voice. Think about it. We’re asking customers and potential customers to be our friend.
Find your emotional core. Content needs to motivate customers. And so much research proves decisions are motivated by emotions.
Tell a really good story. What’s more interesting; a bullet point list of benefits, or a story that dramatizes the value of a brand in a way that the user can say, “that feels like me.”
Last month, Neil Feinstein presented a webinar with Paytronix titled “The Art of Crafting Effective Email Content.”
On Tuesday, February 28 at 1:00 EST, Neil will give his second presentation in a three-part series on content marketing titled “Lovable Shareable Content: Using Social Media to Drive Guest Loyalty.