Due to the changing nature of how customers are making their buying decisions and purchasing online, it is time for brands like yours to rethink your marketing strategies. The first and most critical path to take is one of becoming an authority in your field. This is the best way to beat your competition.
Becoming an authority can be a challenging and daunting task. In some fields, for example, like in the bespoke suits field, it may be extremely difficult to become an authority while in others it may be quite easy. In this article, I will take an example of a surf school and the steps the owners of this school can take to establish themselves as an authority which will lead to increase traffic to their website, more engagement on social media channels and ultimately more leads and bookings for their classes.
Don’t put all your eggs in one marketing basket
Prior to my last trip to Lisbon, Portugal with my family, I wanted to check the surfing scene because my youngest daughter is crazy about surfing. I thought some classes would really make for some exciting stuff. So I began the process of researching the options we had for getting some surfing lessons. At this stage, I was in the “Awareness Stage” of my buyer’s journey. If you are interested in finding more about the buyer’s journey and it impacts in your marketing, I highly suggest you read this article.
After some research on Google and on Tripadvisor, I realized that most surf schools in Lisbon and surrounding beaches did not have any kind of significant social media presence or website engagement.
It seemed like all of them were getting most of their bookings from Tripadvisor (TA) and hence were focussing heavily on that site. While this is good and TA is now one of the best sources of traffic and leads for any kind of travel or service related business, I must express my distaste for putting all your eggs in one basket. Just like Google, TA is also a private company and exists to make profits. If the company decides to change the structure of the listings or decides to start charging for listings then the game changes.
The best strategy is to spread your social media marketing across several properties. This is counterintuitive to what most business gurus suggest. The traditional strategy suggestion is to pick one social media channel that best suits your market segment and where most of your target market hangs out and then put all your efforts into that channel. While this may sound like solid advice, it is inherently fraught with risk. If the one social media channel changes its policy or their ranking algorithm then your business will be left out in the cold. This happened with Facebook when they changed how and what gets displayed on your stream. Overnight companies that had spent thousands and frequently even hundreds of thousands of dollars in building a sizeable FB following founds that their posts and updates were reaching a mere fraction of their total fan base. This means that all the effort, time and money spent increasing the likes and fans on those pages was down the drain.
Rules can change anytime
I also suspect eventually Tripadvisor would become like Yelp where the reviews are not really useful anymore. I have seen this happening on the last two trips where a restaurant is so hyped by reviewers and it has a lot of ratings which leads a sort of arrogance and complacency on the part of that restaurant and sub-par service. Prices are also affected by the ratings on Tripadvisor. There is also the danger that people could be reviewing something positively just because someone else had said great things about it and they do not want to appear to have had a bad experience and hence had lost their money. This is why you see postings on Facebook about having the best trip of their lives while in reality they may not be having such good time. For the money they have spent, they want to make sure people see them as having a great time.
What is even riskier and dangerous is to put all your efforts in developing your social media channels and next to nothing on your website, using it just an entry point or information kiosk for your business. It makes great sense to spent as much time and effort developing your website asset. Your social media channels should be satellites to your website and not the other way round. The ultimate goal should be to drive traffic back to your website where you can engage your visitors and build a rapport with them. It is on your website that you will nurture your leads and then finally convert them to customers.
If you build your website asset then no matter what happens to the social media landscape your business controls the content that you have built up and can then move your marketing to the next hot thing. If the policies of Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest change overnight, you can then start exploring other venues of marketing because you own your content and your website is strong.
Building Authority On Your Website
The first question would be: why should we appear to be an authority on our field?
Becoming an authority is the holy grail of marketing. Or so it should be. People respect and are attracted to authority. You probably remember the experiment where people were asked to deposit cash into a box by a guy in a uniform in front of a bank, citing the excuse that the deposit machine was not working. 90% of the people asked, went ahead and put their cash into the box the guy was holding. When asked why they did that, they simply stated that the guy looked legit because of his uniform and hence they trusted him.
That is the power of authority. In the case of the surf school, if the business is perceived to be an authority on everything to do with surfing and the beaches of Portugal, then you can easily imagine people booking this school for their next surf lesson. This is how marketing gurus online thrive. They spend a lot of time and effort helping people and writing about stuff which eventually makes them an authority and people then start seeking them out to engage them to help solve their problems.
Take a good long look at your marketing and seek out ways you can start building your authority. It is not always about pitching and selling. In fact, the new way of marketing and the future of marketing is “helping” people find information that would help them identify and solve their problems or pain points. You should not be trying to sell your service or your product. Consumers are savvy enough to evaluate and make their purchasing decisions based on their research. What you need to do is assist them in their research.
As for the Surf School, the focus should be on creating a website and associated social media support channels that help educate and nurture a passion for surfing. Their surf lessons and sales material should not take center stage. Instead, the site should focus on being a voice for the passion that is surfing. Furthermore they should strive to create an information packaged website.
Here are some ideas that they can implement. Of course, variations of these ideas can be implemented by any business:
1) Articles on top beaches to surf in Portugal (or any other country)
2) Ebooks on learning how to surf
3) Articles on surf lifestyle – the glamour and appeal
4) Twitter updates, photos and articles on surf news (biggest waves, records, bloopers)
5) Articles on the philosophy of surfing and advocating the lessons people can learn about life from surfing
6) Videos on location exploring the beaches where the surf school is – culture and local lifestyle
7) Videos on basic surf training
You should be looking beyond your service or product and into the worldview of your customers. Try and identify their pain points. What are they looking for help within your area of expertise? Build a buyer persona based on this information and then try and create content that would address the pain points.
Beat the competition by becoming an authority
While the competition is working hard pitching, selling, discounting and hard selling, spend your time and effort becoming an authority. Become the one source in your market segment where people can find valuable information. Become the trusted source. Become the go-to resource.
As you build your authority – genuinely – your trust factor goes up and ultimately your rapport with your target market will lead to much better sales relationships and of course business success. Content marketing is truly the most powerful way to differentiate yourself from the competition and create a connection with your target audience.
However, please do keep in mind that content marketing is not about quantity but rather more about quality. The content you create and put out there should be of top-notch quality. It should be highly relevant and useful to your site visitors. They should be able to take away value from your content. It is not about bait and switch or content that just leads to a sales push at the end of the funnel.
Remember the golden rule of 80/20 in your content marketing: 80% of the content you produce should not be related to your service or product directly with a sales point of view. 80% should be useful content related to your specialty without mention of your service or product. The other 20% can be sales content on your website.