Marketers and small business owners need to show that what they say comes from the heart, says Mark Masters.
When someone else is drawn to you, it comes from a place of personalisation. It’s grounded in what you believe in and your levels of enthusiasm for it. You make more relevant connections by tuning into what your audience is intrigued about and relating that to your point of interest or belief.
How to draw people to you beyond what you create can be a missing ingredient when it comes to content marketing. You might look to pull the wool over someone’s eyes with click-baity headlines, unconvincing company videos and “18 ways to” dullness, but it’s not going to be sustainable in the long term.
You may have your customer personas nailed to a tee and their personalities are so precise you feel like you’ve found an extra Crème Egg at the back of the fridge. However, this is not enough if your audience is not drawn to you. People don’t buy from bold headlines or intense persona mapping. They buy from people they can rely on to deliver content with them in mind.
The right place with the right people
Every month, the You Are The Media Lunch Club meets in the town of Bournemouth, on the south coast of England, to discuss ways that businesses can adopt a consistent, content-driven approach. It’s a way to get people to listen to others (brands and practitioners) and have the confidence to create and build their own audience. I’m seeing companies that are succeeding are those who know who their audience is and the role they serve … and then lean into it.
One lunchtime session that really stands out for me was with Ali Carmichael from Bournemouth-based company ExperienceUX. Everything the decade-old business does is founded on the principals of user experience design and research. It doesn’t want to be led astray and become a full-blown agency – to see a project all the way through and effectively become a design and web-build entity that’s swimming with a myriad of other companies. By having a defined personality, people know it’s flying the flag for user experience in the south of England and the people involved are doing it from a place of sharing. They haven’t gone back on the values that have been in place for 10 years.
No meaning, just noise
Havas Group’s most recent Meaningful Brands study surveyed 300,000 people from 33 countries worldwide. It revealed that 60 per cent of those people believe that most content created by companies is just noise and has no meaning to them. As the study highlights, content created is “poor, irrelevant or fails to deliver”. About three in every four of those surveyed said they wouldn’t care if a brand completely disappeared. If you’re not relevant, why should others care?
This is the challenge. While you might be able to identify who your audience is and have the ability to deliver content through the medium of your choice, you still have to be engaging for them to actually be bothered. You need to become the magnet that draws people in, not just by what you say, but how you do it.
This is what I’m seeing with getting to know the companies who participate in the lunch clubs – no one has pretended to be something they’re not. The businesses we talk to are personalising their area of confidence to an audience who warm to them.
Let’s look at it this way. No one wants an invitation to a neighbour’s barbecue (even if the food is perfect and the tubs of coleslaw are as deep as bargain buckets) if all they want to talk about is how long it took to prepare the grill and their Spotify playlist and the new extension happening next year. You can’t go heavy on substance – and reasons why people should warm to you – if it’s of no interest to anyone else.
What people want is acknowledgement that they are “one of us”. They want to know that what has been created addresses their frustrations, pain points and hopes. This is about real people, making real connections with others.
Here are three quick UK-based examples of businesses getting this right:
- Tarryn Poulton from PCOS Diet Support. Her entire program is formed from her story linked to diet and health that led to having two children. The people who watch her videos and read her articles know that they’re reading from someone who has created content for them.
- Michael Grubb from lighting design consultancy Michael Grubb Studio. His message comes from a place of sharing how we use space and how wasteful companies are when it comes to lighting. This enabled the company to stand for a cause by setting up the Re:lit Project to give an extended life to lighting that would have been used for landfill. It’s the frustrations and hopes that make things personal and the audience makes that connection.
- Ben Crowe from Crimson Guitars. He addresses his audience with tutorials on how to build guitars. Every video is from his workshop in the heart of Dorset, and has an air of authenticity about them. It is from a person who has dedicated years to a craft and now has the confidence to demonstrate his realness on digital channels.
These examples highlight people who represent the engaged side of their business. They have become the magnet that draws people in as they’re talking and sharing from a place of conviction and belief. In the words of US marketer Seth Godin: “Being a leader gives charisma. If you look and study the leaders who have succeeded, that’s where charisma comes from, from the leading.”
You shouldn’t feel obliged to make a comment on social media just because there is a hashtag that is trending. This carries no substance to a cause and what you believe in. How are people going to connect when you become detached looking for a quick win of accreditation from a stranger?
Being personalised also means being personable. The examples that I have highlighted all come from a place of tuning into a discipline and finding a receptive audience. This means you must have soul and meaning. Find that cause to challenge and have an opinion that sits beside it.
People are fed up with irrelevant content. According to customer identity software provider Janrain and its Online Personal Experience Study, 74 per cent of respondents (more than 2000 people) get fed up with websites that provide content that has no relevance to their interests. On the other side, people are ready to trust: 57 per cent were OK with providing personal information as long as it is for their benefit.
This is where the opportunity lies. If you can become relevant and personalised you stand a greater chance of winning the battle over short-term dependence on acceptance. How do you want to make people feel?
Drawing people in without being creepy
Here are some pointers to think about:
- When you send an email newsletter, send it from a person and not a cold “info@” or “enquiries@”.
- Segmenting your audience makes things a bit more tuned in. For instance, it would be a waste of time sending an email that is targeted for a local event to those people who live overseas. This means messages are more narrowly targeted.
- Reply when someone responds and addresses you. Whether it’s from a comment on a LinkedIn post, to a reply to an email, if it’s from a place of genuine interaction, rather than a cul de sac of “great post”, the gate is open to interact.
- Show an interest in others and the world around you. If that means showing up in their spaces where you have the ability to draw in an audience from someone else’s circle that may not be familiar with you, then the opportunity is there.
- Every place you’re visible, talk like a person – not a flat press release that no one is going to read and instantly forget about. If a person is reading it, why talk to them in a patronising way?
Be what you’re best at
When you have a persona that is unconvincing, you come across as fake. If you offer no breadcrumbs to allow people to at least piece together so they can understand your approach and belief systems, it comes across as gold digging for personal gain.
When people become hooked, one thing stands out. These are businesses that are sticking to their guns that know their audience, and can express themselves in a captivating and sincere way.
In a world that is encouraging you to delve further into artificial intelligence and automation, the way to stand out is for you to be yourself. That might be difficult for computers but it should be what you’re good at.
A version of this story ran here.