Audience loyalty is more important than ever. Here’s what you need to do to earn it.
There is a relatively simple formula to drive audience loyalty, and it is this:
- Learn your audience’s problems.
- Solve one or more of their problems through your content.
- Keep solving their problems with more content.
- Remind them you’re solving their problems through a direct messaging channel.
While the formula is simple, doing each step right is not. Below we break it down:
STEP #1: LEARN YOUR AUDIENCE’S PROBLEMS
Audience problems are funny things because they often present transactionally but are significantly more emotional and nuanced than you imagine. The problems exist in a context — a moment in time — so identifying the problem is just as important as identifying the moment.
To do this step right, you have to leverage multiple data sources to understand the problems that exist —and where your audience is currently going to solve them. That’s why we start every content project with a thorough analysis of our audience’s behavior:
- What are they searching for, and what can we derive from it?
- What are they sharing and consuming on social media?
- What information sources are they relying on now?
- What other sources of information might be helpful?
To understand the unique problems of someone seeking healthcare advice, for example, we’d want to learn how searches change over time, the difference between what the audience is asking their search engine vs. their social community, the sites they’re relying on (their “information diet”), etc. But we also might want to know why they rate their doctors highly or not — so mining healthcare review sites, Reddit and other sources for trends in those experiences are critical. (We found, for example, that the difference between a one-star and a five-star review usually is dependent on one factor: How attentive your nurse is).
Uncovering an audience’s needs, emotional state, frustration with their existing experience and/or lack of progress toward finding the right information to solve their problem creates the foundation for the rest of the formula.
STEP #2: SOLVE ONE OR MORE OF THEIR PROBLEMS THROUGH YOUR CONTENT
The next step is obvious: Pick a problem and solve it.
Notably, we’re not suggesting you solve all the problems you uncover. That would be impossible. Instead, pick the problem you think your brand is best equipped to solve — the one that you are experts in, and the one that would be meaningful to your own business goals — and focus there.
At this point, researching how competitors have tried to solve the problem is essential. You want to learn from any missteps and present a unique solution to your audience. You can’t drive loyalty if you’re replicating something that’s already been created. To win ongoing attention and engagement, your solution to their problem needs to succeed where others have failed.
STEP #3: KEEP SOLVING THEIR PROBLEMS WITH MORE CONTENT
At this stage, it’s not just about being unique. It’s also about being predictable.
But being predictable doesn’t mean being boring or uncreative. It means being known and recognized for reliability in solving your audience’s needs.
The biggest challenge to companies at this step is consistency. If you’ve identified the problem and its context and started to solve it for an audience, you’re showing early signs of success. That’s when the off-strategy requests start rolling in. That’s when things begin to tilt away from solving audience problems and toward solving your brand’s problems.
This stage is about discipline in what you deliver to your audience over time. We recommend creating content franchises — flexible frameworks to ensure you’re staying on track.
STEP #4: REMIND THEM YOU’RE SOLVING THEIR PROBLEMS THROUGH A DIRECT MESSAGING CHANNEL
This is the most overlooked, and arguably the most important, step.
To drive loyalty, you need to use your content to earn a longer-term relationship with your audience. This means developing, promoting and growing some type of “capture” vehicle: An email list is ideal. Something that gives you permission to directly connect with that person over time (instead of renting that audience from a platform).
This loyalty will become even more important as platforms struggle with (and eliminate) brands’ ability to use third-party data to find lookalike audiences and target new customers. Brands will suddenly be faced with a new challenge: To attract and earn loyalty directly from audiences, in an environment they can control.
Once you have an amassed audience, step #3 starts to snowball: You keep solving problems. Your audience keeps coming back. They grow to depend on you. They look forward to your insights. They realize something is missing when you don’t post. They let you know when you do something that is off-brand or angers them. They comment and share.
This is loyalty. R
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