THE BLOG
11/22/2013 04:20 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

3 Ways to Connect With Your Audience

Aku Siukosaari via Getty Images

The digital world has its pros and cons. On one hand, marketers can interact with consumers en masse at any time from any location, with the hope of cultivating brand loyalty and boosting the bottom line. On the other hand, the deluge of information can be overwhelming and downright irritating for consumers -- Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr alone produce 715,856 pieces of content per minute, according to Domo. Breaking through the noise and establishing a brand voice worth listening to requires a content approach that centers on relevancy, thoughtfulness and integrity.

Overloading your channels with just any content is a surefire way to lose the attention of valuable customers and risk revenue loss. Owned and earned content resonates, whereas banner ads and online advertisements are falling to the wayside. In fact, an Adobe study shows that 68 percent of consumers find online ads "annoying and "distracting," with 54 percent saying that banner ads don't work whatsoever. The content game is evolving, and it is the responsibility of marketers to be one step ahead. Brands must emphasize the quality of their content over quantity and devise strategies to stand out amidst all the noise.

Maintain Constant Relevance

There have been major gains in marketing technology over the past few years. From automation to analytics software, marketers have the tools they need to distribute creative, engaging, and relevant campaigns, at scale and across platforms. Similarly, technology can and should be harnessed to bring the right content to the right audience.

According to a recent McKinsey study, companies that use data driven processes at the center of their marketing and sales efforts improve their ROI 15-20 percent more than their peers that do not. If you're not employing analytics software, then you are missing out on the opportunity to identify trends within given audiences and ultimately drive business results. While it's not yet possible to tailor content to each individual customer, marketers can focus their efforts on appealing to various types of personas and behaviors. Rent the Runway has used big data analytics to its advantage and seen significant results from these efforts. The e-commerce retail leader leveraged data to monitor customer trends and discover new opportunities. For example, its Our Runway feature was launched after data showed that women who viewed photos of regular women in dresses were 200 percent more likely to rent clothing than those who viewed dresses on models. Utilizing data to better understand your customers will provide more granular information and result in effective, personalized content that works.

Be Thoughtful

A recent study by Kapost and Eloqua found that the ROI of content marketing outweighs that of paid search by more than 3 times. Content marketing is compelling because it communicates with consumers to influence their behavior, rather than outright selling them on a product. Consumers today are smart and tech-savvy, and are looking for content that serves their needs. This means that content must match consumers' expectations and add value to their experience.

Matching consumers' expectations requires understanding your target audience. Lowe's, a leading home improvement store, is a prime example of thoughtful, content-driven marketing. Their #lowesfixinsix Vine campaign used six-second video clips to offer fixes for some of the most common issues that their customers face. None of the videos explicitly advertise Lowe's products or even encourage viewers to enter a Lowe's store. Instead, Lowe's positioned themselves as a trustworthy resource for home improvers, receiving a hugely positive Twitter response, and increasing opportunity to capture future conversions.

More importantly, you always need to add value to customers' experience. Simply offering a deal is not enough to grab their attention or earn their trust -- content must be engaging and compelling. Fitbit does an exceptional job providing its followers with added value across its blog, Twitter and Facebook. Utilizing a mix of channels, Fitbit serves as a hub of information on everything from fitness tips to fighting breast cancer. The company has done more than sell fitness devices; it has cultivated a loyal community through content. What's more, the proof is in the numbers with an impressive 8.1 percent increase in Twitter followers in August alone according to Unmetric data. This places Fitbit at the top of its category for rapid social growth due to superb customer engagement.

Build a Brand of Integrity

Building trust is increasingly important for engaging with customers and establishing long-term relationships. Adobe's Digital Index Report reveals that in industries like retail, at least 40 percent of revenue comes from return customers. To build loyalty, you must first establish trust by delivering on your promises. Anything you put in front of customers, including offers, incentives and promos, must be high-quality and something that can actually be fulfilled. Adversely, companies that consistently break their promises are likely to suffer in terms of both trust and loyalty.

Southwest Airlines is an exemplary company in this regard. Their dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service is apparent in all of their consumer engagement. They have been so successful in satisfying their customers that Business Insider considers them the second best airline in the U.S. From their "Don't #$*!% Me Over" coupons, to their "Bags Fly Free" campaigns, Southwest has identified a customer need for a delightful airline experience without extra fees and consistently fulfilled it.

So, how can you tell if your marketing efforts are actually fulfilling what they promise? A simple way to measure validity is through engagement. If someone clicks on a link, replies to a Tweet, or likes a post on Facebook, then you are succeeding in satisfying the human desire to be intellectually stimulated or entertained. If your content isn't fulfilling these desires, then it's time to refocus your strategy. Luckily, software today allows marketers to test and measure the effectiveness of their content. With analytics technology, marketers can implement content efforts based on signals generated by big data. Today there is no excuse for using guesswork to determine what works and what doesn't.

Creating good content and establishing an audience takes attention to detail and expertise, no matter how efficiently technology enables marketers to connect and engage with customers. Marketers that are thoughtful in producing content, make good on their promises, and properly leverage technology will build value for their brand and see notable improvements to their marketing ROI.