If someone had told the founders of Starbucks back in 1971 that their disposable paper coffee cups would one day become a status symbol, they would have responded with howls of laughter.
And yet today, millions of Starbucks customers proudly display their iconic green-and-white receptacles — logo out, please — so that they can tell the world, “I’m hip, I’m cool, I’m urban-chic, and I can afford to shell out $7.30 for this triple-whip nonfat soy latte.”
Welcome to the power of brand image.
While most B2B marketing teams can only dream of a “cool factor” rivaling that of Starbucks, today’s challenges require them to be no less vested in their brand images. In an environment where consumers are subjected to 10,000 brand messages a day, being generic is not an option. As a B2B brand, investing in your image is investing in your success, and nowhere is this investment more critical than in your content marketing.
Content Marketing, Image-Maker
Every time you publish a piece of content, you reinforce your brand image to your target audience. From the topics you choose to the headlines you write to the graphics you feature, every aspect of your content is another building block that tells your audience who you are and what you stand for.
So what does your brand image have to do with driving marketing results? Plenty.
Image gets you noticed. In today’s over-crowded content universe — filled with “me too”s who all look and sound the same — a strong brand image will help you stand out from the competition.
Image makes you memorable. Many B2B brands — including many of your competitors — are trying to be all things to all people. As a result, they dissolve into a sea of instantly forgettable sameness. A strong brand image makes your brand “stick” in people’s minds, and each time they see your content, they’ll remember what makes you special.
Image reinforces your brand attributes. When your brand image is consistent with who you are as a company, you’ll be known for all the right things.
5 Strategies for Upgrading Your Content… and Your Image
If results from your marketing are falling short of your goals, it’s possible that you have an image problem. Fortunately, making a few “upgrades” to your content marketing can go a long way towards creating a brand image that hits home with your target audience. These five simple strategies are a good place to start:
1. Choose Targeted, Long-Tail Topics
Creating a strong brand image means separating yourself from the also-rans and emerging as a true authority. When deciding which issues to cover in your content, go beyond generalities and look for the long-tail topics that will make your target audience sit up and take notice.
Where do you find these long-tail topics? Your intent data is a good place to start. When your targets go online to research solutions to their problems, they’re not looking for general advice that makes them work to figure out how it applies to their organizations. They’re on the hunt for specific answers. By incorporating their intent data into your topic selections, you can strengthen your brand image as a trusted expert who knows the precise answers they need.
2. Employ Top-Quality Writing Talent
Good writing doesn’t just make your content more enjoyable to read — it also helps build a strong, positive brand image. When your audience perceives a commitment to quality in your content, they’ll presume that that same commitment extends to everything you do — your products, services, customer support, every element of the customer experience.
Whether you hire writers in-house or employ freelancers, make sure they can achieve the level of quality you need to build a strong brand image. You’re aiming for content that would not look out of place in a respected industry publication, so make sure your wordsmiths are up to the task.
3. Use Quality Images
Nothing kills a brand image faster than content marketing that’s peppered with clichéd, done-to-death stock photography. The people in your target audience have seen the same “happy team gathered around a laptop,” “gray-haired businessmen shaking hands,” and “cheerful call center rep wearing a headset” a million times. Each time you haul out one of these banalities, you send the message that you just couldn’t be bothered to come up with something better. Not exactly the makings of a good image.
If you must use stock photography, invest in top-quality images that will complement the quality of your words. Better yet, hire a photographer to create your own unique image library that shows your products and services in the best possible light.
4. Be Current
To build your brand image of a forward-thinking organization, stay on top of the current developments that affect your target audience, and work these insights into your content marketing. A brand image that conveys authority and reliability builds trust among your targets, so take the time to research these topics thoroughly and present cohesive, well-thought-out advice.
Here again, intent data is your friend. Your target audience’s environment is constantly changing, so check your intent data often to find out what’s on their minds today. Publish premium-quality content marketing assets around those topics in a timely manner, and your targets will start looking to you as a resource for up-to-the minute insights.
5. Leverage Influencer Connections
Your brand image isn’t just about what you say or do — it’s also about the people and organizations you associate with. Consider the people, organizations, and publications that influence your target audience, and explore ways to associate your brand with theirs, such as:
– Inviting a complementary company to co-present a webinar
– Partnering with a respected publication to co-sponsor a research paper
– Writing bylined articles for prestigious industry publications
– Inviting respected thought leaders to guest-post on your blog, to be interviewed on your podcast, or to present an FAQ session on your live video channel
– Publish an “expert roundup” blog post featuring brief pieces of advice on a specific topic from experts your targets respect
Image Is Everything
Whether you’re trying to attract new leads, engage prospects, or turn customers into evangelists, a strong brand image is essential — and to build a strong image, you need strong content marketing. By “upgrading” your content, you’ll build an impactful, memorable brand image that will make targets sit up and take notice, and keep engaged prospects coming back again and again.