Jay Baer on Why Content Amplification is Essential in a Saturated Market

By Juliet Stott  |  December 18, 2015


Marketing and customer experience expert Jay Baer subscribes to the belief that by 2020 a company’s customer service culture, rather than its price, will differentiate it from its competitors. The New York Times best-selling author of five digital marketing books says although content creation is important, in a saturated market content amplification is even more essential.

Here he talks about why you can never give away too much information and how hugging the most vitriolic of online haters will garner you more business in the end.

In your latest book, “Hug Your Haters,” you advocate that responding to your online critics is the best way to win the hearts and minds of your consumers. Can you explain how and why this works and whether certain channels are more valuable to respond on than others?

Any time people reach out to a business they expect to hear back. When they do, it increases customer advocacy by anywhere between 10 and 30 percent. If people don’t receive a response, it decreases customer advocacy.

It takes a bad situation and makes it worse. But the impact of answering a customer complaint differs on the channel.

For example, if you answer a customer’s complaint via phone, it has some impact on their customer advocacy, but not a tremendous amount.

It’s not as if customers say: “I can’t believe you’ve answered the phone. I love you so much more.” Customers expect the phone to be answered. Email works the very same way. But if you don’t actually answer the phone or return a call or email them back, the negative impact on customer advocacy is quite extraordinary.

If a customer complains about a business online, say on Twitter, Facebook, on a ratings and review site or a discussion forum, our research shows that only 50 percent of customers expect to hear back from that business. So when they do [hear back] it has a significant positive impact on their advocacy because they didn’t expect the company to answer.

What are the content marketing benefits for businesses to include a ratings and reviews section on their main website?

Reviews create great content that can really make a difference to your business. They also build trust for manufacturers or retailers. It shows their customers they’re not afraid of reviews.

Reviews also have a huge impact on content marketing. If you’re struggling to know what content you should be creating—you just have to listen to what your customers are saying and complaining about. If you do an analysis of customer queries via email, social and beyond, they will give you an entire array of content marketing topics you should create content about.

What bothers me as a consultant is that more resources are being spent on content marketing, but these marketers aren’t having enough conversations with the customer service people. They don’t know what customers are complaining about, what they’re angry about or what customers are confused about. They’re just creating content in a silo.

In your book you outline four business benefits to embracing the most vitriolic of critiques. What are they, and how do they enhance a business?

  1. Answering critics gives you an opportunity to take a bad situation and make it better. You can save that customer. The idea of preventing a customer defection is probably the most straightforward and linear reason to answer a customer complaint.
  2. You can derive a tremendous amount of business intelligence about your company and your company operations from listening to your customer complaints. They will give you the playbook for making yourself a better company if you just pay attention and take the time to listen to them.
  3. By 2020, customers in B2B will value the customer experience more than the company’s price point, says research by Walker Information. If one company genuinely cares more and believes in the customer experience, this will differentiate them from the competition.
  4. Answering critics creates customer advocacy. If you exceed what people think or expect from you, all of a sudden they will be more likely to tell others about their experiences. That creates a ripple effect—and drives more customers toward you.

Content marketing rhetoric has long advocated the need for businesses/brands to create quality content. What emphasis would you place on promoting that content? What tools, tips and tricks would you use?

Content amplification is just as important as content creation, if not more so. If everybody is creating content, how does any particular piece succeed? There are a number of different ways to amplify content, to make sure it gets seen.

It could be organic content distribution, paid distribution or working closely with employees and customers to make sure they understand the content that’s out there. We’re entering an era where it’s going to be really difficult for most content to reach a very large audience, unless you have an amplification strategy around it.

How much budget you allocate to amplification depends on the size of the company or industry and how competitive it is. Eventually, we will get to a point—I don’t think we’re there now—where content amplification will account for 20 to 25 percent of the budget, at least.

You are an advocate of content atomization. What is it? And why do marketers need to do it? What examples have you seen that have worked well?

Content atomization is about taking a big content theme and executing it in a number of strategically similar ways, but on different platforms. It’s a much more efficient way to create content.

Instead of reinventing the wheel every time, it’s about taking a wheel you already have and finding more ways to create smaller wheels. At Convince & Convert we live by the eight-to-one principle. For every big content idea, we create eight smaller executions. That allows us to be more efficient in how we spend our time creating content.

It also helps us ensure that whatever we’re creating is going to be more relevant to each audience on each platform. Some people want to learn or consume on video, others want to consume photos, and some want blog posts or webinars or whitepapers or podcasts, etc.

One of the areas we used this strategy with was my Jay-Today podcasts.

I filmed three episodes a week for a little over a year for my blog. The original piece of content was video. But we took that video and put it on YouTube, and then we put it on Facebook, and then we turned it into a video podcast on iTunes.

Then we’d take the audio track out and make it an audio podcast on iTunes.

Then we’d transcribe it to make it a blog post. And then we’d change the headline and make a blog post on LinkedIn; then we’d change the headline again and make it a blog post on Medium.

It would then go into our email newsletter and be published on our own blog. One three-minute video became nine pieces of content. We did that three times a week for a year. That’s an awful lot of content.

You say social media should be used to inform more than to promote and that “content is the fire whereas social is the gasoline.” Can you explain what you mean and give an example of this in practice?

What’s hard about social media marketing is that you’re competing for attention, not just with other businesses, but with real people—against friends, family and loved ones.

That doesn’t happen in almost any other form of communication. If I look at a magazine I’m not going to see an ad for a company next to an ad from my mum. If I listen to the radio I’m not going to listen to an ad from my wife and an ad from a company.

As business people, we are using the exact same tools and the exact same platforms we’re using to interact with people we actually hold dearest. And that is an extraordinary challenge. Nobody in the world has ever said, “The great thing about social media is the fact that companies are involved.”

So, the common mistake in social media marketing is thinking we can turn it into an ad.That doesn’t work. The best way to go is to create something of value, to create something that is useful, to create a utility, something people actually want to receive.

A great example comes from Columbia Sportswear Co. The company has a mobile application called “What Knot To Do In The Greater Outdoors.” It shows users how to tie knots in animated demos. For them, the best use of social media was to let people know they’d created this amazing free app.

So, a tweet that says: “Learn how to tie all the greatest knots in the world exactly when you need them on your phone—click here” is much more effective than if they’d said: “We’ve got a brand new jacket—click here to get 10 dollars off.”

In your New York Times best-seller, “Youtility,” you said content should add value to customers’ lives. How does giving information for free help you garner more customers in the long run? Is there ever a danger of giving away too much information?

The key here is to trust that some percentage of your customers will reward you in exchange for that free information. It may not be tomorrow, but they will eventually. Take, for example, if someone uses that Columbia Sportswear Knot App.

It doesn’t mean that tomorrow they’re going to rush out and buy a jacket. But it does mean that Columbia Sportswear had a branded interaction with a customer who will buy a jacket at some point in the future.

I don’t think you can give away too much information for free because customers’ appetite for knowledge is limitless. No one has ever said: “I’m too educated; I don’t want to know any more about that.” But some customers will take your information and disappear.

If they believe by reading your blog that they can do [what you’re an expert at] it themselves, that they place little value on your expertise, they’re probably not the customer you want anyway. What I always say is a list of ingredients doesn’t make you a chef. So giving away your information for free, one bite at a time, should not impact your business negatively. In fact, it should do the opposite.

What are the most common content and social media marketing questions you’re asked to solve when you first sit down with a new client?

It’s changed quite a bit over the years. It used to be questions like: Should we be doing this? Should we be making more content? Should we be doing more social media? We don’t get those questions anymore.

What we are now asked at Convince & Convert is: How should we mobilize these resources? How do we optimize our content marketing budget? Which social channels should we spend more time on? Now it’s not about whether; it’s about how.

How do you use content? Do you apply the same rules for your clients too?

What we’re looking to do is use content to get on somebody’s radar. We use different kinds of content to push our potential clients down the consideration funnel. We use a third type of content to remove any doubts. Ultimately, we collect data from our potential prospects that we use to follow up on a one-to-one basis. We are certainly trying to follow the classic “awareness, interest, lead, sales” model that we are helping our clients with too.

Note: Jay Baer’s latest book, “Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers,” will be out in 2016. It is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?

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