Posted by EricEnge
The past 20 years have seen the fastest rate of change in human history. Breathtaking as that may have been, the reality is, that was just the beginning. In fact, the pace of change is going to continue to accelerate. Because of these changes, I see the need for brands to evolve into what I am calling a 10x brand.
This is an expansion of the concept of 10x Content that Rand Fishkin discussed in a recent Whiteboard Friday video. During this WBF, Rand showed why brands now need to produce content ten times better than anything else showing up in search. In this post, I’m proposing that not only do you need to have 10x content (as Rand called it), but you need to be a 10x brand. In other words, it's becoming necessary that your brand must be ten times better known, ten times more trusted, ten times more referenced than any of your competitors' brands.
Because of the three trends I’m about to share with you, just being “better” is no longer good enough. I'll conclude the post with a set of actionable steps you can take that will help you become such a brand. So get ready, hold on tight, and prepare to enjoy the ride!
Change #1: The rise of the millennials
It's Duane Forrester that deserves credit for forcing this change into my consciousness. The millennials are the first generation that has grown up in a world with this incredible pace of change:
Don't skip past the significance of that. Change is the norm for this generation. If you are Gen X, or a baby boomer like me, there was some real stability in the world of tech. Things changed, but not every single year as seems to happen today.
According to the above-referenced Bloomberg article, the millennials in North America stand to inherit $30 trillion in wealth from the baby boomer generation. This will be the largest generational transfer of wealth in the history of mankind, and is in addition to their own earnings. This will give them unprecedented spending power. So yes, you should care about them.
Next, consider the impact of the changes that have already occurred. The two biggest ones of these are:
The practical impact of these two things are:
- Nearly all the world's information at your fingertips
- Dozens or hundreds of options to consider in regards to any purchase or action you might want to make
- Immediate connectivity with your friends and others for real-time feedback and information
These factors have all led to changes in consumer behavior — not just for millennials, but for any hyper-connected person. Here are some of the key characteristics of this modern consumer:
Demand for high quality
The demand for quality is higher than it has even been before, largely because accessing alternative choices is easier than it's ever been before.
Engagement or entertainment
They want to be engaged or entertained by the companies they do business with. This expectation has arisen because there are so many progressive brands that are willing to do it, so those that don't look stale in comparison.
All communications need to be authentic and backed by behavior, because there are so many ways that inauthentic behavior can get exposed.
When they want something, be prepared to give it to them now. If you don't, someone else will.
Short attention span
You will need to work very hard to keep their attention. There are just too many enticing options available to them.
The desire for these things is not new, but the instant availability of alternative options is what has changed. Any failure to deliver on your part, is immediately actionable by the consumer - they get what they want from someone else.
Change #2: The rise of new Internet-connected devices and voice-driven interactions
Forecasts for device sales over the next 5 years show a stunning rise in the sale of new types of Internet-connected devices: wearables, smart TVs, thermostats, refrigerators, and more. This environment has given raise to the phrase "The Internet of Things."
If you look at the above chart closely, you will see that by 2020 the cumulative installed base of PCs, tablets, and smartphones (all the stuff we actively use today) will be less than 1/3 of the total Internet-enabled devices. The overwhelming majority of the new devices will have no keyboards, and they will instead rely on voice commands for interaction.
For years, people have argued that voice search will be limited because people won't want to use it in public places, but that concern appears to be becoming less of an issue. A study comissioned by Google in 2014 showed that 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search at least once a day. It also appears that the times and places where people are willing to use voice search are increasing:
The Google study also shows interesting data on why people use voice search:
In case you think the Google study is biased, data supporting the rise of voice search is available from other sources, such as this one from Economictimes.indiatimes.com:
These two studies show increases in usage of voice search on a smartphone. The trend in this direction, in my opinion, will be rapidly accelerated by the new types of Internet-connected devices. Most of these devices will have no keyboard for input. For example, if you are wearing a smartwatch, or interacting with your refrigerator, voice-driven interaction will pretty much be your only option for most functions.
Change #3: Fundamental changes in advertising models
One of the biggest drivers of Google's success on the World Wide Web has been their AdWords advertising system. It offered a brilliant model where advertisers paid on a per-click basis, and provided a massive source of revenue to the company. For the most part, this relies on people clicking on an AdWords ad in the search results, or an AdSense ad on third-party websites.
Even with the advent of the smartphone, the screen real estate needed for much of this advertising model has shrunk dramatically. In wearable devices and embedded devices, that screen real estate is gone.
It's not 100% clear how the new economic models will work in this new world. In a smartphone environment, where we still have some screen real estate, the number of ads that can be shown are greatly reduced. There are many that believe that success in this environment will depend on personalization. For this reason, major advantages come to those who have people actively using apps (where those people stay logged in by default), as they can continuously collect information about you. For reference, here are the most popular apps in 2015 accoring to comScore:
It also matters what types of information those apps are able to collect along the way. Because they know so much about you, Facebook has an extremely strong position in this new world, and Google is arguably playing catch-up. This entire story becomes even more complicated when you get to the world of wearables and embedded devices. For some of these, there may be zero real estate available for ads. This will further complicate the world of monetization, and it may all morph into affiliate models.
How will all this end up? I honestly don't know, but fundamental change is a given.
Why should I become a 10x brand?
The world that Google currently dominates is the World Wide Web, a world which is navigated by the browser. That world is not going to disappear, but its share of people's attention will diminish over time. Google may still be a huge player in this new world, but they will have significant competition. And, even if Google is the leading player in it, the shape of how digital marketing is done will be substantially different.
In short, the tactics that work for promoting your business in a web-driven world won't apply. You will need to view this new environment as a massively connected ecosystem. Any, and all, of your imperfections are likely to be found out and exposed. From a content marketing perspective, the landscape will look something like this:
At each corner of the Internet you touch, you have to view what you are doing as visible in every other corner. Your messaging needs to focus on building relationships across the spectrum of all that you do. For that reason, find ways to add value and help others, find ways to engage and interact, and find ways to entertain.
Why do I think this is the case? In a shifting landscape, your best defense (and your best offense) is a passionate audience. People who believe in what you do. People who believe in who you are. And, in a world where personalization is a huge factor in how information is delivered, having that audience that wants to remain connected with you is huge. In short, if a service provider does not make your products and or services available to people who want them, then those people may become dissatisfied with that service provider. What will those people do then? They might switch to another service provider.
The competition between Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and others for the future is ON. They all see it coming, and how this will shake out is not at all certain. This means competing for audiences and securing their own market share. Building your own passionate, connected audience is your clear path for surviving and prospering.
Your goal needs to be becoming a 10x brand. You need to go above and beyond what others do. You don't want to simply be good; you need to be outstanding.
What does it take to be a 10x brand?
1.) View every touchpoint as an opportunity to build or enhance relationships.
By everywhere, I mean everywhere. That includes offline. Have stores? Then interactions within those stores are an opportunity. Have a customer service function? Use it to build trust and perceived value. And, of course, anything you do in social media, on your site, or through content marketing, as well.
Two brands that do this really well are Whole Foods and Marathon Petroleum. You can read more about how they engage with people both online and offline below:
2.) Solve problems for others via content and interaction.
Do this everywhere you are present online.
Create 10x content that helps users on a regular basis (at least once per month). As mentioned earlier in this article, Rand made a great argument for why 10x content is a requirement.
Publishing great content is an awesome way to add value to the overall market ecosystem in which you live.
10x content is a baseline requirement for a 10x brand.
3.) Stop producing any sub 1x content whatsoever.
Quality is far more important than quantity. In your content marketing efforts, stop creating OK content, or 1x content — it's a waste of your time. It will not help you grow. Note: what you put on product pages will probably be more focused on driving conversion, and is likely to be more basic; the focus here is on what you do in content marketing.
4.) Freely share the best content covering your market, including that created by others.
So many brands are not willing to share great content published by others, but if it's valuable to your audience, it will help enhance your relationship with that audience. In addition, it will help grow you grow your social media audience.
5.) Build genuine relationships with other progressive industry thought leaders (influencers).
There are so many reasons to do this:
- Close cooperation with other well-known experts is awesome for your own reputation and visibility
- It opens doors to a wide range of joint promotional opportunities
- It can lead to their sharing your content through your social channels
- Ultimately, these factors all play into improved SEO
6.) Proactively engage with others on social media, including customers and prospects.
It's great to interact with influencers, but you can't make it only about them. As noted above, every interaction is a chance to build a relationship. In addition, every interaction in most places online, such as social media, takes place on a public stage.
How you treat others is public information in these environments. Take advantage of the opportunity that represents.
7.) Develop key employees into public faces for your company (what Mark Traphagen calls a PBR, or "personal brand rep").
Every company has limited funds. Enabling your employee base to participate in building your brand can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your efforts.
This should extend beyond social media and into your offline activities, as well.
8.) Stop any edgy business (including SEO) practices you have been using.
The downside risk of public exposure is way too high:
Questionable business practices designed to get you an unfair edge just aren't worth it. Just ask Volkswagen about the downside of skirting the rules.
You may want to argue with me about being a 10x brand, asking why being a 2x brand isn't enough. There's merit to the argument, but the challenge for you is that the basic channels for information discovery are shifting underneath our collective feet.
If you are seeing success in today's channels, this is a threat to you. If you don't have passionate loyal fans, those new channels have no real need to make information about you available. People won't miss you if you're not there.
That's the key. You need to be in-demand. If some channel does not make it easy to find you, you need people to miss you. That's why you must behave like an authentic, engaged member of the overall community. Having a great product or service will be a requirement, but that's just table stakes — you need to be a 10x brand. If you can create this position for yourself, you win.
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