How paid media can set your business apart from the competition

Chris Perry, Director of adtech platform Getfluence discusses why retailers should invest more in their paid media

Christmas 2021 is set to be a bumper year for retailers. With 2020’s festive period a damp squib and 18 months of intermittent lockdowns, all the signs point to consumers making up for a lot of lost time. Of course, every retailer knows that demand does not always translate to a healthy bottom line. There are always winners and losers. This is especially true given the uncertainty around supply chains and the unprecedented competition in the retail industry. To ensure your business has the best chance of being on the ‘winning’ side means covering all your bases. Marketing is one area that every business can always refine and improve.

A technique that is underused by retailers is paid media. Often more attention and budget goes on social, email or targeted ads. This can be because there’s a perception that a paid media campaign delivers less ROI and is more complicated to set up and manage. However, the reality is that branded content can be one of the most engaging pieces of marketing a retailer can produce. A study by Verizon Media found that it is up to 22 times more engaging than banner ads and significantly increases a consumer’s propensity to buy. Technology is also available to do a lot of the heavy lifting of negotiating media contracts and managing the distribution of content.

Like every other marketing channel, paid media has evolved significantly in the past few years. Long gone are the days when you could simply commission a puff piece in a major publication on how good your product is and expect consumers to be convinced. The media landscape is much more complex and people have become more sophisticated. Therefore, creating an effective paid media campaign requires adhering to a new set of best practices.

One of the key principles that we recommend is thinking more about paid media as an avenue for ‘thought leadership’. This means differentiating yourself from the competition by providing your position and thoughts on key issues that relate to both your brand and what your customer base cares about. In practice, this means thinking less about content that overtly sells your product and more about communicating to people what it is they should think about when they see your business. Providing practical advice, opinion or insights in the primary way to do this. For example, say you want to express how well prepared your business is in the face of potential global supply chain issues. You could write a guide for consumers on how to avoid problems in getting goods in the run up to Christmas. The idea being that readers will associate your company with being helpful experts on this issue, and therefore a safe pair of hands.

The best thought leadership campaigns are authentic – they express a position or expertise on something you actually care about – and they are consistent. It is not unusual for a business to campaign on the same set of issues for several years. Although, this does not mean being repetitive. A campaign should evolve and mature as the issues you talk about change.

When you have your core campaign set, the next step is targeting. The biggest publications are not going to be your first port of call. There are so many specialist blogs and outlets that it is now very easy to create highly targeted campaigns. The content disseminated on these platforms can, in some cases, also be tailored to the reader. It is better to structure your campaign so that content goes to a number of key publications over a longer period of time, rather than spending your whole budget on one article in one major publication. Again, there are ad tech platforms that can help you manage with allocating your resources in the most effective manner.

Content can be produced in partnership with the media outlet – i.e. written by a journalist in collaboration with your business – or written by an agency or by your own business. There’s no set rule on which will be the most effective route. A lot will depend on budget, your in house expertise and time availability. It is, however, best to start with clear outlines of what you want to say in each article so that every piece of content is tied firmly to your thought leadership campaign.

Finally, no marketing channel should be an island. To maximise the impact of your campaign ensure that it is firmly integrated into the rest of your marketing output. This means doing the basics of sharing it on your social channels, through to aligning it with your SEO strategy. It is important to remember that the lines between paid media and editorial, as well as the output of large publications versus blogs, have all blurred considerably. People will share content on social media organically based on what it says more than where it originated. This means good paid media content has the capacity to be shared and engaged with just as much as a quality piece of ‘earned’ PR content. Using your other marketing channels to increase exposure gives it the best chance of ‘going further’.

What I’ve covered is just a very brief intro into how to get the most out of paid media. However, the most important take away I can give is to try. Paid media is likely to be an area where your competitors have a much smaller presence. It is therefore an avenue you can ‘own’. Simply starting by getting your message out there might be the differentiator your business needs just ahead of the busy Christmas period.

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