Are you Useful or Useless?
“So how can one be useful? Does that mean we get to have an app? Please?”, you ask. Not necessarily, sorry. Most branded apps have no value for the consumer, and is mainly made for the CEO to say that “we have an app”. Most consumers are reluctant to download apps from brands, and if they do, they tend to use it once or twice and then either delete it, or forget it. I’m not saying it’s impossible to create a great app, there are many examples of useful brand apps. But the successful ones have been made with utility as the sole purpose of the app. It gives the consumer something they can use over time. If your business is subscription-based, if you offer renewed content and functionality on a regular basis or if you have found a way to engage and re-engage the customer/user, then by all means, build that app. But for most companies and brands, the opportunity may not be an app.
“Ok, so what else? How can we be useful?” Let’s break it down into different categories, and see how brands can use these 5 ways of creating a closer connection with the audience:
- Web tools and services
- Mobile services
- Useful content
- Wearable utilities
- Social tools
Web tools and services
Many companies run a blog or provide downloadable reports and/or white papers. And that’s great. But how useful is the information really? If it’s all centred around your brand or company and your offerings, it may not be that relevant to the reader or viewer (if you are creating video content). But if it’s interesting and useful information in the general area of interest for the consumer, well then that’s great. Of course, all companies want something in return, so the content can’t be completely random – it has to be relevant to your industry. But the value exchange is very clear; you provide useful content, they see your brand as an attractive source. This is an important way to connect in a credible and contextually relevant way. When creating content, think about what you are giving, rather than what you are receiving. That’s the only way to create real value for your customers, and for you to gain something from it in the (hopefully near) future.
If your brand has a history of being progressive, also in the area of technology, then wearables is the space to be in. While building branded apps for smartphones is not very innovative in 2016, building one for an Apple Watch or Android Wear is a completely different story. Again, it has to be really useful for the consumer or else it holds no value, and just takes up space on the device. Find out how you can create something that they will use almost every day. Something that makes life just a little bit easier.
The last strategy for utilities we will look at in this post, is social tools. These are tools that makes using social media easier, better, more engaging or more fun (there is no reason utility can’t be playful). By offering a social way to spread content, engage with friends, colleagues etc., you can really provide value, and get the added bonus of spreading your content in an engaging way. There are many ways of doing this, either by leveraging tools that already exist, or to build something that you can own and build on in the future. The goal is always to provide value, and receive credibility and in turn generate sales.
These five strategies seem quite simple, but can be very hard to deliver on. They require real insights, strong ideas and flawless execution. It forces a shift in resource allocation from distribution (media) to production, and it craves ongoing innovation to be successful over time. But the rewards are high, and the investment can be limited. So here’s a suggestion for your 2016 New Year’s resolution: Be more useful.
[Main photo by Matt Brown, under CC]
Erik Ingvoldstad is the Managing Director of Acoustic.
Follow Erik on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR, follow Acoustic at @AcousticAgency
Don’t miss out on insights, ideas and opinions from Acoustic, sign up for our newsletter here.