Native Marketing For The ‘Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’

Joe Burton is the CEO of ROI Marketplace LLC.

With the golden quarter upon us, many companies are looking at their marketing strategies and considering the best product placement and advertisement techniques in a high-volume purchasing season. For many of them, native marketing offers the promise of a lot of eyes and interest on their services and products—but, only if this technique is wielded correctly.

For the uninitiated, native marketing is a form of content marketing in which advertisements are interwoven into news articles, stories, and even sites in a way that is “native”—that is, the advertisements are made to look like they are part of the site and written in the style of articles on that site. The goal is both to avoid being obtrusive to clients while they consume their favorite media, and also to add value beyond the advertisement itself. For example, many native marketing articles aim to be informative, discussing industry challenges or solutions or making recommendations in a way that positions their company as experts. The most successful forms of native marketing dovetail with PR; they promote the company in a public and positive way while burnishing that company’s image in its respective field.

Native marketing is not intended to deceive anyone or to trick readers into thinking they are not reading an advertisement. Rather, it’s intended to offer something to the readers other than merely flashing a sign at them that says, “Christmas ornaments, $5.99 per dozen.” Around the holiday season, native ads may take the form of listicles (“10 Great Gifts For Your Toddler”) or even thought leadership-style articles (“Why Travel Makes A Better Gift Than Material Objects”) or forecasts (“5 Trends We See In The Holiday Travel Industry”). For brands, native marketing offers a way to control the narrative and the messaging around their service or product, and gain some customer loyalty by offering a more valuable and informative (and hopefully less annoying) advertisement experience.

However, to accomplish this successfully, companies need to bear several things in mind about deploying a native marketing campaign, particularly during the holiday season:

1. Tell a good story.

First and foremost, your ad has to have a good story or good content behind it—otherwise, no one’s going to read it, and no one will buy from you. The point of native marketing is to be more engaging than traditional ads. If you haven’t accomplished that, you’ve lost your consumer.

2. Stay topical.

Particularly when you’re advertising around the holidays, it’s important to stay very topical. That means not just timing your campaign for the correct holidays (i.e., not running your Christmas ad before Halloween), but also understanding what’s happening around the world. You can write pieces that are around current events, news, strategy and trends. These can be very effective.

3. Know your target audience.

Who is going to be consuming this article? Keep in mind their interests, concerns and demographics. You wouldn’t want to advertise, say, Medicare-related products on a gaming site. Keep in mind age ranges, economic brackets and political ideologies. All of these will impact the success of your ad (and keep you from wasting money in spaces where you are unlikely to find consumers).

4. Have an eye-catching ad.

The first step is drawing people in with an ad that visually stands out on a page. If your customer is on MSN or USA Today scrolling through the sports scores, something has to motivate them to look away from their reading and click it. The ad has to pop out at them in order to get them engaged to begin with.

5. Have integrity.

Being honest and forthcoming is the most important part of successful native marketing. Again, you’re not looking to trick people into buying something from you. You’re not looking to get that quick hit or that quick sale. Rather, you want to engage someone who is then going to become a customer for life. You’re looking to create a new relationship with that customer, ensuring long-term stability and trust—even beyond the holiday season.

That last point is key. If you’re doing native marketing correctly, in an honest and straightforward way, the goal is to have the customers engaged, learning something and deriving insights as opposed to clicking immediately away from an annoying pop-up about 99-cent flowers. You want to position yourself as a trusted source in your industry or niche so that customers know who you are and think of you as the best and most authentic provider of your product or service. When this is accomplished, everyone—company and customer—reaps the benefits.

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