What is Inbound Marketing? [Infographic]

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In 2017, ads are everywhere. Billboards, TV commercials, print ads, sponsored social media posts and banner ads are constantly bombarding consumers everywhere they turn. As a result, they are losing their effectiveness. 84% of TV viewers who were surveyed admitted that they want to fast forward through TV ads. Newspapers are struggling to remain profitable, shedding employees while losing subscribers and ad revenue year-over-year. Billboards are very costly and do not provide data to prove their effectiveness, making them somewhat of a gamble. Digital advertising requires brands to put their trust in the hands of platforms, giving up control of what content their advertisement is running alongside. Digital advertising also suffers from somewhat murky attribution techniques, making the success of campaigns difficult to determine.

Advertisements are common in today’s society and well understood by the general public. But did you know there is another marketing tactic, less well-known than advertising but that may very well be more effective? Inbound marketing involves creating and sharing content to educate an audience about the topics surrounding your business. It is far more cost-effective than advertising and has seen widespread adoption over the last five years. In our article, Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing we discussed the differences between the two forms of marketing.

This infographic by The Whole Brain Group, does an excellent job explaining the basics of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is not difficult to get started and can return significant results. 

What is inbound marketing?
To learn more about inbound marketing, digital engagement and creating human connections through digital channels follow us on Twitter @VeridayHQ.

How Warmth and Competence Affect Customer Perceptions

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Warmth and Competence

Whether we recognize it or not, humans judge things and other people as soon as we come into contact with them. Immediate judgments, inaccurate as they may be, set the tone for how we interact with others throughout the course of our relationships.

When we survived as hunter-gatherers, this judgmental attitude allowed us to gauge threats and the intentions of others. Lions, tigers, and bears look menacing, and we immediately judge them as a threat, sending us into a fight or flight response. Rabbits and other fluffy woodland creatures do not invoke such feelings because they are cute and appear to be harmless. These animals seem like they can be trusted.

Those same judgments affect how we view other people. A baby-faced individual with a smile will be less threatening than a slim-faced stranger with a scar across their face. Humans are predisposed to trust people who convey warmth and good intentions, and it has served us well (as a species) over time.

Without the ability to accurately judge outside agents, including other people, animals, plants and miscellaneous threats, early humans would not have survived long enough to pass on their genes. The ability to make accurate judgments is a survival tool. Understanding the intentions of others allowed early humans to surround themselves with people they could trust, mostly based off of first impressions.

So, how do first impressions affect how consumers view businesses? Dramatically. There are two main characteristics that are most impactful on their perceptions: warmth and competence. These characteristics are the same ones that people use to judge outside agents and their intentions. For all intents and purposes, when discussing warmth and competence, other people are treated the same as businesses.

Competence and warmth are such fundamental judgments that even babies are able to recognize the warmth and competence of animated characters.

Warmth

Warmth refers to how trustworthy one seems. People immediately judge warmth based on a person’s facial features and how they carry themselves. It is one of the first criteria that people judge you on. Soft facial features, slightly surprised or happy expressions, and baby-faced individuals tend to quickly gain trust.  People also associate members of their particular ingroup with warmth. They are much more likely to view someone similar to them as having warm intentions.

In business, warmth reflects a company’s intentions. Warmer companies are seen as caring about the social consequences of their actions and are more trusted by the public. Hospitals, charities and most public services (such as the postal service) are seen as having warm intentions. Consumers are willing to give businesses that project warmth a chance to earn their business, but they must also show competence.

Competence

Competence is more difficult to judge than warmth, yet humans still make judgments on competence in around one second. Judging competence is based off a variety of factors.

Those with strong, dominant faces are immediately seen as competent, while those who appear weak and submissive are seen as incompetent. Other factors such as size, gender and ethnicity are also considered when judging for competence. It is important to note that these judgments are often wrong because they are made instinctively in a very short period of time and are based on stereotypes.

In business, you will be judged for competence based on how you have performed in the past. Any previous experiences a customer has with your business will be considered when judging your competence. Online reviews and ratings will also affect how competent your business is perceived.

Warmth-Competence Matrix

The combination of warmth and competence has a dramatic effect on how others view you or your business. Different combinations elicit different responses, fitting together in something called “the warmth-competence matrix. It is important to note that judgments are made from stereotypes, and while the judgment may be wrong, they still affect how individuals see those around them.

One’s place on this matrix has very little to do with how warm and competent they actually are. Your placement on the warmth-competence matrix focuses entirely on how you are perceived by those around you. You may be the single most competent person on the planet, but if you do not project that to others, then for all intents and purposes, your competence does not matter.

Warm-Competent

If an individual is seen as warm and competent, they are often admired. They are seen as trustworthy, carrying good intentions and able to achieve their desired results. Individuals in this segment of the matrix often become leaders, as they are both liked and trusted by others.

People will stereotype others as warm and competent if they are part of their particular ingroup, or are seen as close allies of the person who is doing the judging. People who fall in this group are often admired because they have positive (warm) intentions, and seem competent enough to execute on those intentions.

A warm-competent business is one that has trustworthy intentions and has proven in the past that they have the ability to perform. Companies that fall within this sector of the matrix are extremely successful, usually growing to capture a large share of their market. Companies viewed as warm and competent include Campbell’s, Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola. They have shown that they have respectable intentions and have the ability to deliver a positive customer experience.

Warm-Incompetent

If an individual is seen as warm and incompetent, they will be pitied. These are individuals who, while trustworthy, are seen as completely incapable of actually accomplishing anything of note.

The elderly, people with disabilities and women have historically been stereotyped as warm, yet incompetent. As a result, they have been treated with paternalistic behavior. Warm-incompetent individuals will be accepted as part of the ingroup, but not given any responsibility due to their perceived lack of competence.

Companies seen as warm yet incompetent have good intentions, but for some reason cannot deliver to their customers. Often these businesses are government funded, provide some sort of public service, and suffer from a lack of resources. Businesses in this sector include postal services, public transport and, veterans hospitals. People view these businesses as trustworthy, but unable to meet their goals.

Cold-Competent

People in this segment are looked at with envy because while they seem very capable, their intentions are viewed as cold. This elicits a negative response in people because they are jealous of the competence, but would use it to accomplish warmer goals.

People viewed as cold yet competent are usually associated with high-status, competitive outgroups perceived as high on competence but low on warmth. This leads to feelings of admiration and resentment.

Luxury brands are the most stereotypical cold yet competent brands. People see them as competent because they provide a high-quality product that people clamor for. They are seen as having less-than-positive intentions, but very capable of seeing out their goals.

Cold-Incompetent

Individuals in this segment are not well liked, and often held in contempt. Their intentions are seen as less than honorable and they are completely incapable of achieving their desired results. This is the worst segment of the matrix to grouped in with because people will not respect or trust you.

Immigrants, homeless people and poor people are often stereotyped as cold and incompetent because they are part of the outgroup and seen as having low competence. People seen as belonging to this group are often easily dismissed because the person judging believes they are wholly inferior.

Brands that are viewed as cold and incompetent should be concerned. It means that consumers don’t trust them in any capacity. Usually, it takes a colossal failure to end up in this section. After the 2008 recession, many consumers lost a great deal of trust for investment banks. The BP oil spill caused the company to lose consumer trust (especially because of the fallout from the spill). Brands also make appearances in this sector include well-known, profit chasing drug companies and tobacco producers. You do not want your brand to fall into this sector.

How Warmth and Competence Affect Customer Perceptions

Applications for Financial Services Professionals

The way that people judge individuals is the same way that people judge businesses. Your brand has human characteristics to your clients, with warmth and competence being two of the most impactful characteristics your business has. Businesses are judged on the same matrix that humans are judged on. However, there are differences between how businesses and people are judged, especially when it comes to financial service providers.

  1. You are the face of the brand

    While some financial institutions such as large banks and insurance agencies are seen as “faceless monoliths”, smaller, boutique institutions (such as advisory firms and credit unions), have a very tangible, human connection.

    An investment advisor, for example, is the main point of contact for their clients. People usually know their financial advisor on a first name basis. If you are a financial advisor, people will judge your warmth and competence and assign those values to your practice. Since you are the human face, you will need to project warmth and competence to your clients every time you meet them.

  2. Actions speak louder than words

    Projecting warmth is done by softening your facial features, smiling more and generally being amenable towards your clients. It is fairly simple but requires emotional intelligence to control what emotions you project outwards. Competence is far more difficult to project.

    Actions speak much louder than words. Don’t tell your clients what you will do with their finances, show them. Use case studies and projections to explain your abilities to clients. Be mindful of your actions, as they will be the ultimate indicator of both your warmth and your competence.

  3. Personalize everything

    By offering personalized content and communications you can show your client that you care about them, demonstrating your warmth. People prefer personal communications, so a handwritten note will garner more goodwill than a letter addressed to “Homeowner”. By pushing personal communications financial service providers can become part of their client’s ingroup, which we know will increase your perceived warmth.

By focusing on providing genuine experiences and solving client problems, your business can show clients that they are genuinely cared for. Respecting client’s time and providing tangible solutions to their problems are ways that financial service providers can show warmth and competence. 

The Human Brand

The Human Brand, a book by Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske. Chris is a managing partner at a professional services firm with a focus on sustainable business growth and performance. Susan is a psychologist, focusing on how groups are perceived and the emotions they create at cultural, interpersonal and neuroscientific levels.

In the book, the authors explore a variety of topics, including how perceived warmth and competence impact how consumers view a business, how consumers view actions and intentions, and how brands can take actions to influence how they are perceived by the public.

The Human Brand is a must read for business owners and, C-level executives who want to take advantage of human nature to improve the perception of their brand. If you want to discuss the book, let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ.

The Power of Storytelling in the Business World

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Storytelling is one of the most inherently human activities that exists. No other species has the documented ability to tell stories the way we do. Stories greatly affect how people view topics. Storytelling, as opposed to any other method of communication, has the capacity to plant thoughts, ideas, and emotions into the audience’s brain.

Science has shown that our brains react differently to stories than to information with no narrative elements. When we hear a story, many different areas of the brain are activated. When hearing a story, the entire brain lights up with activity but when information is presented in a non-story manner, only the brain’s language processing areas become engaged.

Information in a story stimulates the brain in a way that makes it feel as if it’s experiencing the story itself. If I was to describe someone with leathery hands or a velvet voice, the sensory cortex of your brain would react. If I described my movements in the thirty minutes after getting out of bed, the motor cortex of the brain would be stimulated. These are the same parts of the brain that would be activated if you touched leather, a velvet curtain or when you experience motion.

People are moved by stories in ways that other forms of communication simply cannot match. Stories create emotional and psychological connections that help information gain traction in the audience’s brain.

Businesses across all industries work to take advantage of people’s natural attraction to storytelling. By communicating relevant information in the form of the story, it will engage the audience in a way that simply detailing the relevant information never would.

There are 4 main areas to consider in order to tell the most effective stories about your brand:

1. Humanize your message

Conveying information in the form of a story has the effect of humanizing your message. Storytelling can convey feelings of trust, authenticity, and sincerity; traits often associated with other humans.

Authenticity enables feelings and emotions to be conveyed. Authenticity is a leading reason why content associated with individuals within an organization has become so important to how brands interact with their audiences. It is best practice in content marketing to attach a name to company emails, blog posts and other forms of content. Content created by a brand’s CEO, the users of a product, or a customer-facing employee is more successful than content labeled with just the brand name.

People relate to other people, and storytelling evokes that connection. The most successful brands create emotional attachments with their customers. Consumers want to trust brands, and it is far easier for consumers to trust another human than a faceless entity. Storytelling can create that human connection and increase the trust consumers have in your brand.

2. Be emotional

Stories are a fantastic way to convey emotions to an audience. If someone becomes emotionally attached to an idea, it will stay in their mind. By creating an emotional connection with an audience, you can draw their continued attention.

One way you can use emotions to create more effective content is by drawing on empathy to forge connections with the reader (or viewer). You can easily create more effective content by putting the audience at the heart of the story and explaining how the information affects them.

In the competitive market for people’s attention, a story without an emotional connection will be ignored and quickly forgotten. Perhaps the most important feature of a story is connecting the information within to a human lens. In some situations, emotion can be more important to a decision-maker than facts.

3. Framing context

Humans think in terms of cause and effect. Regardless of the activity, people think in narratives. People create short stories about every little thing that happens to them. They enjoy sharing personal conversations and anecdotes. People naturally communicate first and foremost through stories, and brands can take advantage of that fact.

Storytelling affords brands the chance to talk in terms of cause and effect, and explain how their message directly affects individuals. People want to relate information to their own experiences whenever possible. Storytelling gives brands an opportunity to explain why the information they are providing is relevant to their target audience. Framing your content in this fashion will allow you to retain the interest of your audience.

4. Retaining interest

Listing facts and figures is not an engaging way of communicating information. Powerpoints, academic papers, and lectures are jam-packed with information but are not as effective a medium for communicating information as storytelling. They do not engage audiences as much as stories because they can come across as “dry” to most of the intended audience.

Storytelling, unlike other methods of communicating information, can maintain audience interest in a world of information overload. By creating peaks and valleys in the “flow” of the story, brands can create suspense and stakes within their story. Consider your favorite novel, movie or play. It is very likely there are suspenseful moments sprinkled throughout the content to create suspense.

Stories allow brands to retain their audience’s interest by motivating “action centers” within their brain. You can use various narrative techniques to engage audiences, peaking their interest and keeping their eyes on your content. No other form of communication has this benefit.

These facts about human psychology boil down to one lesson: People may forget facts, but they never forget great stories.

How to convey warmth through storytelling in financial services?

The financial services industry is no exception to the rule. Storytelling is still the most effective way to communicate relevant information to an audience. You can incorporate stories into all aspects of your marketing campaigns, client loyalty, and sales efforts.

Most people will say that they understand the importance of saving for retirement, but many do not invest enough in their 401(k) or other retirement plans. If you tell them “save more”, they might not listen to you. Provide that information in a narrative and the psychology of storytelling can help them understand the importance of the information you are providing.

Tell them a story of a family who did not save enough for retirement, and as a result suffered consequences, putting immense pressure on their loved ones. This story can help illustrate the importance of saving for retirement in a way that your audience can relate to.

You could explain how you would help a potential client plan for retirement, but that might not motivate people to make smarter decisions. Tell a story about a young couple who you met with the exact same mindset the audience has. Use the story to show how your advice made their life better. That story will resonate better and will influence their emotions to motivate action.

You can tell millennial audiences a story about one of their peers in a dire financial situation. Explain how with your services, you can help them save for their dream vacation. When you tell a story, your goal should be to have the audience empathize with the characters in the story. 

Any financial services professional can use storytelling to help their clients understand the importance of various financial situations. When pure information doesn’t motivate client action, a story can evoke emotions that may cause your client base to take action.

Does your business tell stories to better relate to your audience? We would love to hear the story of your brand. Let us know your story on Twitter @VeridayHQ or contact us on LinkedIn here.