Anyone who has spent any time in market research for their own products will know how difficult it is, when you find an interested and communicative respondent, not to start trying to sell them product.

It’s just a part of the entrepreneurial psyche, a native urge if ever there was one, to never turn your back on a sales opportunity. You want that close, you want that ‘yes’; it’s in your business DNA, it’s the source of your adrenalin rush.

In market research we know that we have to use left brain listening; dispassionately taking in what the respondent is saying, perhaps starting to analyse and categorise it for later investigation. But as soon as we sniff a sales opening, our left brain listening shuts down, giving way to our right brain listening; a far more creative if excitable mode that instead searches the words heard, for an opportunity to build towards a close.

Walking away from a potential customer hurts like hell, but if quality research is what you’re after then keeping the left side switched on and the right side just ticking over is critical.

The same is true, it would seem, for native advertising. The recent survey undertaken by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Edelman Berland, global market insights and analytics specialists, came out with some major guidelines from consumers to advertisers and publishers.

The top scorers were, of course:

Keep it relevant: if the reader has come to a site named Gardening Advice, then they are clearly looking for gardening advice and any content should sit easily within that heading.

Subject expertise: whatever you are talking about in your sponsored space make sure it is authoritative and genuine, as with any other content you may end up having to join in a forum or answer readers’ letter; after all that’s what the ‘real’ content makers have to do.

Be a trustworthy brand: in other words you must really want to be a part of the community, not just rolling in to town to sell a batch of cure-all snake oil.

Those were the big issues, which came as no surprise to those of us who went native years ago. However, in the findings published by IAB and Edelman Berland there was also this single line that said “Tell stories, share your expertise but avoid the urge to sell.”

Native advertisers must not become like the old door-to-door sales people; using some notionally interesting content to jam a foot in the door before going into full sales over-drive. Native is for the long term, bonding and forming relationships because of the interests that you share and the trust that you develop.

So, how do you tame those urges when, ultimately, selling product is why you’re in business and why you want to sponsor content?

Try reversing the message of a recent mobile phone ad; we actually need to ‘be more cat’, stalking and nurturing our target, not charging at it in a flurry of paws, barking, ears and wagging tail like an over-excited hound dog.

Gently does it; build the relationship with knowledgeable, authoritative content and your time will most definitely come. If you’re entertaining and found in the places your audience like to go to; if you seem decent and honourable and caring about the same things, then why would they want to go to anyone else.

If the urges start to come back, think cat; think left brain listening.

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Author Adam Knoyle

More posts by Adam Knoyle

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