Storytelling is foundational to being human. Even before cavemen first scratched drawings on cave walls, our legacies, lives and lessons were passed down by word-of-mouth, across cultures and spanning generations. We use stories all the time: to recount our day, to share our histories, to teach children caution, to scare the pants off campers, and to entertain everyone, everywhere. Most importantly, we use stories to connect with other human beings.
The best stories are compelling; they speak to our passions and capture our imaginations.
That’s why effective marketing hinges on great storytelling.
Here are 5 ways to ensure your marketing story is compelling…and irresistible to your prospects.
1. Cast Your Customers
Every story starts with a great cast. Sure, there’s your awesome company hero…maybe a plucky CEO who dropped out of college to start a company in his dad’s garage with just a few friends and a shoestring budget. The company grew and grew until it changed the world. Now that seems like an obvious hero. Well, his name is Bill Gates, but he’s not the real star of this show.
The hero of your story isn’t you—and it isn’t your business, either. Today’s audiences can find these kinds of stories egotistical and uninspiring. Your real hero is your customer, so write your story about them. Better yet: Tell their stories.
2. Use Imaginative Imagery
Whether you’re writing a blog post or creating an all-out advertisement, imagery is crucial. You can write that imagery right into your content or show amazing imagery via superb graphic design or interesting infographics. Imagery is the secret to really wowing your prospects right off the bat.
Check out how GE took our breath away with this beauty:
3. Present a Vexing Villain
In any great story, there’s always an obstacle standing in the way of success. What seemingly insurmountable hurdle is preventing your customers from attaining their goals? Your job is to supply the tools they need to slay their business dragons.
The Allstate Mayhem commercials: seriously, what’s not to love? They’re hilarious, yes, but this villain is relatable and familiar to so many of us, we just can’t help but consider the real-life message behind the mayhem. Now that’s effective marketing.
4. Evoke Emotion
Whether B2B or B2C, today’s consumers are looking for stories that connect us as human beings. These are stories that evoke emotion, bringing us together and inspiring us to feel something…and feel something powerful whenever possible.
While the ASPCA’s animal cruelty commercials are probably the most poignant example, let’s try on something that’s a little more…not completely and totally depressing. These (much more uplifting) Pedigree commercials are sure to tug at your heartstrings.
A dog makes your life happier. Adopt.
5. Hone in on a Happy Ending
Your marketing stories should focus on how your customers can achieve their goals and overcome their problems using your products and services so they can find their own happy ending. To add depth and character development to your story, consider your customer’s goals as a fundamental transformation. How does your solution transform the customer? How is your story inspiring?
Have a look at this fun Chevrolet commercial, “Little Engineer.” Chevy took a bold and broad approach, showing how their innovative designs today might inspire the innovative designers and doers of the future.
Remember: Storytelling connects us as human beings; it’s powerful and dynamic, and stories truly inspire us and make us feel alive. Telling a great marketing story is a spectacular way to connect with your prospects and customers. Show your customers how your goods or services transform their business—and the world. Above all, be honest and make your customers the stars of the show. You’ll draw in more new business and keep your existing customers coming back for more.
Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how you can use storytelling as part of an effective content marketing strategy.
You’ll learn how to:
Increase Your Referral Rate
Increase Your Social Media Reach
Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
Passion is intense, craveable, inspiring…and above all, authentic. You can’t fake passion, you can’t buy it, and you can’t make other people feel it if you don’t. So how do you get your customer base to feel the excitement?
Show your passion.
When you’re inspired by what you do, it’s easy to inspire others. Tell your customers why you’re excited and invite them to get excited with you. Take a marketing hype lesson directly from Steve Job’s launch playbook. Treat every launch with “change the world” enthusiasm, even if it’s not all that new and different. Your new product, whatever it is, is the best thing ever. If you believe it, they’ll believe it. Bringing that kind of enthusiasm to a B2B scenario requires a deep understanding of customers’ pain points. Show your customers how you can fix their problems and make their lives easier in the process.
Tap into their passions.
Give your prospects and customers awesome, branded shareable graphics that speak to their interests. For example, if you’re paying attention to your customers’ social data, you can find out what TV shows they watch and build graphics around quotes:
“Winter is Coming.” -House of Stark (from Game of Thrones)
This theme is perfect for a retail store. Add “Be Warm” or “We Have Sweaters! Visit FictionalStore.com.” Overlay the quotes and your brand on a picture of a warm outfit and voila! the copy writes itself. You should be able to find an appropriate quote for any kind of business…and be sure to throw in a little humor.
Invite customers to participate.
User Generated Content (UGC) is hot, and customers love it. Give them a reason to participate and they’ll jump right in with selfies, poetry, memes, and even performances. Some of the biggest brands around have launched UGC campaigns, including Lego, T-Mobile and Pepsi—but you don’t have to be one of the big-guys to do it!
Show some love.
You’re never going to get customers to trumpet their love from the rooftops unless you show them love first. And that love needs to extend past the hot-new-romance honeymoon phase while you’re trying to get that first sale. Oh, no. You need to bring the heat all through the life of your relationship. Give your former and current customers the incentive they need with a little VIP treatment to make them feel special. Massage their cares away.
Let’s be honest here. New customers are passionate and fun for a time, but the real love (and the big money) is in your stable, long-term customer relationships. Learn more about treating your customers right over the long haul with our free guide to Growth Cycle Marketing.
Give out content they want to share. Great content inspires passion. That’s just the way the web works. People search for information, you provide what they want, they’re happy, and they tell their friends. Simple. Figure out what your prospects are searching for and give them lots of it. Provide the answer to every question you can conceive they’ll ask.
Break the rules.
Be the kind of company you want to be, and not the kind of company that represents tradition in your industry. Break the stuffy old mold. Let your customers see your personality. Some industries, like stock trading, lean on gravitas and dignity, because what says, “Trust me with your money” more than high ceilings, marble floors, and somber men in expensive suits?
But eTrade came along to make the point that anyone can trade stocks…so simple even a baby can make money in the market. eTrade chose to eschew the traditional route favored by old money and appeal to the masses. The day after the first Super Bowl ad featuring the eTrade baby aired, more new users signed up than on any other day in the company’s history. Six years later, one of the most memorable campaigns in history has finally come to an end.
The bottom line? Customer engagement. If you want customers to love you, shower them with attention, gifts and thoughtfulness…without smothering them with sales pitch after sales pitch. True passion isn’t demanding, and it isn’t one-sided, either. Excitement is contagious.
Some topics seem SO inherently boring. Content marketing is all well and good if you’re working in an exciting field with endless subjects to explore, but what if you sell life insurance or manufacture Teflon? Jazzing up a seemingly dull subject isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Stop boring your target audience by following these five content marketing tips:
1. Share your Passion
You love what you do, right? Show your customers the beauty of your industry by sharing your passion. It’s not all about selling. Tell them why you believe in your product or service and how it makes your life better. Provide case studies featuring people like just your customers (businesses, individuals or families, whatever is appropriate) to demonstrate how you solved their problems or improved their lives, their bottom line, or their business.
2. Offer Solutions
Compelling content answers questions—but the key is to answer the right questions. Do people want a detailed explanation about actuarial tables? No. Really, they don’t.
What do potential customers really want to know? Keyword research and social listening will help you determine that, but there’s also something to be said for your own instincts. People are interested in how your product relates to them and their lives. Find their pain points, address their fears, or find a way to make their lives easier.
3. Walk on the Wild Side
It’s human nature to be fascinated by the strange and unusual. Add some pizazz to your content by finding the angles that add interest to your product or service. People may not want to hear about actuarial tables, but they DO want to know if they’re at risk for ebola. (Nope. You’re far more likely to die from your jammies catching fire.) Find creative ways to tie topics together.
4. Add Images
Visuals carry tremendous weight. Research shows that 80% – 90% of the information our brains process is visual and that related images help us process information. Brain science aside, visuals are simply more appealing.
5. Understand the WHY
The New York Times teamed up with Latitude Research to study the psychology behind sharing. Digging into social media motivations, they found that customers share to connect with each other. They share to motivate, advocate and interest their peers. The takeaway is to address your customers’ desire to connect with their friends…not just with your brand.
Providing answers is not only a great way to make your content more interesting, it’s also a great way to nurture your customer relationships throughout the buy cycle. Download our FREE Growth Cycle Marketing white paper to better connect with your prospects before, during and after the sale.
In the end, the most important takeaway is to be sure to make your marketing about your audience.
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Online shoppers have one goal. To find what they want. Sure, they want a good price and good shipping terms, and a company with a solid reputation and the right range of services—but what they really want most is enough information to make an informed decision…you know, to find what they want.
The Google Gods understand this and that’s why they create algorithms designed to defeat terrible content and drive it off the top of search engine results pages (or SERPs).
As a business, your armor against the scourge of Google updates is high quality content.
Because high quality content is what users want, it’s what Google wants to show them…and if you’re smart enough to provide it, your website will never suffer the Google smackdown. (And, hey, it’s not just about Google—all search engines run algorithms written to deliver the best quality results.)
Is Your Content Killer?
There’s no single definition for quality content. The definition changes by industry, niche, target audience, type of product, etc. Nevertheless, you can follow these basic guidelines to ensure your content is solid each and every time.
Killer content comes in the following forms:
Stable, evergreen content that includes popular draws like instructional how-tos and in-depth information about your product or service, industry, and related topics.
Fresh and relevant content like industry buzz, breaking news, and new ways to think about your product or service.
Copy—your top-level sales pages that tell customers about your products and services, and about your company.
With a mixture of in-depth information and a constant stream of new angles and fresh information, you can cover a lot of bases.
The length of your content should correspond to the topic, but a good rule of thumb for average blog posts and articles is 550-850 words. You can also benefit from longer content in the form of eBooks, white papers, and newsletters. Length is a controversial subject, especially if your audience is largely mobile.
One way to address mobile users is to put a lot of information at the top. Make that headline count. In journalism classes, they call that impactful title and the first sentence “the hook.” The success of your written content (whether people care enough to continue to read) often depends on the quality of your hook. In a web search, users often only see a title and the first sentence. Don’t waste that space.
Fierce Fightin’ Tips for Wicked Content
Add Visual Appeal: Content is not limited to words. Graphics and videos add appeal and drive traffic. Visuals can be in any or all formats—videos and vines (micro-videos), slide presentations, infographics, product or user photos, and branded graphics. Visual content is popular and more likely to be shared than anything else. But more importantly, companies using visual content have 7x higher conversion rates.
Go Pro: Be sure to take your content seriously—every piece should be free of grammar and spelling errors.
Before you can start any successful marketing effort, you have to have a complete strategic plan working for you throughout the Growth Cycle Marketing process, from attracting the attention of potential customers to inviting repeat customers back with new offerings. That’s what creating quality content is all about. You can’t fake it or cheap out by hiring terrible writers to churn out terrible writing in volume. When it comes to content, quality is always better than quantity if you want to slay the fearsome beast that is your competition.
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