Good vs. bad content – what’s the difference?

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We’re awash in a cesspool of bad content.

Much of it is content that is so self-serving, it makes you cringe. Tired topics that have been covered ad nausem by many other authors – apparently in an attempt to validate the theory that an infinite number of monkeys pounding on an infinite number of typewriters can write a novel. Dense, confusing infographics that look like a unicorn barfed in Photoshop. Topics that the author was obviously passionate about, but don’t connect with any customer need or interest.

Most of the time, you can recognize bad content when you see it.

However, it’s different when you produce content for your company. You’re too close to it to be objective. Plus, you have a deadline looming, so you do the best you can. You churn out one of those ubiquitous “10 ways” list posts. It turned out pretty good. It’s well written. It makes logical sense. But is it actually worth reading?

Here’s the rub: You can’t be the judge of that. It’s up to your customer or stakeholder to decide what rocks and what reeks.

Tips to create content that rocks, not reeks

So how do you turn the odds in your favor? How do you ensure you’re producing content your target audience will actually read, value and benefit from? Here are some tips:

Customer focused: Always start your content creation efforts with a well-defined customer need – no exceptions! Bonus points if you have created a customer persona and a customer journey map for the audience segment to whom you’re writing.

Compelling: Make it a compelling story. Communicating the facts is important, of course. But let’s be honest – it’s often boring. How can you make it more memorable and interesting to your target audience?

Tell a story: Study storytelling techniques, and learn how to incorporate them into your writing process. Why? Because as human beings, we are hard-wired to respond to stories. They engage our mind and emotions like nothing else can. If you can tap into your audiences’ minds at this deep level, you have a much greater chance of engaging them with your content.

Useful: Make your content useful. It’s important to educate your target audience about what they need to know and to answer their deepest questions. But you must also deliver it in an actionable format. Always ask yourself, “How can I help my reader put this information or knowledge to use immediately?”

Valuable: When you’re writing, continually ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” You need to always think in terms of the audience for whom you’re writing: Their needs. Their challenges. Their opportunities. This bit of advice may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how much your voice and point of view try to sneak into your writing. I’m sure you see it all the time – blog posts that provide useful information until the very end, when the author can’t resist to toss in a product or brand mention. Don’t do that. Remember, your goal is to build trust, not sell something.

Differentiated: Always seek to differentiate your content. Not just for the sake of being different, but to gain attention and engagement. Appeal to emotions and issues that your target audience cares about. Think about their typical day. What value can you deliver to them that will make their day, their week, their career better? And remember: You’re not working in isolation: You need to do a better job of this than any of your competitors, who are also trying to influence that same audience.

Where do you stand?

So where do you stand on the continuum from bad to good content? It’s time to move upstream. Your audience will appreciate it. And your boss will, too, because your content will be more effective.

 

Motivational Monday: Tell Your Story

tell your story

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin

What is your brand story? You may think your company doesn’t have a compelling story, or that telling customers “what you do” isn’t interesting enough to sell your brand. No matter what you do, what you make, or what kind of service you provide, your story IS your brand. It’s what connects you to your customers.

How have you made a difference in your customers’ lives? THAT is your brand story. Expand on that, explain it, and use it to drive what you do and to connect with future customers. Your story makes you unique.

Stories that evoke emotion can be powerful tools. Cast your customers in your stories, weave in a question or problem, and show how you solved it. The best stories are those that touch your audience in some way—using humor, joy or inspiration to charge your customers and call them to action. …and whenever possible, give your stories happy endings.

  • If you’re looking for Great Ways to Tell a Marketing Story, use the same methods you would when telling any great story: build on a plot, add a villain or a problem, and sweep them off their feet with a solution. Most importantly? Get creative!
  • Your brand story makes for the best website and social media content. Use video and photo to tell your stories and you’ll find you can literally sell without selling through great content marketing.
  • Keep your story sincere and get your customer involved in telling your story. Telling your story should be your marketing strategy.
  • Always have a point and a purpose to your story. It’s not enough to just explain how you got from Point A to Point B. Instead, make your story engaging with rich context, journalistic techniques and analysis throughout. Understand the “why” behind your story.
  • Remember: sometimes your customers can tell your story better than you can. Take, for example, this campaign by New York Presbyterian. Turns out, the patients were better at telling the story than the doctors!
  • No matter your industry, storytelling is a key strategy for successful marketing.

If you need inspiration to craft and tell your story, be sure to follow Cultivate on LinkedIn or subscribe below to receive full Motivational Mondays posts in your inbox each week.

 

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Marketing creativity is the ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, information, insight, stats, examples — and combine them in unique ways. The larger the library of creative building blocks, the more visionary your ideas will grow to be.

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How Powerful Brand Storytelling Can Supplement Direct Mail

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Direct mail can be a powerful tool, but not if it’s thrown in the trash without consideration. The best way to keep your direct mail campaign out of the garbage is to earn the trust of your recipients. Powerful brand storytelling is the best way to do that. With the right story, readers will care—and they’ll be interested in your message.

Your brand story is built from the ground up. Here’s how…

Start with Brand Recognition

The first boost to your direct mail campaign comes from simple name, logo and branding recognition. Consistency is absolutely key to building brand recognition. You might send different types of mail, but your logo and branding should be visible and prominent on any mailing.

Customers who know who you are and already view your company in a positive light will be less likely to trash your mail. Perhaps they’ve already been to your website and signed up for an offer. Perhaps they’ve purchased your products or services before. Perhaps you interacted at a trade show. Brand recognition helps you tell your brand story, mainly because it’s the key to getting that direct mail piece in the door and in front of more eyes, unlike “cold call” mail.

Speak to Your Customers—and Your Customer Service

One of the most important services you can offer is fast, friendly customer service. Never underestimate the power of a helpful smiling face or an earnest friendly voice. Your customers are where your brand story starts, because so many great customer stories stem from great customer service.

Great customer stories are often the most powerful brand stories a smaller company can have—and one of the best ways to beat the competition. Build brand loyalty and make prospects and customers alike feel included in your direct mail initiative by telling stories about how you’ve helped people just like them.

Highlight Your Company—and Your Company Culture

Your brand story should be about your company as well—and your people: who you are, how you treat your employees, the history of your company, even your location. It’s the details that pull in your customers and help them get to know and trust your business. Loyal customers aren’t just a faceless mailing list, they are people who care about you, your company, your mission, and your brand.

If you know your customers, you know what’s important to them. Your story should touch on these points. Will your customers respond to green energy initiatives? Support of a political party? How about perks for your employees? Your technical innovations? Find the elements of the way you do business that will most likely appeal to your clients and make them part of your brand story. Customers want to do business with companies they feel good about.

Showcase Your Products & Services

Your customers have certain expectations, and chances are, they can buy what you’re selling somewhere else. Direct mail should showcase your products and services in the best possible light—with stunning, colorful graphics that reinforce your brand story.

No matter what you’re selling, you probably face some stiff competition. If your prices aren’t low enough to write home about, your brand story has to be impressive enough to gain a place in your customers’ hearts.

Powerful brand storytelling sets you apart, forges an emotional connection with your customers, and makes your brand uppermost in your customers’ minds when they think of your products and services or see your mailing. Tell a compelling story and you’ll reap the benefits of getting more eyes on your direct mail piece—and more leads in your sales funnel.

 

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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Brand storytelling is an integral part of an effective marketing strategy. Want to learn more about effective content marketing? Whether you decide to outsource content marketing or not, this eBook is chock-full of great information on content marketing. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your 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
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Motivational Mondays: Inspired Storytelling at its Finest

    Your real hero is your customer, so write your story about them. Better yet: Tell their stories. –Cultivate Communications

Telling your company’s compelling startup tale, your CEO’s Horatio-Alger biography, or your best elevator pitch can breathe life into your brand and draw in your customers, but it’s just scratching the surface of the tale. The true narrative should be between you and your customer. How has your product, your service, or your brand touched and changed their lives?

Your real hero is your customer, so write your story about them. Better yet: Tell their stories.

Even the most creative of us struggle to extract a bestseller from seemingly benign interactions. Below are a few ideas to help you concoct a page-turner:

  • Sometimes just getting started can be the biggest battle. Check out 5 Ways to Tell a Great Marketing Story for inspiration.
  • A true legend is fraught with emotion, humanity and depth—not always something you expect in business-to-business communications. Here’s How to Forge a Human Connection.
  • Crafting your story requires a deep understanding of your customers, as your customers are both your characters and your audience. How well do you know your audience? As you develop your strategy, consider these 9 questions to help guide you.
  • To add a little intrigue and creativity to your story, check out JJ Abrams’ (television writer/director of LOST and the forthcoming Star Wars movies) TED Talk on “The Mystery Box.” Add that same engagement to your marketing story by giving customers a reason to look deeper, interact, solve a puzzle, or even play a game.
  • Never underestimate the power of storytelling when it comes to crafting your social media strategy. A shareable, likeable story can lead to more likes and translate into more customers. Read these 4 Steps to Get Noticed on Social.

For ongoing creative inspiration be sure to follow Cultivate on LinkedIn and Pinterest.

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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Learn how to create a great content marketing strategy that showcases your brand story. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how you can use storytelling as part of an effective 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

free-download

 

Sell Without Selling: How Your Brand Story Pays Off

Brand story. You’ve probably been hearing this phrase a lot these days—but if you’re a business that packages mulch or sells cement for commercial real estate construction, you’re probably scratching your head and thinking, “Story? I make powder that builders use to make concrete. What kind of story is that?”

But your story isn’t about what you do, or even about what your product is. Your brand story is about HOW your product impacts your customer. Make your story about your customer and it’ll pay off big time.

Think about Ford trucks for a minute. Ford F Series trucks crush the competition. They have outsold every other truck for 37 years—and every other vehicle for 32.

Ford really understands their customers. They show their trucks as dirty, beat up, loaded down, plowing through a swamp, towing impossibly large objects. Their story is hard-working pride, and they tell it well. You don’t see Ford truck commercials advertising its cushy seats, fancy leather trim, or the Wi-Fi in the cab. Instead, they focus on power, control, and their ability to help their customers get the job done.

That’s storytelling for sales, and it works.

So about that cement? Cement is a strong foundation to build on. It’s the bedrock of American construction; a high quality foundation that stands the test of time. Your cement is more than just ground-up stuff, it has history. Tell a story that ties cement to the success of the United States. Where would we be without it? When you stop thinking about cement and start thinking about foundation, you have a dynamic, exciting story that captures the imagination.

 

Your Content: Make It All About Your Brand Story

Once you’ve fleshed out your brand story and how it connects to your customers, it’s important to ensure your story is consistent across your content marketing. Every page can build on the elements of your story.

Explore:

  • history,
  • use,
  • practical applications,
  • ideas,
  • and relationships with other products.

Sell Without Selling: How Your Brand Story Pays Off ... Because you can’t eat cookies without milk. In some cases, you might even partner with other companies.Because you can’t eat cookies without milk.

In some cases, you might even partner with other companies, like Ford and Hemi engines, or IBM and Intel processors. Give THAT a second or two of thought. Intel is a tiny circuit board, one of many inside computers. And it’s also a household name with a well-established brand identity. You’re not going to run out and buy a computer chip by itself (well, that’s true for most people, anyway) but knowing about Intel processors might influence your buying decision. It’s indirect, and it works.

 

Selling Without Selling

You may be wondering why you even need a brand story…and the answer is trust. Buying decisions, even in B2B, are based on relationships and trust. If you want to succeed, new sales are only part of the equation. Existing customers are your bread-and-butter over the long run.

After you’ve made that all-important first sale, it’s up to you to keep your customers engaged and interested. Not with in-your-face sales tactics, but by making your story something they want to be part of; something they want to share with their friends.

Ford knows that. As well-known as they are, they never stop reinforcing their brand story. Their iconic tagline, “Built Ford Tough” has been around for 36 years now, and they never deviate from a brand story that sells so well.

 

related-resources_01

Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Learn how to create a great content marketing strategy that showcases your brand story. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how you can use storytelling as part of an effective 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

free-download