Storytelling: the 7 hallmarks of magnetic content marketing

Storytelling: the 7 hallmarks of magnetic content marketing

Storytelling. In a word, that’s what great content marketing is. As ever, brands with purpose have a better story to tell. The question is, how can you leverage this advantage to create content that increases awareness, generates engagement and drives sales? This article explores the 7 hallmarks of magnetic marketing content.

Content marketing and story-telling

Great content reaches out to your audience and moves them in unexpected ways. It breaks through their barriers, offers belonging and invites them in. It’s the message of a friend, an icon, a sage, an entertainer, a hero. Just listening to the storyteller holds value.

Content is the point of connection between your brand and your customer. It’s the payload of all that planning, positioning and hard work—and while it might only be a small part of the marketing machine, it’s the crucial element of delivery.

The thing is, content is everywhere. These days, people have become blitzed into inertia by all the posts, blogs and ads they see. The key isn’t to add to the noise, it’s to find a chord that cuts through it. Exceptional content is the way. 

“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.”

—Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple

Great content marketing is hard to define. There’s no magic formula for creating it, but there are seven guiding principles to follow.

This blog will help you find your way.

1) Physiological

Great content triggers a physiological response. It plays to our animal sides, stoking primal reactions and gut feelings. It chimes with both the rational and emotional sides of our mind and elicits a response that is both conscious and subconscious at the same time. 

Here, content follows a psychological pattern which can be mirrored with the AIDCA model. This acronym can help you to move your audience through five key stages—Attention, Interest, Desire, Conviction and Action.

Attention

This is your hook. It’s what gives people pause as their eyes meet your advert. Here your content comes into focus for the first time, providing an opportunity to engage your audience. What would give them a little jolt? Is it a provocative sentence? A witty play on words? An eye-popping animation? An image of lust? The goal is to break through the inertia and buy yourself a second glance.

Interest

Here is your opening sales pitch. You have won their attention, now you must seize their interest too. But the clock is ticking. What can you say or show that will entice your audience to stay engaged? What promise can you deliver that will buy you enough time to get your message across and that you can back up when it’s time? Your message should speak right to your target audience as if you were talking to them individually. It should hit a nerve.

Desire

This is where you win their hearts. What does your audience truly desire that your product/service can offer? How can you conjure a feeling that will make them realise your offer isn’t just a ‘should have’ but a ‘really want to have’. What can you show them that will keep pulling on those heartstrings like an itch that needs to be scratched?’

Conviction

At the point of conversion, the customers’ defences go up. They’re used to being sold to and they know better than to dive right in. They may want to know what the catch is or where they can find proof. You can preempt these concerns by second-guessing them. If you were your customer, what would you want to know before making a purchase? Try including user-generated content like testimonials or case studies, or use facts and statistics to evidence your claims.

Action

Now’s the time to bring it home. Here’s where you tell your prospect what they need to do next. Make your call to action easy, clear and specific. If possible, include a time-bound reason to ensure they take action right away. Limited time offers are a great way to give prospects that final push.

The AIDCA model can be applied to a short tweet or a long-form 3,000-word blog. It needn’t dictate how you compose your copy, but it’s a great place to start.

2) Experiences > Benefits > Features

When talking about your offering remember this…

Experiences are greater than benefits. Benefits are greater than features.

A feature is a factual statement about the product or service being promoted, such as batteries included, or self-setting clock. It’s often thought the company that offers the best features wins, but this is not the case.

The problem is most people don’t care about features. They care more about what benefits the product offers. So rather than selling a camera based on its 14-megapixel resolution (feature), sell it on picture-perfect photos at any time of day (benefit).

Brilliant content marketing goes one further and transforms benefits into experiences. It doesn’t just frame how a product/service can deliver a benefit but asks how it fits into the customer’s wider perceptions of a great life experience.

Now we’re not just selling picture-perfect photos at any time of day, we’re selling picture-perfect memories that will last a lifetime. We’re selling the family life. We’re capturing joy and bottling youth.

3) Customer-focused

Here, your customer avatars and brand guidelines come into their own. When creating content, always keep them in mind. Remember, it’s not you that’s speaking, it’s the brand. There’s no room for your opinions and your tone of voice so you’ll have to keep them under wraps.

Customer-focused writing means speaking from your target audience’s viewpoint. It opts for words like ‘you’ and ‘us’ rather than ‘I’ and ‘we’. It should be human in a sense that it speaks directly to them as a person, on a one-to-one basis and it should be authentic too. 

Sure it’s marketing and yes—it has an agenda, but great content marketing is customer-focused in the way that it offers value before anything else. It doesn’t force unwanted actions, it encourages positive responses. It doesn’t tell, it shares and engages and poses questions and invites feedback. It’s not a one-way conversation, it’s a two-way conversation that’s focused on customer needs.

Really great content speaks to people’s interests. So, whether your posting articles on trending topics or discussing your latest products, always relate the content with your audience’s interests in mind.

target audience

4) Shareable

Never forget the importance of shareability. If you can design your content in a way that encourages the average reader to share it more than once, it becomes self-perpetuating and exponential.

Encouraging shareability is how you spread your message through word of mouth, gaining huge amounts of awareness organically. It lies at the heart of viral campaigns and growth hacker marketing and is why companies like Facebook, YouTube and Uber are scalable by design.

You can encourage shareability by developing ambassador programmes, referrals and affiliate marketing strategies. You can build it into the product as a growth hack or by working with an influencer. But to create content that is organically shareable takes a few extra-special ingredients.

Entertainment

Research shows that shareable content triggers high-arousal responses. Positive emotions such as excitement, awe, and delight gain the highest number of shares, while provocative emotions like anxiety, frustration and anger are also powerful indicators of shareability.

Social validation

The more a post is liked and shared, the more likely it is to be liked and shared by someone else. Make it easy for your audience to do so by adding prominent sharing buttons and don’t be afraid to ask for a share when it makes sense.

Purpose

People like to share content that defines who they are, what they believe and how they think. They share content as if to say ‘this is who I am and what I believe’. Ask yourself what kind of content would your audience feel comfortable sharing. Can you make a statement that will elevate their status and reaffirm their beliefs?

Practical

Practical information is fact-based and well-researched. It provides useful information that has value to the audience and also to their peers. The simple act of sharing this content will help others in their network. It will also highlight the sharer as someone who is both supportive and on the ball.

 5) Memorable

Being memorable is the key to brand value. Great content marketing should leave a lasting impression. It should resonate with a customer so much that it sticks with them throughout the day. To do this, create something that is truly original rather than simply regurgitating what is already out there. Try to look at something from a fresh perspective, or frame it in a different light. Most thought leaders simply rehash what’s already known, but do so in a way that engages the audience in profound new ways. 

Memorable content also makes an impact. It stirs the emotions, inspires and provokes. Sometimes it’s not so much what you say, but how you say it. Can you inject some power words into your prose to catch your audience off guard? Can you use a piece of imagery that juxtaposes with your article and gives it an edge? Is there a new web technique that you can use that will truly set you apart from the competition. 

6) Optimised

It’s fair to say that in this digital world, brilliant marketers should look to optimise everything. Web content should be optimised with SEO in mind. This means researching your keywords and carefully adding them across your content in key areas like headings, sub-heading and alt tags.

Emails and blogs can be optimised by looking at key elements such as the image to text ratio, links and HTML formatting. One of the main areas to focus on is the header or subject line. You can optimise this by using a headline optimiser tool like the one offered by CoSchedule.

Social media content can also be optimised by using the right hashtags to spread the reach of your message to the right target audience. A/B testing also comes in handy when you’re looking to optimise your content and can be applied to pretty much any type of content marketing with the right approach.

7) Structure and style

Great content is structured in a way that makes it easy to digest and encourages interaction. Facebook’s platforms are designed in such a way that they keep you scrolling from post to post, maximising the time that you spend on the platform.

The way that you deliver your content marketing is different for each channel you use. Social media posts are short and snappy and need to leap out at the audience in as few words as possible.

People read online information differently to how they would a book. Generally, they tend to scan articles to try to find the information they need as quickly as possible. To enable this, blogs should be structured with clear headings, subheadings and bullet-pointed lists. They should be punctuated by visual media and pull out quotes to ensure that online readers do not become too overwhelmed by dense copy.

Brilliant content opts for short sentences and simple words. Poor grammar and typographical errors (typos) should be avoided at all costs. Tools like Grammarly or Hemingway can help you bring accuracy to every piece of content you produce.

The last word

Whether you use the AIDCA model, focus on benefits and experiences, add a customer focus, boost shareability and memorability, optimise your content or consider structure and style, there are many ways to develop magnetic content.

But more than anything else, it’s about doing something original and telling a great story.

 

If you’re interested in discovering our full range of free marketing guides, resources and support, we’d love to hear from you. We’re here to speak up for ethical businesses, social enterprises and everyday changemakers in Yorkshire.

See what we can do for you. It’s Your Turn.

Growth hack: word of mouth marketing in a hyper-connected world

Growth hack: word of mouth marketing in a hyper-connected world

The ultimate marketing campaign spreads messages organically and exponentially. Here, word of mouth is the ideal channel, but how can you leverage it? This article reviews our top four hacks and shows why brands with purpose have the edge.

According to a Nielsen consumer report, the most trusted form of advertising is a friend’s recommendation, with 83% trusting word of mouth marketing for buying decisions. The report also found that people are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend.

To make the point, just consider which of the following you would be more inclined to believe:

>    A company you have no association with say that the products they produce are great.

>    A person you know, love, respect and trust tell you that a product they’ve just bought is great?

Word of mouth marketing is one of the most potent marketing channels you own. The only problem—you don’t really own it. But while you can’t directly control what others say about you, you can influence it.

There are two things to bear in mind.

1) Exceptional customer service leads to happy customers.

If you can go beyond that everyday 5-star rating and do something that’s off the scale or has wider social benefits, your audience will talk about it. Read our article on optimising customer experiences to find out how.

2) your audience needs an outlet to express their thanks.

Social media, feedback forms, digital surveys and Google reviews are all great places to start. Think about where your audience talks to their friends and family and join them there.

“The best advertising is done by satisfied customers.”

—Philip Kotler, distinguished marketing author

However, while this organic word of mouth approach is ideal, it’s difficult to achieve. But there are a few ways to hack the channel.

1. Referral marketing

Referral marketing takes this basic premise and goes one further. Rather than just relying on your customers to spread the message through their social networks, it gives them an incentive to do so. This makes every customer a potential brand ambassador.

This strategy works by giving them something in return for sharing the message and encouraging uptake. This could be a product discount, credits or a service upgrade.

This is doubly-effective when the reward works for both them and the person they’re referring to you. That’s because people love to help out their friends and will be more than happy to share something that has mutual value.

You can integrate referral marketing into your strategy through pretty much any channel, but this works best when you have the ability to track purchases with referral codes or forms. They can take a little bit of effort to set up, but just imagine the rewards if every new customer spawned three more a few weeks later.

Here’s a 90-second video from Saasquatch that shows you how to set up a refererral marketing programme in just 5 steps.

    2. Ambassadors and community outreach

    When a group of people have a similar interest, you’ll often not need an incentive to spread word of mouth marketing so long as it provides a mutual benefit. All this really needs is someone to lead the way, provide the materials and channels and inject a little motivation.

    Ambassador programmes that work well often focus on a social or local cause. So ethical businesses and social enterprises have a clear advantage. For example, environmental organisations may be willing to support a new product range that has a sustainable supply chain. Libraries and social centres may be willing to display the marketing products of a business that promotes reading for families. A group of business leaders in a local area may be willing to work together to promote commerce in the area or sector.

    Consider what organisations or local groups might be willing to promote your business (like Your Turn). Think about a mutually beneficial proposition that doesn’t just focus on what you sell but has wider social benefits.

    If there isn’t a group out there already, could you create one?

      3. Affiliate marketing

      Affiliate marketing centres around a business relationship between a brand and an affiliate. This is a performance-based marketing strategy, whereby the affiliate is paid for each qualified lead that it sends your way.

      While this doesn’t necessarily increase conversion rates, it does give you more traffic. And more traffic means more sales.

      While the affiliate may not be the ultimate source of trust, they are often well-respected news outlets, review e-zines and comparison sites. Better yet, they can have extensive, highly-relevant networks. Because of this, a good affiliate can do a large chunk of your marketing for you. 

      For many companies using Money Supermarket, Amazon, eBay or Not on the High Street, this is their main marketing channel. This is great if you don’t have a huge amount of resource for marketing. On the flip side, if this is your only marketing channel, your business success lies entirely in their hands.

      The key thing to consider is whether the ROI works out. Most affiliate programmes take somewhere between 20-60% per sale, so you’ll want to negotiate the best deal possible.

      According to Authority Hacker, affiliate programs generate 15%–30% of all sales for advertisers.

      4. Influencers and micro-influencers

      Billionaire teenage models, yoga-practising vegans, free-living daredevils, and uber-fashionable hipsters—welcome to the world of the influencer.

      We’ve all heard of Kim Kardashian, but many marketers still don’t really get influencer marketing.

      Thing is, it’s a big deal.

      Consider this: Instagram superstar Kylie Jenner earns $1m of advertising revenue per post. With one derogatory post about Snapchat, she reportedly took US$1bn off the stock value in a single day. Such is the power of the influencer.

      Influencers hold such sway because they are adored by vast tribes of highly-engaged followers who are often willing to do and believe everything they say. Influencer marketing taps into this power by paying the influencer to endorse brands.

      You can find influencers on pretty much any digital channel. But they tend to live on YouTube, Instagram and blogs. You needn’t pay out $1m per post to use influencer marketing. A current marketing trend is to identify relevant micro-influencers (anyone with a following of 1,000 – 1,000,000 followers or community members.)

      A micro-influencer may not wield the same power as a Kylie Jenner, but they are far more affordable and generally more cost-effective. This is due to the high engagement and conversion rates they own.

      On the lower end of the scale, a product sample or voucher may be enough to earn the endorsement of your micro-influencer who is growing their name. Better yet, if you have a clearly defined social purpose that aligns with the influencer’s brand, they may be willing to mention your cause for free.

      Start your word of mouth journey

      So there you have it, four go-to tactics for building networks and generating word of mouth marketing. If you’d like to start spreading your message, Your Turn offers free promotional support for social enterprises and ethical businesses in Yorkshire. Find out more about what we do here

        The essential guide to web management and SEO in 2020

        The essential guide to web management and SEO in 2020

        They say the new world is digital. Only it’s not really new anymore. For most, it’s a staple ingredient of everyday life. It’s business as usual. This is your 101 guide to web management and search engine optimisation.

        Mobiles, TVs, laptops, tablets, desktops. There are billions of these little windows all over the world. They’re open pretty much any time of day. On the one side are everyday receivers, on the other side are the broadcasters: a direct transmission between consumer and brand. Little wonder marketers focus on digital.

        Only today, it doesn’t just reach us through our screens, it’s permeated into all aspects of life. Now our homes, sportswear, cars and cities are smart. We talk to our devices and they talk to us. The internet of things (IoT) connects the world and everything in it by data.

        The digital marketer must always keep her eyes open to new opportunities. Let’s start with the web management basics…

        3 essential steps for web management

        Sell your brand in three seconds. Ready? Go…

        Not easy, is it? Like it or not, that’s how long you get online. All that research. All that branding. All that effort. And you get three lousy seconds. 

        That’s because it’s become second-nature for people to make instantaneous decisions about how they navigate the web. A quick scan is all it takes to decide if your site has what they need. There are no second chances or second glances. Three seconds is the time it takes to look, scroll and click the back button. If you want more time, you have to earn it. 

        It’s worth the effort.

        According to Statista, global e-commerce sales are expected to top $4.2 trillion in 2020 and reach more than $6.5 trillion by 2023. That’s why 63% of businesses say getting traffic and leads are their top marketing challenges (Hubspot).

        The truth is, there’s more to it than that. Your website is your new shop window. It sits at the centre of all your marketing with everything else pointing to it in big neon-lit signs. Here is where you’ll be judged against the competition. Here is where your business will win or lose. The question is: what can you do to wow your visitors?

        1) Think about the UX (user experience)

        Not only does your website need to look amazing, but it needs to be user-friendly too—no matter what device it’s viewed on (yes, that definitely includes mobile). It should be designed to communicate relevant information in a clear, helpful and compelling way. 

        Make sure your website caters to all audience types. This should be clearly signposted on your homepage, sending users on the right path straight away. Get into their heads and think about what they will be looking for. 

        Map out the various scenarios as user journeys and ask yourself how effective your UX user experience) and UI (user interface) designs are. What might they find annoying? What might make the experience more streamlined or interactive? Are there any delightful little surprises and giveaways that might keep them engaged and encourage them to take the next step?

        2) Focus on conversion

        Each page should have a function (to entertain, inform, persuade) and it should nudge users along the customer journey to the point of sale or contact. By incorporating a strong call to action on each page, you can keep users moving in the right direction. 

        Focus on landing pages that convert. If your social media goal is to send your audience to your website, design a landing page that is built to convert. This should feature clear benefits and the relevant product/service information they need to make a decision. To help, you can always give something away for free, such as a download, in exchange for contact details.

        Publish engaging content

        No matter how incredible your website is, if it just sits there, it’s dead in the water. Most digital marketing campaigns rely on fresh web content, such as blogs, news or videos which they can link to. Creating brilliant content will not only drive leads to your website, but it will also improve your SEO (more on that next).

        For flexible web management, you’ll want a robust Content Management System (CMS). I use WordPress as it’s highly functional and offers a vast amount of templates and plug-ins which make building, hosting and managing your website a cinch. It also integrates with other marketing platforms and systems resulting in lean, efficient and streamlined campaigns. Better yet, when it comes to revamping the design, all that content will switch to your new theme without the hassle.

        Search marketing and web management

        To get people to visit your website, you need to be visible on the search engines. Welcome to the murky world of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

        In the internet olden days (2000 ad.), you could use black hat SEO tactics to boost your rankings. These included sly tricks like stuffing your web copy with keywords and getting link farms to connect to your website. These days, your website’s SEO ranking will be penalised for such foul play. That means less visibility, less traffic and less sales.

        Here’s some SEO advice I’ve taken straight from the horse’s mouth (Google [sorry Edge]).

        “We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can.” 

        When auditing a website, Google says you should consider the below questions.

        Content & Quality

        “Does the website offer original, high-quality content that isn’t just copied from somewhere? Are the page title and description appealing and do they reflect the content? If you were a webmaster, would you share the content with friends?”

        This is Google’s big focus. After all, their goal is to provide users with appealing content, not market your business (they have Google Ads for that). You can do this by publishing high-quality blogs, news and videos. Long-form blog content still ranks better on search listings. Aim for web page content that lands between 1,850 and 2,500 words.

         

        Expertise 

        “Is the content trustworthy? Does the page contain errors? Would you, as a webmaster arriving at the page via Google search, trust the website you find?”

        Google supports credible websites. If your content references and links out to other relevant authorities, this is a good sign. The more people that use and share your content, the higher your expertise score will be. Where possible, aim to get relevant backlinks by sending your content to digital media agencies and bloggers.

        Presentation & Production

        “Does the content seem to be well researched and well-produced – or does it seem to be mass-produced fodder? Are there too many ads? Does the page load appropriately on all devices?”

        Avoid copying other website’s content. This tactic will only backfire to the detriment of your SEO score. Instead, focus on your specialities. Refer to your messaging architecture to break your website into niche topics of your own. This will give your website a clear structure, making it easier for search engine spiders to crawl, index and rank your content.

        You should also prioritise quick website loads times. Make sure that images are optimised, files are compressed and the server’s response time is reduced.

        Competitive comparison

        “Does the website offer added value when compared with its competitors? Does the content fulfil the user’s expectations?”

        Once again, being different is key to your success. Think about providing value at every step. This might look like a free video tutorial, an explainer blog series, how to whitepapers or interactive games.

        Keywords

        Remember, while Google might not admit it, keywords still play an important role in your web management SEO strategy. You can discover which ones are most effective by using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner. Then sprinkle these across key elements of your pages, such as headers, subheaders, links and page descriptions. 

        Your pages and posts should also have a focus keyword. For instance, in this article mine is ‘web management’. For an article of this length, I should use it approximately eight times. For good measure, here’s another sneaky one–web management.

        Pro tip: rather than using the same keywords over and over again, try to use similar and related phrases.

        Algorithms and quality score

         

        Google’s super-complex SEO algorithms will interrogate your website’s performance based on all the above criteria. This will calculate a ‘quality score’. The better the score, the higher up those Google rankings your site will be.

        And, for a few on-the-go, in-platform hints and tips about SEO friendly copy and tactics, install a plug-in like Yoast to your WordPress website. This will score your content using a traffic light system, making it pleasantly simple to crack the SEO basics. For a more advanced approach, check out the Google Search Console or take a crash course with the Google Digital Academy. There are plenty of highly specialised SEO agencies available to help you gear up to anything more advanced than that.

        The thing with organic SEO is that it takes a lot of time. Planning, creating, connecting, coding—then waiting for Google’s algorithm to index your site. There’s a quicker way to the top of the SERPS, but it doesn’t come for free.

        Pay-per-click

         

        Pay-per-click does exactly what it says on the tin. By allocating a budget to Google Ads you can ensure that your website or landing pages feature at the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages) without all the effort.

        The key to pay-per-click is ensuring that the ROI is greater than the initial cost. If you can achieve this, they’re a scalable gold mine.

        Campaign types are centred around Google’s advertising networks: the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, and the YouTube Network. Each of these ad types let you set a goal for your campaign and target customers with a range of criteria.

        Google Search ads

         

        These ads present your webpage in a typical search, with a header, description and various callout extensions. You should build out your campaign into various ad groups and then identify high-scoring keywords for each. Each ad group will then contain at least three ads where you can test their effectiveness over time.

         

        Google Display ads

        Display ads let you advertise on other websites using banner ads. The main purpose of display advertising is to deliver general advertisements and brand messages to site visitors. Display ads come into their own when running a retargeting campaign. These identify previous website visitors and serve them ads as they navigate other online content.

        YouTube ads

        These are short videos which display on YouTube during advertising breaks. They’re a great way to get your video ads to a highly targeted audience as they watch videos.

        Voice SEO

        The future of web management SEO is voice search. It’s estimated that, by the end of 2020, more than half of all searches will be conducted by voice. Voice search drastically changes the UX, meaning that users no longer need to type their search queries. Nor do they even need a screen. Programmes such as Google Assistant, Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa are all leading the way.

        Search engines are changing the way their SEO algorithms react to voice queries according to the changes. To get ahead of the game, consider how you can adapt your content.

        One of the key things to remember is to write the way that you speak. When users search on desktop, they use short, bullet-pointed phrases, such as “best phones 2020’. But if they use voice search, a user might ask “What are the best phones available in 2020?”

        Look to include these longtail keyword phrases into your copy. They work perfectly as headers, subheaders or leading questions in opening paragraphs. These phrases should be short and simple as voice search results are typically written at a Year 10 reading level.

        With 22% of all voice search queries focused on location, you should consider local content too. Adding words like “near me” or “in Sheffield” will improve your chance of getting picked up.