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.
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.
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.
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.
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?’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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