Storytelling has been a distinctly human ritual for millennia. We’ve shaped our perspective of the world through pictorials, verbal expression and the written word, adding complexity – and simplicity – to our ever-expanding worldview. The stories we tell not only add personality and individuality to our existence, but they help others to gauge the authenticity of our character; we can learn a lot about someone, or something by the way they present themselves.
Organizations and businesses are no different. They must paint themselves in such a way that inspires trust, loyalty and curiosity in their targeted market. The benefits of embracing a transparent and honest approach to creative content in your marketing efforts are vast, and besides helping you sleep at night, can help boost your credibility and authority in your online marketing efforts. Promote the wrong message, and digital content consumers will be quick to call you out; when a brand story is too hyped up, self-promotional, glitzy, or can’t back up its claims, people will look elsewhere for a brand that better embodies their values and embraces their identity.
91% of B2B marketers use content marketing daily, so as writers and creators, how can we build the best quality content possible? The key is to stop overthinking it, and to start telling things like they are. A hint of virtue and clarity can go a long way.
Define your Parameters
It’s 2017, and that means marketers can employ the use of a huge number of autonomous marketing software and inexpensive, accessible social media technologies that have torn a considerable chunk out of traditional media platforms – but all marketers must fall back on one primary function: they need to use age-old writing and reporting skills to compile information.
Co-author of Get Content, Get Customers, Newt Barrett, tells Forbes that in order for content creators and marketers to rethink their content mindset they have to begin to think like publishers, and that starts by defining your parameters and knowing who you’re trying to direct your words to. Barrett tells us that the new marketing mindset is to define your ideal customer, find out what’s most important to them, and deliver that information to them in a way that’s relevant to their story.
When you define your parameters, and write for a specific group, you eliminate the potential for unrelated info to make its way into your writing; instead of building fluff pieces, you’ll be writing purpose-built, honest content – and, you’ll help your readers to build trust that makes it easy for them to choose to do business with you.
Add Personality and Don’t Forget About Your Existing Customers
Nearly 80% of customers believe that companies who provide enthusiastic, custom content are interested in building good relationships. This means branded content geared at communicating with existing customers. Adotas’ Andrew Boer tells us that the biggest difference between custom content and content marketing is the latter tries to secure new audiences.
Speaking directly to your existing customer base does two things: it helps strengthen the existing relationship you have already built, and it inspires those people to continue doing business with your brand because you haven’t forgotten about them. When you add a flair of personality to your content creation, it lets your existing market know that you value their patronage and think of them as good friends, hence, you’re trying to build a better relationship. This equates to 61% of buying decisions being influenced by custom content.
The Content Marketing Institute suggests creating content that’s honest and elicits an emotional response from its readers. To do this, consider writing your content in the overall tone that best personifies your position of the topic at hand; tell stories that are specifically designed to pull particular emotions from your readers – happiness, joy, curiosity, anxiety, etc. – all of these emotions are more likely to be consumed and shared by your audience because they’re packed with personality.
Build Connections with Consistency and Originality
A quick thesaurus search for the word consistency will reaffirm its importance in your content strategy. Consistency can also mean reliability and dependability – traits that help construct authority and a penchant for credibility. Inc.com tells us that because content marketing is widely regarded as one of the best ways to boost engagement and build brand awareness, consistency is cited by 50% of marketers as the biggest challenge to a well-executed content marketing strategy.
Consistency helps establish your brand as a credible thought-leader in the industry, and satisfies the appetite of your content-hungry audience on a regular basis. When brands and organizations miss their window to catch the eye of existing and new audiences, another post or piece of content is going to be there to fill the void – if you don’t publish consistent content, your competitors will happily pick up the slack. If you find the release of content is what’s getting you down, consider implementing the assistance of an autonomous app like Buffer to schedule posts on a consistent basis – digital marketing guru, Neil Patel recommends striking a balance based on your business goals and the amount of subscribers/followers you have.
Second to consistency is originality. Instead of simply regurgitating the same old statistics and facts about your industry, dig deep to find new ways to communicate with your audience. When a customer reads the same ole content, they’ll inevitably get bored with your voice and your brands identity. Content needs to inspire and engage with its intended audience, so give people something to talk about!
Allow yourself some time to dive into the content strategy of another brand you admire. Investigate how they’re coming up with unique topics and brainstorm ways to implement a similar sense of enthusiasm and creativity into your own content.
Let’s look at Netflix as an example of a brand that’s embraced originality as a critical component of their content strategy:
- Competition in the streaming industry is increasing and originality in programming has helped Netflix to carve out a space and differentiate itself.
- Over 50% of Americans use the service, in part, because of its competitive pricing but also for the original content being added monthly.
- Forbes estimates that original content will be a “key factor” to driving the value of Netflix up in the future.
Source your Stats
How many times in grade school math class did your teacher tell you to “show your work?” There was a reason why, and it’s because when someone can see how you arrived at your conclusions, they can understand why you know what you know.
When creating a piece of content that calls for you to backup your statements, make sure that your stats come from a credible source. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a content writer is to source inaccurate or untrustworthy sources. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes – if they have doubts about the credibility of the information they’re ingesting they’ll find other content that makes them feel enlightened and clear. When you’re sourcing statistics, quotes and citations, try to avoid:
- Sourcing a name or publication without including a link to a report or website.
- Linking to a homepage with no reference to the piece of information you’ve quoted in your content.
- Linking to a source that doesn’t support your claim.
Treat People With Respect
This segment is going to be relatively link free – because we don’t need third party evidence to tell you why you should treat your audience with respect. Bottom line: no one is going to do business with a brand that treats its customers like simpletons. If you want to receive respect, you first have to offer your respect. That means not sugar coating your content with inaccuracies that you think will better your chances of making a sale. It also means writing in such a way that showcases what your brand is capable of, and not back-tracking on your promises or organizational values somewhere down the line.
Marketing is 100% about finding ways to better communicate with people. Not just in terms of boosting the effectiveness of your sales funnel and lead conversion rates, but via basic human interaction. Acknowledge your prospects and customers are real people who deserve to be treated with integrity and candor regardless of where they are in their buyer’s journey. If they’re inclined to buy from you, great news – but those people are no more important that someone who is just discovering your brand, or those who have traditionally dealt with your competitors.
The job of your content is to be a valuable resource to those looking for help – don’t forget that. Think of your content approach not so much a weapon in your conversion arsenal, but as an extended olive branch. When you offer your help, expertise and knowledge to readers, you actively create a trustworthy relationship based on honesty and respect.
Last but not least, thank your readers! Instead of implying that their interest in your blog, or email marketing campaigns is appreciated – outright tell them. All too often we leave these opportunities up to assumption – give the straight story instead.