Over the past few years we’ve seen a fundamental shift in the way we create, consume and share content. Every single day:
- 4.5 billion pieces of content are shared every day
- 1.8 billion photos are uploaded and shared
- 500 million tweets are posted
- 700 million snapchats are sent
The sheer speed and scale of content creation and distribution has drastically changed from even a year or two ago. And as a result, we tune out the noise. As consumers we’re hit with over 5,000 marketing messages a day, and yet 90% of them go ignored. Because, as consumers, we choose only what matters to us. We only follow, like, subscribe and share the things that mean something to us personally. So what does this mean to marketers? We need to think differently. We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in. Which begs the question, “What are people actually interested in?”
Puppies. Unfortunately for brands, however, there’s no ROI in puppies (unless you’re Purina and make adorable Puppyhood videos). For the rest of us, the real question is, “How do you create content that people are actually interested in and benefits your brand?”
This is where content marketing comes into play. It’s a balance between what businesses produce and what customers want. As defined by Content Marketing Institute, “Content Marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” For those of us who are visual learners, here’s a handy venn diagram:
Seems simple right? Well for many brands, this is actually pretty difficult to do for two reasons. First, because it’s our natural instinct as brands to talk about our products and services. People want to hear all about what we do, right?
Wrong. That’s actually super boring for people unless they’re just about ready to buy from you. David Beebe, VP of Global Creative and Content Marketing for Marriott International, said it best with, “Content marketing is like a first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second date.” This should be framed and hung at every content marketer’s desk (especially if they can’t get a second date).
The second reason why content marketing is difficult is because oftentimes marketers don’t truly know who their audience is. They create superficial buyer personas that don’t really tell them much about the real person to whom they are trying to sell.
So finally, let’s answer the question. How do you create content that your audience wants and benefits your brand at the same time? It’s actually pretty simple.
- Truly know your audience
- Identify your brand goals
- Tell a story
1. Truly know your audience
The first step is identifying who your audience is and what they’re looking for from your brand. Buyer personas are great, except for when they’re terrible, so get to know your customers at a personal level. What are their goals? What are their challenges? Where do they spend their time? What devices do they use? Think of your audience at levels deeper than just how they interact with your brand. Think of how your audience lives their daily lives.
2. Identify your brand goals
The second step is identifying what you want to achieve for your brand. What business value are you looking to drive with content? If you’re not sure, here are a few to consider:
- Brand awareness: Increase the number of early-stage prospects who found their way to your brand’s site because of content.
- Brand health: Change or enhance how your digital audience feels about your brand.
- Conversions: Convert prospects to customers due to the helpful content you provided them.
- Customer retention: Customers who continue to use your products or services because of the content you provided them.
3. Tell a story
Now that we know who our audience is and the business value we’re looking to achieve, now we need to decide what story we want to tell. Do we want to tell a story that teaches something? A story that makes people laugh? Or a story that inspires? Let’s take a look at some examples:
TELL A STORY THAT TEACHES SOMETHING
Content marketing programs that exist to educate their audiences actually have it pretty simple. The fundamental secret to this type of content marketing is that the buyer journey is nothing more than a series of questions to be answered. All brands need to do is simply answer their customers’ questions. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What are they asking at every stage of the buyer journey? Do you have content that answers those questions? If you’re not sure what these questions are, ask your sales team. If they don’t know, then you may have bigger problems…
A great example of a brand that does is this Kaiser’s Family Foundation, a site that provides in-depth information on key health policy issues. Health care is one of the more complex industries, so the fact that Kaiser has a dedicated site filled with helpful tools, articles and videos (like the one below) that break down complicated topics is a great service to its provide customers and prospects.
TELL A STORY THAT MAKES PEOPLE LAUGH
The biggest mistake people make in marketing (especially B2B) is forgetting that business decision makers are PEOPLE. Behind time on site and bounce rate metrics is a person. Because of this, we need to keep in mind how people connect with people and use that in our marketing. Tim Washer, a comedy writer and Executive Producer of Rich Media Marketing at Cisco explains, “Humor evokes positive emotion, cuts through the noise, demonstrates authenticity, and redeems.”
This point is backed up by data as well. Buzzsumo recently looked at more than 10,000 highly-shared pieces of content, and mapped each piece of content to an emotion. What they found was that the top four were awe, laughter, amusement and joy – all of which can be evoked by adding a little comedy into your marketing (Source: Vidyard).
Prudential’s Bring Your Challenges is a dedicated content hub that discusses challenges many face when saving for retirement. Although saving for retirement is not the sexiest topic of all time, Prudential uses a sense of humor in its content to relate to its audience. The video below is a great example of how the brand does this to explain the difficultly of dealing with the temptation of instant gratification (the little boy at 00:34 is my favorite).
TELL A STORY THAT INSPIRES
Finally, telling an inspirational story never fails. To do this successfully, content marketers should probably re-watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk and be sure to “start with the why.” In order for this to make sense for a brand, marketers need to think of the bigger reason for why their brand exists. As Sinek puts it, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” Apple inspires the world to think different. Pampers strives to provide care for the happy and healthy development of babies. Red Bull seeks to uplift mind and body. What is the bigger purpose of your brand?
Always is a great example of a brand that grasped this methodology recently by asking the simple question, “Do we limit girls and tell them what they should or shouldn’t do?” The brand commissioned an independent study and found that 72% of girls do feel society limits them – especially during puberty – a time when their confidence plummets. Therefore, Always adopted the mission to keep confidence high during puberty and beyond.
What started as a social experiment and campaign has now become the backbone of the brand. The mission has extended to include events such as the #LikeAGirl Confidence Summit and initiatives like supporting puberty education in schools.
So really, creating content people love isn’t actually that hard. You just have to do your research. If you know your audience, identify your brand purpose, and tell a great story you’re well on your way to creating something amazing.