Content marketing has come a long way since 1732, when Benjamin Franklin published Poor Richard’s Almanac to market his printing business.
While technology and marketing trends have certainly evolved since then, companies still seek relevance by participating in and driving new conversations with existing and prospective customers. In contrast to models of the past, today’s storytelling-driven marketing asks more of the marketer. It requires building a relationship through authentic, relevant stories that provide real value customers—regardless of where they are in the purchasing lifecycle.
It requires an understanding that certain stories are better suited for relationship-building, while other types of stories work better with people closer to purchase decision.
Build a narrative that resonates with people.
At the heart of all good content marketing pieces lies narratives that are memorable, valuable, and—most importantly—human. If we flip how we traditionally think about different products (through features or function), and instead look at the emotional impact of our products, we can develop narratives that speak directly to people and resonate at a deeper level.
Through story telling in marketing, we can turn a cooktop from a heating device (and a hunk of stainless steel) into the unspoken hero of family gatherings. Through our narratives, we can foster an emotional connection between pet owners and their vacuum cleaners (and the mechanics of suction power) by focusing on owners’ love for their pets and desire to take care of them.
Find what matters most to your audience, discover how your product can credibly be associated with their needs, and then find the stories and visuals that effectively demonstrate that relationship.
Choose formats that suit the story you’re telling.
Once you know your narrative and the stories that support it, bring it to life with a creative and compelling format. Think about what will drive a connection amidst the noise and distraction of both our physical and digital environments. Does the story have the best emotional impact when it’s written? Spoken? Animated? Illustrated through a series of images?
Videos offer unique storytelling opportunities through striking visuals or conversation. With a plethora of video tools at your disposal (live-streaming, 360-degree video), you can share exclusive and intriguing visual content that encourages your audience to learn more.
Similarly, data visualization through infographics or animations can demonstrate powerful stories and thought leadership in a particular area or industry. And articles that can provide additional context, resources and visual storytelling around data or original research can also help capture interest and remind readers of your expertise.
Trying to target an audience on-the-go? Podcasts are another way to foster discussion and conversation by offering different perspectives from a panel or providing an informal interview with an industry expert.
When thinking about moving people further down a purchase path of consideration and deep consideration, optimize your stories’ formats for experience: either personal accounts, or interactive demonstrations.
Consider developing a gaming activity that allows customers to explore your product in more detail. As augmented reality and virtual reality continue to grow and become more accessible, it’s easier than ever to allow prospective customers to experience products or virtually try them out.
Interactive videos or demonstrations also help customers understand the product’s benefits. Exclusive options for existing customers can also give them the opportunity to explore upgrades or new features they’re not familiar with.
Activating your existing customers and fans can also be key elements of your storytelling and content marketing. Reviews and endorsements by influencers or peers help build third-party trust. Media companies, research firms, and industry thought leaders can also amplify your brand stories or share their own as brand advocates or ambassadors.
Use data to continually adapt your content marketing strategy.
As brand storytelling formats continue to evolve and expand, so do distribution methods. A person can be physically present on any number of online platforms at the same time: gaming, social media, augmented reality, and more. This amplifies the quandary of delivering the right information at the right time and on the right screen.
To effectively reach people, we have to understand their interactions with digital and physical spaces. We have to know their place in the purchase lifecycle and their platform of preference in addition to the information they need. With these insights, we can effectively tell our stories on the best channel for each person.
So how do we capture these insights? One word: Data.
Data illuminates customer behavior. From lifestyle and category data to individual asset performance, there is no shortage of data available. What’s most important is learning how to find the story within the data: the qualitative and quantitative metrics that show a holistic view of the customer’s experience.
While consistently measuring performance and focusing on your audience’s behaviors is a good first step, you must also act on the information you’re getting. Not everything works, and some stories, formats, and channels will work better than others. Use that insight to alter your editorial and distribution plans in real time.