We are an emotional race. That's why stories capture our interest and help us feel more connected to brands. But in the end, brands are in business to make money, so the stories they tell and the emotions they evoke must ultimately drive pipeline and revenue.
At Content Marketing World, a few ways to do this successfully were on show. Here are two.
Conversion storytelling was a new term I learned at CM World from Nicole Martin, VP of Strategy and Marketing Solutions at Pace. Now, you usually don't hear those two terms "conversion" and "storytelling" in the same sentence, let alone as a single term. But Martin shared the theory behind it, and it does carry weight.
Martin defines conversion storytelling as a "measured, tactical way to target and move individuals through the entire customer journey to conversion and beyond."
Her argument is that we are spending more and more money on technology and ad spend, but what happens when the content doesn't work? It all still comes back to the quality of the content.
For conversion storytelling to work, you must focus on the full customer journey and the customer's changing motives and preferences. She also says it requires highly-tailored, individualized messages aligned to needs in the right channels.
There are five things you need to do in the conversion storytelling approach:
- Invest and mine for insights - know your audience, your competitors, the landscape. With competitors, Martin said to focus on their messaging and find your whitespace.
- Develop your story. Your brand strategy should connect with your content strategy, and your stories should be connected even though they serve specific needs.
- Determine the tools and channels and orchestrate a plan that includes owned, earned, and paid distribution. Be realistic about your needs now, but plan for the future.
- Have accountability - build a measurement framework that's tied to business goals and marketing objectives.
- Validate that what you are doing is right and be prepared to change as your customers' needs change.
Radical relevance = content success
The pandemic has changed many content strategies, and unfortunately, some of this change includes an increase in content development. But creating more content is not the answer to reaching your customers, according to Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert, sharing this stat:
65% of B2B customers say brands are already giving them too much content.
Baer offers the analogy of a castle and moat. Customers live in the castle, and they are digging deeper moats to protect their attention. You cannot besiege the castle by throwing more content at them. Instead, you need to find a way to get them to lower the drawbridge and get invited in. You have to be "radically relevant."
To do that, Baer provides three bridges:
- Deliver the right message by being contextually specific to their needs. For example, ask yourself if a piece of content is the most helpful information for this customer at this point in their journey.
- Deliver content through the right messenger. In a list of trusted voices, the brand ranks at the bottom, so figure out who your customers trust the most and give them a voice. Ask yourself if your customers can see themselves in your content.
- Use the right content type (or modality, as Baer called it). A lot of the time, preferences are driven by lifecycle stage. For example, early-stage content types include listicles, blogs, videos, while late-stage types include customer stories, calculators, analyst reports. The key is to have a first type, but not a "definitive" type. You need to allow customers to fully self-educate using the content types they prefer.
Do you have to have all three of these bridges? It certainly makes sense to include all three in your content marketing strategy, and each one goes together with the others. As Baer points out, having all three makes you radically relevant to your customers.
Radical relevance is hard
There were a lot of great sessions at Content Marketing World, many I still haven't watched (thank you for replays). I found I gravitated toward the creative track, but there is so much more to understand today's content marketing.
So my question is, if artificial intelligence (AI) takes on much of the foundational elements of content marketing, should we be switching our focus to more creative endeavors?
We aren't there yet. AI will help us do many things, but there's still a lot of work to do on our foundations. Radical relevance is possible, but it isn't easy, and it requires many moving parts that combine creativity, data, stories, and so much more. This is a great time to be a marketer - if you have the right support to back you up.