Socrates who said, “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think,” is considered one of the greatest teachers and philosophers in Western history. He was known for not being interested in imparting a certain dogma or attracting followers. He wanted people to think for themselves and come to conclusions on their own. People of all classes were drawn to his enigmatic personality and teachings because he was not only a great speaker, he was a good listener—a trait that set him apart from ordinary teachers.
As William A. Ward, an often quoted writer of inspirational maxims, said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
How does this relate to content marketing? Let’s take it one step at a time.
First, Know Thyself
Do you know who your brand really is, and how that compares to how it is being perceived? Do you know what it stands for? If your brand is mainly having a one-sided conversation about its offerings, you’re not only wasting your own time, but that of your prospects. And you are showing to the world that you do not know who you are as a brand. This goes back to understanding how shared values build relationships. Before you start creating your first piece of content which could educate the world about all the benefits you have to offer, you need to carefully understand who your brand truly is, because those values will reflect in your voice, your visuals and your interactions with your customers. So dig deep to find your values, find your best selves, and then translate that into messages to use to interact with everyone—from customers to partners.
When you do that, when you know the essence of your brand, you can create thought-provoking content that inspires your community and encourages them to come back for more.
Inspire by Living the Truth
How do you feel when you read most B2B content? Do they inspire you to act or do they leave you cold? Do they uplift you or bore you?
Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars, says that for years marketers have claimed the powerful role of myth makers, but where once our stories inspired, moved us to adventure and living a life of higher values, now we create stories that play on fear, insecurities and needless consumption.
“[19th century copywriter] John Powers had given us all we’ve ever really needed to know,” Sachs says. “Be interesting. Tell the truth. And if you can’t tell the truth, change what you’re doing so you can. In other words, live the truth.”
Your marketing messages should come from a place of truth. Whether it’s a product that you have thrown your heart and soul into or a service that you believe will change the world, ideally your strategy should be to make a difference in the world—to uplift and empower other human beings. With the digital transformation of our world, your audience has seized power. They don’t just sit back and consume your messages anymore. They want you to inspire them, to make them think. They often pick what they like, they share it and make it their own. They choose what product lives and which one dies; what brand makes it and what brand doesn’t.
If your innovation comes from a place of truth, then your stories should convey that truth. Once that happens, you will inspire your audience to act and share your content.
Make Your Story Relevant
Telling a good story is one aspect of marketing, the other is the logic behind that story. In B2B content marketing it is essential for us to understand our company’s technology, industry, competitors and buyers to formulate a compelling message. When you create a story, it has to come from a place of knowledge and relevance.
For example, we have worked with startups where the marketing team doesn’t have the technical understanding to keep up with the product team’s agile software releases. You might think that doesn’t matter, since you don’t want to talk about technology features and functions in your marketing messages. And you would be right, to a certain extend. You always wanted to talk about benefits and in the early stages of demand generation, when you are building awareness, you do not want to talk about your technology’s capabilities in terms of features and functions. But you need to know what they are. Why? Because when you tell a story, you have to know who you are talking to, why you are talking to them and what value you are adding. If you are selling a product, you can’t add value if you don’t know in what way that product solves actual human problems and influences lives.
Telling a story that is both creative and relevant, is as much science as it is art.
Creating a first good impression is always important, and it’s no different with your marketing. When you are an early stage startup it’s essential to put your best foot forward in all aspects of your business—from technology to customer service to your content. As you nurture your potential and existing customers with interesting and useful content such as videos, webinars, blogs and eBooks, you will create a sense of partnership and trust.
An Information Security company we worked with was known for having chief evangelists who were experts in the space and produced highly useful content about the state of cyber security. They were also often one of the first to blog about the findings associated with a new breach. Our primary buyers who were Chief Security Officers found the content extremely useful to their daily work and would subscribe to our social media sites and blog.
Building trust takes patience and hard work. Your words and your actions mirror the soul of your brand, so it’s important to be reliable and take your own words seriously.
Consistency builds trust. Trust is earned and renewed through your words and actions. Every point of contact with a prospect or customer must set the same tone—from a sales meeting to the piece of content you put on your website.
For example, if you say in your marketing literature that you provide great customer service, but it takes your support team three days to return a customer call, you have broken that consistency, and therefore that trust.
If you slack in your efforts to remain consistent across the board—in what you say and do—your prospects and customers will notice and it will be difficult to earn back their trust. As you maintain consistency in your marketing literature and your actions, you build trust and increase sales.
Repeat Your Message
Recognize a familiar tune on the radio or the name of your favorite brand? Or perhaps you’ll recognize some of these slogans:
It might seem too simplistic that consistent repetition of a message should increase its effect, but that’s exactly what psychologists have discovered. Repetition is one of the easiest methods of persuasion. In fact, according to a recent research done, people rate statements that have been repeated just once as more true than things they’ve heard for the first time. Repetition creates a pattern and our brains being excellent pattern-matchers decipher and understand the message over time, creating a sense of familiarity within us which encourages purchase. You might be wondering how many times you can repeat a message before it gets irritating. Doesn’t at some point familiarity breed contempt? Sometimes that’s true, but often the feelings of familiarity help us feel closer to something or someone—as long as what they are saying is relevant to who we are.
This brings us to the next topic, building integrated marketing campaigns that repeat relevant messages.
Launch Marketing Campaigns that are Effective
People use the word “campaign” for various purposes. There are sales campaigns and marketing campaigns. Some use the term when referring to sending out a single email to a segmented list; others, when they do a webinar. When we talk about campaigns in this blog post, we are talking about marketing campaigns that have an integrated message and contain interrelated tactics that help amplify that message. These campaigns make use of the concept of repetition and consistency to build trust and increase conversion rates.
As marketers, we’ve all been there before. In our haste to please the sales team and the executives, we blast ad-hoc, me-too or undifferentiated content pieces to our audience, adding noise to the already crowded market. Taking an integrated marketing approach is more effective. These campaigns contain series of assets aligned with a core message that addresses your buyer’s needs and outline the tactics associated with amplifying your assets. This is an effective approach to bringing all aspects of marketing together toward a cohesive goal of increasing conversions.