With over a decade of experience in developing, marketing and selling content and thought-leadership experiences – in partnership with the most successful high-growth technology, healthcare and financial services companies – I decided to put pen to paper and collect my thoughts on what I’ve learned, with a focus on technology sector content. I’m sitting in my New Jersey home on a recent snowy Sunday, one-year into the pandemic. While there is no shortage of writing on this topic, I’m hoping that you will gain a nugget of insight and inspiration or begin to share your own “best practices” with me as you give thought to the power of compelling storytelling. Yes, storytelling. Content marketing is about creating compelling stories that engage an audience with emotion and a strong point-of-view. As someone once shared with me, it’s not about making branded content, it’s about making content that’s on brand.
WHO IS THE TARGET?
This determination is best achieved in the development of buyer personas. Meaning, you have gained necessary insight as to who the buyers of your product and service are, their goals, needs, challenges and behaviors. Who is your customer? Give careful thought and research beyond demographics and psychographics regarding their industry, business goals, and functional responsibilities.
What insights do you have about your customer from your own data sources? What else would you like to know about them? How is your current customer different from your ideal customer? Remember: Teams, not only individuals, are responsible for technology purchase decisions. There could be several customer types to identify and prioritize. According to Gartner, an average technology purchase involves 14-23 people.
What are they challenged with? For example, in the tech sector, generally the three biggest challenges are; (1) shortening a complex and lengthy buying cycle, (2) creating demand for new technology, and (3) attracting the best employees. In what topics are customers most interested? These topics will inform stories that will resonate to assist your business target in driving business and communication strategy; support digital transformation initiatives; and enhance growth and productivity.
WHERE DO YOU FIND THEM?
Now that you have determined the target audience and their persona(s), you need to develop a strategic approach to reach and nurture them. How are they consuming information, data, and insights and educating themselves to be informed decision-makers? What are their viewing, user, and reader habits? According to SiriusDecisions, 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales. Therefore, it is crucial to reach prospects early in the buyer journey to earn their loyalty and preempt the competition. Give thought to the different types of content that executive personas consume depending on where they are in their path to purchase.
Investment! It’s important to elevate your brand to a position where it’s continually connecting directly with not only customers but also potential customers. Communicating with your prospects and customers will require resources and budget; therefore, it’s critical to maximize owned, earned, and paid communication channels. Do you have a prospect and client database with permission to communicate outreach? What paid, hyper-targeted sources are worth testing to gain insights on your target audience interests, intent and timing to purchase?
Ultimately, your goal is to reach the right people, not the most.
WHAT DO WE WANT THEM TO DO?
Engage! Meaning, you want your target to spend time with your brand, share, download and be thirsty to learn more. To do this, you need to activate them. Given your objectives, what is it that you want your target to do? Is there additional information you would like them to share? That determined action(s) is the engagement.
Compelling content will bring leads and prospects to your business by showcasing your expertise. It is about creating a long-term relationship with existing or potential customers and earning a return on investment. It’s one thing to generate opens and clicks; it’s another thing to drive sales and to change brand perception. You want to position your brand to build and maintain a loyal audience over time so that ultimately, they will move from awareness of your brand to consideration and finally decision to purchase. This can be achieved through stories that reach, connect, and convert audiences. By publishing content that connects with people at every stage of the buying cycle, you are more likely to continually move the decision forward and create demand. Content marketing can help you educate your customers about the benefits of a new technology and how it addresses their pain points. It also creates urgency. Stories that provide value to both the customer and to the business are a win for everyone.
Bringing your content strategy together by developing relevant, compelling content in an automated, data-driven way provides your brand a tremendous opportunity to build long-term customer value, trust, differentiation and revenue growth. You will be fulfilling the prospect’s needs at each step of the journey and encouraging them to take action and move to the next step. Storytelling powers buyer education and brand preference. Engagement leads to loyalty and increased sales. And brands sell by telling stories.
Ask the questions that tie back to what you are looking to achieve. Know what success looks like and what data needs to be tracked to measure the desired outcomes. Ensure that you have effectively leveraged unique and third-party research and use cases that the target is interested in. What ideas have you incorporated to provoke innovative thinking and depth on a particular topic? Have you provided a clearly communicated point-of-view on challenges that are highly relevant and timely? And remember, have fun with it! I look forward to hearing your insights and thoughts.