What is the #1 truth about content marketing, and how can it help you turn readers into customers?
Every business needs a good story in its content marketing strategy. A good story is what connects you to your readers and prospective buyers. It’s all about creating alignment between your business, your prospects, and your customers. Not only does this bring you closer to them, but creating your business story gives value and delivers your mission. It also makes you stand out in today’s marketing world, which makes you unique. Your audience wants to know WHY you do what you do.
Okay, so now that you know WHY your business needs a story…what do you need in order to tell a GREAT story? First, it’s all about how you frame the story that you are trying to convey. Of course, you need to keep audience and tone in mind, but to really help nail your branding story, you need to understand the Golden Circle.
Yes, the Golden Circle. Sounds mysterious, right? Simon Sinek says, “people don’t buy what you do; they buy WHY you do it.” Simon Sinek is an ex-advertising executive and author who is best known for his concept – Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle looks like this and is all about starting with WHY. According to Sinek, most people communicate by starting with the “What” they do and eventually work their way back to talk about “How” and “Why” they do what they do.
But, companies that are known to be unique and successful, like Apple or Google, communicate with an “inside-out” type of thinking. First, they start with the WHY; then they talk about the HOW and WHAT portions of what they do.
To keep it simple: WHY is Why are you doing what you’re doing? HOW is How will this help your audience? And WHAT is What are you offering? So, why does the order in which you communicate the story matter? It has to do with the parts of the brain.
When you’re talking about what you do, you’re speaking to an analytical part of the brain. But when you talk about the WHY and HOW, you’re communicating with feelings and dealing with human behavior. So, when you’re planning a story, take time to think through how you’re choosing to tell it. Then, to connect with your prospects and customers, express the WHY of your story.
Tap into the emotional side of things and begin to educate or build awareness from there. The Golden Circle can help you create your mission statement and set the tone for all of your content marketing material. Now that you understand the ordering of a story, it’s also important to discuss the elements that make up that story. Regardless of the story you’re telling and how you’re trying to say to it, storytelling has three essential elements – characters, conflict, and resolution. But how do these three parts relate to storytelling and content marketing? So let’s start first with characters.
With any good story, there will be characters. Every story revolves around at least one character; you need to introduce the people involved. With content marketing, the people involved are your readers, your audience. Storytelling can’t happen without valuing and understanding your audience. It would help if you were always listening and responding to your audience’s wants and needs. If potential customers can get their questions answered AND see themselves as characters in your story; they’ll be more likely to use your product or service and experience the happy ending you offer.
Take a second. Think about a piece of content (maybe a blog post) that you found helpful and resonated with you. Are you thinking about it? Okay. Why is this piece of content so memorable? There may be a few reasons why, but some of the most memorable pieces of content (or stories) stick in an audience’s mind because of the characters involved.
For the content that you were thinking of, were you the character in the story? Did it resonate with you because you felt like it answered a question? Did it help solve a problem? The character is the connection between you, the storyteller, and your audience. To make sure you’re focusing on the correct characters, start with your buyer persona. This semi-fictional representation of your ideal buyer can help you understand the goals and challenges that your character will face. Is your buyer persona a full-time parent?
Well, you might know that time is not on their side, and they would describe themselves as busy. It would be best if you kept that in mind for your story. Or is your buyer persona a business owner looking for a better way to communicate between her team members? She’ll likely see herself as the character if a team is used within your stories.
Or maybe you’re an educational organization looking to attract students who want to take online courses. They might want to read about success stories of students that are just like them. No matter who your buyer persona is, the art of storytelling is making sure you empathize and relate to your audience. So, while keeping your buyer persona in mind, you should also determine the point of view that your story will have. Will it be first-person, second-person, or third-person? And there’s no right or wrong option.
It will depend on your buyer persona, the story you’re trying to tell, and the format of that story. From a first-person point of view, this is when the character is yourself. When you use “I saw this” or “I learned that,” this type of language in storytelling is more confessional. It can help you establish a personal connection with the reader. You can use this to build authority. Try using first-person when there is a known person, an author, behind the content. If the author is noted, this persona fits in a blog post, video, or even an ebook.
As for second-person, the character in this point of view is your audience. “You will see” or “you will learn.” When using “you” language, you need to understand your buyer personas. Make it personal for them by knowing their pain points, their goals. Tell the story in a way that shows empathy.
Lastly, you can’t forget about the third person. This type of character is the “he said,” “she said” kind of language. Think back to that buyer persona example for an educational organization. That buyer persona could potentially benefit from a story done in the third person. Case studies about your customers are an excellent example of using third-person. Story lines with this point of view can be both fictional or nonfictional. Again, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to the point of view.
Keep your buyer personas at the top of your mind and think through what will work best for them. Most importantly, when it comes to the point of view, decide on one and keep it consistent. Consistency is vital when it comes to content and storytelling. Once you have an idea of who the character will be for your story, it’s essential to understand the conflict. The conflict is the lesson in how the character transforms through a challenge. The emphasis is on the word Lesson. Remember, when it comes to content marketing and storytelling, the power is in what you are teaching. The next element in a good story is conflict.
Conflict helps build developmental and emotional dynamics. It helps connect two entities, and human-to-human connections are the foundation for a successful business. Remember, you’re dealing with people, not machines. Your company provides answers, relieves stress, creates happiness, and makes life easier for the reader. In addition, the revenue your company makes comes from a well-thought-out business plan and customers who believe in you and what you do.
If your story lacks conflict, then you’re probably not telling a story. Instead, you’re telling a pitch, tagline, unique selling point, or a plain statement. This approach won’t resonate with your audience, and from a content marketing perspective, it won’t gain you views, shares, conversions, or customers. Conflict doesn’t mean that you should be overly dramatic. Be genuine. The conflict should drive the overall story and affect how characters react, inspiring your audience to engage.
Ensure the conflict fits your prospect’s problems, needs, or stage of the buyer’s journey. If it doesn’t fit their needs, why would they be interested in reading the story? How will they connect? As important as it is to understand your buyer personas, it’s equally important to understand their buyer’s journey and the conflicts they face at each stage. For example, what problems are your buyer personas facing in the awareness stage? Those are the conflicts that should be in your story. Spend the time outlining the problems, solutions, and products or services for the different buyer’s journey stages. You’ll have a better idea of the conflicts you can use in your content.
The last element is resolution. Where there’s conflict, your audience will naturally want some sort of resolution. But what happens next? How does the story end? How did the character or characters change? It doesn’t always have to be a happy ending. Every good story has a closing, so the idea of the resolution is to provide context and emotion for the audience to relate and process the story.
The resolution should wrap up the story but should also clearly call your audience to action. It fulfills the purpose behind the story. For content marketing, a resolution could be the next step or even a call-to-action for more content. Either way, don’t leave them hanging.
Beyond the three elements that make up the story (characters, conflict, and resolution), there are some best practices to follow and keep in mind.
To help make your story unforgettable and resonate with your audience, you need to:
- Use content to create an emotional appeal.
- Be consistent and authentic.
- Keep the story clear and concise.
Your story needs emotional resonance. Emotion is what will give your story power. So, make sure to give your story’s character some emotion. Think about the emotional response that you’re looking to get from the reader. Is it fear, survival, guilt, energized, amusement, maybe even hope? To get buy-in from your audience, you need to elicit emotion.
What’s the difference between your story and someone else’s story? What’s the mission or purpose of your company? And, why should your audience care? Next, your story needs to be consistent and authentic.
It’s not just what you say through your website or content. It’s the entire experience your company offers based on your buyer personas needs. David Ogilvy, one of the most well-known advertisers of all time, once said, “tell the truth but make it fascinating. “You can make any industry, any product, or any service stand out, and that’s accomplished by providing an experience. And lastly, you need to keep things clear and concise. Everyone can benefit from cutting down a lengthy story.
Ever had a friend tell you a story that took them 10 minutes to get through but probably could have taken them under a minute? Even long stories benefit when you whittle them down to just the most essential parts.
And be specific. You’re not trying to speak to everyone. Your story and experience should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Communicating with the correct audience niche and creating that need is just as important, if not more important, than the story you’re telling.
Now that you’ve learned how to tell a great story to improve your content marketing strategy, you will see you can use your new skills for blogging, email marketing, or whatever marketing platform you choose. It doesn’t matter how long or short your story is; you can adjust it to whatever platform you use. For instance, using storytelling in email marketing brings connections that create more clicks and conversions. An email marketing platform that is beginner-friendly and has multiple services available is Systeme.io. Systeme.io provides an autoresponder, funnel creator, a course platform, and more. With Systeme.io, you can condense some of your business tools into one convenient account and save money at the same time.
So remember, create emotional appeal, be consistent and authentic, and keep the story clear and concise. Before making your story, plan out who the character is, the tone of voice you’ll be using, the conflict, and the resolution. And never forget great storytelling always starts with WHY.
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