Content Marketing Tactics as an Influence Building Tool

Building influence in your industry can greatly emphasize and amplify your marketing efforts. Becoming a trusted, credible and meaningful source of information and knowledge is crucial for establishing your business influence, impacting the attitude of people about your brand, and has the potential to change people’s minds and their purchasing behavior. One of the most effective ways of building influence and differentiating your brand from the pack is through the use of content marketing. We believe it actually is one of the most powerful tools that every business should include in their marketing arsenal.

Content marketing can be the means for achieving many end. It can help you position your brand as an industry leader and provide sales leads, but it can also build trust and influence among your audience.

In order to do so, you need to follow a few essential steps that we consider vital in generating content that’s valuable enough to turn you into “the best answer” out there.

Recognize your audience’s needs

In order to be able to recognize your audience’s needs, first you need to take a step back and ask yourself whether you know who your target audience is. It can be one group, or several different customer segments, and that is fine as long as you identify key traits for the people in each group.

Next, you need to learn what they care about. You can simply go and ask them directly through surveys or polls, reviews your analytics data or do a keyword research. Then, you should find out who influences them, and try to include some of the influencers or their work in your content in order to maximize exposure and build credibility.

Now that you have a clearer picture of who you are addressing, and are ready to move on to the next step: content creating, you need to keep in mind that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Preferences vary, from content types to topics and goals.

Create content that answers your audience’s needs

If your audience research is complete and you have a full customer profile, you can begin planning content creation. You can lay down a content plan, including content topics and types. This is step where must be careful and make sure you are answering key customer’s concerns, and that the content meets the needs of every step in the buying cycle. The basic model includes content which addresses three key stages: attract, engage and convert.

In this step of the process it is important to identify few content specs:

–       the channel where you’ll publish the content

–       keywords and phrases you intend to use

–       which devices the content should be optimized for

–       content topics for each stage

As we noted before, different people have different content preferences. This means you need to test different content types and find out which ones appeal most to your audience.  There are numerous content marketing tactics you can try and use in order to engage your audience and build influence.

Make an impact

To make your efforts count, and get you the desired results, you need to create content that leaves a strong impression and has maximum impact on your audience, and your marketing goals too. The main difference between content and great content most often lies in storytelling.

When you incorporate storytelling in your content you deepen the connection between your brand and the reader/viewer. Don’t look at story telling as an extra effort, look at is a source of multiple benefits including:

–    Sharing a mutual experience with your audience

–    Developing an emotional reaction and connection

–    Differentiating yourself from the competition

–    Giving meaning to the content and message

Additionally, great stories are sharable and very often accompanied with compelling visuals. Simply adding creative images, gifs or short videos alongside your written content can make it stand out, and more desirable (clickable). If you are sharing on different platforms, adapt your visuals and message accordingly. And lastly, make sure you add social sharing buttons to help increase exposure.

We believe more and more businesses choose to utilize content marketing as an influence building tool because it creates a connection and strengthens relations. And building influence with your audience is about providing as much value as possible. If you can offer content that provides value and benefits, you will grow your audience.

Even though building influence takes time, when done right, content marketing can generate results sooner than expected. If you find putting together a content marketing plan to be the hardest part of the process, you don’t have to struggle with all the work on your own. Let us help you build your content marketing strategy. Share with us your knowledge about your audience and your main marketing goals, and we can help you plan and execute the best and most effective content marketing strategy for your brand.

Using Storytelling in Content Marketing

Storytelling is an ancient form of art of telling stories as a way of social and cultural expression and activity, often accompanied with improvisation and/or theatrics. Stories have been shared for generations in every culture as a means of entertainment and education about cultural and moral beliefs and values.

Starting from Mahabharata, Odyssey by Homer, the 1001 Arabian nights tales, to the emotionally moving plays by Shakespeare, all of these masterpieces have something in common – they are timeless stories that stick with the readers long after they finish reading them.

Brands recognized the potential of storytelling – the lasting impression it makes, the benefits it brings them, and are now using it in many domains, such as movie making, book writing and as of late, branding. Slowly, it has become an essential marketing technique that has the central place in content marketing strategies. It has pushed the product in the back, making the story the main protagonist. But why do inspiring stories play such an important role? There are three main reasons for that:

  •         Our brains are programmed for stories. Dating back to caveman times, and evolving to today, it’s in our nature to positively react to stories. Research shows that different parts of the brain are connected and firing up when people are engaged in a story.
  •         Great stories can break down barriers. With the help of stories, we can understand each other more easily. They can help us connect better, have compassion, even change our opinions and attitudes.
  •         Stories build lasting relationships. Our tendency to embrace stories, along with the connection they help us feel, influences the relationships we build, making them strong and lasting.

First thing to remember is that stories can take many forms, from long episodic epics to ten-word sentences. Stories have a narrative structure which describes an event or sequence of events. They allow the viewers to participate, or passively absorb them, when read, seen or heard.

But how do you create stories that stick and engage the audience in a digital environment? How do you get your audiences’ brains to light up when they engage with your content?

The principles are closely related to word-of-mouth, social sharing and brand perception, and are important success factors of content marketing. This means that storytelling needs a strong focus on what people want to hear, read and share. Great campaign stories are not only well-crafted, but are based on four key elements:

#1 A beginning and an ending. Every writer can tell you that the key to hooking a reader is by getting her emotionally invested in the story as fast as possible. Very often, for marketers the proposed problem can be sold by the product you sell, so the beginning and ending can be placed in one element (one video), or stretched across a whole campaign.

#2 Emotional connections. A story that provokes emotional reaction, such as sympathy, empathy, envy or intrigue pulls the audience in, and creates emotional memories about the product. These connections, which are far more powerful than stating facts, are committed to memory. That way, as the narrative unfolds, it’s easier to move the audience from one emotion to the other, thus increase the connection.

#3 Authenticity. A great story is also authentic and speaks a truth, to the brand and its audience. It is very important to keep your authenticity throughout the whole campaign because people respect and trust honest brands. If you lose your authenticity, you might lose your audience, and customers.

#4 Relatability. The previous three elements lead to the last and most important one – relatability. If people can form an emotional connection with your brand, they will be more likely to buy your products. Make sure your story has a connection to the customers, and they can identify themselves with it. It can be the problem your product can solve, the characters that are featured, or the time period which is highlighted.

Storytelling is a powerful and significant tool, but is not a magic wand. It is crucial for businesses that want to make a difference, and stand out from the crowd in the digital age. But it has to be done right. Beside having a beginning and end, and creating emotional connections through authenticity and reliability, stories need to be nurtured, shared, and refined. The simplest three-step process of content marketing storytelling goes like this:  

Create content that tells compelling stories for each stage of the buyer’s journey. First, address shared interests and values. Then, talk about your company, product and customers, and lastly turn to stories about the product/service.

Connect with your audience via select channels – your web site, email lists, social media or webinars. Make a choice based on what you prefer to achieve – brand awareness or conversions.

Optimize the content you created based on its effectiveness metrics. Learn what engages your audience and refine content pieces according to the audience’s preference.

With good research of your product, your customers, your proposition to them and the media you intend to use, you can get the insight that will allow you to achieve the necessary breakthrough which will have a lasting impact on your audience. Use a great content marketing strategy and storytelling within it to create loyal long-term customers and brand advocates. Over time, that translates into increased sales and revenue for your business.   

Holistic Content Marketing Helps All Marketing Channels

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Content is king. We’ve been hearing this for years, and, to this day it is still the truth. But, the type of content and mediums to promote it have been different and can vary. But, while I was working with one of our clients on marketing strategy, I realized how important it can be to their business.

I like to think about things holistically and how each channel helps each other. I’ve proven this method to work really well when put to use with clients, companies I’ve started, and/or advised. As an example, just creating an infographic doesn’t mean it’s going to drive traffic and awareness. But if you know people are searching for the information included, that bloggers want to use that content, etc. it could drive more than you even expected.

Having a holistic plan and more than just a single use for your content can be a huge win for the company. There are many ways this can work. If you’re an e-commerce company or retail business moving online, this can go a long way in terms of driving down your blended CPA.

As an example, you could be a retail or e-commerce company that sells a variety of name brands or major brands. You might be thinking of how to educate the customer on why they should be Gucci shoes over something like Steve Madden. You might want to do something like”Why high end brands are more cost effective than cheap ones in the long run.” (or something a long those lines). While putting the content together you could do some industry research about the longevity of a pair of high end shoes vs. a pair of cheap ones. Doing a full study and putting a few charts together would really help educate the customer.

What this also does is creates a relatable and personal feeling for your brand to the online shopper. Writing that post tells them you’re looking out for their best interest. Educating the customer here is really the goal and hopefully this post achieves that with the data and facts you’ve provided.

Along with educating the customer, they might have needed that last tip to just convert them to a new customer. Reading the content might have made them go “okay, im sold, I’m here, where do i buy them.” Another thing, assuming they aren’t ready to purchase just then would be to browse the site for more content or more products, to really validate the brand. Whatever the case, you’re providing a resource customers are interested in. Along with customers, bloggers and journalists could be interested in this, promoting this content could lead to multiple people writing about it citing your content.

They might not only be interested in it, they might actively be search for this. For example, I might be googling “steve madden vs gucci pricing” or many long tail variations of this. I might be really concerned about spending $500 on a pair of shoes vs. $79 and not truly understand the difference in the craftsmanship and quality. After understanding this, the customer could be sold (as mentioned above). The great part is, by creating this post, you’ve driven organic search traffic to your site and now you might have possibly converted that customer.

Okay fine, that might be a perfect world scenario, but, that isn’t the only way to convert them. There are two other methods that could potentially lead to a customer buying from you in a more cost efficient manner.

One of those is methods is retargeting. You just got a new user to visit your site through search traffic, them clicking a link in facebook, or a blog post that cites your content. Again, the key here is now this piece of content is already being used in many ways. But, now you’ve got a visitor to your site, that’s being retargeted and will be reminded of your products. Converting this customer over time will be way more cost effective than paying for Adwords or Facebook ad clicks. (that’s not to say we don’t want you to do them, we highly recommend it as well.)

Finally using this content to help email marketing efforts is just another method to help drive new conversions, as well as repeat revenue from existing customers. The first and simplistic thing you can do is have an email / newsletter sign up on your site. The person that came to the site might be so interested in the insightful piece of content you created that they might be interested in more content from you. Also, if they get to site and they find the content interesting but don’t take any action, you can have a modal window (aka pop up) appear on the site that could catch their attention, a service like Picreel will achieve this for you. Here is an example of how we’ve used it on David Kind‘s Blog (p.s. they are one of my favorite companies!):

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Now that they have signed up, you can continue to market to them over email through a welcome series, newsletter series, and continue to promote content, the brands, offers, etc. from your company.

Speaking of that newsletter, the blog post you created, we’re coming back to it here because you might have customers that didn’t know the difference or would be interested in it. Or people who have signed up to the newsletter or welcome series that have yet to convert. You can highlight this content (or any other content you create, for that matter) within this newsletter and yet again use it to you drive a new conversion or repeat revenue from existing customers.

Finally, using services like Taboola or Outbrain, you can use this content and promote it using low cost advertising on a variety of content sites that might be relevant to your brand. An example of this is companies like Harry’s or Dollar Shave Club, who I see all the time when I’m reading about one of my beloved Chicago Sports teams. Here’s an example of how they use the ads to drive customer awareness and also new customer acquisition:

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With all the methods we just listed above, you just drove down your blended CPA. All of this was done with one single piece of content used across various channels and mediums.

Now, I know that was a lot to cover, but, think about it. The possibilities are endless with content. So you should be mapping it out and creating an entire content strategy for your business and not just creating blog posts for the sake of creating them. Think about all the different ways you can use this content to drive new traffic, new users, new conversions, new leads, etc.

Visible Factors is always here to help when you need a Content Marketing Strategy for your company. And, we’d love to hear your thoughts about content marketing below in the comments.