Once upon a time, not so long ago, companies marketed their goods and services by jumping on their soapbox to convince people why they needed to buy from them. “We’re bigger!” “We’re better!” “We have the latest and greatest!” Those companies that could shout the loudest or the longest were usually the winners. Customer needs? That really didn’t matter. Marketing was a one-way street where brands told us what they wanted us to hear.
Then in 2004, the face of marketing changed forever with the launch of Facebook. Social media changed the way that we think, work and want to receive information from the brands we use. WE, the customers, are now in control. Marketing is a two-way street and we want to be involved, engaged and connected not only to each other, but to the brands we buy. Unfortunately, marketers have been slow to react to this change and have created a divide in the way customers want to receive information and the way companies give them information.
So how do we build that connection with our customers? Through storytelling.
To tell stories is human. Stories connect us. They make us relatable to one another and create empathy. Consumers today want brands that are less like marketing machines and more like “friends” who share stories and experiences.
Research confirms that our brains crave storytelling. According to a 2012 Nielsen Study, our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than by cold, hard facts. When reading straight data, only the language parts of our brains work to decode the meaning. But when we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but the other parts of our brain become engaged as if we were physically EXPERIENCING the story.
That’s all fine and good you might be saying… but how do we incorporate storytelling into our marketing? The answer is relatively easy. Through content. Content marketing is one of the biggest marketing buzzwords today. But what is it exactly? According to the Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
So, while the concept is relatively simple, it’s the execution that trips up many companies. Yes, companies are creating content – tons and tons of content. But a majority are still using the ME, ME, ME mentality in their content. They aren’t telling a story or engaging their target markets. They are just standing on their soapbox shouting about how great they are and forget about the two most important words in content marketing – valuable and relevant.
Content marketing is not a hard sell approach. Nor does it create immediate ROI. It should be used as an on-going tactic to create engagement and build a relationship with customers. And achieving that ROI? To quote a great story, “if you build it, they will come.”