Good writing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of marketing. But if you take a look around, you’ll notice that really exceptional writing doesn’t belong solely in libraries and the occasional highbrow periodical. It has snuck its way into marketing content, and if you ask us, luckily so.
What is it about good writing that locks us to our seats?
Good writing creates even better stories. Stories are deep-rooted in our society and culture; even more so, they are inherent to what makes us human. Throughout our entire history, from the epic Gilgamesh to the marvellous Harry Potter, we have had the need to come up with, write, tell, retell, pass on, read, and listen to stories. Well-crafted, educational, fun, enchanting, suspenseful, memorable stories, built of streams of words upon sentences, upon paragraphs, upon chapters. And without even knowing it, we get hooked.
One explanation of this uniquely human phenomenon is that stories help us make sense of the often overwhelming world around us, and whittle it down to a more manageable level. All at once, stories are our coping mechanisms, our havens, and places where our imagination can roam freely.
How it all began
With all of the above considered, it didn’t take long before the first gurus of marketing and advertising at the beginning of the 20th century noticed the immense power of storytelling, and how it can be incorporated into some very crafty marketing strategies.
People like good content, so why not add a little twist to it, and convince them to buy something at the same time? The ingenious gurus put their creative caps on, and devised nifty narratives in order to sell more products. Of course, it worked stunningly well.
This basic principle holds true to this day: a story can sell a person on a product, a service, and a brand. It can turn a simple commodity into an object of desire, and send masses of consumers straight into a vortex of shopping delirium. But since then, there has been quite a few changes.
Don’t sell, tell
Ever since the era of digitalisation and user-generated content came into full-swing in the early 2010’s, a significant shift occurred in how the story is told.
Marketing techniques have come a long way since the heyday of cheesy TV ads in the late fifties and all of the sixties; the “magic bullet” theory, according to which the user accepts whatever has been offered to him on her on their media plate, has become a complete relic of the past.
Nowadays, mostly thanks to the Internet and the ubiquitous and accessible quality of information, consumers can spot a scam, a charlatan, or a loud and pushy salesman from twenty miles away. And then they run away. Rather fast, too.
Much as we like to complain, it’s an undeniable fact we’re now living in the safest and most prosperous period in our history so far, with almost every conceivable product and service at the reach of our fingertips.
Granted, there is a hefty downside to it: we’re also living faster and working harder and longer by the day; we’re inundated by bits and bobs of useless and often contradictory pieces of information; we’re constantly exposed to a plethora of stimuli that makes our attention span resemble one of a goldfish.
And, it’s never been so easy to feel so lost in the midst of so much choice, scratching our heads in puzzlement at the myriad of options laid out before us.
To illustrate our point a little bit better, consider the following. While experts still haven’t reached a consensus on how many ads an average person sees per day, the majority agrees with Jay Walker-Smith from Yankelovich Consumer Research.
He claims that each of us is exposed to around 5000 ads every day! This is a lot to take in; but even if we put this frightening figure aside, where has this influx of ads gotten us? How many of these messages do you actually remember seeing?
What we’re craving for is a connection
Instead of aggressive yet vapid promotional banners and pop-ups that jump off our screens, we want meaning. It is substance we need. Honesty. The real deal.
That’s why, with the advent of digital marketing, content became the one true ruler of them all. And not the tedious, run-of-the-mill kind the Internet nonetheless seems to be brimming with – what really counts is content that adds value to the reader’s table.
Whether it’s to inform, educate, motivate or simply amuse your audience, the key to good content is good writing. You have to know what it is that makes your users and your customers tick, and then give them exactly that.
Push vs. pull marketing – do you know the difference?
The names say it all: in push marketing, you push or impose your products or services onto your current or prospective customers. Just think of the epitome of push marketing: the insurance salesmen that bangs on your door during lunch time, then cajoles you for two hours into switching to a premium insurance package.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, i.e. in pull marketing, the user comes to you. Pull marketing is also known as outbound marketing, which means your content helps you generate leads.
Put simply, the customers come looking for you, and not the other way round. But in order to get ensconced in that coveted spot of the marketing universe, you need to put yourself out there. Visibility, visibility, visibility. Build a brand. Stand for what you are. Educate, inform, engage and communicate.
All of which brings us to our initial point: content is your gateway to a happy and loyal customer base.
What makes good content? A few pointers
It may sound like a mere heap of platitudes, but we guarantee you from firsthand experience they’re not. These actually work: add value, build trust, and be authentic. To paraphrase the popular saying: “Use your own voice. Everybody else’s is already taken.”
Even if you’re a small business scraping up money for your marketing efforts, don’t get discouraged. The beauty of content marketing is that you can do it just as well as the big guys, as long as you inject some creativity and honesty into your message. Your desire to help will not go unnoticed, so offer your expertise and help your readers find a solution to their problem.
Keep in mind that slow and steady wins the race, so arm yourself with patience. Even if, for the time being, you’re offering some of your knowledge for free, soon you’ll be cashing it in and gaining loyal customers at the same time. When you put people before profit, paradoxically, you gain results, and they will stay there for the long run.
Lastly, be honest. Building empty hype or making false claims may get your marketing efforts the initial kick, but eventually, it will lead failure. What’s more, it can be extremely damaging to your business’ reputation and future. Is it really worth the risk?
Write well and a lot
“Good writing is clear thinking made visible.”, said Bill Wheeler, and this is even more true so in the land of content marketing, where your value to the user has to be immediate and efficient.
If you think you have a flair for writing, give it a shot – even if your line of business is something else entirely! Your authentic voice and expertise will make up for what you may lack in style or skill at the beginning.
Another golden rule is not to get discouraged before you’ve even properly begun. Beginnings are tough, and writing can be intimidating. We promise you that even the world’s greatest writers have their fair share of first drafts they’d most gladly forget. As cliche as it sounds, practice is key. Not even Joyce was able to write Ulysses from his first attempt, so why should you?
However, we will allow that your hectic schedule may not leave you with enough time to pursue writing and producing marketing content. It’s okay to ask for help, and get a professional copywriter or marketing professional to do it for you.
However, make sure the final product is imbued with your personality. Your content needs to reflect your values, and say what you want to say, regardless of who wrote it.
How do you get your message out?
One: blog. In case you’re new to this and could use some ABCs on the subject, head to our previous post in which we’ve covered some secrets of the trade.
The second step is to share your content through social media, and do it consistently, constantly and enthusiastically.
If you need some more convincing, allow the following figures brought by social media executive Kadie Regan to hit home: social media users have risen by 176 million in the last year, and Facebook adds half a million new users every day, which accounts to 6 new profiles every second! Can you really afford to stay out of this picture?
Content marketing makes them stay
One of the easiest (not to mention cheapest) ways to grow your business is to retain your existing customers. In this dog-eat-dog, ever competitive market, it’s quite an achievement to convince your customers to keep coming back to you.
Again, your bait to reel them in is in nurturing honest relationships and meeting their needs with useful, user-friendly content. According to a poll by the marketing expert Heidi Cohen, the top content marketing goals for companies are customer retention/loyalty (88%), engagement (88%), brand awareness (87%) and sales (77%).
So, are you still on the fence when it comes to content marketing?
Need a hand?
We love content marketing so much that we want to bring you on board with us.
If you are new to all this, and feel a tad insecure on where to start with your content, get in touch with us! Actually, we’ll do you one better: why not book a free consultation, so you can tell us all about your business needs and goals, and we will help you to get there!
Our marketing buffs will be happy to support you on your authentic marketing journey – every step of the way.