What’s Trending: Who Tells Your (Brand’s) Story?
August 31, 2020
“Let me tell you what I wish I’d known, when I was young and dreamed of glory. You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”
--George Washington, Hamilton
In case you haven’t been watching Hamilton on repeat for the last two months, there is one moment I think all marketers should ponder. It happens when George Washington is cautioning young Alexander about the desire to leave a legacy, to make his mark on history. Essentially, it’s not up to any of us (even Washington himself) how we will be remembered or what we’re known for now.
We can tell our own story, of course, but we’re just one voice in the chorus that makes up history.
If you’re a marketer thinking about your brand story, this idea comes with no small amount of discomfort. We carefully craft every aspect of our brand’s story, making sure it’s a seamless narrative across channels appealing to our ideal customers. And then what does the customer do? In the words of Eliza Hamilton: “I’m removing myself from the narrative…”
In other words, customers will write their own story about your brand. And that story will be just as visible and persuasive to potential customers as your own content. So what’s a marketer to do? For one, we should make sure the brand is sharing space with customer voices, helping them tell their stories, promoting their view in our content. That’s the quickest and easiest way to make sure the customer can see themselves in your brand narrative: Put them there, right at the center.
This week’s roundup can help ensure your brand and your customers are both voices in the same story, rather than two separate narratives.
At this point, there have been so many reimaginings of the phrase “content is king” that you rarely see the quote in its original form. But this piece from Mark Schaefer isn’t just being contrarian. There’s nothing wrong with content, per se, he says, but it’s not your content people are interested in. Rather, he says, “Our stories are being carried forward by our customers...our content is not king. Their content is king.”
When we recognize that customers are telling our brands’ story — and frequently to a more attentive audience than we have — our content strategy has to change. “The focus of marketing must pivot dramatically,” says Mark. “How do we spend less effort on our stories and more effort on their stories? How do we get invited to our customer’s conversations?”
Mark’s talking here about a kind of influencer marketing, but one that is less about Kardashians hawking makeup and more about respected experts who are genuinely influential on a particular topic to a specific audience. “The content created by our friends and the influencers we admire is much more interesting, relevant and believable,” Mark says, “And that’s the content that makes us buy stuff.”
Whether their interaction with your brand is negative or positive, people will be telling their stories to friends, family and followers. As such, part of a modern marketing strategy must include monitoring and improving customer experience.
Marketing Consultant Lauren Dichter encourages marketers to ditch the old-school funnel concept that removes marketing from the narrative after a purchase. Instead, she says the right strategy is a flywheel, in which existing customers, given excellent service, provide the accelerant for marketing and future sales:
“By placing the customer in the center of the marketing and sales strategy, providing excellent service becomes a key function of the marketing and sales team,” Lauren says. “And as we’ve seen, excellent service is a marketing tactic in itself — one that makes marketers’ jobs easier!”
Making the customer a bigger part of the story doesn’t mean marketers are done being storytellers, of course. Part of our job is to make our brand content more effective — more findable, more valuable, and more likely to be shared. “Creating findable, credible content that is also useful and experiential is at the center of what being the best answer means for marketers,” says Lee Odden.
Lee’s five-step plan to better content starts by nailing down your customer profiles. After all, if you’re not sure who you’re talking to, you won’t know what to say. For Lee, part of understanding your customer is knowing which voices they’re already listening to. “Because B2B buyers are active and influenced by social content, it’s important for B2B marketers to understand social topics as well as search keywords,” he says. “What buyers search on Google and what they discuss on social networking sites are not always the same.”
When your content is based on the needs of a specific audience, relates directly to what interests them most, and features people they already respect and admire, it’s far more likely to move your audience to action.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our content marketing efforts miss the mark. For Michael Doer, there are a few key areas where the process can break down, from workflow problems at the beginning to conversion troubles once the content is live.
Fortunately, this article isn’t just about spotting these problems. Michael dives into how to analyze the source of the problem and fix it, whether your symptoms are failing to earn backlinks, astronomical bounce rates, or just trouble keeping up with your editorial calendar.
Live, streaming video is the newest way to make sure your content connects with your audience. A live stream encourages interaction and engagement for both telling your brand’s story and featuring customers who can add their experience to your narrative.
One of Robert Jordan’s key recommendations is using livestreaming to amplify credible voices that add to your brand’s story: “Another great way to use LinkedIn Live for demonstrating thought leadership is by hosting a panel for experts and industry leaders, including the experts at your organization, to discuss industry issues and trends,” he says.
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