Content marketing is still a hot topic, but when I first heard of it, (don’t ask how many years ago, I was hiding in a corporate marketing job, we didn’t only use jargon, we invented more of the stuff.) I groaned inside. Why? Because every marketer started repeating parrot fashion:
Content is the way to sell.
No, no, no, it’s not.
The way to sell technology and complex services is to meet people, understand people, call them back, find out what their pains are and solve them. Or make their dreams come true. But how do you that? And more importantly, how do you show your ideal customers that you’re capable of making their problems go away?
Bottom line, before anyone will buy from you, your brand has to instinctively ‘feel right’ for them. You have to share stuff: values, style, life-experience, conversations, time – oh, and your marketing (whatever you use) has to appeal to them, not repel them. But so many businesses are missing the mark by making these six mistakes with their content. What are they? And how can you avoid them?
1. Your content doesn’t resonate with your audience
The first is obvious. Your client doesn’t recognise themselves in what you wrote. Nothing about the article convinced them you understand their problem. So spend more time understanding them. Find out how you can serve them. A customer avatar, or customer persona, or profile is not a work of fiction. Ask your existing customers, ask your customer-facing teams, get third party perspectives, but fill your customer profile with facts. Lots of them.
2. It doesn’t reflect your real values
The second is easy to avoid when you’re Nike or Apple. But smaller businesses don’t have the budget to refine, create, build and share advertising and consumer content where every word is synonymous with the brand values. What happens when you’re busy, you don’t take time to reflect on the business values at all, the company grows organically, people working there like their jobs, but the leaders don’t or can’t articulate ‘why’ they will continue to like it and why customers can be proud to buy from them.
Get together, take time out, figure out what you want your potential clients to see. Then put ‘that’ into your articles – or if you haven’t got time to write them, brief your copywriter properly. Adam Brooks reminded us of this in his Customer Lifetime Value talk, thanks sir. And yes, one of my favourite books is “Start with Why.” If you don’t share enough content about the business values, why it was formed and what you want to help people with, they won’t feel anything at all. Guess what, we buy with feelings. Which vary at different times of the day, week, month, year.
3. Your content isn’t shared often or widely enough
Thirdly, if you’re a sole trader or freelancer, you might have heard that bit about including your values in your blogs, so you’re busy writing them every week and sharing ‘behind the scenes’ information about yourself. Phew, it’s hard to keep that up. Perhaps one a month will do? Some statistics tell us companies who blog get more leads than those who don’t. But read Hubspot’s detailed analysis: for business to business audiences, it talks about blogging 11 or more times per month to generate more traffic and having a back catalogue of over 400 posts. I’m not suggesting give up, but instead, share a story when you’ve got something valuable or important to say. And share it everywhere, not just on your website. Don’t write a rubbish article because you’ve been told consistency is key.
4. It isn’t consistent
Oh wait. The fourth mistake – consistency IS key. Sticking to a content plan or schedule does work better than publishing random content for most businesses. But there’s a bigger problem for small and medium sized businesses. Most marketing content doesn’t flow well because they haven’t thought through an overarching set of themes, topics and events which all fit together. The reader doesn’t come back to read your blog again because they don’t know what to expect.
5. It isn’t about them – it’s about you
Fifth. Avoid oversharing, it becomes boring fast. I may know you, trust you and like you already, so don’t blow it. Your email newsletter doesn’t need to ‘chat to me’ about all your internal workings. Yes, I’m happy to read your news and customer success stories, but only if I can see what I’ll get out of it. You’ve got a new team member: great, tell me how they’re going to improve your services because they’re an awesome hire. Educating me works better, especially if you’ve figured out exactly what I’m struggling with or want to learn more about.
6. It isn’t really your voice they hear
The sixth mistake is more subtle. I’ve written this blog today under the influence of hearing some brilliant speakers at StroudNet and Dent recently. But does this article sound like me? The same Debra who shows up at networking and smiles quietly when you show much you care about your customers?
Being congruent with who you are, what you stand for and how you want people to feel after they’ve bought your service is a challenge when you’ve got other people writing on your behalf. What I’m learning, is how important it is for a business to have a separate personality from the founder, even in infancy while you’re a sole trader. I’m not suggesting the managing director HAS to write every blog or marketing article, but the leaders do need to take an interest and make sure the ‘company’ personality is clearly represented. We call it ‘tone of voice’ and it matters because your ideal clients can spot BS a mile off. They’re human, they have strong instincts too.
Good news, all these mistakes can be fixed quickly:
Treat your content marketing plan like a jigsaw. Look at the big picture before you start.
Bring other people in to explore your plan. Your perspective might be wonky.
Know who you are you writing it for. Or read about mistake one again and go do your research.
Pick three key adjectives for your business or go back to your values and include those within every single one of your articles.
Storytelling in your content works – but make it easy for the readers to take the next step.
Call to action, terrible piece of jargon. Here is mine: I offer a free consultation to help businesses diagnose whether their content is hitting the mark with their customers and how case studies can help reach more of them. I spend a lot of time calling other people’s customers and my filter is ready. Sadly, sometimes I get a brief and I have to write what the client wants. Don’t be that client. Ask me what I really think, and I’ll tell you.
Footnote: Did you spot me using words like ‘instinctively’ and ‘feeling’ and ‘client’ instead of customer? I want my clients to know I’m here to help them grow, but also to support them longer term to make their marketing resonate more. I’m developing my superpower, empathy. What’s yours?
Case studies are a fantastic marketing tool. It’s a theme where I’m in grave danger of repeating myself! But repetition leads to consistency – which will reach your ideal audience when your content is helpful for them.
Imagine you’re a marketing manager, about to share a case study on several different social media channels. How do you make each post stand out? And entice the right kind of people to read the full story on your website? Let’s look at 6 ways to ensure your case studies are punching their full power to market your business:
Plan your case studies to match your future goals
You may have lots of happy customers, but if none are grounded in the market where you want to focus in future, you’ll waste time writing up irrelevant stories. Before you start writing, plan your suite of case studies to cover the industries you specialise in and the type of customers whose problems you can solve. Then you can ensure your blogs and social posts are relevant too.
Use compelling storytelling techniques
Case studies are a fantastic way of helping potential customers to understand what you do. The purpose of every story is to show how you helped your customer accomplish their goals. But first, reveal the detail of the pain your client was facing. Highlight the emotions and the struggle, even in a business context. When you’ve helped a customer to tackle a major issue, it will help others see the value in your services. Share your approach for solving the problem using words others can relate to; because they don’t have much time – you need to get quickly to the heart of how you work. I’d recommend showing off the results up front, but saving some juicy facts for the ending. When you use storytelling techniques, a case study leaps beyond a standard client testimonial.
Test your headlines
Writing a hard-hitting headline comes down to who your ideal audience is and your brand style; it’s no different with case studies. Identify who your audience are, and what your ideal customer persona looks like. Then when selecting case studies to feature, ask yourself – is this problem broad enough that a wide range of my audience will relate to it? To write great headlines, focus on the call to action or impact you want to make. When you want to provoke a response, go controversial. When you want to educate, start with “How to”. Or when you want to tempt, talk about “the why” and the results rather than “what you did.”
Include real life feedback
You will attract more attention from your ideal audience when the story is authentic. Pick a case study subject who has had ups as well as downs and before you talk to them, and do the background research with the person in your team who knows the client best. By asking the right questions, you’ll gain a greater insight into their pain points and the emotional impact your business had on them. Plan your interview questions for the customer beforehand based around the information you want to share. Use prompts to explore their answers to get honest feedback. Sharing a brief but clear understanding of the client’s history and the industry they work in will attract people in a similar situation – and authentic wording will help the story resonate with them.
Answer common questions
Your case study story will rank with search engines if you use sentences which answer questions. Find the long-tail phrases which work as keywords for your business and add them into the case study narrative. The thing is, this can affect the quality of your writing. You’ve got to walk a tight balance between boring people by explaining the whole problem and letting your ideal audience know you can help solve it.
Show the results and impact on your client
Case studies are all about demonstrating successful results, so add measurable outcomes into the story – the more numbers, the better. To uncover these, use questions such as:
What challenges were you facing?
And what were the results of using the product/service?
What effect has this had on your team?
How is this helping you save time/money?
How does this affect your customers or enhance your competitive advantage?
Results will hit home when you include them upfront in the headline, but you can save them for the end of the story because you want to keep readers in suspense.
Track the marketing metrics of every case study – levels of engagement and goal conversions. This will help you identify what’s working well and what doesn’t. Use this to tweak your plans and don’t be afraid of testing slightly different approaches and find ways to inject a little humour!
Creating authentic, powerful case studies does take time. Book a FREE consultation if you’d like to understand how to speed up the process – then we can review your options in a Case Study Clinic if you want help to revise your stories.