The secret, missing ingredient of content marketing.

by John Furgurson on May 16, 2012

It’s the age of information, and much of the marketing buzz these days revolves around “content marketing.”  Especially for business -to-business marketers, it’s all the rage.

We have YouTube videos, webinars, articles, blog posts, 24/7 Tweets, Powerpoint Presentations, Facebook updates, websites, ebooks, and white papers coming out our ears.

In many cases, it’s just too much information. Or at least, too much of the wrong kind of information.

In an effort to “push valuable content” to prospects, some internet marketers are inundating people with more and more information.  And there’s something troubling about the quality of that content:Most of it is totally devoid of emotion.

The model that’s emerging seems to rely on dry, analytical information. Data, data and more data.  “274 reasons to buy.” Occasionally, when someone gets really “creative,” they take the data and spruce it up with an “infographic.” So it looks a little cooler, but that doesn’t make the data any more interesting or relevant.

What’s missing is a compelling narrative. As the old saying goes, facts tell, stories sell.

be novel for better content marketing For better content marketing, be novel – tell a story!The most successful marketers don’t lecture, they tell stories.  And the stories engage people.   That’s how TED is able to reach so many millions of people with really heady stuff.

Nothing teaches more effectively than a good story.  Stories suck people in and involve the listener/reader/user on an emotional level.  The use of character archetypes, metaphors, plot and drama can bring any subject to life. Even if you’re in a highly technical, scientific market niche, you can still use narratives effectively in your content marketing.

And that applies to all forms of content marketing, from cheesy little YouTube videos to elaborate webinars.  You need to forget about information for a minute, and think about entertainment.  How you can involve the audience, so their eyes don’t just glaze over?

The trick is taking all that data, and pulling a story out of it that will resonate with the target audience.

There aren’t very many people who are good at that.

If you have a marketing staff of ten people, you might find one who can do it. If you’re a department of one, or a business owner/Chief Marketing Officer, forget about it. You don’t have time to tell good stories.

So you better outsource it.

You need a good copywriter who can translate all your insider information, market research data, and “repurposed” sales material into something that actually engages people. It could be a script for your next video production , or an investor pitch, or a trade show presentation. Doesn’t matter.

You need someone who can spin information into a memorable, relevant tale.  Nobody’s better at that than advertising people.

Many business people these days seem to think there’s no redeeming value in traditional advertising. They think content is better, and that consumers will rail against anything that smacks of advertising.

But a few touches of good, old-fashioned advertising would really help all this dry, content marketing. The production value that makes advertising effective can also turbocharge  your content marketing.

Ad guys know how to tell stories with one, great image. We can synthesize a whole bunch of client input into 30-seconds of entertainment. We can engage an audience quickly and effectively with repeatable sound bites and compelling, memorable images.

I bet your content marketing doesn’t do that.

One of the worst things you can do is let content marketing creep into your advertising. There are offenders everywhere. just this past weekend I saw a billboard with a QR code on it!  I tried climbing up there to scan it, but I think I need a bigger phone.

I can just hear the client saying, “No, we gotta get that information in there, so people can get lots of information.” C’mon.  It’s a billboard.  You get seven words max.  It’s not about information, it’s about engagement. Interest. And emotion.

If you want to get a lot of information in, do an infomercial.

But even infomercials tell stories.  And guess what… they sell.  Like gangbusters!

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