My family and I have been going to a little breakfast spot on the beach almost every weekend for the past few months. Next door is a health food store that carries everything from locally sourced produce to organic maqui berry powder and pretty much everything in between. I had never shopped there – at least not until recently. I don’t know my maqui berry from a goji berry, other than the fact that they’re both among the latest trendy superfoods, according to an article sent to me by my vegan daughter. And when I remember to buy my vitamins, I do it the old-fashioned way – at the grocery store.
However, the health food store recently converted me to a customer with a weekly newsletter it publishes and places in a rack on the sidewalk. I started picking it up every week to skim during breakfast. The newsletter is pretty basic in terms of its production value, but it’s full of great stories. Last weekend’s main story was about a father and his adolescent son who took a 100-mile bike trip around Florida together. As I sat at breakfast reading the story, I envisioned someday taking my son on such a trip and how cool that would be. (He’s a toddler so a cross-state bicycle journey may be a little premature for him. For now, it would be pretty cool if he’d stop throwing his pancakes at our server.)
The health food store that, until recently, I never even entered understands the fundamentals of content marketing. They’re not selling bicycles, even though they are writing about them. What they are promoting through the stories they tell in their newsletters is a healthy lifestyle. These stories have converted me to a vitamin-buying customer. (Sorry Centrum, I’m buying whole-food multivitamins for three-times the price because I’ve bought into the idea of a healthy life style.) Maybe I’ll even add a dash of wheat grass into my next breakfast smoothie – and, if I do, I know where I’m going to buy it.
Who’s the Hero?
No matter who you are, each one of us is the protagonist in the stories that play out in our heads. Give your customers content that taps into that, and you’ll get the kind of engagement that augments your influence.
The most common mistake I see among the companies I consult with when first undertaking a content marketing strategy is that they equate content marketing with infomercials. That’s not content marketing. In traditional advertising, the advertiser is the hero and problem solver. Need to slice cleanly through an aluminum soft drink can? Ginsu knives to the rescue!
In content marketing, your customer is the hero. What do they care about? What are they trying to overcome or accomplish? Content that aligns with and augments the inner narrative in your customers’ minds is the bridge between your customers’ desires and your products and services.
When developing a content strategy, too many companies think they need to tell stories that have an exact overlap with their product and service set – How Customer X used our Product/Service Y to achieve success. These are case studies and they certainly can play a valuable role in your marketing strategy, but traditional marketing needs to be supplemented with narratives in which your customer is the protagonist. Target your content in a broader way to appeal to your customer as a whole person – not just a customer – and you will deepen engagement with your brand and ultimately expand your sphere of influence. That is the true power of content marketing.