How To Create Content Marketing Unicorns

Some marketers and companies do a phenomenal job building and executing their content marketing strategies. But the vast majority of marketers and companies, especially in B2B, continue to struggle with content marketing.

What’s the problem?

There isn’t one clear answer that explains why most companies do a poor job with content marketing.

Some companies do a poor job executing cross-channel marketing strategies. In a recent survey by Econsultancy and Adobe, only 14% of marketers reported that their organizations executed integrated campaigns across various marketing channels.

Other companies rely too much on a disparate mix of technologies that often don’t talk to each other. Did you know that there are nearly 4,000 marketing technology companies delivering services to marketers? (there were only 150 in 2011).

At the end of the day, I believe most marketers and companies fail with content marketing because they focus on “content” and ignore “marketing.”

Think about it for a moment. Why are you or your company creating and sharing content? As I wrote previously:

Content marketing refers to creating information (content) that has value to others. The creator of the content ultimately wants to sell a product or service to prospective buyers who benefit from the content, but the goal of content marketing is rarely to sell directly. Instead, the goal of content marketing is to encourage people to read and perhaps engage with the content, and to begin developing a relationship with the person or entity that created that content.

Most content marketers measure “engagement” as a re-tweet or a like. But successful content marketing must go beyond simple vanity metrics. For content marketing to succeed, it must help a company develop a relationship with a prospective customer. And for that to happen, content must create an emotional reaction in the prospective customer that more closely connects the prospective customer to your brand.

Many content marketers simply don’t understand this. Great content marketing is not about curating other people’s stuff. Larry Kim, CEO of WordStream explains:

Content marketers are wonderful people, but they tend to overestimate the originality of their ideas. I try to break out of the “industry” bubble and originate new research as opposed to just curating other people’s stuff. I don’t waste time publishing my findings if the results are along the lines of the status quo.

If you want to develop a relationship with people who read and engage with your content, then the “marketing” part of “content marketing” deserves as much of your focus as “content”.

Fortunately, great marketing has one common element that transcends languages and cultures. Marketing is storytelling. Great marketing is about phenomenal stories.

Stories help shape beliefs and also help people remember the things you want them to remember. Authentic and compelling stories help build a brand.

Why are stories so critical to effective marketing?

Stories are powerful because they can create a mythology around a brand. For example, owners of the iPhone believe that each successive iPhone is much better than the model it replaces, which is not always true. Here’s a short video from the Jimmy Kimmel show pranking people with what people believe is Apple’s new iPhone 7 (it’s actually the person’s own iPhone). Watch how people react.

Incidentally, if you want to read an excellent book about storytelling, I recommend Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars.

Stories should be honest and consistent. They should also create characters your audience will like. For example, “Giving” is a 3 minute commercial for Thailand mobile phone service provider True Move. The story begins with a young boy caught stealing medicine for his sick mother. A nearby small restaurant owner helps the boy by buying the medicine and also gives the boy soup to take home to his mom. Watch the video to see the story unfold – it’s a powerful and emotional message conveyed in very simple, short video.

Compelling stories can work on their own – without props, dialogue or subtitles. Watch this phenomenal video encouraging people to always wear their seatbelt. How did you feel when the video ended?

Here’s another example: a wonderful video from Chipotle, a popular fast food restaurant known for their organically-farmed meat and produce. How do you feel about the story in this video?

One more important note about stories. Stories can have sub-plots. For example, did you know that only 39% of B2B marketers recycle content into other formats? If you’ve told a compelling story in one marketing channel, you have opportunities to focus on sub-plots in other channels and integrate the marketing.

What stories do you tell in the content marketing you create for your business? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Image Source: Lisa Brewster

[Note: a much shorter version of this post was previously published on the crowdSPRING Blog a few years ago].