Content marketing is intricately tied to sales funnels. More significantly, there is also a sort of “volume” to its messaging. The louder or more obvious, the more suspect.
Logic goes, why would any legit service or product rely exclusively on self-promotion and direct sales? Sure, people don’t express it as such. And there are success stories that deviate from the norm –Cutco for one. On the whole, though, prospects are more likely to dismiss loud or obvious content marketing. This is particularly true if it:
- Derives from a single source or crowd
- Contradicts norms or conventions
- Uses exaggerations or makes grandiose promises
- Concentrates on a personal narrative that results in a miracle
- Selectively portrays the best possible outcomes
- Needlessly leverages familiar-isms or vernacular
Advertisers, obviously, buck these tell-tale signs.
Content Marketing is not Advertising
There’s a good reason as well -they must be loud to build product branding.
Advertisements primarily focus on entrenching narrative appeals. They use an assortment of “pulls” to net a large swath of demographics. They also must be direct -think an image, brand logo, and a caption or two. Self image and lifestyle, therefore, factor heavily into ad generation. Information? Not so much.
Even TV ads use a minimum of spoken sales points, though this also encourages the viewer’s perception of actual benefits. Upsetting metaphors about the leviathan aside, this I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter ad makes the case and point. Lifestyle and identity take center, specific facts the sideline.
Make no mistake. Writing a content marketing piece requires considering or (preferably) researching the market. Humor and niche interest apply. Much like ads, too, the product is often periphery of the factual narrative.
The reason why said product is important, though, must be the underlying narrative.It must function as a maze of postivie implications. An article about volleyball, for instance, goes hand-in-hand with sunblock, resorts, and other 2017 practicalities. This becomes even more evident in B2B content -the incentive for reading a white paper is often the general knowledge it offers.
Results Depend on Advocacy, Placement, and Introduction
Mainstream media pumps product narratives on several levels. Some, of course, receive more cynicism than others.
Placement is Important
The base of the pyramid is any column or row with a header for paid stories. Granted, there is a small segment of prospects that act on these paid-for links -it’s the only way the practice could anchor and perpetuate.
Seeing dollar signs, many news sites go so far to use identical font so older, less literate, or more impulsive readers fail to immediately distinguish their options. Do they have money? Often enough. But more and more seem less captivated by long form. That’s one reason content sites, many in desperate need of copyediting, are purchasing space enmass.
Advocacy Works Wonders -But Only if Reputable
Celebrity endorsements can cost a pretty penny. However, include whoever loves your product…within reason. Not all endorsements are credible or relevant. And yes, influence and followings matters. An unknown doctor can lend credibility to a product, sure. A famous doctor or doctor of famous people, meanwhile, are more likely to convince.
Introductions Start With Phrasing
Ever notice how traditional news articles typically use neutral phrasing? Granted, change is in the air -think partisan news media. Fox and Huffington Post alike are more likely to court appeal. This is less common in TV or Radio morning shows that focus on entertainment and lightheartedness.
And yeah, content marketing can leverage outrage or sentiment. It can even be put on the offensive -such as discrediting its competitor and netting part of the prospects or base. However, validity is important. Concrete facts are the sole means to warrant a viewpoint. The true art of a narrative, however, are using disparate appeals to maximize vicariousness or concern.
Credibility will Always Come First
So you have the article, the endorsements, and the right intro. These can all work to a product’s benefit. But there is one standard all smart content marketers should remember -credibility. Does the product actually do what it says? More importantly, does its benefits outway the costs? The George Foreman Grill does exactly as it says…without mentioning dry meat. Of course, the game changes in the world of B2B SaaS -how many people will tolerate dry meat for their health? Also important, when will an alternative or improvement arrive? If a product can’t be transparent then it’s a challenge in the least.
Ineffectual products always require exaggeration. It bets on customers’ or clients’ belief. This can derive from hope, sure. Belief, however, most often follows popular convention. Regardless of how they phrase it, the guys reading white paper after white paper are typically aware of this. So is the average person looking into the best phytoplankton supplement, ion bracelet, or brand of cereal.
Content marketers, therefore, should learn to welcome cynicism. It helps counter unbelievable points while also encouraging, at the least, a valid research process. Whatever the niche, actual consumers (and investors) care about the results they experience. Their usual logic? Content that leverages ignorance must also offer subpar products…though they may make worthwhile investments.
Pic courtesy of bradleypjohnson via Creative Commons