Creating Content Connections: 10 Lessons in Resonance from Content Marketing Pros
It’s hard to contain the excited, “uh huh” head nodding when you read, watch, or listen to a piece of content that really hits home … strikes the right chord … illuminates something deep inside your soul.
And for us marketers, these moments should remind us of an important digital marketing truth:
Creating content that resonates is key to building rapport, credibility, and trust with our audience, and, ultimately, driving marketing results.
When a piece of content connects with a customer or buyer, it makes them feel like you get it, that you understand their point of view or struggle—and that you may be worth paying attention to.
In my time at TopRank Marketing, I’ve had the pleasure of reading, watching, listening, and talking to some of our industry’s brightest minds as they share insights or tips that really resonated with me as a content writer and strategist—teaching me and reminding me of the importance of resonance in the content we create and how we share it with our audience.
Below I share some of those lessons that you can hopefully use to create more meaningful connections across channels with your content.
#1 – Comedy creates some of the most intimate connections.
As part of our Behind the Marketing Curtain series, I was lucky enough to speak with Tim Washer, a comedy and marketing genius as well as Cisco’s Creative Director of SP Marketing.
As he shared his story and his perspective on comedy in marketing, his lesson in resonance was quite simple: Comedy demonstrates empathy—and empathy creates connection.
Let’s face it, a lot of true comedy comes from pain. So, when we can come out and touch on a customer pain point, we show them that we understand their point of view. When we do something that is self-deprecating, when we look vulnerable, and when we let our guard down a little bit that’s when we make a connection.
These days, there’s so little content out there that truly connects with people. … So much of marketing is telling people how great we are. But with comedy—especially in the form of video—we can show them that we’re not always going to tell you how great we are. And if you can make someone laugh, that is the most intimate connection you can make.
Marketers need to let their guard down if we want our customers and buyers to do the same—and you can do this “on brand.” Good comedy is certainly an art; you don’t just throw “something funny” at your audience. Use your audience and their pain points as your guide to thoughtfully create content that will connect and make them giggle.
#2 – If you want to connect with your audience, be dedicated to helping them learn.
A common goal for many brands want to build thought leadership by creating authoritative, credible content. But pushing your amazing product or service is not how you get there, as Mina Seetharaman, Executive Vice President and Global Managing Director of Content and Marketing Solutions for The Economist Group, told us in our interactive, supercharge your digital marketing infographic.
Thought leadership is about solving, not selling. People wake up thinking about their problems, not your product. In our research, Thought Leadership Disrupted, only 28% of marketers cited helping their audience become more knowledgeable as a primary objective. True thought leaders don’t push product, they understand their audience and share ideas to help them tackle issues.
People are constantly searching for answers to their burning questions and resources that will help them learn and find ways to solve their problems. When you make it a point to be the best answer for their inquiry, you have the opportunity to make a real impact.
#3 – Less is often more.
2017 marked my first trip to one of the industry’s biggest events: Content Marketing World.
While there, I attended the incomparable Ann Handley’s session. There she revealed five “radiant” writing secrets inspired by the classic novel Charlotte’s Web.
The MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer’s session was designed to help content writers become more thoughtful in how they approach content and make an impact on their audience. Ann challenged us all to:
Think of how Charlotte was able to save a life with just [a few] words. How can we use our words more intentionally? How can we make a difference?
It’s certainly no secret that we’re living in a world of content abundance. But if we want to create content that really resonates and makes our audience feel something, we need to remember that less is often more.
#4 – When it comes to social content, don’t let your personal brand get in the way of your brand’s message.
Once again, our Behind the Marketing Curtain series gave me the honor of speaking with social, content, and customer experience wiz Beverly Jackson, now Vice President of Social Portfolio Strategy for MGM Resorts International.
When asked about a bad social media habit marketers needed to drop, her immediate response was: Too much self-promotion that gets in the way of a brand’s story:
The great thing about social media is that it allows brands to create one-on-one relationships with their customers and prospects—not the marketers. And the bottom line is: marketers should never get in the way of that relationship.
Your brand needs to own the relationship with the audience if you want to make an impact. Of course, you should do what you can do evangelize your brand, but don’t confuse your audience by using your brand and its content to propel your profile. It can backfire.
#5 – Don’t settle for crappy content—your audience (and search engines) certainly won’t.
In the fall of 2017, my talented colleague Joshua Nite made his speaking debut at a local bloggers’ event. During his presentation, he declared that it was time to flip the script on how we craft content.
With search engines getting smarter and our audience being more self-directed in research than ever, Joshua said making the switch from SEO-driven content to content-driven SEO is the key to resonating with both readers and robots.
There’s never been a better opportunity to write great content that people actually want to read and that will get seen in search results. So, go forth and be awesome. And please, please—don’t settle for writing crappy content.
While seasoned marketers may say “duh” to this little reminder, I’d wager we all have room for improvement here. So here it is: We can’t settle. We need to innovate. We need to be thoughtful. And above all, we need to create content that our audience will actually enjoy reading.
#6 – Your audience is already telling you how to connect with them.
Another pro I had the pleasure of interviewing for the Behind the Marketing Curtain series was author, customer experience and social media expert, and marketing veteran Dan Gingiss, now the Vice President, Strategic Group for Persado.
While much of our conversation focused on social customer care, Dan said something simple—and perhaps even obvious—but it’s a good lesson nonetheless:
Always be listening. People will generally tell you everything you need to know about your business—what’s working, what needs fixing, and what could be your next big hit. Marketers need to embrace the feedback, including compliments, questions, and complaints.
From social media comments to customer surveys to inquiries or sales calls, brand or company has access to direct feedback from their ideal customers or buyers. They’re giving you an opening to make a connection. Use it to create content that answers their burning questions, quells their top concerns, or empathizes in a way that sparks agreement and head nodding.
#7 – “Story” is everything—and influencers can be compelling characters.
My most recent interview introduced me to Ursula Ringham, SAP’s Head of Global Influencer Marketing. As we chatted, a constant reference point was what she called her “love of story”—something that’s guided her throughout her career and something all marketers need to reinvest in. And influencers can help.
In marketing, story is everything. But in order to tell a compelling story, you have to be immersed. Bring empathy and understanding, bring purpose, and bring insight—the latter of which influencers can certainly help with.
At a time when content is absolutely everywhere—and consumer trust is diminishing—marketers and brands need to be in the business of storytelling if you want your content to resonate, inspire, and build trustful connections with our audience. You need to commit. You need to be thoughtful. And you need to consider who (e.g. internal or external thought leaders, current customers, prospects, employees) can help you tell that story.
#8 – Invite your audience to be part of the content creation process.
When most modern marketers think of content co-creation, they likely think of partnering with industry thought leaders. Of course, this is a method we at TopRank Marketing absolutely believe in.
But one co-creation opportunity marketers may not take advantage of, is partnering with your audience, as Dave Charest, Director of Content Marketing for Constant Contact, shared in Content Marketing Institute and TopRank Marketing’s “The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Content Marketing” eBook.
When it comes to content creation, far too often content is created in a meeting room with a bunch of marketers without any thought for the day-to-day reality of the person consuming it. BIG mistake.
Level up your approach by creating content in partnership with members of your target audience. By including your audience in the creation process you’ll better understand what you need to create and how you need to create it. You’ll no longer be working in a vacuum and your content will better resonate with those you’re trying to reach.
There may be no better way to ensure a direct connect with your audience than asking them to be apart of your content process. From social media polls and other UGC to spotlight interviews or guest posts, there’s a range of ways you can include your target audience in the content creation process.
#9 – Marketing integration is a must to deliver the best answer.
As a digital marketing industry veteran, perhaps one of TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden’s most famous lines is: “Be the best answer for your audience wherever and whenever they’re searching.”
When you become the best answer, you become sticky for your readers—and integration is key to achieving best-answer status. This quote sums it up well:
With content marketing so popular among brands and content high in demand from customers, why are many B2B marketers so challenged to stand out and be effective? One reason is that the inherent pressure to produce can result in content that does not resonate. …
The best content isn’t really that great unless it can be found, consumed, and acted upon by buyers. That is why an effective content marketing program is customer-centric and incorporates data from SEO, insights about format and topics from social media, topical relevance of content from buyer persona research, and awareness of what effect media and influencers can have on buyers’ research and purchasing decisions.
#10 – Resonance is rooted in long-held content marketing best practices.
No marketer has been untouched by the teachings of Joe “The Godfather of Content Marketing” Pulizzi. As someone who was relatively green in digital marketing when I joined TopRank Marketing back in 2015, Joe and the Content Marketing Institute (CMI)—along with my in-house team—were incredible resources as I learned the ropes.
One of the first pieces I read featuring Joe’s insights was from a session we covered at Social Media Marketing World back in 2014. His message was simple, but it’s something we all need a little reminding of from time to time:
If we only talk about ourselves, we’ll never reach customers.
Content marketing evolved out of the need to meet our audience where and when our audience is searching—and at whatever point they may be in the buying cycle. And ensuring that we’re answering their questions and educating them—not just pushing our product or saying how great we are—is a basic yet still-relevant best practice we should never lose sight of if we want to connect with our audience.[bctt tweet=”If we only talk about ourselves, we’ll never reach customers. – @JoePullizi #LessonsInResonance #ContentMarketing” username=”toprank”]
Go Forth to Create and Resonate
Prioritize resonance over reach, and the latter (everything else you seek do do as a marketer) gets far easier.
Audiences want to connect with brands and companies that “get it.” So, give your audience great content. Give them guidance. Give them insight. Give them answers. And give them resonance.
Ready to create content that resonates? Take a cue from TopRank Marketing Nick Nelson and Honest Abe. Read our post on how to build trustful connections through storytelling.
Disclosure: SAP and Content Marketing Institute are TopRank Marketing clients.
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