Ashley Zeckman

Keeping it Real with Content Marketing: Why Integrity, Storytelling & Creativity Reign Supreme

Ashley Zeckman     Content Marketing, Online Marketing

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Marketing is often seen as a game. A game in which the marketers are the strategists and the customers are the pawns. Unfortunately, that is a game in which nobody wins. Marketers may feel a quick rush due to their success but customers that feel duped or mislead will surely, and quickly spread news of foul marketing practices.

There is no shortcut to providing value to customers through your marketing. In fact, now more than ever self-directed buyers are relying on the content they read online to lead their purchasing decisions and if something “feels fishy” they’ll quickly move on to a more reputable source.

Because of the amount of content being created today, that also means that not only integrity, but creativity and storytelling are an incredibly important part of creating content that connects your customers to your brand.

At the end of the day, customers want to trust you and feel that the service or solution that you’re offering will help them stand out. Below are some examples of how you can keep it real with your content marketing to create a better user experience.

Help Your Customers See Themselves in the Content

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The content that you create shouldn’t just be about your brand and what you offer. Instead, your customers should be able to see themselves in the story that you are telling through content. How can this be accomplished?

Two of the best ways are through customer stories and case studies.

Customer stories can be incredibly impactful if done well. This type of content works two-fold. First, your current customers often get excited at the prospect of sharing their personal story and therefore creating an even deeper bond with your brand. Second, studies have shown that 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals over brands which means that your prospective customers are likely to connect with these stories.

Tesla for example, has an entire section of their website dedicated to Customer Stories. These stories are written by their customers and include photos as well as insights into their own journey with their Tesla car.

Tesla Customer Stories

Their YouTube channel also contains videos of their customer’s sometimes moving and sometimes humorous stories.

Case Studies can also be a great way to create content that incorporates storytelling and builds trust. A good case study will not focus only on tactics,, but more so how your brand helped a company or individual solve a problem.

The problems and needs of your current customers will be the most telling sign of what your prospective customers are looking for. So, to help attract new customers you need to showcase how you’ve been able to help other companies/individuals solve similar problems.

Take for instance this case study from our team that focuses on a strategy that helped a B2C company increase conversion rates by 129%.

Paid Search CRO

Other forms of content beyond customer stories and case studies can also help support the goal of helping your customers see themselves in your content. Website copy, blog posts, content assets, social messaging and advertisements should all be focused on customer need first, and what you’re trying to sell after.

Write Like a Human Speaking to Humans

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There is no denying that good SEO is still a very important part of creating great content. However, stuffing your content with keywords you want to rank for may get people to your site initially, it won’t keep them there or create a good experience.

Instead, time is better spent conducting research to see what questions customers are asking and how they are being phrased. That information can then be used to inform how you go about incorporating key search phrases in a way that is natural and pleasant to read.

B2B marketers have traditionally struggled to humanize their content. Much of the B2B content in existence today focuses purely on the business case for why the VP, CEO, etc. needs the product or solution that they are selling. Many have been able to understand and communicate the business problem and business need, but not the need of the individual actually consuming the content.

This is a big opportunity for B2B (and yes, even B2C) marketers to think a little bit deeper about the actual people behind the personas and begin developing content that will inspire and move them as a person, not a job title.

Open Up & Share

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It doesn’t matter if you’re asking people to spend $50 or $50,000, you are asking them to trust that investing their money with your brand will be of a benefit to them. There are often three stories that people tell about their company.

  1. The one that they tell to prospective customers online, in-person or on the phone.
  2. The one that they tell at cocktail parties with their friends.
  3. The real story.

In an effort to build credibility, many companies will tell the very dry and highly edited version of how they came to be, what they offer and what they can do to help customers like the ones they’re trying to reach. Unfortunately, when all of the bad or less than ideal is edited out of the story, it can make it harder for prospects to connect with the teams that work there.

Not every company started with millions of dollars of funding and many had to hustle and work their asses off to get where they are today. Your ability to tell that story in a way that inspires confidence (ie: here is what you learned from those experiences), can actually build more credibility with prospects and connect them tighter to your brand.

Help Customers Visualize the Message

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An essential part of learning starting as a young child all the way through college is with the help of visual aids. When you’re younger, the images are a much larger focal point than the words because they are a way to help you discover what those words mean. As you get older, visual queues are still used to help explain more complex ideas and processes.

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you but those visual aids don’t stop being useful when you graduate. In fact, with the monstrous amount of content that is being created today, compelling visuals need to be a staple of your content marketing efforts to stand out in the crowd.

Visual elements should be included in everything from your blog posts, to larger content assets and social messages.

When is scrolling through their Twitter feed trying to uncover some tidbits to read on-the-go, what do you think will stand out to them? Will it be the precisely 140 character tweet or the message that has the great picture attached? I urge you to go through your own Twitter feed (as I just did) and make note of what stands out to you most.

Twitter example 1

Twitter example 2

This sort of experiment just goes to show that while what you say is incredibly important, what you show people will often be what catches their eye and draws them in.

Be Real, Be Entertaining, Be Useful & Be Creative

There are ways to create compelling content that doesn’t play a game with your customers or deceive them in any way. If you can follow the principles above, you are on the path to creating a better experience and stronger bond between your brand and your customers.

Since we are all consumers in some way or another, what are some examples of brands following these principles that have stood out to you?

Header image via Shutterstock

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Ashley Zeckman About Ashley Zeckman

Ashley Zeckman is the Director of Agency Marketing for TopRank Marketing. In addition to finding innovative ways to showcase the exceptional work of her team, she is also responsible for creating digital marketing programs that drive customer acquisition and growth for the agency. Her background includes expertise in everything from content marketing strategy to branding, account management and social media.

Outside of her role at TopRank Online Marketing, Ashley prides herself on being a great home chef, painter, prankster and dog mom.