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Create a Stellar Audience Experience By Slowing Down with These Tips from Ann Handley #CMWorld

You know a conference session is going to be good when literally hundreds of marketers are turned away due to an already packed room. And you know a session is going to be great when the amazing Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs, takes the stage and is visibly bummed that she didn’t get the chance to connect with those marketers.

Part of Ann’s magic is her ability to make herself and her content very accessible. She accomplishes this by sharing stories that are personal to her, things she observes in everyday life that inspire her inner marketer. And her session at last week’s Content Marketing World 2019 was no exception.

In the interest of not spoiling the story for those of you who haven’t had a chance to see Ann give this new talk, all I’ll say is that it involves her summer-long investment in building a relationship with a certain backyard animal, through all the failed attempts and eventual success at connecting.

One of Ann’s key messages over the past few years has been cautioning marketers to slow down and take their time. But what does that mean? And how can it improve the success of your own efforts?

Slowing Down to Improve Success

The 2019 benchmarking report from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs found that just 35% of B2B marketers know whether their content is effective or not. Which leaves many of us asking ourselves what we’re doing wrong, and how we can better capture the attention of our audience.

According to Ann, we should focus less on how we can capture their attention and more on how we can build trust with our audience. She also indicates that there is a good kind and a bad kind of slow (just like cholesterol). Below is a glimpse into the three opportunities for those “good slow moments” that will help us figure out what we’re doing strategically, so we can move faster later.

#1 – Question What You Know About Your Customers

Continuously listen to your audience and adjust your strategy to better meet their needs. @annhandley Click To Tweet 

Developing trust with your audience is a slow-game. It’s not something that happens overnight and you won’t always get it right on the first (or even the 50th try). For context, here’s an example of one of the traps that marketers often fall into when creating content:

“We need a piece of content for _____________.” (i.e. to maintain our blog cadence, publish on social “x” amount of times, etc.)

Instead, we should be taking a step back and saying:

“We know our audiences needs ____________.” (i.e. What is something only you can give them? What will they miss if you stop providing it?)

As we’re looking to build trust, it’s important that we defy content norms and focus on peer-to-peer content versus brand-to-target content. And this requires being empathetic to their needs.

#2 – Slow Down the Experience

The most efficient isn't always the most effective. Stop conflating them. @annhandley Click To Tweet

Some of the best content experiences take place over time and directly involve the audience. So, while you’re planning your individual content pieces, take a step back and ask yourself:

  • How can I build trust and momentum for the content experience over time? And what does that look like?
  • How can I involve the audience in a meaningful way so they are invested in the outcome?
  • How can I create an experience that individuals rally around in a way that makes them more invested in the community?

Pause for a second and critically look at your own marketing. What opportunities do you have to slow down, be thoughtful and involve your audience more effectively?

#3 – Slow Down to Build the Relationship

Every story is a human story about a universal truth. @annhandley Click To Tweet

One of Ann’s content marketing secrets to success is that whenever she writes (anything), she tries to write with a specific person in mind. In a presentation she gave earlier this year, Ann shared her top tips on creating content people want to read.

Even the BEST marketers today end up investing too much time in trying to craft the perfect social message, blog post or email for their entire audience. And instead, Ann recommends thinking about who that one person is you want to talk to. What does that person need? What problem does that person have? What does that person fear? And how you can help?

If you want to see this recommendation in action, be sure to subscribe to Ann’s newsletter Total ANNARCHY. Every time this newsletter hits my inbox I’m delighted to dig in an read my letter from Ann. (How many newsletters can you say that about?)

Slow Down, You’re Moving Too Fast

In the infamous words of Simon and Garfunkel (and now Ann Handley), make NOW the time that you start slowing down. Take the time to understand:

  • What it is that your customers need
  • How to better build trust over time
  • Ideas for involving your audience in the content you create
  • Ways to create memorable experiences
  • How to write content with a specific person in-mind

Looking for more insights from Content Marketing World 2019? Be sure to check out our latest posts featuring more insights and other top CMWorld speakers:

Ashley Zeckman: @azeckman

Ashley Zeckman is the Senior Director of Digital Strategy 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.