Written by Katie Daggett
Living in Omaha, Nebraska for many years, I quickly became a fan of Alexander Payne. Besides the novelty of watching movies set in the town where I lived, I loved his darkly comedic portrayal of the everyman. Payne chooses to use his films to tell the stories of average men and women, often working as insurance actuaries or high school teachers…characters whose lives seem uneventful, boring even…until he set them off on a hero’s journey. Of course, the nature of Payne’s films didn’t always leave our hero gleefully triumphant in the end. But, for the most part, they do come away with a modest victory of sorts – one very suited to the lives they have carved out for themselves.
How does this relate to content marketing?
As content marketers, selling software and technology products and services, we often struggle to tell our company’s stories in a way that will excite and engage our audience. How on earth do we take a product as seemingly boring as tax accounting software, for example, and make it the hero of any story?
To be the hero you have to understand the people you are helping.
The first step to writing your hero’s story is to get to know your prospects and the problem they are wrestling with. Get to know them well. Mine your databases for demographic and psychographic information.
- Find out when they first made contact with you – was it after a trade show, a webinar, a blog post or article?
- Interview your customers if you can, and find out what is their biggest pain, what motivates them, what resources do they look to for information, what information do they need to make a buying decision, and what medium do they prefer (case studies, white papers, phone calls, emails, webinars, live meetings)?
- Talk to your sales people and those who have direct contact with customers to find out more about your prospects wants and needs.
- Use this information to create a detailed biography of your customer – you may have several different personas here – one that includes everything you need to create a living, breathing character you can speak to in your marketing efforts.
You must also understand what they need from you, and when.
Next, study your buyer’s journey. What are the stages your prospects go through and what information do they seek along the way? This often starts with Stage 1 – where your prospect is seeking information about their problem; followed by Stage 2 – where they are focused on finding a solution; and Stage 3 – where they are ready to select a vendor to provide the solution. White papers and other third-party content is good for Stage 1, whereas a webinar might be well received in the later stages, when prospects are more clearly focused on the particulars of the solutions you offer.
Give your customer what they want – not what you want them to have.
In Stage 1 of the buyer’s journey, you will want your content to be focused on the situation your prospect finds himself in. Focus on their pain, show that you understand the problem, and offer information on how to solve the problem in general terms. This is not the place for you to push your product or solution, or to talk heavily about your company. Make sure the content you provide is information that your customer will find useful, even if they don’t end up buying from you. Right now, what your prospect needs is information, and your role here is to become a trusted adviser…one they may turn to when they are finally ready to buy.
Later in the buying cycle, you will still want your content to be customer focused, but you can begin to offer more details on your solution and its specific benefits, as your prospect becomes more ready to select a vendor.
Over time, you may emerge the hero in your customer’s story.
But, how to make your stodgy, highly technical product offering the hero of your company’s stories? Again, the key is to focus on your customer. Share the exciting story of your product’s benefits, don’t bore them by listing its features. Show your customer how well you understand their pain. Demonstrate how your solution will save the day. Provide real-life examples of your solution in action. Start a conversation. This is how your customer will get to know, like, and trust you. This is how your solution, like a character from a Payne film, becomes a hero in their eyes.
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