Content Marketing 101 with Merci Alfred’s co-founder

When we announced that Guillaume Declair, the co-founder of Merci Alfred (a leading newsletter with 400K+ subscribers only aquired through word of mouth) would come and share all his secrets on content marketing, the number of registrations went through the roof. In front of a packed audience at STATION F, Guillaume explained the basics that any entrepreneur building a content strategy should know.

Why do content marketing?

Just between 2015 and 2017, the average CPC on Facebook tripled, and the one on Google Ads grew by 25%. It has become increasingly costly for a company to catch its audience’s attention through paid adverstising.

The alternative to paid marketing is organic acquisition, and among all organic acquisition methods: content marketing. Beware though, “content marketing” does not mean “free marketing”. Creating and maintaining a consistent content marketing strategy takes time and energy, time that can become even costlier than paid marketing.

“Content marketing” does not mean “free marketing”

Nevertheless, content marketing is often times a good investment: the Real Time Value of customers acquired through content is higher because the recommendation of the product comes from a more reliable source.

The Curse of Knowledge (and how to avoid it)

Let’s do an experiment. Start clapping the rythm of the song “Happy Birthday” and ask around you if people recognize the song. You’re expecting a lot, right?

According to a study, people actually expect that 50% of their audience will recognize the song, when the reality is… 2%.

This is what we call the “curse of knowledge”: when you know something and you are convinced that everyone else understands it perfectly, and cares about it. This curse makes companies communicate on stuff no one else cares about, but themselves (we won’t give any example so that we don’t make any ennemies but I’m sure you see what we mean).

The curse of knowledge makes companies communicate on stuff no one cares about but themselves.

The Effective Communications Framework

In order to fight the curse of knowledge, one must follow this framework to create effective content. This is Merci Alfred’s secret sauce, built from both scientific studies and serious books, and their own experiment of creating thousands of content pieces. This content framework is more like a checklist, the idea being to tick at least 3 of the boxes (5 being the best, of course).

1. Trigger

What makes your mind recall a message? What is the brain in your surroundings that makes you want to read or watch a specific type of content?

The best example of that relationship between content and trigger is Kit Kat: the brand wants to be associated with snack time. When creating a content, you must always wonder in what context will your audience want to consume your content. The followup question is: at what occasion will people share your content?

Merci Alfred’s article called “Tanks, Turkish Baths and Strip tease” is THE article you want to send to this friend of yours who has his Bachelor’s party coming up.

2. Emotion

Here’s a fun experiment. Please follow the steps below:

Did you get it? Makes you wonder about your life… the meaning of your existence… right?

When Guillaume shares this experience to a group of 20, he gets about 90 emails. That’s how viral this is.

When we care we share.

The emotions we most likely share are:

  • astonishement,
  • excitement,
  • happiness

In a nutshell, you want to create a mix of empowerement and positiveness with your readers.

3. Surprise

There is just one rule: break the pattern.

When you walk into a room and the AC is one, you don’t hear it. It’s only when it stops that you notice it was even on. Our brain is programmed to react to ruptures. A good example of that is Air France’s security video. No one was excepting something funny and aesthetical from a security video than no one watches… But because it is so surprising, it went viral!

It was actually a good inspiration for STATION F’s security video :)

If the writing comes naturally, it’s probably that you have already read it somewhere.

You must find THE thing that hasn’t been done before. Write, write and re-write until you find the asperity that will make your content unique.

4. Story

The active brain zones during a speech are the same on the side of the speaker and on the side of the audience. This is what is called neural coupling: you cry in front of a sad movie. You feel what the hero is feeling.

This is why storytelling is important. When you have something to say, create a story around it: create a hero, give him/her a name, create twists and adventures, and finally go to the resolution. Take Wait But Why for instance: this is a science blog that uses stories to explain complex ideas. And it works really really well.

Logic won’t help you convince your audience: stories will.

When it comes to storytelling, don’t be afraid to write long posts. It is a misconception to think that short articles are more viral, it’s actually the opposite!

5. Curiosity Gap

You will never guess what is the #1 factor to increase your newsletter’s open rate.

This ⬆️

This is what your brain need: click bait. People need suspense to be attracted to a content. You need to create the curiosity gap that will lead your audience to go through your content (for instance: what will happen to your protagonist in the story you wrote?)

1,2,3,4,5: all set for a killer content marketing strategy!

Here are the full slides of Guillaume’s workshop at STATION F. A warm thanks to him and the whole Merci Alfred’s team for their kind sharing of knowledge.

Good reads: