Here’s a staggering stat — 63% of B2B marketers don’t have a content strategy in play, and 32% of them will duck for cover when you ask about their creative workflows. Because they have none.
On the B2C side, marketers are also boarding the struggle bus, lacking the right people, tools, and technology to create engaging and consistent content according to a Zazzle Media study. Only a mere 6% feel confident they’re clear on content marketing best practices, which means 94% couldn’t tell you what “right” looks like. And with customers clamoring for more video content, it’s no wonder marketers are scrambling to stay afloat. That’s a lot of spaghetti hurled at walls to see what sticks.
Cue the cold coffee and vodka tears in conference rooms around the globe. Marketers are the dramatic sort.
Why the anxiety attacks and sobbing into socks? Because content marketing pays dividends — costing 62% less than traditional marketing, yet generating 3x the leads, according to DemandMetric. Translation: When your content strategy hits the mark, your spreadsheets shift from red to black, and your CEO might crack a smile at the next all-hands meeting. Or, at the very least, he, she or they won’t regale public tales of your incompetence.
But let’s talk about that 94% stat, and how marketers are falling short when it comes to creating compelling content that converts customers. In an era where consumers are bombarded with 10,000 marketing messages a day and every brand on the block fighting for a fraction of their attention, it’s hard to stop anyone’s scroll. Much less capture their attention long enough to move them from a prospect to a customer to a raving brand fan.
When evaluating options, people primarily feel first and think second. According to scientists, emotions “influence skew or sometimes completely determine the outcome of a large number of decisions we are confronted within a day.” Our emotions impact our decision-making process by relying on certain encoded feelings. Marketers lure customers in by tapping into the emotional hook and close with practical proof-points. You see it in ads all the time where your heartstrings are pulled so much they threaten to snap. Once you’re sucked in by the puppy, the baby or the one thing that brings you to tears, then your work of evaluating product features and benefits begins.
Here’s why a lot of brands invest a pile of money in content marketing with tepid results. They’re so focused on styling their feed and rendering the most attractive, aspirational image and caption, they end up creating pretty filler content that doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t inspire, educate, motivate, or support the customer when they’re on the hunt for a product. Your feed devolves into one of the many distractions of their day. You might get a measly heart, clap, or like, but your customers have already moved on to the next.
Incite people to act by tapping into their core emotions. Customers connect their values, desires, and aspirations to a brand. And when a brand delivers on that emotional quotient, they’ll beat the competition.
Emotions are consistent and predictive, i.e., the motivations that drive a consumer’s buyer behavior rarely change because they’re connected to a deeper, underlying emotion.
According to a Motista study, when a customer is emotionally invested in your brand, they:
- Spend 2X more
- Have a 306% higher lifetime value
- Be loyal (5.1 years vs. 3.4 years)
- Recommend you more (30.2% vs. 7.6%)
Now that we know emotions shape consumer and buyer behavior, let’s examine three types of motivating content that will move customers from passively consuming content to taking action.
1. Content That Drives Home Transformation
No one can resist a journey and the highs and lows, twists and turns someone experiences along the way. Whether we embark on an emotional or physical trip, transformation can be a potent storytelling technique and a means of demonstrating your brand’s direct impact on someone else. It’s the story of “how this brand’s product or service changed me.”
Transformation goes beyond serving as a pain salve — it represents a significant change that the customer experiences as a result of a product or service. This is why people devour before & after stories, success stories, case studies, statistics and studies that challenge or alter their previously-held perceptions.
The “after” state is an aphrodisiac that can’t be dismissed or understated.
People forge visceral, emotional attachments to the stories they experience, and science backs this up through neural coupling and mirror neurons. Neural coupling occurs when a story activates parts in the brain that allows the listener to turn the story into their own experience.
With mirroring, listeners will not only experience similar activity to each other, but also to the storyteller. In short, our brains are wired to empathize and make connections with others and the stories they tell. Our reactions are primarily emotional until the rational, more pragmatic side of our brain kicks in, which means, stories have the power to draw people in immediately. Show how your brand can play an integral role in someone’s story.
A great brand transformation story example can be found in Patagonia. The brand’s mission and vision are ambitious — awareness and action about one’s global footprint — and it imbues every facet of the company. And it starts at home through corporate responsibility: clean and transparent manufacturing and supply chain processes, a fair wage for workers, and a company rooted in social and environmental activism. As a business, they’ve made bold moves to messaging on clothing waste, conscious buying, and recycling. And their commitment to activating people across the world for social and environmental change is unparalleled in the apparel industry.
Or check out Basecamp. They’ve devoted an entire page on their website documenting the transformations customers experience in their own words.
Their homepage addresses customers’ problems and shows how Basecamp offers tangible solutions.
2. Content That Recognizes and Resolves a Problem
Writing giants are masters at creating conflict, invented obstacles for the hero to overcome. Without a central struggle or problem, there is no story. Ahab never encounters the white whale he obsessively hunts. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde part ways without incident. A reader’s most satisfying moment comes from the resolution of said conflict — the doctor who succumbs to his darker self, the three-day chase for the whale that ends with the death of the captain and the rescue of Ishmael. Recognizing a problem and bringing closure to it takes the reader on a journey with the author; they become invested in the story and its outcome.
The relationship between customers and brands is no different.
When it comes to the story of your brand, address the pain points and challenges your customers face head-on. Consumers want to feel seen and their voices heard. For example, 56% of modern moms don’t feel brands are listening to and understanding them. As a result, brands that market to this segment have to perform gymnastic relationship feats to attract and win over this skeptical customer.
Make your story their story. Because it’s no longer enough to talk about what a product does, you have to communicate how it makes a customer feel. Have you proactively acknowledged the pain your customers have experienced? Do you address and resolve it? Show your customers the pain point, that you understand what they’re going through and why they’re going through it. Then, demonstrate what relief from said pain looks and feels like. The relief state is potent and captivating because people always want to envision their transformation, their moment of bliss.
For example, the holiday season is an opportunity for brands to address stressors like family, travel, and money. Emery Federal Credit Union recognizes that people might overshop during the frenetic season and they’re offering a practical solution.
Harry’s acknowledges the realities of the stressed time-crunched shopper during the holiday season — how to find the perfect gift for that special person…in time. They’ve addressed the reality and provided a practical option that satisfies both the gift and timing. Here’s the perfect gift that will be delivered in time to stuff under the table, bed, or tree. The countdown clock is even more of a motivator to act on the solution Harry’s offers.
Start the story all about them and end it with how your product or service is the right choice to solve their challenges, needs, wants, or concerns.
3. Content That Gives Them Permission to Be in Their Feelings
I say this with love, but sometimes marketers forget people are human. Humans are beautiful, complex creatures that crave connection, support, empathy, and recognition. It’s easy to forget that amidst spreadsheets, projections, and fancy CLTV formulas. Depending on your product or service, one of the most valuable types of content you can create lets them know you see them, hear them, and you’re right there with them in the struggle.
Sometimes, all a customer needs is an acknowledgment of how far they’ve come in their journey and that nudge of encouragement to shed toxic, limiting beliefs and keep going. It’s you cheering for them at the halfway mark of a 26-mile marathon. It’s you saying, I get it because I’ve been there. Sometimes, they need your help in reframing the narrative — especially in the moments when they can’t see or even fathom the finish line.
For example, tax season still gives me palpitations. The endless forms, the constantly shifting rules and regulations, the “you can and cannot deduct this,” etc. When I first met my CPA she assured me my feelings were normal — even the most seasoned creative entrepreneur or consultant gets nervous when they combine “money” and “government” in the same sentence. She didn’t make ashamed for how I felt — even when I was being telenovela-level dramatic. She invited me to speak my fears out loud and our work together was breaking down those fears, one-by-one.
Here I was taking a major step to alleviate those fraudy financial feelings by hiring someone who understands tax law more than I do. And I was open, receptive, and willing to make recommended changes in my business that would make tax season less daunting.
The key was how she identified and acknowledged each stage and gave me the space to explore my feelings because her expertise and experience would be the guiding light to drag me out of the flaming pit of financial insecurity.
Your content can echo back your customers’ concerns, give them permission to explore that scary space, but then offer them a doorway to move from fear, unease, and anxiety to confidence, clarity, and calm. Because the only way through is through.
Activia did an excellent job of tapping into their customers’ feelings with their “It Starts Inside” campaign. The brand partnered with GlobalWebIndex and discovered that “80% of women in the U.S. aged between 25 and 55 agree that they are their own worst critic.”
The campaign centered on women being candid about their imposter syndrome and how they overcame it to achieve their goals. The campaign was successful because real women were at the center of the story and they were given permission (and a forum) to explore their feelings of self-doubt and the encouragement to find and celebrate their powerful and positive inner voice.
“Appealing to viewers’ emotions in an effort to build radical empathy and shift perceptions of Activia as more than a mere product, but as “a product and platform to help women feel good inside and out”, it proves the power of insights that inspire.” (source)
Storytelling, when done effectively, elicits trust. Brands that employ content marketing programs experience 6X higher conversion rates than those that don’t, according to a study by Aberdeen Group. Coca-Cola spends more money on its content strategy than it does on traditional television advertising.
We know stories work. We know people bind to one another through the tales we tell and how we tell them. All we need is a strategy that brings it all together — a strategy that serves our customers first and our bottom line second.
So, let’s get it right.